You’ve probably seen this, as I have: The second half of marriage can either be the best time of life … or it’s the time when a marriage breaks up. The transition can catch unsuspecting couples off guard.
A survey from the book “The Second Half of Marriage” surveyed couples’ responses to the question: “What are the areas that cause the greatest stress in your marriage?” In every decade of life, the number one answer was “finances.” Budgeting, retirement planning, and other money issues can easily ruin what might otherwise be a time of remembering why you got married in the first place.
Times of transition are particularly hard on marriages. As the work of raising a family wanes, couples often look to each other for help in redefining their calling in life. Mothers who have devoted years to caring for children may want to fulfill one of the dreams they postponed decades ago. They may want to go back to school, take on a new career, or be more involved in charitable causes. Husbands, on the other hand, may find they are ready to scale back their careers.
While having a close friendship and spiritual commitment are the most important ingredients of a fulfilling relationship, financial troubles are usually the primary point of contention.
If you and your spouse are approaching this season of transition, take this opportunity to check-up on your retirement money, your marriage, and your mission.
First, get your retirement plan together. A retirement plan, like a spending plan, helps a couple limit their disagreements to only those issues outside the plan.
For most couples, expenses drop significantly after their children finish college. Although saving in the early years of marriage is ideal, when the kids are finally off on their own, couples get one last chance to save for retirement.
These years before retirement are critical in determining whether you have sufficient assets to retire. As your financial planner may tell you, by the first day of retirement, you should plan on having about 23 times your annual income.
Next, reestablish opportunities for communication with your spouse! The period just before the children leave home is often the most difficult on the marriage relationship. After a quarter century, the communication focus of most couples is their children. So create new ways to communicate–outside of the lives of your children.
By the way, know that it’s not your fault. The natural course of relationships is to drift apart. So, don’t be down on yourself if you and your spouse are ‘working’ on your marriage. The fact is, if you aren’t working on your marriage, it is probably headed in the wrong direction.
Finally, find your mission for this new phase of your life. It’s real easy when you are young to think you have all the time in the world for the good things in life. First your job, then the kids (rightfully) occupied much of your time. But, as these responsibilities begin to ease, take another look at the bigger life questions which are so important, even if they aren’t immediately urgent.
There’s a good book you can check out, The Seven Stages of Money Maturity by George Kinder, and in it are three questions to help people see what is really driving them. Perhaps you should take the time to write out some answers honestly and thoughtfully, and then share your thoughts with your spouse:
1. If you knew you would have all the money that you needed, now and in the future, from this moment forward, how would you live your life?
2. If the doctor told you that you would die suddenly and without symptoms in five to ten years, how would you change your life for the time that remains?
3. If the doctor told you that you would be dead within twenty-four hours, what feelings, regrets, longings, and unfulfilled dreams would haunt you?
Let’s be honest: Sometimes the vague answers that we live by are not ultimately satisfying. Reevaluating our purpose can give renewed meaning to our lives and relationships, especially in a season of change.
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