What to Do When Your Spouse Wants to Retire Before You


There are a larger number of couples who have an age gap between them than the ones who are more or less of the same age. Even if a couple is of the same age, it is not necessary that they would retire at the same time, depending on the field of work that they are in. Age gap or no age gap, one can either plan to retire together or choose to retire whenever they think is right, individually and according to their line of career.

A recent survey conducted by Manulife revealed that 71 per cent of Singaporeans believe that they continue to work well past the retirement age. Today, only 26 per cent of retirees are actually working. The key reason for this lack of faith can be attributed to the stagnant job market and lack of high-paying opportunities coupled with ridiculously high costs of living that are driving the average household debt out of control. 

The report also showed that Singaporean households allocate nearly 37 per cent of their financial assets to cash even though bank deposits have delivered embarrassingly low returns in contrast with equity investments. Since most Singaporeans will eventually enter retirement as a married couple someday, it is important for them to plan their retirement based on joint life expectancy.

While people might think that the ideal way to retire is together, studies have shown that in a working couple, it is the husband who retires first most of the time as the average age gap between a couple is three years where the husband is elder. In reality, there is no particular ideal way. Whatever works for you should be the ideal way for you. But knowing what works for you is the real challenge.

Retiring individually has its own set of challenges, including negotiating financial and personal priorities, and adapting to new societal roles. All that can be tricky, given that about one-third of couples disagree about how they will spend their time in retirement. Yet, if retiring separately is what you choose to do, here is how to make the process a bit easier to go through:

  1. The Transition

While not having to go to work could become taxing mentally, because by the time retirement comes, we have practically been working our whole lives, it does not have to be a rough transition.

If you have worked till the time after which you are given retirement benefits, you can choose to retire even if your spouse is still working, unless, you are forced to retire due to certain circumstances. And if your health insurance has been taken care of along with retirement benefits, there is nothing that should stop you from not working if you do not want to.

Do not worry about being alone at home for long stretches, while your spouse is at work. Instead, what you can do is concentrate on something you have always wanted to do. For example, you could start taking hobby classes.

  1. The Budget

It is always advisable to discuss and plan out in detail what you want your life to be like after retirement. It is also advisable to take care of all the major expenses before your retirement, especially if you are the one bringing home the fatter pay check.

Discuss what you want to do after your retirement so that even after you retire, your spouse can retire after addressing the priorities listed in the to-do post-retirement list compiled by you both. Therefore, you would need to tweak your budget accordingly as well to make sure your partner does not end up getting burdened with more liabilities because of your early retirement.

  1. The Routine

One of the things that people usually do not realize until it happens is the new post-retirement routine. You need to start mentally preparing yourself to do it. Changing roles in retirement – say, from breadwinner to homemaker – can create friction even in strong marriages.

Therefore, you need to start preparing yourself mentally as to how you would spend your time while your spouse is away, the best way is to either hone some talent of yours or start doing some freelance work – it will pass your time and bring in some extra cash as well. It’s a win-win situation.

These are a few ways how one can make retiring individually a good thing. While you might feel that it is best to retire together, retiring individually can actually be very beneficial for you as a person since you get to give a lot of time to yourself and relieve your spouse of household management pressures.

You get to dedicate a lot of time to all those things that you have always wanted to do but your job or your kids never allowed you to take time off for a while. If nothing else, you get to just sit back, relax and enjoy the little luxuries of life because you have had a long life of hard work. You deserve it!


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