The headline “He Wants to Retire … but She Doesn’t” was one of the most popular articles in the April 9 Wall Street Journal.
What struck me most was the author’s comment that many of the people she interviewed said the issue of when to retire was a point of disagreement with their spouses or partners. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s a decision fraught with land mines. The question being asked isn’t just when to retire and where to do it, but something more fundamental—should we retire. And that question is being asked with much more frequency than I can remember.
It seems like a 30-year bull market (roughly 1975-2005) blurred the financial risks in retirement which now have come into sharp focus. Some of this new appreciation for the risks and vulnerabilities of retirement can be laid at the feet of our recent, and not altogether resolved, financial upheaval. For example, many retirees still have adult children living at home, which creates an added financial burden. Others speak with anxiety about stopping their earned income stream. These folks are concerned that downsizing their living arrangements may be impossible without financial loss due to the glacial improvement in housing market.
That’s one side of the story, but there’s another that’s not as obvious. Many prospective retirees don’t want to retire at all. As long as they’re healthy, they want to continue to work. This is something I hear with regularity. Financial considerations aside, these workers may not have the overriding desire to dedicate themselves to something else. They may enjoy working, keeping active, and earning a living. There’s research that shows staying active, contributing to society, and continuing to learn have positive physical and financial implications. Retirement seems more and more like a transitional time, with baby boomers once again setting the trend.
Are you struggling with the question of when to retire? Are you and your partner on the same page? For many couples, deciding when to start is the hardest part.
For more insight on this topic, read the vanguard.com article The good news (really!) about working longer, by my colleague Steve Utkus.