Reconcile your goals for a mutually pleasing retirement lifestyle

By Nancy Schultz | Apr 08, 2009

While many know exactly how to spend their working years, their plans for retirement can be vague and unformed. For the sake of retirement happiness, however, it’s important to match lifestyle projections with those of your spouse or partner.

Couples who develop sound financial planning habits are well positioned to tackle life’s bigger questions, such as what to do when one wants to open a bookshop in a country town while the other pictures life among the stimulating cultural offerings of a metropolis. Do your retirement goals match? If not, can they be made compatible?

Divergent ideas: Ideas about how to achieve personal fulfillment – and what it is – will almost certainly change for each partner over a lifetime. Caught up separately in the day-to-day details of managing careers and family, partners can develop significant differences in how they see the future. The range of retirement lifestyle options has grown and will continue to do so. It’s critical to take time to identify and appreciate the changes taking place in each other’s goals and aspirations.

Planning for life is inexact, so maintaining a flexible attitude is critical. For couples who want to sail together into the future, there are some basic concepts that can make that possible.

Encourage experimentation. If your partner harbors romantic dreams of living abroad, help make it possible for him or her to visit that country. Keep an open mind about what is possible.

No same-year investing in both 401(k) and IRA: Surveys say many Americans believe this. But you can indeed contribute the maximum to both an employer retirement plan and an IRA in the same year. If you don’t qualify for the tax break on a traditional IRA contribution, you may want to investigate opening a Roth IRA. You’ll receive no tax break up front, but you’ll pay no tax on withdrawals.

Health-care advances allow retirees to maintain active lives. The chance to pursue sports or other interests and contribute to worthy causes can be a satisfying use of insight and wisdom you’ve both collected over a lifetime.

Try to reconcile wildly divergent dreams. If your partner announces a desire to join the Peace Corps, take a deep breath and do some research rather than immediately rejecting the idea.

You and your partner will likely find that many of your interests can be satisfied. Bring a sense of humor to the planning table and you may find you’re able to combine even the most unlikely retirement dreams.
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