Mind the (Age) Gap

I could hear the pain in her voice when she shared her biggest concern: not being able to spend more time with her retired, much older spouse because she has to work to support their lifestyle. Since they didn’t do any advance planning and weren’t good at saving in their 40s and 50s, early retirement is not an option for her. Having just begun my own relationship with someone older, it got me thinking about the challenges that might lie ahead for us.

My guess is that he will be winding down with work or outright retiring while I’m still going strong with my career. So does that mean he will be eager to travel his pants off while I’m still in full-time work mode? What will my role be if he has health issues? Intergenerational couples (age gap of 10 years or more) with dual incomes should discuss some of these potential issues early on in the relationship.

Health

What if my partner needs help with basic daily living tasks while I’m still working full time? We will need to talk about the very real possibility of long-term care for him (and me as well). Research and experience lead me to believe that trying to balance the role of caretaker and full-time worker is insanely stressful—you end up doing both jobs rather poorly.

So we’ll have to explore long-term-care insurance: Do we need it? If so, how much is enough? We can probably handle a large portion of the costs if he needs care for a year or two, but an extreme situation requiring care for many years would take a huge dent out of our nest egg if I’m not able or willing to be a full-time caretaker.

Retirement Spending

If I opt to reduce my work hours in my 50s when my partner retires, we will be adding a decade or more to the period in which we’re relying on savings to replace our income. It also means that the timing of our future income streams may be vastly different (i.e., IRA withdrawals, pensions, Social Security). So there will be a little extra advance planning required to make sure our nest eggs can outlive both of us.

Second Marriage?

My partner came out late in life and has an ex-wife and kids—four of them, in fact (kids, not wives). An older spouse/parent may wish to ultimately leave all or a portion of his assets to his kids. But he may also want his younger, surviving partner to have access to those assets (such as trust income) until the younger partner dies. This can pose a challenge if the younger spouse has another 30 years of expected life. I know that I will be personally having that chat with my guy once things get to the next level.

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