Question: My 66-year old husband is thinking about retirement.  As owner of a small high-tech company, he has worked hard for the past 40 years.  I am 53 and fear that he will retire at a time when I would like to return to school for a second career as a chaplain.    We’ve had a rather traditional marriage.  How do I begin the conversation to discuss that we may be in “different places” as his retirement age approaches? 

Answer: You identified a dilemma with few role models.  Women and men often have different retirement schedules for good reasons.  Age can play a role.  When wives are significantly younger than their husbands, they may want more out of their career years as their older husbands are ready to retire.  This may be the case in your situation.

There are other reasons too.  Traditionally, women’s work histories often were interrupted by staying at home to raise children.  Some postponed completing school or continuing their career to follow their husbands, whose work required them to relocate. Just when wives reached their peak, they might hear the following from their mates: “Honey, I just got an offer I can’t refuse.  Let’s retire.”

We know there often are bumps in a marriage when men retire before their wives.  Studies have found that retired husbands are least satisfied when their wives continue working.  For men, the most satisfying retirement is when both husband and wife retire at the same time.  (Note: research results often are not applicable to individual cases.)

And given your age difference, you might be operating under different generational norms.  Pre-boomer men, those 65 and older, often are unaccustomed to career changes and shifts.  They typically remain in one career with few employers.

While pursing their careers and work, pre-boomer men such as your husband  typically did not engage in hands-on raising of their children. They rarely drove car pools or took their children to the pediatrician.  The term “stay at home dad” had not yet been invented when their children were young.  Their lives have been somewhat linear and orderly.  Retirement is what follows work — both for husband and wife.

That’s not the case for many of today’s modern husbands.  For instance, fathers now do more than their traditional work.  They drop off children at preschool, sell Girl Scout cookies at their law offices, bathe their children, sit in the pediatrician’s office and help with chores and grocery shopping.  Family responsibilities are divided more equally.

Such a partnership may be sustained in later life as we see an increase in men providing care to aging parents, a role typically assumed by women.  The timing of retirements for boomer couples may not be a problem.

And then there is the need to communicate. If one has not discussed personal and difficult issues during a marriage, beginning at ages 53 and 66 can be a challenge – but it’s one that can be overcome.

Here’s a suggestion:  Set aside some time to talk and consider asking your husband some fundamental questions:

  • How do you envision our retirement years together?
  • What would you like to do in the early part of your retirement? Golf?  Volunteer? Travel?  An “encore” career?
  • Do you see us having time together and time apart?
  • How would you feel if I pursued a career as a chaplain?
  • Do you think our household responsibilities would change?
  • How much time do you think we would spend traveling and visiting the grandchildren?
  • Do you have a vision on how we would spend the next five years?
  • Are you assuming that I will be filling most of your time in retirement?

And then there are some questions for you:

  • Does the chaplaincy program allow for a flexible time commitment?
  • Should you assume a chaplain position, would there be opportunities for time off that would coincide with your husband’s plans?
  • During your husband’s retirement years, what do you envision doing together?

Thank you for your good question.  As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined.”  I would add to that: “…with some practical considerations.”

Best wishes on the journey.

Copyright 2010 Helen Dennis. All rights reserved.

Question: My 66-year old husband is thinking about retirement.  As owner of a small high-tech company, he has worked hard for the past 40 years.  I am 53 and fear that he will retire at a time when I would like to return to school for a second career as a chaplain.    We’ve had a rather traditional marriage.  How do I begin the conversation to discuss that we may be in “different places” as his retirement age approaches? 

Answer: You identified a dilemma with few role models.  Women and men often have different retirement schedules for good reasons.  Age can play a role.  When wives are significantly younger than their husbands, they may want more out of their career years as their older husbands are ready to retire.  This may be the case in your situation.

There are other reasons too.  Traditionally, women’s work histories often were interrupted by staying at home to raise children.  Some postponed completing school or continuing their career to follow their husbands, whose work required them to relocate. Just when wives reached their peak, they might hear the following from their mates: “Honey, I just got an offer I can’t refuse.  Let’s retire.”

We know there often are bumps in a marriage when men retire before their wives.  Studies have found that retired husbands are least satisfied when their wives continue working.  For men, the most satisfying retirement is when both husband and wife retire at the same time.  (Note: research results often are not applicable to individual cases.)

And given your age difference, you might be operating under different generational norms.  Pre-boomer men, those 65 and older, often are unaccustomed to career changes and shifts.  They typically remain in one career with few employers.

While pursing their careers and work, pre-boomer men such as your husband  typically did not engage in hands-on raising of their children. They rarely drove car pools or took their children to the pediatrician.  The term “stay at home dad” had not yet been invented when their children were young.  Their lives have been somewhat linear and orderly.  Retirement is what follows work — both for husband and wife.

That’s not the case for many of today’s modern husbands.  For instance, fathers now do more than their traditional work.  They drop off children at preschool, sell Girl Scout cookies at their law offices, bathe their children, sit in the pediatrician’s office and help with chores and grocery shopping.  Family responsibilities are divided more equally.

Such a partnership may be sustained in later life as we see an increase in men providing care to aging parents, a role typically assumed by women.  The timing of retirements for boomer couples may not be a problem.

And then there is the need to communicate. If one has not discussed personal and difficult issues during a marriage, beginning at ages 53 and 66 can be a challenge – but it’s one that can be overcome.

Here’s a suggestion:  Set aside some time to talk and consider asking your husband some fundamental questions:

  • How do you envision our retirement years together?
  • What would you like to do in the early part of your retirement? Golf?  Volunteer? Travel?  An “encore” career?
  • Do you see us having time together and time apart?
  • How would you feel if I pursued a career as a chaplain?
  • Do you think our household responsibilities would change?
  • How much time do you think we would spend traveling and visiting the grandchildren?
  • Do you have a vision on how we would spend the next five years?
  • Are you assuming that I will be filling most of your time in retirement?

And then there are some questions for you:

  • Does the chaplaincy program allow for a flexible time commitment?
  • Should you assume a chaplain position, would there be opportunities for time off that would coincide with your husband’s plans?
  • During your husband’s retirement years, what do you envision doing together?

Thank you for your good question.  As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined.”  I would add to that: “…with some practical considerations.”

Best wishes on the journey.

Copyright 2010 Helen Dennis. All rights reserved.