How a Spouse Who Still Works Can Affect Your Retirement

Even if you’re opposites in many ways, the beliefs, values, and activities you share in common with your spouse probably help your marriage work. Retirement can throw this balance off if one of you continues working. When one spouse heads off to work as the other stays home, resentment, financial worries, and disputes about how to spend your time can boil over. Here’s how a marital retirement mismatch can affect your relationship—and what to do about it.


How a Mixed-Retirement Marriage Changes Things

Any major life transition can stress your marriage, and retirement is no exception. When only one spouse retires, a number of conflicts are common. Those include:

• Disputes over how you spend your time.
• Disagreements over money; one spouse may be more concerned about finances than the other.
• Feelings of loneliness by the spouse who doesn’t work.

These feelings are normal. Dealing with them, rather than ignoring them, can help you move beyond stress and into a happy, relaxing new stage of life.

Health Insurance Concerns

If the retired spouse is not old enough for Medicare, health insurance may be a concern. Fewer and fewer employers offer insurance to retirees, and COBRA insurance typically maxes out at 18 months. The spouse who retires should therefore time retirement such that they are soon eligible for Medicare. Alternatively, you’ll need to look into adding the retired spouse to the unretired spouse’s health insurance. Before counting on this option, you’ll need to talk to human resources to ensure the retired spouse is eligible for coverage.

Different Approaches to Expenses

Most couples find that one is a spender and the other is a saver. Who is which can change over time. When only one spouse is retired, the retired spouse might be more concerned about money—or they might be eager to enjoy their retirement with the assistance of lavish trips and gourmet meals. Plan for some disputes over money. To minimize them, sit down well before retirement and look at your budget. Find a way to enjoy small luxuries while still saving enough for both spouses to retire.

Living on One Income

The transition to living on one income can be tough. The working spouse may feel burdened by the need to support the family, while the retired spouse may feel guilty. Saving for the second spouse’s retirement can be extremely difficult on just one income.

If you’re struggling to fund your retirement, are over the age of 62, and you own your own home, a reverse mortgage can help quiet financial disputes. This option offers you money you can put toward a variety of expenses, including paying down your debt or investing in a retirement account. In most cases, you won’t have to repay the loan as long as you remain in your home.

Planning for a Mutual Retirement

If you’re like most couples, your goal is probably that you’ll both eventually enjoy retirement together. When you’re living on one income and facing the marital stresses of only one working spouse, that dream can grow more and more distant. To shorten the time line from now to a mutual retirement, have regular meetings about your finances. You’ll also want the assistance of a professional. A financial planner can help you chart a course to a faster and more satisfying retirement.

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