Why Couples Retire Together – or Don’t

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Married couples don’t necessarily know what the other spouse is thinking about retirement.

This insight came out of a new Fidelity Investments survey that asked some 1,600 people if they knew when their significant other planned to retire. Only 43 percent answered the question correctly. This disconnect reveals just how few couples are talking about retirement, said Fidelity spokesman Ted Mitchell, who worked on the survey.

Fidelity’s survey went out to adults of all ages, so the younger ones no doubt felt they’re too young to be thinking – much less talking – about what their lives will be like decades from now.

But things change as couples age. When retirement comes into sharper focus, it’s natural to start talking through the options – mine, yours, and ours.

One option is to retire around the same time, and prior research has shown that roughly half of older couples do so.

New research takes a more nuanced look at how couples retire and finds a more complicated picture.  Mixed arrangements are common in the pre-retirement years. Perhaps one spouse continues working full-time, even though their partner has retired, or one spouse might shift down to part-time work while the other is either still in a full-time job or has already retired.

Two sentiments are usually in conflict when older workers are trying to decide whether to retire: a longing for more leisure time and a need to bank more in savings, Social Security, and pensions.

Spouses often influence one another’s retirements for a variety of reasons, including their health, their relative ages, and how much each one likes their job. But financial security is usually a major consideration.

Courtney Coile at Wellesley College found that older workers partly based their retirement decisions on their own financial outlook – the more a wife can increase her pension or Social Security through additional work, the more likely she is to continue working. The same thing goes for husbands.

But men, far more than women, were influenced by their wives’ financial prospects: if their wives were working longer for financial reasons, husbands – usually older – would tend to work longer too. More men in Coile’s study also reported getting enjoyment out of spending time with their spouse, giving them a good reason to work longer and retire around the same time.

It’s important, even for the couples who don’t retire together, to be on the same page, said Mitchell, the Fidelity spokesman. He has one piece of advice for any couple thinking ahead to retirement: have conversations regularly about your plans.

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Ken Pidcock

We were expecting to retire together when, one night, my partner sat up in bed and declared that she’d had enough. So we retired a year apart.

Dan Wick

Life happens and even the best laid plans can change due to health, job stress, and downsizing employers. I retired early to take care of my spouse with serious health concerns. She retired due to the health concerns.


I retired just short of my 67th birthday. The plan was for my wife to continue to work (she was a nurse) part-time for at least a year. We had moved to a different state for our retirement. The job market was different, salaries were less and conditions were worse. Within 7 months she retired completely. We seem to be fine financially but without pensions you always worry you don’t have enough put away!!!


Things can sometimes work out exactly according to plan —> We planned our retirement date many years earlier – we were both going to retire at age 55. As planned, we retired within six months of each other – right on target.

Even while we were working, finances and expenses were discussed as his, hers, and ours. We’ve always divided up the finances – but both knowing exactly where everything is. We hit all our financial milestones – that made the transition into retirement seamless.

Also, no conflict regarding leisure time vs savings, pension, etc. We both had lives outside of work and were on the same page financially. All the money stuff has been jointly managed.

So far, over eight years into retirement, everything has clicked.


All kinds of things are different in 2018. Job market for oldsters like me is really good. Pressure factors to retire are all over the place. I am 69 and still work full-time. Wife retired because she did not like her job’s new IT system.

My company removed limits on vacation allowance. Crazy good situation. Working til 70 is good advice.

Love your website.

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