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We typically focus on the financial aspects of retirement planning—everything from setting long-term financial goals to determining your optimal asset allocation. These and other financial decisions are crucial. However, helping thousands of investors plan successful retirements over the last couple of decades has taught us that the social and personal aspects of retirement are vital components of a well-designed plan too. It’s important to have a clear sense of your retirement priorities and how you hope to spend your time. And if you have a partner, it’s essential to do this together.

We’ve learned that even couples who have been together for decades sometimes don’t seem to fully understand what each considers to be an ideal retirement. That’s OK. Retirement is a new adventure. Before embarking on that adventure, you’ll want to learn: How each of you hopes to spend your time. Where you imagine living. What you hope to be able to do with your money in retirement. This knowledge can help guide your savings and investments and raise the odds of achieving a more comfortable and happier retirement! In this article, we’ll share some ideas about how you and your partner can have productive conversations around your retirement hopes and plans, think about where to live, and also plan for the unexpected.

Talk early and often

Talking with your partner about retirement is a great first step. Clear and open communication can help align your priorities and avoid possibly stressful misunderstandings or differences later on. Whilst communicating effectively can be hard, especially when it comes to potentially difficult topics, it’s worth the time and effort. Here are a few tips.

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Start early: Don’t assume you’re on the same page. Begin talking about your shared retirement long before the day arrives. This can help you discover if you have different ideas or priorities before you have a potential crisis on your hands (say, one of you wants to retire to a small cottage and garden, whilst the other is picturing refined city living). Allowing lots of time for the process can also lower the pressure and makes success more likely.

Be open: Especially when you might disagree, you’re likely to have a more productive conversation if you approach it with the intention to understand the other’s point of view, rather than to win an argument. Ask open-ended questions and listen carefully and patiently to learn what matters most to your partner. This can help you understand each other and make compromise more likely. A few examples to get you started: What is your ideal retirement? What are you most worried about? What do you think will make you happy?

Keep talking: Talking about your retirement plans and hopes is an ongoing process rather than a “one and done” sort of thing. Many couples find themselves returning to these important conversations regularly. Your retirement plans and concerns may change over time, especially if your health, lifestyle, family or other circumstances change significantly.

Location, location, location

Where to spend your retirement is a keystone decision and many other plans and assumptions fall into place around this one. For instance, once you know where you intend to live, you can estimate housing and other expenses and plan how you’ll spend your time. There are many dimensions to this important decision. The following questions can hopefully help you and your partner think through where you’d like to live.

How close would you like to be to family and friends? Staying connected to people is more important to some than others. You may choose to live near family or plan to move to another city or town, or to a retirement community. If you are planning to relocate, it’s worth thinking about how you’ll keep in touch with friends and family and make new social connections.

Is climate important? You may dream of retiring to the beach, the mountains or somewhere warm. For some, a more moderate climate may make sense from a health perspective. You can always consider splitting your time between two locations, if your budget allows.

Do you want to rent or own? Talk with your partner about the pros and cons of each. If you have sufficient liquid assets for income and cash flow, and you plan on settling permanently, then you may prefer owning versus renting or leasing property. But don’t forget the time and cost of maintaining a property that you own, as well as possible mortgage expenses. The responsibilities of owning a property may feel more burdensome as you get older.

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Have you considered your total cost of living? Cost of living often varies greatly by location. We recommend that you think through all potential costs: food, utilities, maintenance, clothing, travel, hobbies and anything else you might spend money on. Living somewhere with better access to health care may be valuable, even if it means a somewhat higher cost of living.

Plan for the unexpected

You can’t plan for every eventuality, but it’s a good idea to have a plan B or C, should things turn out differently than you hope. After all, some things may be out of your control. Here are a few ideas.

  • Anticipate change. You may never need more care or help around the home but, just in case, plan for how you’d meet that challenge. Or what you might do if you need access to more specialised health care.

  • Involve both partners in financial decisions. Even if one partner takes the lead, it’s important that both of you have a basic understanding of your overall financial picture. This is especially true if something happens to the partner who does the lion’s share of managing the finances.

  • Be resilient and flexible. It’s likely some aspect of your retirement doesn’t go according to plan. When that happens, try to be flexible and reframe so you can make a new plan that will work for you both.

Saving and investing for retirement and having a comprehensive financial plan are all crucial. But so too is talking with your partner about what you both want your retirement to be like. Although it can take some time and work to arrive at a shared understanding, it’s worth the effort. It can help you avoid misunderstandings, make the most of your retirement together, and prepare to meet any challenges you might encounter. Talking to your partner—early and often—about retirement can help you build a more secure, resilient and happy future together.

Fisher Asset Management, LLC does business under this name in Ontario and Newfoundland & Labrador. In all other provinces, Fisher Asset Management, LLC does business as Fisher Investments Canada and as Fisher Investments.

Investing in stock markets involves the risk of loss and there is no guarantee that all or any capital invested will be repaid. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. International currency fluctuations may result in a higher or lower investment return. This document constitutes the general views of Fisher Investments Canada and should not be regarded as personalized investment or tax advice or as a representation of its performance or that of its clients. No assurances are made that Fisher Investments Canada will continue to hold these views, which may change at any time based on new information, analysis or reconsideration. In addition, no assurances are made regarding the accuracy of any forecast made herein. Not all past forecasts have been, nor future forecasts will be, as accurate as any contained herein.

This content was produced by Fisher Investments Canada. The Globe and Mail was not involved in its creation.

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