Book review: 'The Couple's Retirement Puzzle'

ByABC News
November 28, 2011, 4:10 PM

— -- How many times have you been asked, are you saving enough to retire?

In The Couple's Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Transitioning to The Second Half of Life ($17.95, LincolnStreet Press), Roberta K. Taylor and Dorian Mintzer, both therapists specializing in life transitions, don't overlook this essential question, but money isn't everything when it comes to planning for retirement.

A "myth about retirement is that as long as you're financially secure, everything else will fall into place," they write. "But money, in and of itself, does not buy love, companionship, friendship, respect, self-esteem, joy or a sense of being part of something greater than oneself. This essential life lesson, once learned, can bring a great deal of comfort and joy in the second half of life."

That's hard to argue with. How do you prepare for a happy retirement?

If you're part of a couple, you start by talking about it. It begins with a frank conversation about how you want to live the next part of your life, they write.

"It does not necessarily mean not working," they say. They're spot on there. Many "retirees" will start a second act, or encore career. Others will keep working part-time either for the money, the mental engagement, to give back in some way or all of the above.

But you need to begin to prioritize and make decisions. You may not have a choice about whether to work well into your seventies, but "there may be creative options for how to work and what you can do, given your interests, experience and skills," according to the authors.

That's precisely why you need to be on the same page. Having someone to grow old with is great and helps defray stress. It frequently provides financial support, and, of course, a human bond that's priceless. But unless you have a general roadmap that you're both following, it can get pretty complicated.

Taylor and Mintzer hit on some key concerns:

• How do dual-career couples make decisions about when to retire, whether to retire together or separately, or if they can afford to retire at all?

• What if you're out of sync? A woman who has put her career on hold until children are grown might be re-entering the job force as her husband is thinking about leaving his job and winding down or transitioning into something less demanding.

• What do you do if you're used to working out of your home office as a freelancer, and suddenly, your spouse is underfoot 24-7? Resentments can build.

• How can you successfully meld two individuals' innermost needs, desires and dreams for the next chapter? You want to live in the country, say, with your dogs and horses. He's a city boy and enjoys being able to walk to the grocery store, slip into a theater for the latest movie and has a hankering for public transportation.

Taylor and Mintzer's mission is to present a strategy to start the conversations that help couples tackle some pieces of the puzzle. Most couples aren't going to agree on everything. But if you can communicate, you can find solutions, they write.

They provide practical questions to get you started:

• What are my goals for the next stage of life? Have you always wanted to learn Italian or buy a vacation home in Maine?

• What are my options if I decide to continue working?

• How do financial decisions get made in our relationship? Do I want that to change?