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What's a couple of decades between spouses?
Old 09-01-2013, 03:23 PM   #1
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What's a couple of decades between spouses?

Although our age difference is only a few years, my spouse and I are on very different career trajectories. I plan to ER in a year or two, while my spouse, who got a late start careerwise, expects to continue to work for another two decades.

As independent as we both are, I realize this situation brings potential challenges, and I suspect there are others here in the same boat. Any "lessons learned" to share?
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Old 09-01-2013, 03:43 PM   #2
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Not that extreme, but I retired at 55, and DW (2 years younger) retired at 65, so that's a 12-year difference.

No issues at all. She thoroughly enjoyed her job and her interaction with co-workers, while I thoroughly enjoyed my early retirement time.

The only thing I noticed was that I gave her a pass on most household chores during that time. I did all the cooking and housecleaning, and she was kind enough to tolerate my efforts without comment. I still enjoy the cooking part, but she has now taken over the housecleaning, for which we are both grateful.
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Old 09-01-2013, 05:17 PM   #3
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I ER'd 3 years ago. DW's career is still going strong. She's on the C-suite's door step and, if she gets in, there is no telling when she might retire.

So far the situation has not created unsurmountable challenges. When we both worked, we spent our nights and weekends doing chores. Now I take care of those chores during the weekdays so that we can spend more time together on nights and weekends, a lifestyle improvement we both enjoy greatly. With her job, no extended travel is currently possible for us, although I could go by myself. But between the pets and the fact that we are not keen travelers anyways, this is not an issue for us.

One challenge might be how the working spouse's career needs impact the retired spouse. In my case, DW got a job opportunity thousands of miles away as I was starting to settle into my non-working life. This move turned my retirement lifestyle upside down. Many of my hobbies had to be put on hold and hobbies more suitable to our new lifestyle had to be developed. I also found myself feeling quite lonely in this new place initially. While DW was making new friends at work, I had few opportunities to meet new people and I had a tough time for a while.
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Old 09-01-2013, 06:19 PM   #4
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My wife "retired" from a pretty decent paying job in a medical field in 1992 (age 35), when our daughter was born. Before she quit, we had a heart-to-heart about what we could and couldn't do, financially, which I think was really important. Up to that time, we'd hop a plane here. We decided we would have to stick to driving, if we even went on vacation. She knew that staying home with the kids was going to be a trade-off with things like granite countertops, so although those topics came up over the years, we always came back to remind ourselves of the trade-offs between keeping up with the Jones' and having the freedom to raise children 100% of the time. There were times when the budget we agreed on didn't seem to be enough, and she thought about going back to work. Since her field moved-on without her, the only option was some low paying retail job, and so her marginal dollar earned was just not worth it, so she said she felt trapped.

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Based on my numbers, you'd clear $30 for a WEEK of part-time work ($8/hr hour, but $4/hr after taxes. 20 hrs/wk ==> $80. Less $15 fuel, $20 lunches, $15 extra work cloths). Making a buck or two selling our old stuff on eBay really starts to look better (to me at least) when you look at the real numbers that would come from a retail job.
That's not to say that you would want/need to go back to work, but it's a real situation that came up when one person "retired" and left the other with earning the money. The wage earner might gain a more prominent (uncomfortable?) role in the financial decisions.
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Old 09-01-2013, 08:40 PM   #5
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I'm sure everyone here can think of plenty potential problems, But people on this thread and on other threads prior to this don't seem to have experienced much difficulty, if any.

It's likely fine, but I personally would be wary, especially if I were the one staying home.

Ha
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Old 09-02-2013, 07:57 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by wishin&hopin View Post
As independent as we both are, I realize this situation brings potential challenges, and I suspect there are others here in the same boat. Any "lessons learned" to share?
Just as long as everyone is on the same page as to what will be and won't be possible. DW left her high-stress job when I retired and we moved, and overall that was a good decision for both of us. While there are no granite counter tops or extensive travel in our future those were never priorities anyway. If we really wanted to we could I guess but it would require cutting back in other areas that we don't want to give up.

The initial loose "plan" after the move was that both of us would get part time or full time jobs but that didn't happen for her although she applied for several, and it took a few years for me to stumble into one (that I've since left) and we're comfortable with our choices. We also found that part time jobs around here don't pay enough to justify driving back and forth to even one nearby so we just said "The heck with that idea".

