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Retirement planning when you and your spouse are different ages
Old 08-17-2012, 09:19 PM   #1
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Retirement planning when you and your spouse are different ages

Hi everyone. My first real post here. I found this forum via the boggleheads.

Here's a situation I haven't seen discussed much. How do you plan for retirement when you and your wife are not the same age? I'm 48 and I am six years into my 2nd career as a teacher after working 15 years as a scientist for the Federal government. I can see doing this another 14 years or so until my early 60s and then basically being done. At that point I'd have enough time in to qualify for a Texas teachers pension. My SS will be zip because teachers don't pay into it here in TX and my previous SS earnings will be clawed back by the WEP or GPO...whichever it is.

My wife, on the other hand, is 6 years younger than me and seven years into her first career as a physician after residency, med school, time off for kids and other things. She is absorbed in her work and I could easily see her working at least part time into her late 60s at least.

I'm not worried about the finances of retirement. We're maxing out two 403(b) plans and Roths and should be in very good shape long before my wife ever decides to hang up the lab coat. I'm more wondering how one plans for retirement when one spouse is likely to keep working another 10+ years after the first retires. Not financially, but in terms of lifestyle.

Will my wife unconsciously resent it if she is still plugging along professionally while I mess around trying to find new hobbies to spend my time? Do I need to just suck it up and try to keep working while she is? Do I try to convince her to retire before she is ready? Anyone have any bits of wisdom to share?
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Old 08-18-2012, 01:51 AM   #2
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I am 6 1/2 years younger than my husband. He retired 2 1/2 years ago when he was 62. In our case, I decided to keep working on a very part-time basis. I was fortunate to have a situation where I was offered the opportunity to work as little or as much as I wanted to. Currently, I work about 15 hours a week on average although it varies a lot. I feel totally free to take off a week -- or more -- whenever I feel like it. I am available to do things with my husband and am OK with me working when he isn't working.

In general because I work part time I have time to do stuff around the house (although we recently decided to hire someone to do the house cleaning every couple of weeks). I do have a larger clothing budget than DH since I need to dress up more than he does. DH does do more errand running than I do since he is around the house more.

I don't resent working. DH is fine with me quitting whenever I feel like it. At this point, I enjoy the work I am doing so I'll keep doing it as long as I do. It is nice to know, however, that I can quite whenever I want to.
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Old 08-18-2012, 03:59 AM   #3
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We have a similar age gap and decided very early in our marriage that we`d try to retire on the same date, even if this means to eat some of our savings till my pension kicks in.
We do not suffer too much in our jobs but love spending time together and DH has health issues. You just do not know what time brings...
So DH will retire at age 61 next year, me being 54.
I am sure I will not miss corporate world a bit.

In your shoes I`d try to save enough to have all options in place. If she chooses to keep on working, you should take over a fair share of housekeeping. When she is ready, she will join.
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Old 08-18-2012, 06:47 AM   #4
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DW is 4.5 years younger and worked full time for two years after I ERed and part time for three more. No resentment at all (I chauffeured her around which may have helped). In our case, the numbers were good for her to ER at the same time I did so she had a choice. I think that helped as well.
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Old 08-18-2012, 06:59 AM   #5
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......I'm not worried about the finances of retirement. We're maxing out two 403(b) plans and Roths and should be in very good shape long before my wife ever decides to hang up the lab coat.....
If this is the case then she could hang up her lab coat when you retire or anytime thereafter. If so, why should there be any issue for her since you will be FI and she can say "I quit" anytime she wants to?
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Old 08-18-2012, 07:05 AM   #6
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Many couples have one spouse working and another staying at home, so that doesn't have to be an issue. As long as both are satisfied that the finances are secure and will support one not working there should be no problem. I would imagine that if one feels the retirement finances are inadequate and he or she is obligated to continue working while the partner "takes it easy" things could get sticky.
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Old 08-18-2012, 07:16 AM   #7
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Many couples have one spouse working and another staying at home, so that doesn't have to be an issue. As long as both are satisfied that the finances are secure and will support one not working there should be no problem. I would imagine that if one feels the retirement finances are inadequate and he or she is obligated to continue working while the partner "takes it easy" things could get sticky.
+1 Though I would expect that the working spouse would have higher expectations that certain domestic chores would be taken care of by the retired spouse compared to when both spouses are working. (Whether those higher expectations would be satisfied by the retired spouse is a whole different issue , after all, I'm retired!)
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Old 08-18-2012, 07:47 AM   #8
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There is a 6.5 year age gap between DW and me. I will retire either end of this year or (more likely) early 2013. My wife intends to continue working part time. We have had many discussions on this issue and she is very supportive of me retiring early - in part because I supported her decision to take a career break a few years ago and in part because our finances will be in excellent shape (in other words, she is working from choice and not because there is any financial need to to so). She also recognises that, given the age gap, there is nothing wrong with me retiring before her. DW's only concern is that I will end up bored and mentally start to "rot" without the stimulous of a job.

