It may seem obvious that preparing for retirement as a couple is a good idea, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is to miss key components.
If you have a spouse or partner that you’ll be spending retirement with, you’re going to need to do a lot of planning. There are houses, kids, vacation funds, college funds, and inheritances to think about. Certainly, planning around those kinds of topics would have to be done together.
One guide suggests starting by outlining your big-picture goals together.1 Obviously, each member of a couple is going to have a few things that are very important to them but getting on the same page about goals will make the rest of the planning process easier.
These conversations about the future are very important because they may lead to some surprising revelations. For example, one spouse may dream about retiring as early as possible while the other partner may be happy with their work and would like to continue with it for years into the future.
Or, in another scenario, one spouse may dream about a tidy beachfront condo with a balcony while the other partner may be set on the idea of taking an RV tour of all America’s beautiful national parks. The quicker each spouse spells out their ideal retirement, the sooner you can begin designing a retirement strategy that considers the kind of retirement you both want.
Another step in preparing for retirement as a couple is saving money together. In broad terms, each person is responsible for their retirement, and if both you and your spouse are working you may both have retirement accounts through your employers. Every couple is different, but it can be helpful to approach retirement preparation just like how you make financial decisions about things like buying a home or a car with your spouse. It probably makes sense for you to make savings decisions together.
That may involve contributing different amounts to each spouse’s 401(k), IRA contributions, and other decisions. Of course, another factor that may apply to couples is if one partner does not work outside of the home. If that’s your situation, a spousal IRA may be a good way to go because it allows you to set aside funds in a tax-deferred account for the benefit of the unemployed spouse.
Strategizing when each spouse will claim their Social Security benefit is another very important thing that couples should do. Married couples are in a prime position to maximize lifetime Social Security income by carefully timing their individual and spousal claims. This planning element is dependent on you, your age, the age of your claim, and your spouse.
Beginning your planning several years before turning 62 — the earliest age that you can begin collecting Social Security — can make a tremendous difference for your retirement finances.
It might be beneficial to enlist the help of a financial service professional to help you identify more of the things you can consider as a couple. The most important part of going on a journey together may be preparing for that journey together. Keeping your spouse or partner in mind during the preparation phase is a great way to do that.