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Retirement Planning for Couples: Steps for Success

Picture of Randall E. White

Randall E. White

couples retirement planning

There are probably many financial goals and obligations you and your spouse or partner have tackled together over the years. Maybe you saved for a house, managed expenses related to your children, built a vacation fund, or paid down your debts. With all the demands vying for your attention in each season – financial demands included – it’s easy to neglect your shared financial future. In this article, you’ll find tips on retirement planning for couples so you can begin to prioritize this shared journey and devise a strategy to accomplish your vision.

Retirement Planning for Couples Step #1. Clarify Your Vision

As you approach retirement planning, envisioning your ideal retirement is a crucial step. Do you imagine yourselves relaxing on a tropical beach together? Or do you see your days filled with gardening and cherishing moments with your grandkids? Whatever your dream retirement entails, it’s important to have a conversation with your spouse about your visions for the future. It’s possible that both of you have different ideas, which is common among couples. However, by openly sharing your dreams with each other, you can ensure that you’re aligned and moving forward together.

Retirement Planning for Couples Step #2. Define Shared Retirement Goals

If you’ve been viewing your retirement funds as individual endeavors, it might be time to shift your perspective. Working together as a team to build your retirement savings can alleviate the financial burden you share. Since you likely make financial decisions and significant purchases jointly, it makes sense to approach retirement planning in the same manner. For instance, if you have access to a 401(k) through your employer while your partner doesn’t, consider increasing your contributions to your plan to help achieve your retirement goals. Alternatively, if one spouse is a stay-at-home parent, explore the option of a spousal IRA, which allows couples to save funds in a tax-deferred investment account for the non-working spouse.

Taking these small steps can strengthen the bond between you and your spouse while bringing you both closer to your desired retirement lifestyle.


Retirement Planning for Couples Step #3. Formulate a Social Security Strategy

By dedicating time to creating a thoughtful plan for when you and your partner will claim individual and spousal Social Security benefits, you can maximize your lifetime income from this source. It’s important to consider factors such as your age, the age at which you plan to make your claims, and the age of your spouse.

If you find yourself uncertain about the most effective way to strategize your Social Security benefits, consider seeking advice from a trusted financial advisor. They can provide insight into the various options available to you and help you make informed decisions.

Retirement Planning for Couples Step #4. Determine an Estimated Income

Establishing practical financial goals for your retirement is essential to ensure a sustainable lifestyle for you and your spouse. While you might believe that earning half of your current income will be sufficient to support you both during retirement, it’s crucial to have an open conversation if it turns out that there won’t be enough funds to maintain your desired lifestyles.

Addressing these expectations early on, while you’re still in the process of developing your retirement savings plan, can prevent future complications and disagreements. By aligning your financial outlooks from the start, you can avoid potential headaches down the road. So, whether you intend to live frugally or live life to the fullest, make sure you’re on the same page.

Retirement Planning for Couples Step #5. Ensure Your Beneficiaries are Current

Your retirement accounts serve not only as vehicles for retirement savings but also as opportunities to pass on inherited assets to your loved ones when you pass on. When you initially set up your 401(k), for example, you likely designated beneficiaries. However, it’s important to ask yourself when the last time was that you reviewed and updated that list. If significant life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children or grandchildren, or the loss of a family member have occurred, it may be necessary to reassess and revise your beneficiaries.

By regularly evaluating and updating your beneficiary designations, you can ensure that your money goes to the intended recipients in the unfortunate event of your passing.


Retirement Planning for Couples Step #6. Rethink Your Retirement Timeline

Retirement is a significant life transition that profoundly alters your daily routine and overall experience of life. Although retiring at the same time as your partner may initially sound appealing, the reality is that it can make the transition into retired life more challenging. Considering a staggered retirement approach allows both of you to ease into this new chapter while maintaining some sense of familiarity. It also provides each spouse with the opportunity to establish their own individual routines, pursue personal hobbies, embark on new projects, and nurture a social life that will shape this next phase of life.

Retirement Planning for Couples Step #7. Understand the Retirement Benefits in the Event of Divorce

While it’s not a pleasant topic to consider during retirement planning for happily married couples, it’s important to address the possibility of divorce if your marriage is experiencing difficulties or if ending the relationship has crossed your mind. In such circumstances, it’s crucial to take deliberate steps to safeguard your retirement savings and long-term plans.

This may involve exploring methods to divide retirement funds without incurring early withdrawal penalties, such as utilizing a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). Additionally, as divorced or widowed spouses often qualify for Social Security benefits, you may be entitled to spousal support in retirement. Consulting with a professional can provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the available options and guide you toward the best course of action moving forward.

Concluding Thoughts on Retirement Planning for Couples

It’s never too early to begin retirement planning conversations with your significant other. Initiating the process as a couple right from the start can greatly benefit you when the time comes to retire. Make it a priority to sit down early on and visualize your shared future, then develop strategic plans that will transform those dreams into reality. The seven steps above are designed to serve as a compass, guiding you in the right direction as you embark on this exciting journey together.

Developing a retirement plan feels complex, but with the right tools and guidance, it doesn’t have to be. At TriCapital Wealth Management, we know how important this stage of your life is and we pride ourselves on being able to help our clients work towards the secure and fulfilling retirements they deserve. If you and your spouse or partner feel as though you would benefit from speaking with one of our advisors, please contact us today. We look forward to helping you plan your financial future!


Securities offered through Triad Advisors, LLC, member FINRA/SPIC. Advisory services offered through TriCapital Wealth Management, Inc. TriCapital Wealth Management, Inc. is not affiliated with Triad Advisors, LLC.

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