It’s the ultimate irony that when retirement comes, it might just be the most stressful time of a relationship.
POPULAR MEDIA CAN PAINT RETIREMENT AS A ‘GOLDEN TIME’ FOR COUPLES AS THEY WALK DOWN IDYLLIC BEACHES, BUT THE REALITY IS, RETIREMENT IS THE TIME WHEN RELATIONSHIPS CAN FALTER OR CAN BE DEEPENED.
Retirement can mean a cessation of work life; it can also be a time of financial worries, health problems, and a crossroads for personal growth, all of which can place a tremendous amount of pressure on your relationship.
And while we are inundated by ads emphasizing retirement finances, if you don’t have a happy relationship with your partner, you aren’t going to be happy during your retirement, no matter how many sandy beaches you walk on, how much gardening you do or how large your RRIF is.
The actual problems couples face in retirement are no different than issues couples might have in any stage of a relationship. However, there are steps you can take to help your relationship survive and even thrive in retirement.
1. DON’T PUT PROBLEMS OFF
All relationship problems can be complicated if one or both partners are unable to communicate or deal with stress. The solution to dealing with personal problems with your partner is to learn to communicate and plan together.
2. GET A PLAN AND PLAN IT EARLY
While mapping out every week of your retirement might be stressful, ensure you and your partner have a sense of each other’s concrete expectations and your hopes and dreams. Plus, have some financial data in front of you so that your plans can be built on a solid foundation. Before retirement day comes, the two of you should know the answers, or at least be thinking of the solutions, to these big questions:
Where will your income come from when you stop working?
Will you relocate? Are you prepared for a move?
What’s your health like? How will it influence your retirement plans?
Will your kids’ or grandkids’ lives intersect with yours daily? Monthly? Only yearly?
Estate planning: You will likely owe income taxes when you and your partner pass away: do you have a plan in place to pay this?
Do all the above answers align with each other? (Not sure of the money aspects? Speak to your financial advisor.
Plan your retirement together; don’t let retirement plan your relationship.
3. PLAN FOR HEALTH CHANGES
Not nice to think about, but unfortunately, it is important. If you want to hike the Bruce Trail or ski the Rockies, don’t put it off until later in retirement or you may not have the option to pursue your goals.
As well, when health problems do hit, it means the time and resources of the couple may be now focused slightly away from their retirement activities as they both cope with health issues. In addition, many serious illnesses are accompanied by depression, which could put additional strain on the couple.
Another issue to consider is what would happen if one partner is far healthier and is more active than their partner, this can put extra stress on a relationship as people feel guilty and resentful about the predicament.
No one can tell what the future brings. Couples who are inflexible in their thoughts, attitudes and plans will have a hard time adjusting to every curve life throws them. But if you keep an open mind and plan for the unexpected, you’ll get through it together with your relationship healthy and intact.
4. NEW RETIREMENT ALSO HAS NEW STRESSES
We are living longer and healthier. However, it is a double-edged sword; while we may be physically healthy as we age, rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia are climbing. And while many retiring baby boomers may be an affluent lot, our children and our grandchildren may not be. We may be financially obliged to help them out even as we wind down our working lives.