Change happens all the time. Different routines affect people emotionally, financially, and often relationally. Retirement is one of those times. Whether leaving the workforce was your own choice or a result of outside circumstances, it can cause stress with your significant other. Managing your retirement financially is challenging but adjusting to the marital changes created during this transition can be just as tricky.
Covid brought about many revelations and perspectives. A challenge in my household was that my wife had gotten used to me leaving for the office early in the morning and generally refusing to stop work until after 6 pm. This left a large gap of time we wouldn’t see each other. Suddenly I was forced to work from my home office which completely interrupted my wife’s routine.
“Honey, I love having you here, but you need to get back to the office.” That was a typical sentence nicely threaded into many of our conversations over the last eight months. My professional experience of helping others leave the workforce to head for permanent routine changes offered some healthy habits to help make life easier for us.
A retirement dream for many is to not have a fixed schedule or routine. While that may sound attractive now, daily practices and habits are integrated into our lives. You must work diligently not to form patterns! Your spouse will develop certain expectations of your new-found behaviors, but it does take time. Until then, conversation and open dialogue can go a long way.
Ideally, we get to plan how and when to break from the career we may have loved. Even if you didn't love the job, hopefully you loved the occupation. Regardless, planning ahead of things you want to accomplish or do is very beneficial for your spouse. Waking up one day and buying Kayaks unbeknownst to my wife for instance, (yes, I did that) sounded like a great idea. And building a greenhouse was probably a worthy discussion to have with her before heading to Lowe's. You get the point. You don't have to agree on all the things you will do with your new life, but you will reduce friction if you communicate ahead of time.
In some homes, leaving the workforce is indeed a mutual retirement decision. Your spouse may have prayed for the time when you would quit and come home. Their perspective does count if you want a happy home. Again, communication is critical. Sadly, we have witnessed long-term marriages implode over retirement. People can change. However, my experience says that people themselves do not actually change, but rather their routines do.
Remember that you are leaving a life that probably forced you to make decisions daily. Though you no longer receive a paycheck for your efforts, your mind still believes it needs to make decisions. Suddenly, things that were never on your radar can become urgently necessary. Be mindful of taking over decisions that your spouse is accustomed to making. You are now treading on their routines and changing their lives. Don't miss the view from the other side of the fence.
Retirement is exciting, but it also offers challenges. Be mindful of new habits and communicate when possible with your spouse.
Joseph A. Clark is a Certified Financial Planner and Managing Partner of The Financial Enhancement Group, and an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Contact Joe at yourlifeafterwork.com or 800-928-4001. Securities offered through World Equity Group, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services can be provided by the Financial Enhancement Group (FEG) or World Equity Group. FEG and World Equity Group are separately owned and operated.