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Honey, we need to talk

It should come as no surprise that I read a lot of articles about retirement. As most retirees already know, much of what is written about retirement has to do with money and savings and will you have enough and why didn’t you start saving when you had your paper route. Of course, I tend to look at the emotional and psychological side of retirement instead of the financial one, so I was interested when I saw an article about a “10 items retirement checklist.”

While most of the advice was sound enough, the author’s choice of #9 out of 10 really shocked me. He waited until the end to advise “consult your spouse.” Excuse me? Shouldn’t that be number one on the list? How is a couple going to navigate the ins and outs of retirement if they haven’t discussed it and shared their vision of the future with each other? How can any one make a plan about where to live, how much to spend, what kind of retirement life together they hope to share if there has been no conversation first?

Retirement affects everyone around you, from your spouse to your adult children, your grandchildren and your friends. Each of these has an idea of what would be an ideal retirement for you and may actually be counting on you to serve as a babysitter, chauffeur, errand runner, or full time companion. Your spouse definitely has ideas, either spoken or unspoken, and to wait until that final paycheck is a big mistake.

The change from employment to retirement is a major one, and many people find it a bumpy transition. Dozens of people have told me they “flunked retirement” until they found a structure, purpose and community to replace the one they had when they worked. Many had to deal with an identity crisis, realizing that they are not their job, and that they needed to think about who they are as individuals rather than being the title they were when working.

Retirement does not have to be about aging, decline or illness. It should be about new adventures and new purpose and an unlimited future of possibilities. But if you plan on sharing that future with another person, start talking about it now. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind….say it out loud! And don’t hold back when expressing your personal vision.

Retirement is not about regret. It is about fulfillment and choice, and if you are lucky enough to have a partner, it means listening as well as talking. And making sure that communicating about it is number one on your list.

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