Many of you know my passion for beach volleyball. While I love casual matches, there’s always the desire to win. Getting serious about winning requires more than individual talent.
Whether beach volleyball is your sport or not, I’m sure you’ve heard of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings. Until recently going their own ways, the two dominated the sport, winning gold in three consecutive Olympic games. May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings didn’t achieve that feat through their amazing skills alone – it also took an uncompromising level of teamwork.
Teamwork is what I want to talk about today. If married couples are going to “win” in retirement, then they must approach their strategies like teammates. Sadly, I have too often seen couples who share the same vision for retirement success but have wildly opposing ideas for how best to make it a reality.
When I sit down with couples, we always place a priority on teamwork. We agree on the desired outcome, and we commit to a strategy for getting there.
What I typically find, though, is that few spouses had really communicated with one another about retirement planning specifics before our meeting. And apparently I’m not the only one seeing this disconnect. A recent survey published by NerdWallet confirms these startling trends.
Consider these statistics of people in relationships saving for retirement…
• 23% have no idea how much their partners are contributing to long-term retirement accounts.
• 43% of those with brokerage accounts admit to not consulting with their partners before making trading decisions.
• 31% of people in relationships will use bank savings accounts for their retirements instead of tax-friendly accounts like an IRA.
The survey also found that while 76% of couples will discuss some retirement details – e.g. when they want to retire, where they want to retire, etc. – very few will ever sit down and hash out the details.
Why? Well, I’m not a counselor – I’m a professional retirement income strategist – but the survey suggests the lack of communication isn’t because couples aren’t getting along. Instead, it’s believed the topic of retirement is too big and oftentimes appears so overwhelming that many couples don’t know where to begin the discussion… so, they don’t.
With that being said, here are just two of the conversations every couple should have when preparing for retirement…
Stop thinking about your personal retirement savings as separate from your spouse’s. Lay everything out and look at it all as a single portfolio – the team’s retirement portfolio. Jeff’s 401(k) might look great on its own, but, when factoring in Anita’s IRA, there could be some overall problems: not enough diversification and too much overlap, too much risk or not enough, or any number of shortcomings.
What makes for a great team portfolio will vary from one couple’s unique situation to the next. That’s why it’s important to have this conversation with a qualified retirement planner.
Like most couples, you’ve probably talked about when and where you would like to retire. But when and where are entirely different questions than how.
• Do we know if we are saving enough for retirement?
• How will we maximize our retirement income? What assets can we convert to savings? And what is our strategy for drawing from savings?
• How do we minimize our tax burden?
• What is our tolerance for debt in retirement?
• How will we protect our savings from healthcare costs? Is Medicare good enough for our situation, or will we need a supplement?
• What about long-term care insurance?
Those are but a few of the questions couples must answer before retirement. If you haven’t given these points the attention they deserve, you and your spouse may have opposing points of view without even realizing it.
Again, consult with a retirement planning professional to assist in developing a comprehensive team strategy. Simple oversights could have huge consequences and possibly prevent your dreams from becoming a reality.
Speaking of teamwork, I’m reminded of our men’s basketball team at the 2004 Olympic games in Athens. It was one of the most promising teams anyone had ever seen in this sport, a roster loaded with future Hall-of-Famers.
And then it nearly fell apart. In a sport Americans had long considered an automatic gold, we lost games to surprising opponents – and even suffered the worst beating in our team’s history. We barely escaped with the bronze.
What happened? Well, I’m no authority, but many experts seem to agree that an overall lack of teamwork was largely to blame.
There’s a lesson here. We may believe as individuals we’re doing everything right for our retirement, but we sabotage our chances for success if we aren’t coordinating our efforts with our partners.
Make sure you and your spouse are working as a team towards retirement. Meet with a retirement planner to evaluate your game plan and optimize your strategy.