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The Right Place to Retire

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If you’re approaching retirement, there’s a good chance you may now find yourself wanting to live in the mountains, while your partner prefers the beach. Sue Thompson shares three tips for couples dealing with these sorts of differing retirement expectations.

Before my husband, “the Pilot,” and I got married years ago, we made sure we were on the same page about the important things like values and children. But like most folks, we didn’t discuss what our ideal retirements would look like.

Fast forward to today, two adult kids and many jobs later, and we’re figuring out how to reconcile our different expectations for our golden years (“the Pilot” long envisioned a low key-life in Arizona, while I imagined something a lot more fast paced).

It turns out we’re not alone. If you’re approaching or beginning retirement, there’s a good chance you may now find yourself wanting to live near the mountains, while your partner prefers the beach. According to a 2011 Fidelity Investments survey of 648 married couples born between 1937 and 1964, 34% of couples have different retirement lifestyle expectations.

So, for those of us facing this dilemma, what we can we do? Thankfully, BlackRock’s new Retirement Center offers some helpful tips that “the Pilot” and I are putting into practice. Here’s a summary of some of the helpful advice.

Coming to a compromise is the key. If you and your partner are dealing with the mountain vs. beach quandary, you may decide to make the beach your home base while taking lots of vacations to the mountains, or you may want to settle at a beach destination with mountains just a short drive away. And if retirement isn’t yet on your near-term horizon, now is as good a time as any to sit down with your partner and come to an agreement on your retirement lifestyle plan.

When figuring out your mutually agreeable solution, take your financial picture into account. Depending on how much you’ve saved and what kind of lifestyle your savings can fund, both you and your partner may have to change your expectations. For instance, it may turn out that both the mountains and the beach are out of the question, and you’ll have to stay right where you are, taking trips to more exotic locales when you can.

Do a trial run. After coming to a compromise, if you have at least a year before retirement, financial planning experts at Fidelity Investments suggest doing a trial run. In other words, live on your expected post-retirement income for a year to see if the lifestyle you envision is feasible. If it turns out to be too expensive, given that you still have a bit of time then before your official retirement, you can potentially adjust your savings strategy or decide that at least one of you will continue working.

As for what “the Pilot” and I have decided to do, we’ve taken the advice above to heart. A few years ago, we bought a home in Arizona where my husband lives permanently and, to quote a friend of mine “I visit him when I can.”

It turns out after so many years of fast paced, I’m seeing eye to eye with “the Pilot” on a low-key life in our home state.  For us, it’s neither the mountains nor the beach.  It’s the beautiful Sonoran desert with its spectacular sunsets.

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