In short, good finances, good communication and respecting each others choices mean we got very comfortable with me retiring before DW. Life is short and we are on the same page when we say that we want each other to have as few regrets as possible at the end of it.
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Old 08-18-2012, 07:48 AM   #9
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+1 Though I would expect that the working spouse would have higher expectations that certain domestic chores would be taken care of by the retired spouse compared to when both spouses are working. (Whether those higher expectations would be satisfied by the retired spouse is a whole different issue , after all, I'm retired!)
Seems fair to me regardless of the retiring spouse's gender.
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Old 08-18-2012, 08:23 AM   #10
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Thanks guys.

I already do more than 50% of the household chores so that's not remotely going to be an issue. I'm thinking more of the lifestyle issues.

I can see my wife getting completely caught up in various professional projects that take a lot of her time and effort well past the point that I'm ready to be done. Not for the money, it's just who she is. Public health projects that serve and educate the underserved. That sort of thing. She has her passions.

So a lot of the traditional retirement lifestyles...long term travel, finding a place in the mountains, etc. Maybe not going to happen on the time scale that I might ideally prefer. Which I am fine with. We haven't really talked about this a great deal and probably should do more. But it is already pretty obvious that we are looking at a situation where one spouse is going to be ready to retire 5-10 years before the other.

I'm more wondering if this has been a source of friction for others.
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Old 08-18-2012, 10:08 AM   #11
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My parents had a 4 year gap - Dad retired at 62, mom retired 4 years later at 62.
My dad did all the travel that my mom had no interest in... A long road trip with bike/kayak/etc up the west coast of the US, ferry hopping through Canada/Alaska - then back along the rockies.. as an example. Then when mom retired, they did the trips they both wanted to do. It worked out great.

I'm 9.5 years younger than DH. And we're looking at retiring when he turns 62. His SS and access to his IRAs helps bridge the gap till my SS, (miniscule) pension, and access to my 401k/IRAs kicks in... so it works from a cash flow POV. Since my savings are significantly greater than his - he's fine with the plan.

I'm more ready to retire from my megacorp than he is with his microcorp. But he's all over the idea of retiring young enough to enjoy it.
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Old 08-18-2012, 10:44 AM   #12
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I am 4.5 years younger than DW, who retired a couple of years ago. I intend to pull the trigger some time next year. We are (were) both professionals.

She was miserable at her j*b and so am I, most of the time. However, I have not resented her chance to leave the rat race for one second. It actually makes me feel warm and fuzzy to know that we were able to make this work. For now, she's taking on almost all of the household chores (she's my little June Cleaver). But after we're both FIRE'd that will change. I love hearing about her days doing nothing, running errands, or pursuing hobbies. And since she's a BC survivor, I know how it feels thinking that I could have lost her.

Jealous? Maybe a bit, but not in a bad way. I'm just looking forward to joining her, if I ever get the guts to pull the trigger. I'm also starting to fight the "just one more year and I can increase our annual spending by $xxxx" syndrome. But that should be another thread.
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Old 08-18-2012, 11:00 AM   #13
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Thanks guys.

