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Marion Syversen Marion Syversen
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Trying to avoid trouble

October 3, 2012
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I try to avoid trouble. I try to follow the best advice and latest research for my health, safety, marriage and other relationships.

Most arguments, according to the research in marriage, concern not the kids but money and sex. I'm not going to talk about sex, but I will show you a few avoidable pitfalls about your money.

A recent survey found that 41 percent of partners disagreed about what their joint life in retirement would be. Not only are couples arguing about how they will live in retirement, they are also arguing about exactly when retirement will begin.

Maybe we should talk, kids. Let me tell you some good questions to discuss and then I need you to actually have a discussion together about your beautiful future.

Do we really WANT to retire? Some of us, me included, want to always work. We may take longer vacations or work less hours, but some folks want to always do some level of work.

That may not be you, however. You might not want to use assumptions concerning this topic. It's better to talk and really understand what your love is thinking about their future.

What's the vision? The next part of the discussion is, what then is the actual vision for retirement? What may a typical day or week be like?

Were you hoping to do hours of service work in your retirement community or perhaps abroad? Were you hoping to travel? When the unspoken dreams are voiced, there could be some bumps to work out between you. But now's the time to have this evolving conversation about your retirement years, which could extend for many years.

Where are we going to retire? Where do you plan to live? Has it always been your dream to move near the grandkids or to sell the house and live at camp full-time? Perhaps you plan on living your earlier, more robust retirement traveling and then settle down in a particular community. Maybe living near a university and belonging to a vibrant and multi-generational community is your plan. But you have to share this with the person you love and have a general plan.

What's about the nest egg? All the money you have, no matter the size, sometimes feels like not enough when earning years are no more. This nest egg is important. How will it be spent? Who is going to take the blame and bear the responsibility for its care? Are you going to have an advisor? Or will you manage all of your assets yourself? What if markets crash or the partner mostly responsible for the investments becomes infirm? Talk with each other about your expectations.

The budget. One of the jobs in figuring out your future is writing down all the various income streams that you will have coming in and then to create a budget based on the total income. Do you have a retirement budget? How much is set aside for your favorite hobby? You were planning to devote much of your time pursuing this - how much will it cost? Can you both come to an understanding and agree about how much to allocate towards this activity?

Do you have your documents under control? Life is sometimes sad in retirement, amidst all the beauty and fun. Planning for illness and infirmity is a fact of life that needs to be done especially now. You don't need to deal with paperwork and bills and chaos amidst an emotionally trying time. So just do this. Where are the important documents? Who's in charge of them? Are they up to date? Where are your various accounts and the statements? Please get organized; if not for yourselves, then for your loved ones.

What about family relationships? Have you considered what you want from family relationships as you age? Are you going to move near the kids and grandkids? Or will you live a fairly independent life? As you have cared for your parents, what lessons have you learned to apply to your life? If you can have a conversation with the kids, now might be a time to do that. Meet with a counselor to mediate or direct a great discussion, or talk one-on-one with everyone while walking. Sometimes having an activity where you aren't looking into each other's faces is an easier way to have a deeper talk. You do what works best for you both.

Getting old. What is your attitude toward aging? The difference in how people handle an issue of this type might surprise you. And those differences can cause a lot of tumult. Might you be obsessed with regrets or despise your infirmities? Do you plan on spending serious money on health and fitness, or maybe on significant cosmetic surgery? Try to figure this out and share your feelings and thoughts together. Remember, you love each other.

What do you hope will be your legacy? Finally, what would want to said of you when your friends and family gather to celebrate your life? What will be your legacy?

This question brings up issues much broader than how your money is spent, but when it comes to your money, what legacy do you hope to leave behind? Has your dream been to help your with grandchildren and great-grandchildren with the cost of their education?

Do you have a 'bucket list,' a list of things to do, experiences to have, conversations to share before you 'kick the bucket?' Get on it!

I realize these are tough conversations. That's why people often do not have them and end up fighting over unspoken dreams. But you've handled tough things before and done well.

The discussion doesn't need to address every possible nuance, every last detail. But you also shouldn't assume that you know what your baby is thinking. Assumptions could lead to sadness.

So talk together, pumpkin. Discuss the items all at once, or choose one at a time and discuss them over weeks or months. Have the talk with a counselor, or sit together and talk over a cup of tea. All I want is for you to go smoothly into this beautiful phase of your beautiful future.

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