This isn’t an easy or surface level topic. It’s very serious and runs deep into the fabric of relationships in retirement. The fact that married men struggle with this transition is a something that plays out time and time again and needs to be addressed in a more serious manner… and it needs to start now.
To begin, the first hurdle has to do with pre-retirement training. Men are not adequately prepared for everyday life in retirement, so when they get there, they have no idea what they are doing. For example, I coach my son’s little league baseball team which is comprised of 3rd and 4th graders. Some kids show up skilled in every facet, while some can catch and throw well but struggle at the plate or vice versa. And a few show up with awkward throwing motions and no experience hitting a hardball at all.
Obviously, the first few weeks of practice we focus on skill building, guiding the kids into the correct positions and mechanics. The beautiful thing is that all of the kids are eager to learn and be a part of the team. It’s a true joy to see them work hard, make progress, and celebrate after a win. The same isn’t always true with grown men and the game of retirement.
Many show up with the right amount of money, but few other essential skills. Furthermore, there is no coach to guide them or team to be a part of. That puts many married men at a serious disadvantage, which can become an even bigger problem when these skill deficiencies are called into question by their spouse. Let me explain.
Many men get to retirement assuming things are going to be a certain way. But they haven’t necessarily shared all of those things with their spouse, let alone, asked them what their vision may be. This is a huge problem and one of the main reasons couples argue in retirement. They thought things would be one way, and when they aren’t, they start looking for people to blame, and that never turns out well.
Along those lines, married men, if you are reading this, it is imperative to your marriage that you understand your spouse does not want to live your retirement. This is a “we” thing, not a “you” thing.
Yes, you’ve worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get here, but you didn’t do it solo and 10 times out of 10, married men are only as good as the spouse they have beside them. If you can’t grasp this “we” concept, the chances of you becoming a gray divorce statistic dramatically increases… but I don’t want to let that happen to you which is why I am writing this and sharing important insights into how you can take a different path.
Another issue is that financial service professionals and HR departments are contributing to the problems both married men and couples face because they’re still telling everyone if you just enroll in the retirement plan and come to our annual meeting about your investment options, life will be good when you get to the finish line. That’s like telling an expecting couple, “Parenting is great, you’re going to love every minute of it.”
It’s actually ridiculous and both the financial services industry and Corporate America need to wake up to the fact that retirement takes work! People need new skills and training in order to flourish in it, and if we don’t help people before they get there, it makes it that much harder for them to adapt and adjust later on.
Let’s face it, most men in or near retirement have worked their tails off to get there and aren’t exactly sitting with open arms waiting for someone else to craft their ideal life in retirement for them. Truth be told, many married men enter retirement with very vague ideas and assumptions about it, which often come crashing down after just a few months.
Then, when someone questions their long-held beliefs and actions in the early phases of retirement, guys don’t usually just throw their hands up and ask for help. In fact, most curl up and fight it. They find ways to rationalize their behavior and justify it by doing more of it.
Picture the traditional husband and wife: Bill and Alice. He worked 35 years as a manager for a big company, while she gave up her career when they had kids to stay home and raise the family. All of a sudden, it’s retirement time, and the first few months are great. But then the honeymoon is over.
Bill’s not leaving the house much and hasn’t really done anything on his own with co-workers or friends since he left the company. Moreover, he expects Alice to wait on him hand and foot, and always finds a way to tag along with her when she tries to escape to the grocery store or meet a friend for lunch.
Alice has politely, and lately not so politely, tried to encourage and prompt him to do and be more, but it’s not working, and she is going absolutely crazy. She is desperate to break through to Bill. She wants some space and time for the things that are important to her and doesn’t want to talk about politics or sports. She nudges Bill to call “So-and-so… do this… or try that.” But it goes in one ear and out the other. Nothing is changing, and she feels helpless.
As a result, it’s a fight every time Alice wants to do something on her own or that’s out of Bill’s very small comfort zone. Even worse, Bill is starting to get defensive when she makes suggestions and has started using his control over their life savings as the tool to justify him doing nothing and why Alice should too.
This ideal time of life that they planned so long and hard for is now a daily struggle. The fundamentals have broken down and now the couple is throwing insults and sarcastic remarks, so they are both striking out. No one is winning at the game.
Fortunately, there are some useful things married men and their spouses can do (along with financial professionals and Corporate America) to ensure that married couples transition well together into retirement. Join me tomorrow for my next piece: Helping Married Men Break Free From The Retirement Brainwash.