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Retirement Planning > Retirement Investing

Battle of the Sexes in Retirement Planning

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It looks as though the battle of the sexes is alive and well when it comes to retirement. New research by Fidelity Investments has found that while married couples generally agree on the types of retirement products they have earmarked for retirement, they often disagree on their plans and expectations for their golden years.

The Fidelity research, which was conducted through online interviews in February and March and polled 500 married couples comprising baby boomers and older pre-retirees born between 1937 and 1964, found that in more than 30% of couples, husbands and wives gave completely different answers when asked at what age they will retire, their expected lifestyle in retirement, and whether they intend to continue working in retirement. While most couples agreed that workplace savings plans, pensions, and Social Security would top the list when it comes to retirement income, only 39% of the couples agreed on which would be the primary source of that income.

Fifty-eight percent of the couples also failed to agree on who their spouse would turn to for financial guidance in the event of their death, with 22% of couples failing to reach consensus on whether they would use the services of a financial advisor to help them map out their retirement. The couples polled had been married for at least 24 years, had household incomes of at least $75,000 and investable assets of at least $100,000, and both husband and wife had at least nine years until retirement. The average age of the husbands polled was 54, while the wives were 53 years old.

There were also discrepancies when Fidelity asked at which age a spouse would retire. The research found that while 41% of the couples agree on whether they will work in retirement, more than one-third of the couples differ on their expected retirement ages. While the wives were generally correct in stating the age at which their husbands said they expected to retire, the husbands, as a whole, tended to underestimate their wives’ retirement age, believing they will retire earlier than their wives themselves expect to retire.

When it came to worries about unexpected financial issues that may crop up, 70% of the couples agreed that healthcare is a concern, with 47% agreeing that it’s the biggest concern. The couples also cited inflation and reduced Social Security benefits as issues they worry about, with 23% of couples agreeing that they’ve yet to either plan to or actually purchase products like long-term care insurance to compensate for these worries.

Joint involvement in their finances was also low on the list of priorities, as only 23% of the spouses said they partnered in making financial decisions. Nearly two-thirds, or 63% of the couples polled, said they didn’t consult with each other on financial matters. Of those who did take counsel with each other, the study found that they are generally older, are more prepared to deal with unexpected crises in retirement, and are more optimistic about their retirement.


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