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The Challenge Of A Retirement Gap: When Only One Partner Retires

The Retirement Gap Adjustment

Monday morning at 6am, you chug coffee, roll out of bed, and drag yourself to the shower. After a blissful weekend, nothing bites more than getting up to face the real world on a Monday morning. For some, however, there is an added caveat: their retired partner is happily reading the news in their pajamas. How do you motivate yourself to schlep to the office when your better half has a day of reading, walking the dog, and hitting golf balls?

I recently realized that when one partner in a relationship retires before the other, it can be a serious adjustment. How come nobody prepares us for this? When I was growing up, I imagined working hard until 65, and then magically the time would come to shut it down with my spouse. Our days would then be filled with brunching and golfing with friends. Unfortunately, it is likely in many relationships that one partner may continue working long after the other for many reasons. This change in work status can change the dynamic in a relationship. 

As most of us know, it takes a lot of planning to retire. Finances, social security benefits, and health care coverage are all serious considerations. But what about relationship planning? How will things in the relationship change? Or stay the same? 

Should you be in this situation, or approaching it, here are some suggestions on how to prepare.

Dive Into Those Frank Financial Discussions: 

Retirement does not happen overnight, so allow plenty of time to lay out your finances. 

Is it feasible for both of you to retire together? 

Will there need to be changes to the spending and lifestyle you have while both currently working? 

Plan together how much money you need to save before the momentous change. Account for any upcoming changes to household income and spending. Prepare for this before you get there. 

Dividing Household Responsibilities:

One partner goes off to work every day and the other is relaxing by the pool. Is there an expectation that the laundry will be done, and dinner will be on the table? If that is the case, discuss it before it comes up. Be sure to decide with each other before any resentment sets in. Many studies on this subject show that the expectations of the working spouse are often not met. How is the retired spouse supposed to know this if it isn’t discussed? Do not assume the retired partner instinctively knows what they are supposed to do to please you.

Health Care Coverage:

Much of what prevents a couple from retiring together is health coverage. If one partner is too young for Medicare, then a huge obstacle to early retirement is health care. Loss of income is one consideration, however taking on an exceptionally large expense on top of that is a hard pill to swallow- And pills are expensive! 

If the retiring partner qualifies for Medicare coverage, be sure you have some professional help to guide you with all the Medicare options. 

Enjoy Life Together!

retirement gap

Just because one spouse retires, you can still enjoy your life together. Continue to plan date nights and trips with each other. 

For the working partner: Appreciate how hard your partner worked to reach retirement and respect his or her new chapter. 

For the retired partner: Understand that your partner still has the stresses of work responsibilities. He or she may not have the same energy as you after the workday. 

With clear communication and planning, life can be just as beautiful. 

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About The Author
Kate Lueras
Kate Lueras
Kate is a Southern California native, currently residing in Encinitas, CA. She holds a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and a M.A. in Healthcare Administration. She has a tremendous passion for travel and immersing herself in new cultures. Kate has been writing as a hobby since she was a young girl. Professionally, she has been the practice manager for a successful plastic surgery practice for over 25 years.
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