Many couples don’t share same retirement dreams

Chaya Cooperberg

My husband and I talked about a lot of things before we decided to marry, but not about our retirement plans. It just seemed too far off when we were graduating from university and had yet to make an RRSP contribution. Still, discussing your vision for retirement with your significant other is just as important as any other major life decision, such as buying a home or having children.

“Retirement can be one of those taboo topics that couples tend to avoid, just like talking about sex, money troubles or problems with the kids,” says relationship therapist Joe Rich. “It is important to tackle this subject head-on with your partner long before you retire in order to avoid conflict down the road.”

Canadian retirees agree that it’s important to talk to your significant other to ensure you share the same vision of your future together, according to the TD Waterhouse Couples and Retirement poll released on Wednesday. Yet many of us either don’t know what we want to do in retirement or have different goals than our partner.

Of the 1,002 retired Canadians polled earlier this month, 51 per cent say they had no idea, or only a vague idea, of what they wanted their retirement to look like. Of those Canadian retirees who are married or in a common-law relationship, only half had the same vision for their retirement as their partner.

Retirement clearly means different things to each of us. One partner may expect to travel the world while the other would like to stay home close to the grandchildren. Not surprisingly, having different retirement dreams can create tension between couples. Nineteen percent of those surveyed say it has caused conflict in their relationship.

The most important step towards a successful retirement is, as we all know, saving for it early on. But there is more to retirement than financial planning. There is the emotional side to consider as well.

“Retirement creates a whole new dynamic for couples who have spent years together in the same comfortable routine of going to work and raising kids,” Mr. Rich says. “There is an adjustment period that most couples experience when that routine changes. Getting ready emotionally to deal with that new reality can be tougher than people think, but talking to each other about your retirement expectations and fears can help to work through any issues, together.”

So when should you have the talk with your beloved?

Have a detailed discussion at least ten years before your planned retirement, recommends Patricia Lovett- Reid, Senior Vice President, TD Waterhouse. You should have several talks with your partner about how you picture life after work and what you want to achieve in your golden years.

Write a “bucket list” of all you want to accomplish and attach some timelines to it. Decide what you want to do early on in retirement and what you want to do in your later years.

“It’s essential that there be mutual respect and it has to be honest,” Ms. Lovett-Reid says. “Compromise may have to come into play. It’s about having an interdependent retirement.”