All your dreaming and designing will be futile unless you get your partner on-board retirement planning. This article explores the five greatest risks of going it alone and discuss five ways to get your partner on-board.
Retirement planning should be more than just an occasional look over. It should be part of everyday life, an integral part of your lifestyle. That, in turn, will only be achieved if you get your partner on-board retirement planning. With on-board I mean working with you as a full partner, sharing both the responsibility and the benefits that will flow from your combined effort.
It is a common phenomenon that one person takes the leading role when it comes to household finances. In some relationships, it is by design, or believe, but very often, it just happens because one person is more adept at money matters than the other is.
Taking the lead is one thing, shouldering the responsibilities alone is quite another and comes with a number of risks. Besides the prospect of not being financially prepared for retirement, these risks can have a severe effect on the relationship. Let us then discuss the five greatest risks.
Risk #1: The pressure of doing it alone
It is possible that the lead person becomes more and more isolated when it comes to retirement planning, and the pressure starts piling up. The non-active partner expects proper planning and good results, and as the family and other obligations grow, so the pressure increases.
Life events such as marriage, relocation, having children or losing a job, normally means that you will face major decisions. Sometimes more than one difficult decision simultaneously.
The pressure of having to deal with such decisions on behalf of your partner is unfair as well as counter-productive. Such pressure will ultimately affect the relationship negatively.
Risk #2: The guilt or blame when things go wrong
When a bad decision results in financial loss or setback, it is human nature to feel some form of guilt. If that decision was taken in isolation, for whatever reason, this feeling of guilt can become overwhelming.
The non-active partner may not openly express blame but could experience the emotion, which in turn will put unnecessary strain on the relationship.
Risk #3: The topic becomes a taboo
Going it alone is already a red light. Prolonged periods thereof increases the risk that the topic of retirement planning becomes a taboo. If the active partner is already fed up with the situation and the last thing he or she wants, is a discussion thereof.
On the other hand, even if the non-active partner feels anxious about the state of retirement planning, he could avoid a discussion in order to avoid an unpleasant situation.
Risk #4: Your dreams and goals are not aligned
If partners do not discuss retirement planning, they cannot possibly align their dreams and goals.
Goals influence behaviour. Retirement goals will influence the partners’ financial behaviour. When partners have widely differing goals, their individual financial behaviour will equally be different.
Unwise or unwanted spending will cause friction in any relationship, on top of its negative effect on the effort to save.
Risk #5: Your efforts are not optimised
The four risks that we discussed thus far, if unchecked, will fuse into the fifth and resultant risk – retirement planning and savings that are below par.
The lack of participation by both partners becomes a liability that deteriorates the retirement planning effort. It can have a similar effect on debt repayment. A lack of communication results in non-participation, which in turn leads to poor debt servicing, resulting in moderated savings.
Now for the upside. Whatever the situation, there is a way out!
Solution #1: Share your dreams
Don’t start with “So exactly when do you want to retire? At 50 or 55? And where do you want to live then?”
To get your partner on-board retirement planning, start by getting communication going. Start normal conversations, with many questions. By asking many questions, you will learn, slowly but surely, what your partner’s dreams and hopes are.
Find a way to merge your respective retirement goals into a single dream, and keep talking about it whenever you have an opportunity. Use casual conversations to visualise how you will both benefit from and enjoy reaching your goals.
Importantly, find out what motivates your partner.
Solution #2: Share your day-to-day lives (and do a budget)
Once conversations are flowing, start to share everyday life, with an emphasis on each partner’s financial responsibility and behaviour. I bet that most people know far less about their partner’s financial responsibilities and behaviour than they think they do!
Be willing to listen and learn about everything from dog food to loyalty cards, and everything in between. Listen and learn – understanding the full picture is priceless.
At some point in time, you must introduce that dreaded B-word. Yes, you must do a budget. It is one thing talking about the household budget, but you must also reduce it to writing.
Be patient, be willing to compromise and know that any start is better than nothing. A bad budget on paper is better than a good budget in one person’s mind.
Solution #3: Upgrade your discussions to the retirement plan
For the purpose of this article, a retirement plan means the process of determining retirement income goals and the actions required to achieve those goals.
So in essence, it is figuring out when you want to retire and describing the retirement lifestyle you want to enjoy. Then you can start thinking about the income you will need and the actions you need to take to achieve all that.
Do not skimp on this part. The thinking and planning can further improve the communication you have got going already. Keep the planning simple yet detailed enough to support those dreams and visualisations. Use the planning process to turn the relationship into a team, into a two-person tribe!
Solution #4: Put your plans in writing
Dreams and plans without goals will remain, well, dreams and plans.
The four things mentioned in the previous section now needs detail, in writing:
- When do you want to retire?
- What lifestyle do you want to enjoy?
- What will this lifestyle cost you?
- What actions do you need to take, to achieve this all?
The more detail you can add, the better you can adjust your actions to achieve your goals. Every section and every detail need a date coupled to it, otherwise it is impossible to measure your progress.
Solution #5: Review, and learn to celebrate
Retirement planning is generally a long-term affair and plans do not normally change on a weekly basis. If they do, you have not managed to determine your real dreams and hopes, yet.
Assuming you are comfortable with your long-term goals, you can consider quarterly reviews. Give yourselves enough time to review the goals and the progress that you have achieved during the last quarter.
Some pundits recommend a six-monthly review. I could agree, depending on how much time you have until retirement and how solid your progress is. If all is good and well, a 20-year stretch to retirement will have 40 reviews!
A review is not complete until the adjustments, if any, are in writing and implemented. Only adjust if your progress falls short of your goals. If you are on track, just keep at it.
Lastly, learn to celebrate. Keep it within budget but do celebrate. Use the opportunity to cement the team, confirm those goals and keep those dreams in focus.
Retirement is a weighty issue, directly linked to your daily life and lifestyle. To get your partner on-board retirement planning is crucial to your entire wellbeing.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
I would love to have your thoughts on getting your partner on-board. What worked for you?