Don't Retire at the Same Time

Why retiring at the same time your spouse retires could be a mistake.

couple looking at one another
I'm happy to be retired with you, I just need a little space. (c) Cultura RM Exclusive/Attia-Fotografie, Getty Images

My husband and I were lucky enough to be able to retire within a couple of months of each other. I looked forward to all the time we’d have to make our own schedule, travel, and write our own rules. But it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. I was surprised to find that MY idea of an active retirement didn’t quite match HIS ideas of retired life. There were also Social Security considerations. And all that togetherness?

Well, spending 24/7 together still held some surprises. Even after years of seeing each other in the evenings and on weekends, daily togetherness was something new altogether. Here are a few lessons learned from our dual retirement experiment. 

Being Together Is Great, But Not All of the Time

We love having time on weekdays to run errands when the stores aren’t busy, and we love traveling during the off season, but with both of us doing all the same things, we ran out of things to talk about. I quickly realized I needed hobbies and activities of my own, without my husband. If only to come up with new conversation topics. 

I began volunteering at places that didn’t interest my husband, like a local charity quilting shop, and I volunteered cleaning our church. Meanwhile, my husband found some activities of his own, like bigger repair projects around the house. Eventually, we founded a monthly community meal program, but both of us filled different roles in that project instead of being joined at the hip.

Lesson learned: Be sure to find time for your own hobbies and interests.

Two People’s Idea of “Retirement” Can Differ Greatly

My idea of retirement included plenty of time for reading, resting and relaxing, but I was surprised to find my husband’s plans include filling his days with home improvement projects, trolling garage sales for treasures and even rebuilding a car.

We’d never talked about exactly what retirement would look like. We eventually found our own groove.

Lesson learned: Talk about what retirement looks like. What will you do, and just as importantly, what will you not do?

People Who Need People May Be Out of Luck

I was so excited to retire, but then it occurred to me that many of my closest friends were still working! So much for weekday shopping trips and lunch with the girls. I found I missed being around people. Through volunteer work, I was able to widen my circle of friends to include people who were also retired.

Lesson learned: Don’t miss an opportunity to make new friends in retirement.

Free Babysitting!

I also took a larger role in caring for my grandchildren, but even there, it’s important to be specific about how much you want to be involved. I have friends who have unintentionally ended up taking over primary child-care responsibilities, and there went their newfound independence.

Lesson learned: Pitch in with extra family responsibilities, but draw boundaries.

Lastly, give yourself time to adjust. You might at first feel guilty, or bored, or even too busy, and that’s fine. It may take a while to find what feels right and doesn’t leave you more exhausted than when you were working.

Mitzie Frietchen is enjoying retirement in a suburb of Kansas City. She’s actively involved with her church and community, but finds time for long off-season vacations with her husband to national parks in the western United States.