So unless one or the other stumbles into something lucrative, low-stress and easy (not likely!) we're done working. And the fascination with granite counter tops and the like remains a mystery to us anyway.
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Old 09-02-2013, 09:49 AM   #7
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A lot may depend if one spouse resents the other spouse for their decision
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Old 09-02-2013, 10:32 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wishin&hopin View Post
Although our age difference is only a few years, my spouse and I are on very different career trajectories. I plan to ER in a year or two, while my spouse, who got a late start careerwise, expects to continue to work for another two decades.

As independent as we both are, I realize this situation brings potential challenges, and I suspect there are others here in the same boat. Any "lessons learned" to share?
You haven't told us anything about your DW's career or your life styles. Those are really important in understanding the situation.

If your DW is just "putting in her 40 hours" and substantially leaving her job behind her everyday when she walks out at the end of the work day, I doubt you'll run into many issues as long as money is no problem and you pick up the bulk of the household chores. If her career involves some participation on your part such as planning and executing dinner parties, attending company events, supporting her in extensive travel or whatever, then you need to consider your adaptability to that role. Many stay at home spouses love being the behind the scene support for a successful, high level professional. But some don't.
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Old 09-02-2013, 11:26 AM   #9
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Thanks for all the responses so far.

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Originally Posted by braumeister View Post
The only thing I noticed was that I gave her a pass on most household chores during that time. I did all the cooking and housecleaning...
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Originally Posted by FIREd View Post
When we both worked, we spent our nights and weekends doing chores. Now I take care of those chores...
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Originally Posted by youbet View Post
I doubt you'll run into many issues as long as money is no problem and you pick up the bulk of the household chores...
All this emphasis on picking up household chores is making me twitchy!

Actually, that won't be a problem. I was expecting to pick up some of those duties.

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You haven't told us anything about your DW's career or your life styles. Those are really important in understanding the situation. If your DW is just "putting in her 40 hours" and substantially leaving her job behind her everyday...
My spouse juggles two small businesses (the income from which we expect to increase), partly from home, so there's no corporate environment to deal with. I'm the one in that type of job.

We're both frugal and used to LBYM, so I don't think spending will be an issue. But because of our different career paths and a tendency to be independent, we've never combined our financial planning, with the exception of figuring out how to optimize future Social Security distributions as a couple. I figured we'd probably end up better off (overshooting financial targets) by following our own plans.

However, we might need to start reconsidering this approach, because tax planning will become increasingly important after I ER. I suspect, for example, that it will be challenging to figure out how to stay under a tax bracket or an ACA subsidy threshold.
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Old 09-02-2013, 12:41 PM   #10
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I am not married but in similar situation. My long time GF who will have to work for 15-20 more years, while I quit a couple years ago. The other posters comments sound like good thoughts to consider. Each situation is unique, but assuming responsibilities for the household chores is a very wise one to consider. Taking other tasks that are off the 9-5 clock for the other spouse definitely would make life easier and more enjoyable and possibly ensuring that resentment doesn't creep in. My GF digs at me occasionally now concerning my freedom that she does not have. Since we do not live together assuming her household duties is off the options but I do make sure I am the one that comes over to her house during week instead of splitting the visits. The main thing I have done for myself is limiting my solo vacations so she doesn't get jealous. I also book and pay for frequent "stay vacations" nearby that keeps her happy, so I can sneak a few in on my own without her getting upset or jealous.
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Old 09-02-2013, 12:58 PM   #11
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The main thing I have done for myself is limiting my solo vacations so she doesn't get jealous. I also book and pay for frequent "stay vacations" nearby that keeps her happy, so I can sneak a few in on my own without her getting upset or jealous.
I was wondering about that aspect of things, since I would like to travel more in retirement and for more extended periods, which would involve going solo for the most part. But I don't think that's going to be an issue -- if anything, my spouse is worried about having me hang around the house all day and will welcome the "alone time"! Yep, we're both introverts.
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Old 09-02-2013, 01:24 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by wishin&hopin View Post

I was wondering about that aspect of things, since I would like to travel more in retirement and for more extended periods, which would involve going solo for the most part. But I don't think that's going to be an issue -- if anything, my spouse is worried about having me hang around the house all day and will welcome the "alone time"! Yep, we're both introverts.
Wishin, in my opinion that gets you halfway home already. Since she is worried about you staying at home too much, it appears she will not mind you doing some things. If I was in your situation and married to my GF, no way would I be able to retire without her getting to at the same time. At this point in time, I have enough for one person to retire comfortably but not two! She is thinking about my standing offer to move in and save faster for retirement as she could stay here for free. We just have to make sure our college age kids don't become boomerang kids first though.
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