At three possible times.
Also (at the end of this post): I’m in a podcast
In the last blog post I mentioned how a Venn diagram (shown below) can represent a couple’s separate interests as well as their shared interests. And I said that it’s very healthy if their daily lives reflect not just their joint interests, but also their separate interests. Being two individual people as well as a couple makes for a strong relationship.
I mentioned that this applies not only in marriage but also in retirement. And in particular, at three possible times in retirement. In this blog post I’ll expand on those three times.
The first time is right at the start of retirement.
You may remember (if you’ve read Life Two) that most people fear one or more of the three big questions that they face at retirement. The identity question (particularly if they love their pre-retirement job): Who am I? The practical question: How will I fill my time? And the financial question: Will I outlive my money?
It’s the practical question that’s relevant to this blog post. In whatever way you choose to answer it (and today’s post is not where I deal with potential answers), there’s an associated question: How can I avoid interfering with my partner’s time? That’s because, remember, you’ve probably spent most of the daylight hours apart, during your career years, and – as many discovered during Covid – being together all the time can be a claustrophobic experience.
That’s where the Venn diagram becomes a good basis for a practical solution. It legitimizes the notion that you’re both a couple and two different people. And, once you look at your relationship this way, and talk about it together (communication is essential!), you can identify things that you want to do together and things that you each want to do on your own.
It goes further.
Retirement (or, as I prefer to think of it, much more positively: graduation from full-time work into a new phase of life) becomes an opportunity to re-shape your life, to reinvent yourself. And if you discover that you have slowly grown apart (so that there’s little or nothing in the overlapping part of your Venn diagram), it could become a wake-up call. No matter what the specific cause (boredom, money issues, sex, whatever) the emptiness of that part draws attention to it. Author Linda Melone advises what you can do before it’s too late: put the relationship first (and to me, that means keeping all the parts of your Venn diagram healthy), take care of yourself, assess your role in the problem, talk about sex and everything else too.
The second time of the Venn diagram’s relevance potentially comes when two people are thrown together by circumstances later in life, and they discover so strong a mutual appeal that they decide to live the remainder of their lives together. Filling what might have been a void in each life is a wonderful feeling, and the couple’s overlapping area is now overflowing with love and joy. But typically each brings an existing family into the new relationship, two non-overlapping parts of their new Venn diagram, and it’s not unusual for these two parts not to care for each other, and to cause financial (and other) complications. This leads to tensions and conflicts for the couple, who might want to live only in the overlapping area but can’t. Advice to second-time-around couples tends to stress taking time, and seeking financial advice, before commitment.
The third time is even later, and it comes if one partner becomes the caregiver for the other. At this time the caring needs can become so overwhelming that there’s no time left to look after yourself, and your whole life gets drawn into the overlapping area of your Venn diagram. Of course it’s an act of love to be the caregiver, and it does provide emotional satisfaction to know that you’re doing all you can (even if, sadly, your partner may not be aware of it). But this is when it becomes particularly important – for your sanity, for your own pleasure, perhaps even ultimately for your life – to keep your non-overlapping part of your Venn diagram healthy. There are often community services available for you. One source I found informative is helpguide.org.
About that podcast:
The Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) of Ontario is an independent regulatory agency created to improve consumer and pension plan beneficiary protections in Ontario, Canada. One of its initiatives is to have a Pension Awareness Day each year, for “inviting all Ontarians to join the conversation, pause, and learn about the value of a pension and the importance of starting early to save for the future.” And among its offerings (Pension Awareness Day this year falling on February 1, 2024) is a series of four podcasts: Financial Freedom: Pensions & Retirement. One of them is focused on individuals: Individual strategies towards a secure retirement , and that’s the one in which I’m one of three people interviewed by an extremely good moderator. It was fun doing the podcast with my other two interviewees, and I hope you enjoy listening to it.
Recognizing and paying attention to all the parts of your Venn diagram becomes important at three potential times in retirement: when that stage of life commences; if two people later in life want to live together; and if one partner becomes a caregiver for the other.
I have written about retirement planning before and some of that material also relates to topics or issues that are being discussed here. Where relevant I draw on material from three sources: The Retirement Plan Solution (co-authored with Bob Collie and Matt Smith, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009), my foreword to Someday Rich (by Timothy Noonan and Matt Smith, also published by Wiley, 2012), and my occasional column The Art of Investment in the FT Money supplement of The Financial Times, published in the UK. I am grateful to the other authors and to The Financial Times for permission to use the material here.