It’s a rare couple that agrees totally on any given subject—and the decision about when to retire is no exception. Ideally, a couple will discuss retirement timing and lifestyle expectations long before each partner stops working—but let’s face it, that doesn’t always happen. The most important thing is that each person feels supported and is also willing to compromise.


What does this look like in reality? A recent USA Today article (“When couples disagree on when to retire,” July 2014) tackles the subject and shares the stories of a few couples who have made it work in their own way. For instance, one woman, who had less time to build her career due to childrearing, continued to work after her husband retired; however, she agreed to take off six weeks every year to travel with him. The two also built an extensive garden at home so her husband could enjoy a fulfilling work-free life.


Retirement timing conflicts are perhaps most troublesome when one partner is fired or laid off unexpectedly. The unemployed half of the couple may want the working partner to also retire. As money is an important aspect of any retirement plan, speaking with a financial advisor about the impact of your decisions can put things into perspective.


TIAA-CREF provides advice for how to plan with your spouse. It is important to not only decide what you can afford in retirement, but also how much you are willing to spend. While you may be fine with spending all of your savings, your significant other may want to leave something to family or a charitable cause. Striking the right balance—and agreeing on what that means—is essential for enjoying retirement together.


A retirement planning checklist may help you and your partner to set priorities as you make plans. After establishing some financial parameters, determine your goals, such as travel or moving closer to your children. Each spouse should have his or her own list of goals that will be pared down as you decide what is most important. The objective is to agree on the common goals of your shared retirement, even if you won’t be participating in every activity together.


It’s also important to discuss the emotional impact that retirement may have on you and your partner. How will you prepare for the complicated emotions that may arise when you stop working, or if one of you stops while the other continues?


Take a look at what members are saying about retirement planning with their spouses: How can couples plan for a joint retirement?


Have you discussed retirement timing and lifestyle with your partner? How are the two of you compromising?