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Lane Keeter, CPA

Partner: Tax Consulting, Estate Planning, and Heber Springs Managing Partner

Having a Retirement Planning Date with Your Spouse

Having served for several years in a marriage ministry at our local church, I know the importance of having regular date nights with your spouse. Of course, usually we think of these in terms of doing something that is fun, romantic or interesting. But occasionally it is also a good opportunity to have meaningful discussions about important topics.

I find that often times, couples who are getting reasonably close to their retirement years have not had such discussions about the implications and expectations of retirement. A retirement planning (or money) date may just be the ticket to kick-start the process.

Ok, I get it, this sure doesn't sound like much of a date, at least from a romance standpoint. But it's important that you develop a retirement spending plan and have a clear idea of how much you will need to be able to retire in the manor you hope.

A retirement planning date can be effective in helping to set goals, establish expectations and give realistic thought to a major life change event, all the while doing so in a more relaxed and enjoyable setting. So with that in mind, here are a few keys to having an effective retirement money date:

1) A fun way to start is to just dream a bit together about what you want to do in retirement. Do you want to play golf, and if so, where and how often do you want to play? What about travel; again, where do you want to go and how frequent? Maybe fishing or hunting is more your thing. Whatever it is, it will be important to estimate how much to include for these activities in your retirement budget. Have some fun researching these things on the internet as you get a feel for cost.

2) Assess all your retirement expenses. Write them down, excluding any expenses or debt payments that you won't have by the time you retire. For any debts you have that could carry into retirement, this is also a good time to discuss possible strategies for "retiring" those debts before you retire.

3) Quantify your retirement income. Ask "what are our sources of income in retirement?" Possible sources include IRA accounts, employer pension plans, taxable investment accounts, and social security benefits. You can contact the Social Security Administration ( to obtain a statement of projected social security benefits. This is also a good time to consider whether or not either of you plan or possibly might like to make some extra money with a part-time gig of some sort.

4) Now that you've done the above, is there any income left over after expenses, or do you find yourself potentially in the red?  If the latter, should you consider downsizing to save money? Should you plan on working a part-time job as mentioned above?  How about a move to another city or even state with a lower cost of living and/or tax burden? There are all kinds of online calculators that can help you determine how much you might save by doing so; just search for "Cost of Living Calculator".

5) Not as pleasant to talk about but equally important is how the death of one of you will affect the other from an income standpoint. Look at what happens in the event you die first and then again if your spouse is the first to pass away. What happens to social security benefits and what options are available there? Is there a pension or annuity that will decrease or even stop at the death of one of you? Is there life insurance in place to provide income relief? There are critical questions.

6) Related to the above, it is important that you check the beneficiary designations everywhere one is required. Be sure the designations are current and as desired on employer retirement accounts, IRAs, health savings accounts, life insurance policies and annuities. Also, make sure that bank and other financial institution accounts are titled the way you desire, especially if the surviving spouse will need to live on those funds.

All of this can help you create for you and your spouse a retirement spending plan or budget. There are numerous tools that can make the task of creating a budget much easier. The popular program, Quicken, has a nice budget feature. And many websites, like the one for AMAC (the Association of Mature American Citizens) offer budget and savings calculator tools geared specifically to the retired.

Most importantly, have some fun with this and don't let it be a source of stress or tension. Chances are there will have to be some compromise made and you may be surprised by things you learn about your spouse. But isn't that how marriage is anyway?

Now go enjoy your date!

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