Saving and planning for retirement with a spouse mean very different things if the two of you are in the early years of your careers or less than a decade from when you hope to leave the workforce. Plus, couples of any age can differ widely in personalities, dreams, and financial challenges.
But whatever the particulars of your family, understanding your spouse's goals and concerns is critical, as is working together to achieve a lifestyle in retirement that will be satisfying for both of you.
As part of Money's 2016 retirement guide for couples, we looked at what three couples—in their 30s, 40s and 50s—are doing now to get ready for later life.
Spurring a Spouse to Save More
Michael and Tiffany Lucas
Both 31, Valley Stream, N.Y.
When Michael and Tiffany Lucas began dating six years ago, she was already a power saver. She was socking away so much of her income—8% at that point—that her now-husband was startled to learn that her yearly salary was about the same as his, since her take-home pay was so much lower.
Michael’s employer had automatically enrolled him in its 401(k) at 3% of pay, and he was happy to leave it at that. “I honestly didn’t care. I never really looked at it,” Michael says.
As the relationship grew serious, Tiffany began pressuring Michael to save more—and the couple, now parents of a toddler, have achieved a shared commitment to building a nest egg for the future.
Read more: Money’s Ultimate Retirement Guide for Couples includes advice for duos in their 20s and 30s, their 40s, their 50s, and nearing retirement. Plus, take our quiz to see if you and your spouse are on the same page.
“I wanted it to be a joint responsibility,” says Tiffany, a claim professional for an insurance company. Michael got more serious about finances after they got engaged. “I thought, If she can make it on that size paycheck, there’s no reason why I can’t,” recalls the airline supervisor.
He boosted his 401(k) contribution to 9% of pay, and Tiffany is now at 14%.
Balancing Dollars for Now and Later
Jeff Kopp and Melissa Madole-Kopp
42 and 41, Austin
One step back, two steps forward. That is how Jeff Kopp and Melissa Madole-Kopp have balanced retirement saving with the costs of a growing family. They are now putting the maximum $18,000 into his 401(k) plus $11,000 into two Roth IRAs.
The two didn’t always agree on saving. After Melissa became a stay-at-home mom, she says, “we needed the money for the kids.” Jeff, a software engineer, recalls, “We had many conversations after the kids went to bed where I explained to her why I wanted to give as much as I did to retirement.”
Melissa says it helped her trim spending when Jeff created a graph showing how reduced saving would crimp their nest egg. Meanwhile, they temporarily dropped his 401(k) contribution from 10% of pay to the 6% needed to get the full employer match. The pressure eased when Jeff got a raise; they allocated half of that increase and subsequent income boosts to saving.
Reaping the Payoff for Planning
Beth and Russ Weimer
57 and 56, Raleigh, N.C.
“Neither of us really planned well during our first marriages,” says Beth Weimer. When she and Russ got together in their mid-forties, they made preparing for retirement a priority. Russ worked out a plan that could enable them to retire before age 60, assuming they set aside about 20% of their pay each year.
Thanks to his-and-her pensions, maxing out their 401(k)s, and some additional saving, they’ve actually moved up their timeline and anticipate both being retired within the next two years. Their retirement nest egg: $1.1 million.
“You have to have a shared vision,” says Beth. The two review their finances together quarterly and hold an annual “financial planning summit” over a bottle of wine. Says Russ: “We know retirement isn’t going to happen on its own; we have to make it happen. We won’t be 65 wondering if we can retire.”