The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle:  10 Must-Have Conversations for Creating an Amazing New Life Together


“The most important asset you have in retirement is each other.” 

We liked this book, The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Creating an Amazing New Life Together,  from the get-go.  It is different and wise because it focuses on retirement planning for both people in a relationship. 

From the foreword:  “The vast majority of people who are about to retire are going to do so with someone else.  Yet there is surprisingly little in the literature on retirement that provides an explicit framework for how to go about making important retirement decisions together.”

The co-authors, Roberta K. Taylor and Dorian Mintzer, are both experts in positive aging and life planning.  They have long careers and advanced degrees in psychology and coaching.  Their book guides us to envision, discuss and strategize how to build a rich and satisfying retirement experience together.

We don’t know what will face us as the decades roll on.  The authors have provided a roadmap with sections including, ‘What if Finances Don’t Support the Dream?’ ‘When Health Issues Play a Role,’ ‘Adapting to the Empty Nest,’ and ‘The Boomerang Child.’ 

Do we stay put or explore new frontiers?

“What if you are looking forward finally having time to experience all the richness city life has to offer — but your partner dreams of moving to a cabin in the woods?” they ask. “Sometimes you might be surprised by your partner’s vision for the years to come, especially if you haven’t discussed it.” The book outlines exercises to do separately and together to share thoughts and plans.  The goal is to create and refine a Shared Vision—one you will revisit together with your partner and tweak as the years go by. 

Where to spend your retirement is obviously a key question.  Jim and I have no disagreements on where to live.  We have a rent-stabilized apartment in New York City — the holy grail of living affordably in the city— and we inherited my family’s home near the Gulf Coast of Florida. But for couples whose options aren’t as settled, I can easily see the potential for conflict. 

Dorian and Roberta suggest rules of engagement for couples to keep discussions productive and civil, a process they give the acronym BLAST: 

Blaming gets in the way

Listen without interrupting

Agree to disagree and don’t make assumptions

Set a safe space for discussions

Take time to talk without distractions

They provide advice on navigating privacy needs, a key area to consider when making the transition to this new phase of life: “There is a continuum on which couples go from looking forward to being together all the time to having fairly separate lives.  Most couples fall somewhere in the middle but regardless of the particular way you divide your time, communication is key to finding balance in your relationship.”

It’s important to carve out ‘alone time’ in a way both partners find rewarding. As I write this, I’m alone at in our apartment in New York City.  Jim stayed in Florida a few weeks beyond our visit for his birthday to work on home repairs. It is good for him and for our house that he can take this extra time in Florida, more time than my work allows.  We talk at 8am each morning, and when we’re back together it’s all the sweeter.  Friends have asked us how we manage to live in such a tiny New York apartment without being at each other’s throats.  Part of the answer is that having a little time apart helps: it is good for both of us.  That is good to know, especially since we plan to keep both the tiny apartment and the inherited house throughout our retirement.

Couples Retirement Puzzle_contents

From the Table of Contents

We’re just at the beginning of our retirement planning, and I’m very glad to have found this book while we are still in our pre-retirement years. Creating a Shared Vision with your partner is a process. I see us returning to this book again and again.

Creating a Shared Vision — Communication is Key

“The process of creating your Shared Vision is meant to be a dynamic and fluid guide that can help you move forward and enjoy what could be the best time of your life,” the authors write. “As your Shared Vision emerges, you may begin to see patterns and possible solutions you had not noticed before.” Communication is a key, as is compromise:  “We don’t always get what we want, but what we end up with may be more valuable.”

Just like the financial side of retirement planning, the Shared Vision isn’t something you do just once.  You need to revisit the plan, evaluate whether you are on track to reach your goals, and if necessary make adjustments.

This book focuses more on the emotional side of retirement more than the financial, and that’s the context in which they discuss long-term care insurance, which they both own and recommend as part of your retirement plan.  “Long-term care insurance is an income stream that allows you to remain in your home or community and receive care for an extended period of time.  It can protect your loved ones from the emotional, physical, and financial burden a chronic illness places on a family.”   Dori says that among the reasons that she and her husband bought long-term care insurance was, “We didn’t want our health care needs and costs to become a burden on our son.” 

We share that sentiment.  So do most of our clients. We don’t want to be a burden on our kids, either.  Who does?  We think of our LTC insurance as providing protection for our entire family, not just for us.

Of course, there are financial benefits too.  Dori describes how they see the advantages and the benefits of LTC insurance for them:

“For us, it felt like an ‘act of love’ as an insurance and assurance for the future. We explored a few options, talked with some experts in the field, and found a plan that provides what we felt we would need.  Despite the cost of the yearly premiums, we’re glad we made the decision.  We take out car insurance and have insurance on our house and property, so for us long-term care insurance helps us feel we also have some protection for our future medical needs.” 

Dorian qualified, when we corresponded, that LTC insurance isn’t for everyone — “not everyone can afford it and some people don’t qualify because of pre-existing medical conditions.” The important thing is to plan ahead and find some way to create an emergency fund or and/or set aside funds for future medical expenses.

The book is a good guide, not just for the beginning of retirement, but also for the later years.  For example, it addresses the financial and emotional aspects of losing your partner, and the importance of considering legacies.  As they say, a legacy is more than leaving an inheritance of money or property.  “Who have you been inspired by and who have you inspired?” they ask. “Whether or not a legacy is intentional, it reflects your values, what is most important, and how that manifests in your life.” 

See the links below for more on the authors and their important work for positive aging and retirement. 

Roberta K. Taylor, RNCS, MEd: Learn more about Roberta at www.pathmaking.com

Dorian Mintzer, MSW, PhD: See Dorian’s website at www.revolutionizeretirement.com and join her Facebook group @Revolutionize Your Retirement

Both of the authors recommend owning long-term care insurance.  Learn more about it on our website:

https://www.lifelongcarenetwork.com/long-term-care

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