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Preparing for your lifelong voyageThe Star Online - Preparing for your lifelong voyage by Carol Yip

By Carol Yip
Saturday 28th August 2010

MONEY and love are intertwined and it is difficult to separate them in a marriage.

When there is no love, marriage is meaningless. Surviving on love alone in a marriage without sufficient money can be a tremendous challenge.

Ask any couple; mixing love and money stress will undoubtedly lead to highly emotional relationship strain and, sometimes, break up.

We avoid talking about money if it can create unpleasantness, arguments or misunderstandings with our spouse.

When this happens, it can be complicated and challenging to think about retirement as a couple even if both are earning money. It can be tougher when only one spouse is working.

Opposites attract

Recall the saying, “Opposites attract”. Introverts often attract extroverts, early birds attract night owls, a serious person might be attracted to a person who is funny, and an intellectual may be attracted to someone who is emotionally sensitive.

How about an individual’s retirement needs and wants? Will a couple have opposite views?

One spouse might be looking forward to a variety of intellectual stimulation while the other might be more interested in physical and community activities.

While one spouse may be a “homebody”, the other may be more outgoing.

To have a successful retirement together, each spouse needs to be able to compromise and cooperate with empathy while still maintaining his or her own autonomy in a relationship.

What process will help you find a common thread to weave together a happy retirement? What different interests will you use to create the tapestry that reflects who both of you are together and separately?

It’s my retirement, not yours!

The way we navigate the retirement transition can be a very personal process and it requires introspection and thoughtful planning.

It is important to talk about your retirement dreams and proposed lifestyle to enable each person to have some idea of what to expect when retirement comes.

It could be that your spouse wishes to continue working, while you end up being the lone retiree.

What defines success in retirement for you may not be the same for your spouse. Listen and respect each other’s views and thoughts on this matter.

How will you handle the challenges of retirement reality as you look forward to slowing down and taking time to explore what will bring you purpose, meaning and satisfaction later in life? Explain and rationalise with your spouse the ideas expressed or suggestions proposed, so that he or she can see your point of view.

Realise that what may seem sensible to you, may seem illogical to him or her.

Know your “Numbers”

You and your spouse must have a mutual understanding of how to save and invest for retirement – should each of you save individually for retirement or have a joint retirement savings.

How about a mutually agreed investment portfolio created for both your retirement – do both of you agree to the choice of investment products?

Talk about unpleasant topics, like what will happen or who will help out financially if one of you or both run out of retirement savings – will your adult children or relatives provide the financial support?

Maybe one of you will work again or start a business to replenish the retirement saving?

It is also advisable to talk about money-draining habits and vices like impulse shopping, expensive hobbies or interests that may be financially unhealthy during retirement – how should these vices be managed within control?

Do not hide financial obligations to other family members such as support obligations to parents (in-laws) or siblings, or financial commitments such as personal debts that you may have when you retire – like credit card debts, housing loan. Instead, discuss how these financial obligations and commitments should be managed during retirement.

If you are considering plans for relocation for retirement, it is advisable to keep communication open and have a shared vision in sight. It could be your spouse wants to be closer to friends and family, while you may want to try a new environment.

Perhaps you will want to travel while your spouse will prefer to be at home where things are familiar.

Moving to a new place can be an expensive affair unless you’re downsizing to a home where you can age-in-place.

Renew your life

Retirement with your spouse requires more than just financial planning. It requires many doses of love, intimacy, mutuality, patience, commitment, trust and communication to negotiate a new set of vows – your retirement vows.

Retirement is a new phase of purposeful and blissful life together as both of you age gracefully.

It is a journey into an exciting, adventurous, fulfilling and meaningful time with your spouse, family, friends and the community.

Don’t end up spending time with your spouse in an atmosphere of mental and emotional differences, possibly leading to the division of your retirement savings in a divorce settlement.

Focus on how to create interesting and impactful moments in your daily lives to best enjoy the culmination of lifelong voyage together.

Carol Yip is a personal financial coach and also founder and CEO of Abacus for Money

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