Friday, July 6, 2018

Friday Feature: A Roadmap for Couples in Retirement

Six years ago, I retired. I was 51 years old, my daughter was just entering high school and my husband was still working full time.

It was an adjustment, especially since my first year was a limbo year. Retiring at 51 meant exiting my primary profession, but it didn't mean leaving the work force entirely. Since I hadn't stepped out of one job and into another, however, I had a lot of figuring out to do and, suddenly, plenty of time in which to do that. For a while, my husband and my daughter maintained their schedules while I tried to carve out a new one for myself and to figure out who I was now that I'd left my career behind.

These days, I'm firmly ensconced in my second career and very happy where I am. At some point, though, I will retire for real and so will my husband. My daughter, now a college student, will be on her own, making us empty nesters for real. It will be transition time again.

In her Next Avenue article, "An Emotional Playbook for Couples in Retirement," Joan Fischer acknowledges the challenges of this transition, and offers some suggestions for navigating it. Sure, it's supposed to be a time to relax and have fun, free from the entanglements of a work life, but it's also an entirely new way of life. Schedules change. Priorities change. We change.

Fischer's article is worth a read for empty nesters, too. It's so easy to assume we should just know how to do this and that it all should be fun and games as our responsibilities fade away and we have time for ourselves. But, as Fischer says, "Most of us don’t blithely stumble into marriage or childbirth, perhaps because those transitions carry so many obvious red flags."

If we prepare financially for these transitions, why not prepare emotionally too? Acknowledging the enormity of the change is the first step, and Fischer's practical suggestions offer guidance in navigating the new terrain.

What are you looking forward to in retirement? Why not take some steps in that direction now?

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