If you’ve ever been canoeing with another person, you know the importance of working as a team. You have to watch how much you move in order to keep the canoe balanced—and upright! Most importantly, you have to paddle together. Otherwise, you could end up paddling in circles.
The same principle applies to retirement planning. If you’re married, you and your spouse need to make retirement decisions together. That includes how much you save each month and where you invest that money. To do that, though, you first need to dream together to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.
I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, right, Chris. Have you been to my house? With our schedules and the kids, it’s like running a marathon every single day. When the kids are finally asleep, we don’t have any brain cells left to decide tomorrow’s lunch, much less talk about retirement.”
I get it. In a house with three boys, most of our conversations sound like, “Time for a bath.” “Stop that.” “Where’s your homework?” and “Take that critter outside!” That’s why I recommend going on a retirement dream date.
You need to set aside some time for the two of you to think beyond the years when the kids are at home. Get this: depending on when you retire, you could spend more time in the retirement years than in raising your children to age 18! How about that for perspective?
Since dreaming about retirement together can be a challenge, here are a few suggestions to get the conversation started.
1. Ditch the Kids for a Night
I know, the word “date” implies hiring a babysitter. If you can’t afford it, offer to swap sitting duties with another couple. But here’s the problem: even if you’re alone on the date, you can unintentionally bring the kids along by talking about them the whole time! Give yourself the first 10–15 minutes to discuss parenting-related issues, but no more beyond that point.
2. Do Your Homework
Before you meet for your dream retirement date, think about your own retirement ideas. Take time to answer the following questions and write down your thoughts:
*What have you always dreamed about doing in retirement? What would give you a sense of purpose?
*Where do you see yourself living? Do you want to live close to your children?
*Do you want to stay in your current home or downsize?
*What hobbies or pastimes have you always wanted to try?
*Do you want to give to charitable causes? If so, which ones?
*Do you want to volunteer anywhere?
*Where would you like to visit in the U.S.? In other countries?
*What do you want to do together in retirement?
*What separate interests do you want to pursue?
Bring your answers to the date night (or afternoon coffee or whatever works) and take turns sharing your answers. You’ll learn new things about your spouse—desires, fears, passions. Sharing these dreams also deepens your relationship, so that’s a bonus.
3. Don’t Censor Yourself—or Your Spouse
You’ll be tempted to say to yourself (and your spouse), “We could never afford . . . ” or “There’s no way we’d ever be able to . . . ” Don’t get caught in that self-defeating loop. People accomplish amazing things when their actions are fueled by their dreams. Who says you can’t start a new business? Why can’t you go on a safari? If you dream it, make a plan for it, and work toward it, you can achieve almost anything.
4. Agree to Compromise
My wife wants to travel when we retire. I currently travel all over the country. I can’t count the number of cities I’ve been to or hotels I’ve stayed in. When I retire, I just want to travel around the house. This could be fuel for a fight, but we’ve decided to compromise. She can take lots of trips with girlfriends, and we’ll go on a few trips together.
You and your spouse don’t have to do everything together when you retire. In fact, having your own unique interests is healthy for the relationship. Knowing what the other wants to do just helps you determine how much money you’ll need in retirement.
Your retirement is limited only by your creativity and by the amount of work you’re willing to put in to get you there. Retirement isn’t the end of your life—it’s a new chapter in your life. And it can be the best chapter of your life if you stay focused on your dream and work together.