Lessons from one couple’s journey to a successful retirement
Being part of a couple adds complexity to retirement planning. And this complexity needs to be worked through. I was reminded of that recently when John and Beverley* were in my office for their regular review.
Our relationship started several years ago when John was referred to me by his accountant. He was an engineer and Beverley worked part-time as a receptionist. Their children were grown up and independent, with families of their own. John was seriously thinking about retirement and it was time for him to act.
John and I had an initial chat and we hit it off well. He knew he needed advice and I knew I could help him, so we decided to take things to the next stage and prepare a retirement plan.
Beverley joined us at our next meeting. This was critical because their retirement wasn’t just about John stopping work, it was about a change in lifestyle for both of them. Even though Beverley had been working part-time for a few years, it was as much about her future life as it was about John’s.
Retirement or big transitions are viewed differently by different people. For John, it was a chance to reap the benefits of a successful career; take a break from working consistently over the previous 40 years; travel, see the world; and try new things.
For Beverley, though, she felt she would lose some of her freedom. She pictured John being under her feet, interfering and questioning what she was doing all day. She also knew John would need a lot of help adjusting to his new life.
Apart from planning the financial aspects of retirement, it’s important to plan the personal and social aspects also. This involves considering who you are as an individual and as part of a couple or family unit.
I wasn’t surprised that they hadn’t really thought past the first six months of retirement. It involved travel, odd jobs around the house, improving the golf handicap and seeing more of the grandkids.
This had to be worked into Beverley’s schedule because she had no intention of giving up her independence or stopping work. Work provided her with an outlet, social interactions, feelings of value and worth and financial independence.
My role was to help facilitate and guide them around these issues because they had never really discussed their approaches to retirement. They’d simply assumed the other knew what they wanted.
Decisions based on their needs
A key decision was to keep two cars for as long as possible. This was based on lifestyle and emotional considerations, rather than financial ones, but it was critical for a successful transition.
Keeping the cars meant they both had independence. They could make their own arrangements without being confined to the house or having to rely on public transport.
I’ve been fortunate to seeJohn and Beverley transition into a comfortable retirement and, despite the changes to their lives, it isn’t much different from the dream of some 15 years ago.
They still surprise me sometimes. When updating their financial position to see how they were tracking, John said, ‘if anything happens to me, I hid the money under the. . . .’
You think you know someone!
*names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Anne Graham is a financial planner and CEO of Story Wealth Management. In December of 2018, she was named one of Australia’s 50 most influential financial planners. For more, go to storywealth.com.au