Don’t Get Tripped Up in Retirement

If retirement is supposed to be the best years of your life, the golden years, why has the divorce rate more than doubled for those over 50?

Many couples look with expectation towards retirement. Yet what are their conversations about retirement? How much do we need to have to retire? We need to save more in retirement accounts; pay down debt, increase our cash reserve. All good objectives and actions to take.

Yet the conversation needs to expand to WHAT you are going to do in retirement. This is where couples can have different visions of how they want to spend their time. One may want to travel while the other has projects at home they want to focus on. One in three couples are NOT on the same page about their retirement expectations. Those couples will have a bumpier transition into retirement. Without some planning, they may end up being silver splitters.

Aligning Your Retirement Vision

Dr. Kristy Archuleta, Associate Professor at Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences recommends four key talking points.

Values: These are the things you believe are important; they guide and shape your lives. Aligning your work and life with your values can bring greater satisfaction. Most likely you and your spouse have some values in common. When I do an exercise in my office to choose your top five value words, spouses often have two or three words in common.

Location: Couples often relocate closer to the grandchildren. Or couples will be snowbirds, going south for the winter. Visit places where you would consider living. Do a little exploring. If you move to a new community, focus on creating a new network. One thing this pandemic has taught us is the value of socialization for our health.

Passions and Interests: Pursuing passion and interests contributes significantly to a satisfying and fulfilling life. What are you enjoying today? What would you like to explore? Begin finding commonalities and interests before you retire. You don’t want to have a sudden void in your life when you stop working.

Money: Often couples have less disposable income when they retire. Spending habits may need to be adjusted. There is a mental shift from saving to spending what you have saved. That can be an internal conflict as well as conflict with your spouse.

We have an exercise in our office that helps people getting ready to retire. It scores leisure, connecting, renewing and work and graphs it on a chart. This chart reveals where couples are similar and where they are different. Couples can build on where they have commonalities.

Differences may not have much impact. For example, my husband values leisure – he has many hobbies he wants time to pursue. He is ready to be done working. He has a line that angles down on his chart. My chart is the opposite. I find my work fulfilling. My graph starts low and goes to high. We can build in the common areas – socializing, connecting with friends and family and renewing our health and well-being. While I am working, he has the opportunity to explore his hobbies.

The discussion of retirement needs to be broader than numbers. It needs to include what is your vision of retirement. How do you build a retirement that is satisfying for both spouses?

Our office is here to facilitate that discussion.


 1. The Rise of Gray Divorce: Why and Why Not? 1/23/2019

 2. Can Retirement Ruin Your Marriage? 5/7/2018


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