Investing in marriage brings satisfaction in retirement

Portrait of loving senior couple at the beach

Image: Goodluz/

‘I am convinced that marital counselling is an important part of the investment that people can make to get the most out of retirement.’ This comes from Michael Finke in a paper he wrote concerning finances. That’s probably why the word ‘investing’ is used.

But his US research has uncovered 6 things about couples and retirement that are worth considering.

1. When people retire, they lose the social connections they had in the workplace. That means the relationship couples have with their spouse becomes more important. It has a large impact on life satisfaction, which is why Finke suggests counselling—particularly if there are issues in the relationship.

2. Often wives have a larger social network than their husbands, which means that when men retire they may become dependent on their wives as their main social support.

3. At the same time, the spouse with a social network outside of work will be likely to spend time with those friends. This can create some marital conflict at times.

4. There are good arguments for couples to coordinate their retirement (currently only about 20 per cent of couples in the US retire together). If one spouse is working and the other isn’t, the spouse who is retired is significantly less happy.

5. Individuals in a positive relationship with their spouse are happier in retirement than those without a spouse. However, if the relationship is negative, they are unhappier in retirement.

6. Having children makes retirees ‘a little bit’ happier, but living within 15 kilometres of them is not a good idea. ‘Some may disagree,’ says Finke, ‘but my opinion is based on our research of 20,000 retirees’.

This is probably a bit controversial, so I’ll let him speak: ‘We have found that if people’s retirement plan is to move out of their current home and move closer to their children, it does not seem to work out very well and greatly affects satisfaction’.

For couples in retirement, having a strong marriage is the key. Everything else on the list is secondary. Even if you have good reason to move to within 15 kilometres of your children and grandchildren in retirement, a strong marriage means you can cope well—together.

One more thing: By its nature, research bundles everyone together and then divides them into categories to give the big picture. Individual situations will vary. However, if a couple ‘invests’ in their marriage to strengthen it, that’s certain to help them get the most out of retirement.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Couples

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