I am a 60-year-old dentist. My wife is 56. I have been very diligent in working toward my plan to retire at 61 and am ahead of the game. My $750,000 home is fully paid for, as is my $450,000 vacation condo. I will have at least $5 million in a combination of retirement funds and nonqualified investments when I retire at the end of 2022 and sell the other half of my practice to my business partner. Much of what I have in my qualified plans is in a Roth. I have zero business or personal debt. My wife has not had to work, and she has a very comfortable life. We have two daughters — one 30-year-old, married with a 4-month-old and working as a dental hygienist for me, and the other, a single 26-year-old fully-employed nurse who is currently living with us but will be moving out once the housing market cools a bit. I have helped out both financially, but they would do fine without my help.
Sounds great, right? Yet my family is giving me a hard time about retiring. I thought that they would be happy for me when I announced my retirement date. I am an avid golfer and outdoors person who will have zero qualms about keeping busy when I retire. My wife and I are very healthy. I have taken my wife to talk to my financial adviser, and he went over all of our finances. We discussed a future budget and anything that she feels that she would like to see in our future financially. I will be taking a large pay cut when I retire, but we will still have at least $200,000 per year at 4% of funds, which is at least $70,000 over our needs based on the projected budget. I am OK spending more in my 60s if needed as I am sure to be spending less in my 70s and 80s as I slow down. I plan to sit on my Social Security until 70.
I really don’t think that this is about me not bringing home as much money and helping out the kids, because they will do fine without my help. I feel that they are being selfish in that they just don’t want a retired dad and husband. My job is not who I am, but I feel that for them, it is a part of who they are, and my wife and daughters are having a hard time dealing with that.
I would like to spend winters in Florida and join a golf club. I would be happy just renting for a month or two (or three) in Florida each winter until we find something that works for us to own. My feeling about her giving me a hard time about retiring is that she does not want to face that future. My retiring forces her to think about getting out of her comfort zone and not being around our two daughters who live in the area. I have seen this coming for years, but figured that as she got older, it would not be an issue, yet here we are.
I can’t be the first person to have to deal with this, so how do you recommend that I go from here as I enter my final year of work?
I’m sorry to hear about your frustrations — especially considering how much you’ll have saved for retirement when you leave your job and how incredible of a feat that is for your future.
Retirement can be an emotional time, usually for individuals leaving the workforce who felt their careers defined much of who they are, but sometimes also for the family. In some cases, it causes concern for how to pay the bills when shifting to a fixed budget, while for others, as you suggested, it could be about stepping into the unknown.
Your wife may have a lot of feelings associated with your retirement, and it’s important to keep her in the loop every step of the way, as you seem to have done so far. Couples need to plan for the nonfinancial aspects of retirement just as much as the financial. You mentioned your wife’s disapproval of your retirement might have something to do with being away from her children. If that’s the case, discuss with her what you hope to do in your retirement — and what she hopes you both do during that time, as well.
If she doesn’t want to spend so much time in Florida, how would you split your time? Would you be able to find activities closer to home that you would be happy to switch occasionally with your golfing? Aside from the quality of life she’ll have, are there any activities she would love to pursue that you could support? You won’t have to spend all of your time together, even if she’s not working and you’re retired. “It is really important to think about how you’ll spend your retirement days – especially as a couple,” said Catherine Valega, a certified financial planner and founder of Green Bee Advisory. “Both partners should have their own activities, as well as some joint activities.”
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We could ask ourselves a million questions about why they may be acting the way they are, but you’ll only get down to it with clear, concise and meaningful communication. This might be a hard topic to discuss, especially if you’re disappointed in their reactions, but do your best to sit down with them and get to the bottom of it. You may have to be very blunt and ask them straight out what exactly makes them unhappy about your decision to retire. Are they worried about the bills? Are they maybe worried about you, and how you’ll adapt to retirement when you’re not as busy? Is it really just nervousness about this next chapter in life? “All are valid concerns, and the identification of the main issue will help determine the appropriate steps to get everyone on the same page,” said Alec Quaid, a certified financial planner at American Portfolios Denver.
You mentioned your wife has met with your financial adviser to discuss the future budget, but if your children are also giving you a hard time and they’re worried about the finances, you could consider bringing them in to meet with your adviser too. Sometimes it helps to have an unbiased third-party facilitating the conversation, Quaid said. Of course, your children don’t make the decisions about your retirement — but if you’re worried about their reaction to your retirement, it’s one way to potentially fix that problem.
Another option is therapy. With so many emotions, concerns and hard feelings, you might find some relief talking to a therapist with your loved ones — sometimes they can unlock money issues too.
You might also want to try a retirement “test drive,” said Jeffrey Golden, a certified financial adviser at Circle Advisers. Take a couple of weeks off and follow a schedule as you’d see fit in retirement. Include your family in the process. This could help solidify your own personal goals for retirement (maybe you don’t actually want to live in Florida three months out of the year) but also show them what it could be like, how happy it would make you and how it would (or wouldn’t) affect them.
It is great that you are able to separate yourself from your work – not all retirees or near — retirees can do that — but you may also be right that your family is having a hard time redefining you and themselves in this next phase. Your decision will affect them in some capacity, even though it is completely within your right to retire. Maybe when you sit and talk to them, ask them what about your retirement you think will affect them.
“They need to have a guided discussion around each other’s expectations and what they envision retirement to be,” said Rene Bruer, a certified financial planner and co-chief executive office at Smith Bruer Advisors. “Bottom line, they need to come to an understanding and to make compromises.”
Ultimately, remind them of who you are and why you want to retire. “While his family might understand that the numbers make sense for retirement, they may not feel comfortable that he has an identity beyond his role at work,” said Dennis Morton, a certified financial planner and co-founder of Morton Brown Family Wealth. “I would advise him to set aside the dollars and cents and say to his family, ‘In retirement, I am someone who…’ Then fill in the things that will define his values, how he will spend his time and how he will find purpose.”
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