The Takeaway: More Than Half of Couples Disagree on Retirement Timing

He Wants to Retire, She Doesn’t: A surprising 62 percent of married couples disagree on the timing of their respective retirements, according to a recent Fidelity Investments study. As Wall Street Journal writer Kathleen A. Hughes notes: “The days when a husband automatically retires at 65 with a corporate pension and his wife dutifully follows him to a golf course in Florida are officially over.” And negotiating retirement plans can be a major strain for modern couples.

Take Patrick Hickey, 62, a tax-software programmer who would like to retire as soon as possible-much to his worried wife’s chagrin.

She is worried that I will quit too soon and start having fun and we won’t have sufficient funds,” says Hickey. “There may come a point when I retire even if she doesn’t want me to.”

Hickey’s wife, a practicing family law attorney, is only 55; the larger the age difference between spouses, the less likely they are to retire at the same time. Overall, less than half of couples retire within two years of one another, according to Urban Institute research analyst Richard Johnson.

Because the question of when to retire involves many things-financial security, age, job satisfaction, marital happiness-it can wind up a much more sensitive topic than where to retire, Hughes writes.

Gender roles also make their mark. Research has shown husbands less satisfied with retirement when their wives are still working, possibly because it hurts their self-image as a family’s provider. Meanwhile, women-many of whom (especially in older generations) took time off for child-rearing or didn’t enter the workforce at all until kids were grown-tend to reach the peak of their careers later than men, says Laura Carstensen, professor of psychology and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity.

“They may not want to leave work just as they are hitting their stride.”

Are you and your spouse on the same page for retirement? Take Fidelity’s couples quiz for more on things you might need to discuss. 

Monday Quick Hits:

  • Journalist Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes interrogator, died Saturday night. The “hard-charging interviewer … with a showman’s flair” was 93, a year older than fellow 60 Minutes veteran Andy Rooney was when he died five months ago.
  • And is the ‘Grand Old Party’ growing older? The proportion of GOP primary voters who are 50 and older has gotten substantially bigger since 2008, according to exit polls, even as overall turnout has dropped.

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