Older Couples More Likely to Agree on Retirement Finances

July 6, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - About a third of those married or living together agree about how much they need to save for a comfortable retirement, according to the latest Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Personal Finance Poll.

A news release said that equal numbers of respondents said they focused on putting away more than their spouse/partner for retirement (20%) or have never even discussed the subject (20%).

The level of agreement about how much they need to save for retirement rose with age and income, according to the news release. Pollsters said this probably meant couples felt more pressure to talk about their retirement plans as they got older. Also, men were more likely to focus on saving for retirement than women. Both genders admitted this was the case in their relationship.

Saving for retirement has proven to be a difficult subject for some couples, according to the poll. About 10% reported that neither partner can decide how much to save for that stage in their life.

Meanwhile, of those already retired, more than a third (37%) have encountered higher living expenses than they expected. This figure rises to nearly one out of two in the West (49%) and of those who are divorced/separated or widowed (49%).

On average, adults who have not retired believe they and their spouse or partner need $75,233 annually to retire comfortably. Predictably, this number increases when responses are compared by household income.

More than half (54%) of retirees who are married or living with a partner say they argue about their finances about the same amount as they used to, and 41% say they argue less than they did before they retired.

“Money has long been known as a source of conflict among couples. The good news is that when couples reach retirement they argue about finances much less than they did while working,” said Anne Aldrich, senior vice president of the Financial Services Research Practice at Harris Interactive, in the news release. “Moving into this stage of life takes planning and communication when couples take the time to work through their plans conflict can be reduced. “The outlook on spending becomes more realistic with age. Priorities shift with different life stages, and it is important for financial advisors and those in the financial services industry to be aware of their clients’ needs and motivations as they near retirement so they can provide guidance that is personally relevant.”

When asked about how they want to use their money in their later years, the likelihood that respondents said they would continue to support the lifestyle they have now increases with age, while the likelihood that they say they would use the money to travel, buy a vacation home or relocate to a warmer climate decreases with age.

Men are more likely than women to say they would continue to support the lifestyle they have now (47% compared to 35%, respectively).

Pollsters conducted the survey online between May 30 and June 1, 2006 among 2,075 adults (aged 18 and over).