After running a small kitchenware store for more than 25 years, my husband Didier is being forced into retirement. His store and other shops along an entire block have been sold to a developer who plans to tear them down to build one of those retail/condo monoliths that are sprouting up everywhere.
Could my husband move his business to another location? I suppose, but he’s 62, so the prospect of closing shop and re-opening elsewhere at this stage of his life isn’t appealing to him.
That means that my husband and I will soon be a mixed-retirement couple. While I will continue working for many more years to come, in a few months Didier will be facing sudden retirement. This is causing us some stress, as we are beginning to realize that there are pitfalls to our situation. Why?
Ideally, like many other couples, we would like to synchronize our retirement. You know, enjoy spending more time together, travelling together, taking those ballroom dance classes together that we have always talked about. However, we are really not being given a choice in our situation, so there are many questions that we are asking, such as:
- How will Didier fill his days while I am not around?
- What will he do for social supports/networks?
- Can we rely on one income?
- Will he grow to resent me for not spending more time with him or for being the “breadwinner”? Will I resent him for being able to enjoy a leisurely coffee in the morning when I have to race out the door to work?
- Will his feeling of self-worth be affected if he has a difficult time creating a new identity for himself beyond that of work?
Apparently, according to Statistics Canada, today only about half of the couples approaching retirement intend to retire at the same time. A growing disjointedness of spousal retirement is attributable to the declining proportions of husbands and wives retiring two to four years after their spouse and the increasing proportions retiring five or more years after each other. Furthermore, Statistics Canada found that most women retire after their husbands.
With so many women in the workforce, the decisions around retirement – both his and her retirement – are now becoming more complex. And, of course, there are many factors influencing spousal retirement, says Statistics Canada, such as the age of the spouses and the age difference between the spouses, health considerations, status of financial affairs/pensions and so on…
So Didier and I have set about working out our planning to overcome some anticipated problems. Here are some of the ways in which we are navigating the mixed-retirement waters:
- Talking is important: We frequently talk about the vision each of us has for how life will unfold once one of us is retired.
- Money: It’s clear that I will be the remaining wage earner and I generally look after our future financial/retirement affairs. However, my husband is the expert in making every dollar stretch further – so each of us has an important role to play in ensuring that we can live off the one salary.
- Household duties: This is not really an issue, since Didier already does the majority of cooking, considers me his “apprentice” in the kitchen and really takes pleasure in maintaining the home. A traditional role reversal? Well, I guess so, but it works for us.
- Travel: We’ve decided on taking one to two trips a year until I take the retirement plunge and then we may be spending time as Snowbirds in Florida for about half the year.
- Filling time: He will have so many options in retirement, but rather than dictate what I think my husband should do, I would prefer that he discover on his own what will make him most happy. Does he want to:
- spend more time taking care of his elderly mother?
- become more physically fit by starting up his exercise routine again?
- get a part-time job that doesn’t eat into his evenings and weekends like his store did?
The world is his oyster.
Many people say that couples who retire together find that constant togetherness can be overwhelming. At least by staggering our retirement starts, we hope to transition into retirement life and learn from each other.