Why argue about retirement? Keep working ... and keep your mouth shut

On the eve of my friend Bill Frank's 80th birthday, his wife Winnie announced that if Bill made the decision to retire she would be forced -- after 60 years of wedded bliss -- to pack up and move in with her sister in Indiana.

I used to think Bill and Winnie were unique. But now as my husband and I approach retirement and the crabby-old-goat stage ourselves, it's clear that arguing over what comes next is hard to avoid.

A survey by Fidelity Investments featured in this USAToday.com story, concludes that 80% of couples don't see eye to eye on retirement.
• 60% disagree about when to retire
• 44% argue over whether to work in retirement
• 44% can't agree whether to sell the house
• 42% have differing ideas about what the day-to-day will be like after they hang it up

And get this, only 15% of couples trust the other to manage the family's finances if they personally were unavailable to do the job.

In the next sentence, after reporting this statistic, Fidelity says pompously, "It is very important, especially during highly volatile markets, that couples talk regularly and openly about their financial situation, assessing their time horizon, risk tolerance and asset allocation."

If you can't agree on whether to retire, when to retire, what to do after retirement or where to live in retirement, and you don't trust your spouse to know his butt from first base about managing your joint bank account, why would Fidelity suggest that people ought to talk more about these topics? Surely, it's clear that talking more can only make things worse.

My theory -- especially in light of the current economic meltdown -- is that couples past 50 should just shut up and keep working. Few of us are going to have any other options anyway. And if you work, you have less time to argue and more money to spend on whatever you want -- whether he likes it or not.

Just because you've grown old together doesn't mean you'll ever see life in the same light -- and, really, do you have to? Next winter, for instance, I'm going to Florida for the month of February. I've lined up a condo on the beach. I'll work a little and enjoy the sun a lot. My husband, an accountant who runs an actuarial department for an insurance company and sees life through a very different lens, plans to spend February in frozen Michigan working on his favorite kinds of geeky calculations.

I'm happy. He's happy. Isn't that what it's all about?

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