Defining the Ideal

Each individual has a vision of his or her “ideal” retirement: perhaps it’s being able to travel on a whim, or working on your golf game, or even just quitting the rat race to do work that you’re more passionate about, paid or not. When you’re one half of a couple, though, it’s imperative that this vision is shared with your partner so that both of your retirement years are ideal.

Consequently, one of the first questions I ask couples that come to see me about retirement planning is for each to describe their ideal retirement; more often than not, there is a disconnect when it comes to planning for their future. The key is to find that out before you are ready to retire and work on a plan that fits both of you. Here are some tips provided by an article posted at that can help address these differences when discussing your future.


  • Schedule the conversation and be picky about time and place. If done correctly, this is a golden opportunity to start a years long conversation about what your future as a couple looks like. It’s a jumping off point for a conversation you may also have with your financial adviser and with other trusted advisers and family members. You really want to choose a time when you’re both in the right frame of mind and when you’ve each had personal time to consider how you feel about what you’re going to discuss.
  • Set the expectation. Make sure you and your partner have the same expectation of what the conversation is about. Be clear that you’re going to share your vision of retirement and that you’d like to know what his or hers is, too. Set a parameter for the length of the conversation, so that both parties will allow ample time in their schedules. Communicate to your spouse or partner that this conversation is really important to you, and make sure that you have their commitment and buy-in to the conversation.
  • Listen. Really listen. This is critical. If you intend to share retirement with each other, and plan for retirement together, you must know what each person in the relationship expects from their retirement. Retirement is a big word, and it means different things to each person.
  • Be honest with yourself and with each other. If you’re a decade or less from when you expect retirement to start, it should be possible to have a reasonable idea of what you envision retirement will look like. Don’t pick up on someone else’s vision. Take the time to really put thought into what you want out of the next chapter of your life and of your life as a couple.
  • Review, reconsider, and repeat. You’re going to have a lot to think about after such a conversation. Plan a second date with your spouse for a few weeks to a month after the first conversation. Too soon, and you don’t have time to let everything your partner said sink in and be fully considered. Too far out, and you lose the sense of urgency and excitement. Follow the same process, but this time, try to go a little deeper.
  • Take it to the next level. After a few conversations, it’s time to initiate the planning process. A goal or a dream as significant as retirement requires planning over a long period of time. If you’re the do-it-yourself type of couple, you need to work together to understand your current financial picture and the steps it will take to achieve your vision of the future. Both members of the couple should be involved and educated in the process. If such a task seems monumental, it’s the appropriate moment to engage the services of a professional to help you create a road map toward your goal. Share as much as you can with the professional you choose, and make sure they understand exactly what retirement means to you and your spouse. Whether you create your own plan or you work with an adviser, don’t let the positive momentum stop with the vision conversations.