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YOUR MONEY: Most couples out of sync on retirement plans

Being married is all about sharing love, time, family -- and money. But according to a survey by Fidelity Investments, it's not always that way. Fidelity asked 500 couples age 45 and over about retirement and how much they agreed with their spous...

Being married is all about sharing love, time, family -- and money. But according to a survey by Fidelity Investments, it's not always that way.

Fidelity asked 500 couples age 45 and over about retirement and how much they agreed with their spouse on what will happen when the day comes to stop working. You might guess accurately what the results were -- not a lot of couples agreed.

To start with, only 40 percent of couples were in agreement on what age they would retire. Then, half couldn't agree on whether they will continue to work in retirement. Luckily, 60 percent agreed on their expected retirement lifestyle.

Perhaps these were the results because less than half of the couples made financial decisions together. This is a sure way to wreck a marriage or find yourself steamed at your spouse. A marriage creates a community in which decisions start being made as a group. Too many couples come in to a marriage with his money and her money and quickly find themselves in financial trouble. Of those surveyed, more than half said they would advise newlyweds to make decisions together. Apparently, you do learn from your mistakes.

As couples age, there is no better time than around 20 years away from retirement to sit down with a financial planner and take inventory of what has been accumulated, what needs to be accumulated and what retirement goals to make as a couple. Doing this while about 20 years away from retirement allows a chance to recover from past mistakes and make last-minute adjustments to reach goals. Believing when retirement will happen does not always match with knowing when retirement can happen, creating derailed expectations.

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These discussions will help form expectations of retirement together, expected or planned expenses to save for, and when both can retire. In addition, most retirees rush into collecting Social Security as soon as they can. Instead, many arguments can be made to wait until collecting. This Social Security planning can answer many questions about retirement expenses and income that can maintain the same standard of living as in pre-retirement, and together both couples can know what to expect and why.

And that should cut down on a few disagreements.

(Dan Serra is a financial planner with Strategic Financial Planning Inc. in Plano, Texas. E-mail him at serrafinance@yahoo.com .)

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