Age disparate couples present retirement challenges

Closing the Couples Age Gap

By Lee Sherman

It’s not unusual these days for there to be a wide gap in age between life partners. According to the latest US Census, nearly two in 10 married couples have a least a six-year age gap. While this makes financial planning difficult (particularly if your goal is to retire at the same time) it doesn’t have to mean that both partners can’t lead happy, fulfilling lives, with a financially secure outlook ahead of them.

Let’s start with the more difficult aspects. As little as a 10-year gap can mean you have to employ a different investing strategy than you might otherwise have considered.

Work longer

One of the easiest ways to combat this dilemma is for one of the people in the relationship (if not both) to work a few more years longer if at all possible. This will naturally lessen the gap and provide a greater pool of money when the time finally comes for the couple to retire (together). This is a good idea anyway if you can manage it because you might be hit with unanticipated financial situations like a down market or a lack of expected passive income which will require your money to last longer. Mathematically speaking, a few extra years on the payroll can literally double your retirement savings if invested smartly (as always, it’s important to consult a Certified Financial Planner).   

Your lifestyle is an important consideration in knowing when to retire. If you want to make sure you have enough money to live comfortably and still do a lot of traveling together (a common goal among many retirees) perhaps it makes sense to stagger your retirement dates so that one half of the couple is still receiving paid vacations.

Collect Social Security later

This is a matter of some debate among financial experts so, again, we recommend consulting a financial planner. Most people will start collecting their benefits as soon as they are eligible.  That said, in this situation, waiting until the older spouse has reached 70 can be beneficial for the younger spouse in the couple. No one wants to have the conversation about lifespan. But keep in mind that, if your spouse is female and you aren’t, she is most likely to outlive you and it’s important to plan accordingly.

Consider Health care

The biggest burden that any retired couple will have to face is the cost of health care, especially since both spouses will be eligible for Medicare at different times. If one spouse is still working and can cover the other, that can help span the gap. However, you might also want to consider paying for long-term care insurance now. It’s expensive but it can pay off in the long run.

The role of stocks

Bank accounts, bonds, and mutual funds make up the majority of most people’s portfolios. But stocks may be a better option in this situation as they can provide a retired couple with regularly occurring income in the form of dividends.

The ultimate goal of retirement planning when an age gap exists is to ensure that the younger partner will have enough to live out their life when they hit retirement age. That could mean rethinking your investment strategy. Or beginning to think about it at an earlier age.

Lee Sherman is a contributing writer to, the premier matchmaker between investors and advisors. Lee is an experienced journalist and editor with over 30 years of expertise with a significant history of writing in the personal finance and technology arenas.

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