7 Tips for Retiring With Your Spouse

All that togetherness can be too much. Do some planning to give each other needed space.


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Budget time (and money) for the grandkids and your parents. When Margaret Moore, 68, a retired assistant superintendent of a school district in Bellevue, Wash., has friends over for dinner, "all of us talk about our aging parents. It's a major portion of life for fairly young retirees." Moore frequently discusses the health of her mother, 94, and mother-in-law, 93, and her guests share information about good retirement facilities for their parents. On other evenings Moore hosts Sunday dinners for five grandchildren who live nearby.

In the United States, 54 percent of people in their 60s and 70s provide financial support to their children, according to a study by HSBC Group, the Oxford Institute of Aging, and Harris Interactive. In addition, more than a quarter of 70-somethings have provided practical support with cleaning, shopping, cooking, and everyday tasks to a relative or friend and 13 percent have provided personal care like bathing, dressing, and nursing. "We're really the sandwich generation," Moore says.

Plan for the possibility of an unexpected retirement. A lot of workers don't retire voluntarily. "Many men are given buyouts quite unexpectedly, and that's something they weren't planning for and neither were their wives," Moen says. "They need to be planning for unexpected contingencies like downsizing or layoffs."

It can be hard to find another job if you're laid off in your 50s or 60s. "When you do go back to work, the hourly wage is about 25 percent less, and the newer job is less likely to have both pension benefits and health benefits," says Richard Johnson, a principal research associate for the Urban Institute. "If one spouse is laid off and the other still has a job, the other spouse tends to work longer."

Some employees have to leave the workforce earlier than planned because of health problems. "While there is this tendency for married couples to retire together, when one becomes sick that tends to keep the other one working because he or she needs to work to pay the bills," Johnson says.

Talk with each other about money. Couples also need to consider the ages at which they will become eligible for pensions and Social Security, and when they can begin making penalty-free withdrawals from retirement accounts. "Because husbands tend to be older than their wives, the wives will be eligible later for everything," cautions Szinovacz.

Nearly half of both men and women say they are in agreement with their spouse or partner about saving for retirement, according to a Harris Interactive/Wall Street Journal online survey, but almost a quarter of working adults say they have never discussed how much they need to put aside. Those who took the time to talk to their spouse were most likely to be on the same page.

Waiting to claim Social Security can increase benefit amounts. And couples in particular have various options for maximizing their benefit.