Decisions surrounding retirement are rarely simple. This further becomes the case when there is an age gap between couples, resulting in differences in retirement dates, life expectancy, health and more.
For couples of varying ages, traditional retirement advice may not be applicable. Their retirement fund will not only need to provide for one but two individuals encountering different stages in their lives and their careers. If there is an age gap between yourself and your spouse, here are a few considerations to take into account.
Consideration #1: Your Retirement Date
One of the most critical details to consider is the start of your retirement. If one spouse continues working while the other is retired, how will the dynamic shift? Alternatively, you may choose to retire at the same time.
Staggering the start of your retirements can also be beneficial. For example, if the younger partner continues to work, they may maintain employer health coverage until both partners are eligible for Medicare. Additionally, their earnings can reduce the need to minimize the portfolio, extending the length of their savings.
It’s possible that one spouse retires early so that the couple can stop working at the same time. Or perhaps the older spouse loves their job and has no problem working for a few more years. Ultimately, the decision comes down to you as a couple and your approach to the circumstances. Either way, it’s crucial that you consider this because the decisions you make regarding the beginning of your retirement chapter will impact how you plan financially.
Consideration #2: Social Security
Another key detail to be considered strategically is when to begin collecting Social Security. If an age-gapped couple retires at the same time, the younger spouse may receive reduced benefits. Alternatively, if the younger spouse begins collecting benefits at age 62, their lifetime benefit could be reduced exponentially.1
If the older spouse makes more than their partner, it may make more sense for them to delay taking Social Security benefits for a few years. By waiting, the older spouse’s benefit will grow eight percent each year past their Full Retirement Age (FRA) up to age 70.2
Consideration #3: Your Investments
As retirement nears, investments often move from a more aggressive, growth-oriented portfolio to a conservative, wealth-preserving portfolio. If your partner is significantly younger than you, you may consider maintaining a slightly more aggressive portfolio than couples who are closer in age. This allows your retirement savings to benefit from more growth potential, ultimately benefiting your spouse later in life. Although the potential for losses during a market downturn increases, the younger spouse can help offset them with ongoing contributions from paychecks (if they are still working).
Consideration #4: Health Costs and Life Insurance
There is a key advantage to being in a partnership with an age-gap: the younger spouse will likely be able to care for the older spouse if needed. On the other hand, the younger spouse’s long-term care needs are then put into question.
Purchasing a long-term care policy that covers only the younger spouse may be beneficial to your relationship. Alternatively, using a portion of your 401(k) as the younger partner to buy a Qualified Longevity Annuity Contract (QLAC) to cover costs is another available option. In this case, the income stream referred to as a longevity annuity begins years after purchase and allows individuals to create an additional income stream in retirement.3
No matter your circumstances, you should feel assured that there is a retirement strategy that fits the needs of every couple, regardless of their age difference. However you choose to approach retirement as a mixed-age couple, you’ll both enjoy that time away from work when you know age is no longer a factor in your life together.
Beacon Hill Private Wealth is an independent, fee-only, fiduciary investment advisor providing evidence-based wealth planning solutions that simplify our clients' financial lives. Founder Tom Geoghegan, CFP®, MBA is also a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA).
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