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Who Should Retire First when Both Spouses are Working?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 8 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Which Spouse Should Retire First Both

There are many things to take into consideration when both spouses are nearing the time at which they can retire. Furthermore, unlike our parents' generation, it's no longer just the man who is the largest breadwinner. Today, many women earn far more than their spouses so whether you both decide to plan your retirement as individuals or you intend to make those kinds of decisions as a couple, who should retire first needs to take this into account as well as other issues.

Considering Your Finances

Working out all of your income and expenditure whilst you are both still in employment and predicting how that will all be affected when either of you retire will play a significant part, if not be the whole reason, on how you'd reach a decision on who should retire first. If, for example, you earn a significantly greater amount than your spouse, then it would make sense for them to retire first as it's you who will be able to build up your savings for retirement at a faster rate. It's not just about actual earnings though. If one of you has a pension and the other doesn't, maybe it will make more sense for the person who has the pension to keep working in order to increase your pension payout further as you accrue more contributions into it. One of you may have health insurance coverage as well whilst the other one doesn't yet the health insurance might cover both of you. It can sometimes be worth the person who has this kind of insurance continuing to work a little longer, especially if the other person suffers from a number of chronic health problems.

Retiring Together in Order to Share Our Retirement Dreams?

It's certainly true that, as a working couple, both spouses will have often looked forward to their retirement together and planned accordingly, in order that they can spend more time together doing all of the things they'd planned to do. For example, travelling around the world together, taking more exotic holidays and, whilst that should be, in essence, what retirement is all about - it can often be slightly different in reality. For example, you may find that you've got on perfectly well as a couple most of the time whilst you were both working but have you ever considered being in the company of your spouse 24/7 when you retire? Many retired couples will often point to the fact their 'other half gets under their feet' when they both retire at the same time. It's often better for one of them to get used to retirement first before the other and the fact that both spouses retiring at once might have a pretty big impact upon the household finances means that it can produce a better outcome and make the transition a lot smoother, if one retires before the other.

Job Satisfaction

Another important aspect in determining who should retire first is the amount of job satisfaction both spouses are getting (or not getting) out of their job. Therefore, if one spouse particularly enjoys their job, whilst the other positively loathes theirs, it makes far more sense for the person who loves their job to keep working for a bit longer and to allow the other person to get rid of their frustrations by suggesting that they be the one to put their feet up first.

Retirement Plans

It's likely that as well as wanting to achieve goals and dreams and to pursue certain hobbies and pastimes together, that one or the other might be planning more ambitious 'dreams' of their own in retirement. Perhaps, one of you is a great inventor and needs time to follow through on some ambitious project whilst the other is simply content to potter about in the garden each day. If one of you does have more ambitious retirement projects in mind, these will likely mean that you'll have to spend more time pursuing them so it might be more rewarding and practical if the spouse with a lot of retirement plans gets to retire first.

Ultimately, however, it will be down to both of you to discuss all of the kinds of issues which have been discussed above alongside any other personal considerations which may be important to you both.

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