When it comes to tending to your marriage, Valentine’s Day is one of the easiest days of the year. Cook a nice meal, go to a nice restaurant, buy a dozen roses, and all the hassle that goes into running your family and earning a living melts away.
The bigger challenge is finding ways to sustain that romance in smaller, everyday ways, especially once your anniversaries start to pile up.
As you approach retirement, your life probably isn’t the same as it was when you first met your spouse. And your relationship shouldn’t be either. Here are four ideas that can help you and your spouse prepare your marriage for the next phase of your lives.
1. Schedule date nights.
Putting your relationship on the calendar next to dentist appointments and basketball practice doesn’t sound very romantic. And yes, spontaneity and little surprises are an essential relationship spark. But what about all those days that just aren’t sparking? When you’re tired after running the kids (or grandkids) around and stressed after a long day of work, it’s easy to put off tasks that we don’t consider essential. You might not feel like you HAVE to go out to dinner with your spouse, but you do feel like you HAVE to fold the laundry and start rounding up your essential tax documents.
Saying “Thursday night is our night” can help you and your spouse give your relationship the primacy it deserves. If one night a week isn’t realistic, find one night every month to do something special. Your to-do list will still be there when you get home.
2. Do new things together … and favorite things apart.
Many older couples mistakenly feel like they should be doing everything together. Couples who don’t clear this hurdle sometimes struggle once retirement rolls around. The house can feel like it’s shrinking as spouses try to find new daily routines without tripping over the other person’s schedule, especially if one or both retirees hasn’t quite figured out how to fill 8 hours every day without work.
One common trait we’ve noticed among the happiest couples we work with is that, at every stage of their lives, they use their assets to balance new experiences, shared passions, and individual interests. They try things outside of their comfort zones, like dance lessons or new sports. They go to movies together, see their favorite bands, eat at favorite restaurants, travel to favorite vacation spots. And if, while they’re travelling, the wife wants to play tennis while the husband tours a museum, they’re both happy and enriched by their day when it’s time to meet up for dinner.
3. Present your best self.
We have a business dress code at Keen Wealth because I believe how we present ourselves to our clients underscores the value we place on our relationships and the seriousness with which we approach our work. I know that attitude is becoming less and less of the norm as more folks work from home and certain CEOs are now wearing hoodies. However, I do think that if you’re too casual all the time, you can end up taking your work and your relationships for granted. Being comfortable around your spouse is one of the real joys of a good marriage. But when that comfort manifests itself by skipping the gym and spending the day in sweatpants, your spouse might just think you’re getting lazy.
Remember those first few dates with your spouse, all that prep time digging through your closet and fussing in front of the mirror? That effort isn’t vanity. It’s communication. It says, “I’m putting in the effort to look my best because you are important to me.” That effort can be even more meaningful now after years of marriage.
4. Get in financial sync.
In my recent book, Keen on Retirement: Engineering the Second Half of Your Life, I tell the story of a couple I was working with that didn’t realize how different their expectations were for how they were going to spend their money.
The husband wanted to take an around-the-world cruise when he retired. So, we did a little research and figured out that the trip would cost around $105,000. A big expense, to be sure, but this couple had the means, and after reviewing their spending plan I knew we could help them make it work.
Until I looked over and saw the wife cringing!
It wasn’t just the cost, it was that a trip that huge wasn’t something she was passionate about. That’s when I realized this might have been the first time this couple had ever really talked about their money and how they wanted to spend it!
I wonder what would have happened if those folks weren’t working with a fiduciary advisor who was helping them manage their lives, not just their money. I don’t know if that gentleman would have walked into the house one day holding $105,000 in cruise tickets. But maybe he’d have made another smaller splurge purchase that didn’t align with how his wife saw their spending plan. Maybe the wife would never have realized the extent of their assets and never enjoyed herself. Or maybe a thousand tiny disagreements and misunderstandings would have quietly snowballed until they added another broken relationship to the rising “gray divorce” statistics.
Now we’re not marriage counselors here at Keen Wealth. But we are skilled at helping our married clients plan for a future in which their relationship can continue to grow, evolve, and flourish.
About BillBill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.