I already do more than 50% of the household chores so that's not remotely going to be an issue. I'm thinking more of the lifestyle issues.

I can see my wife getting completely caught up in various professional projects that take a lot of her time and effort well past the point that I'm ready to be done. Not for the money, it's just who she is. Public health projects that serve and educate the underserved. That sort of thing. She has her passions.

So a lot of the traditional retirement lifestyles...long term travel, finding a place in the mountains, etc. Maybe not going to happen on the time scale that I might ideally prefer. Which I am fine with. We haven't really talked about this a great deal and probably should do more. But it is already pretty obvious that we are looking at a situation where one spouse is going to be ready to retire 5-10 years before the other.

I'm more wondering if this has been a source of friction for others.
You sound like you have a really good relationship so won't find this a source of friction (people with bad relationships find everything a source of friction ).

My dr. is in her early 60s, and she has spent every summer in Germany with her family for many years. Your spouse might be able to manage time off like that after you retire.
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Old 08-18-2012, 11:17 AM   #14
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In our case, I really don't like long travel and don't want to do it while retired so it isn't an issue. That said, my schedule does allow me to fairly easy take a few weeks off whenever I want so I could do a number of vacations. I think the real conflict would be I guess if DH wanted to travel for 3 months then that would be harder to schedule with my work. But he doesn't want to.

However, just like many things in marriage, if he did then we would find a way to come up a solution that we could both live with.
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Old 08-19-2012, 06:52 PM   #15
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Thanks guys.

I'm more wondering if this has been a source of friction for others.
My wife is two years younger than me and plans to continue working another couple of years. I've been ER'd 1.5 yrs now.

Friction? I do all the housework so when I do take off for 2-3 weeks my wife has to cook, walk the dogs, clean house etc. She is very glad when I return.
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Old 08-20-2012, 12:27 PM   #16
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Thanks guys.

...

So a lot of the traditional retirement lifestyles...long term travel, finding a place in the mountains, etc. Maybe not going to happen on the time scale that I might ideally prefer. Which I am fine with. We haven't really talked about this a great deal and probably should do more. But it is already pretty obvious that we are looking at a situation where one spouse is going to be ready to retire 5-10 years before the other.

I'm more wondering if this has been a source of friction for others.
My DW and I are in the same boat. I plan to retire in 5 years at the age of 62. DW is 4 years younger and does not plan to retire.

She will not need to work for any income, but she will choose to work because she enjoys it. She is getting back into the swing of things after taking time off to raise the kids. That was something that she wanted to do and we were fortunate enough that we could do that.

DW also has not plans to ever move from where we currently live up north. She has a couple of close friends living in our town that she does not want to leave. OTOH, I'm getting more and more intolerant of the cold weather and snow and finding it harder and harder to enjoy my job.

We've discussed this many different ways, and have both come to the realization that we both want to do what we want to do, regardless of what the other person wants to do. We're not being selfish. We have a strong marriage of many years.....but we're both independent active adults that have ideas of how we want to enjoy the coming years.

The current plan is that I will be a snowbird and live in FL for 6 months each year, and she will continue to live up north. She does not want to even consider moving for any part of the year because she has friends up here.

We've been through all of the arguments about how we should not live someplace just because others live there. We've also been through all of the analysis of what other people feel we should do. We're past those arguments.

This is our current plan. It may change in the future, but that's what it is right now. She may join me on extended vacations, but for now, she plans to never leave our home up north.

I share this as a way of saying that (perhaps) you can both do what you want to do, yet still find some compromise. Your wife seems to have made the decision that she wants to work/serve society and you seem to have made the decision that you want to travel and do other things. Perhaps you can both do what you want, and also do some things together.

Just my $0.02.
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Old 08-20-2012, 01:33 PM   #17
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Our age gap is larger than yours (wow, that sounds naughty, somehow) at 8 years.

I fully expect to work longer than my DH. It is part of the expectations we have for our overall retirement plan. If the end goal is something you've agreed on all these years, then it won't be a surprise that you are hanging up the work attire before her.
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