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A true partnership! How my wife and I approached retirement planning

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When it comes to marital relationships I reckon there’s always only one winner.

When the other half says: “What’s mine’s mine and what’s yours is also mine”, there doesn’t seem to be any point in arguing, other than replying: “OK, as long as you give me enough spending money”.

That may be a jaundiced view of modern day relationships when both partners seem to play an equal part in being the breadwinner.

I wonder if the same logic applies when couples sit down to discuss retirement planning.

Planning for retirement as a couple

Who should go out to work? Who should be the primary wage earner? And, just as important, who will get the best long-term pension deal?

Or are they so busy bringing in income to pay for today’s essentials that planning for decades into the future somehow gets lost?

From my own experience there was a clear and guiding rule that helped us to focus on retirement planning from the early days. It may sound a very simple plan, but as my wife took many years’ break from work to bring up the children – and with no guarantee that those years would contribute towards her NI contributions and therefore state pension - we worked on the basis that MY work pension arrangements had to be sufficient for the both of us.

Anything else, we agreed, would be a bonus.

It may sound an old fashioned outlook, but our plan was for my stay-at-home wife to take care of the children up to secondary school and then get back into employment as soon as possible. Then, in her mid-30s, she would hopefully be able to take advantage of any pension on offer to help boost the retirement projection we had already planned.

I realise this might not work for everyone.

But despite today’s talk of how families struggle with high energy costs, large mortgages and sky-high food bills I have to remind myself that this is no different to how we felt 20 or 30 years ago when 10% to 15% mortgage interest rates were the norm, when items of furniture were bought piece by piece when we could afford them, and when the lure of mobile phones, iPads and widescreen TVs just did not exist.

A happy ending?

To cut a long story reasonably short, my wife did return to work and joined a pension scheme which meant we would have that pension “bonus”. It’s not much, but, as Tesco says, every little helps.

We’re still a few years off our state pension now that the goalposts have been moved, but it was nice to have it confirmed that the years my wife spent at home bringing up the children do actually count towards it.

Whatever your plans, retirement planning for couples is certainly a partnership, a balancing act between affording what you need at the time and hoping for the best in the future.

It may sound terribly cloying, but it is a true partnership.

It always amused me, as a reporter on a local weekly newspaper, when couples celebrating their Golden Wedding would always pronounce the secret of their marriage longevity as ”a bit of give and take”.

Today, it seems like sound advice to any couples making plans for their retirement!

This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.

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