The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

A Soft Number

08/08/2019

Sociologists have marveled about the increasing divorce rate for the over-60 age group.  One consequence of our increased life span is that we’re out-living our marriages.

As a financial planner, people come to me for hard numbers and are disappointed when I remind them there is more to retirement planning than finding “the magic number.”  Men in particular are prone to think that the hard number is of paramount importance and then ignore the softer issues in retirement planning.  I used to recommend that couples approaching retirement visit a marriage counselor at least once before retirement.  It surprised me how often that couples took offense, assuring me their relationship was solid and none-of-my-business.

A good friend of mine married a woman who felt pride on getting old, while he was very physically-active and even considering cosmetic surgery.  He was an extrovert and wanted to travel.  She wanted to tend her garden and attend church.  Since their relationship had already existed so many decades, both felt confident everything was okay.  After one year of retirement, they divorced.  Financially, he couldn’t afford to travel and she had to abandon her garden, when they had to sell the home.

Laughingly, we think of the stereotypical non-working wife saying “I married you to love, honor, & cherish but not for lunch every day!”  That joke is a good sign that the couple realizes their marital dynamic will change, because it will!

My professional advice is hope is not a plan and hoping the marital dynamic remains unchanged is not a plan.  It takes a lot of uncomfortable talking but is worth it!  You should discuss this with your spouse far longer than with your financial planner.

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