By Bryan Trugman, CFP

We all look forward to retirement—leisurely days spent doing all the things you’ve dreamed about for years. But what happens if you and your spouse have different ideas about what your golden years will look like? That can quickly turn a well-laid-out retirement plan into a confusing mess. Don’t let that happen to you. Sit down with your spouse and ask these three questions to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to retirement. 

How Will You Fill the 40-Hour Gap?

After spending years, or even decades, diligently working, planning, and saving for retirement, many people are shocked to find out that their dreams of how they will spend their time do not align with their spouse’s. You may have reimagined your retirement, but have you sat down and talked with your spouse about how you will both fill the 40-hour gap? 

It’s often not enough to keep your retirement dreams to yourself. You should take the time to dream together with your spouse so that you can both take proactive steps toward making those dreams a reality. Your shared retirement lifestyle will dictate what you should be doing right now. 

It can also be a great way to address and overcome potential disagreements before they become points of contention in retirement. For instance, you may be planning to spend your time volunteering for a local organization while your spouse is looking forward to traveling year-round. These differences in expectations can cause a less-than-ideal start to your golden years if you’re not careful. Retirement can be a chance to grow together—or grow apart—depending on how you approach it.

What Comes Next When the Kids Move Out?

Another important question to discuss is what comes next after the kids leave the nest. Will you sell your house and immediately downsize? If your kids moved out of state, will you move to be closer to them? The empty-nester stage can be challenging for many parents, and some may wish to downsize immediately instead of living in an empty house. Conversely, now that there are no children to care for, you could find that the extra space and time to yourselves is freeing on many levels. 

Chances are you will not feel the same exact way your spouse does about what to do next. Talking about it ahead of time will help you not only set expectations for yourselves, but also for your kids. The last thing you want is to downsize and move to a different state, only to find out that your children need to move home (like what happened to many unsuspecting parents during the pandemic). When everyone is on the same page about what to expect, the transition to empty-nester and retirement becomes that much easier.

When Will You Retire and Claim Social Security Benefits?

Lastly, ask yourselves when would be your ideal time to retire and when do you want to claim your Social Security benefits? Do you want to transition slowly to retirement, continue to work part time, or retire all at once at a certain age? What does your spouse want to do and how will that impact your plans?

Coordinating your Social Security strategy is another important consideration that married couples should think about. Because married people have the ability to receive their own benefit or a spousal benefit, they have more to consider when filing for benefits. With the right strategy, married couples can maximize their benefits. 

In the majority of cases, the lower-earning spouse may want to begin collecting benefits early while the higher-earning spouse waits as long as possible; that way, you can access the lesser benefit while maximizing the higher benefit. 

It is often the husband with the higher benefit and the wife with the lower one. Women also tend to live longer than men. By following this strategy of waiting as long as possible to claim the higher benefit, you not only maximize the husband’s retirement benefit for use while he is alive, but it also maximizes the wife’s survivor benefit when he passes away.  

Don’t Wait to Get on the Same Page

It’s not enough to keep your retirement dreams to yourself. Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page by dreaming, discussing, and planning for retirement together. At Attitude Financial Advisors, we can help couples navigate their retirement options with confidence. 

Reach out to me via email at, give me a call at (516) 762-7603, or click here to set up a free consultation.

About Bryan

Bryan Trugman is managing partner, co-founder, and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner at Attitude Financial Advisors. With more than 14 years of experience, Bryan specializes in addressing the financial needs of new parents as they seek to realign their finances, assisting divorced individuals as they navigate an unforeseen fork in the road, and strategizing with those seeking to accrue a dependable retirement nest egg. Bryan is known for being a good listener and building strong relationships with his clients so he can help them develop a customized financial plan based on what’s important to them. He is passionate about helping his clients experience financial confidence so they can worry less and play more. Bryan has a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering with a minor in mathematics from State University of New York at Binghamton. He has served on the board of the Financial Planning Association and continues to be actively involved in the national organization. He is also a member of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce and has served as its vice president and as a board member. When he’s not working, you can find Bryan on the ballroom dance floor or engaged in a fast-paced game of doubles on the tennis court. To learn more about Bryan, connect with him on LinkedIn. Or, watch his latest webinar on: How Much Is Enough? A Surprisingly Simple Way to Calculate Your Retirement Savings Needs.

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