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Keeping The Golden Years In The Black

A couple I met recently highlighted to me how difficult it can be to figure out if you’re both ready to retire even if you have saved amply for your Golden Years.

Ein aelteres Paar laeuft am Mittwoch, 17. Januar 2007 in einem Einkaufszentrum in Frankfurt auf einen Media-Markt zu. Gute Nachrichten fuer Verbraucher: Die Lebenshaltungskosten sind 2006 schwaecher gestiegen als im Jahr zuvor. Das Statistische Bundesamt bestaetigte am Mittwoch, 17. Januar 2007, erste Schaetzungen, wonach die Jahresteuerungsrate im vergangenen Jahr bei 1,7 Prozent lag.  (AP Photo/Michael Probst) --- An elderly couple is seen in a shopping mall in Frankfurt, central Germany, Wedn
Michael Probst
Ein aelteres Paar laeuft am Mittwoch, 17. Januar 2007 in einem Einkaufszentrum in Frankfurt auf einen Media-Markt zu. Gute Nachrichten fuer Verbraucher: Die Lebenshaltungskosten sind 2006 schwaecher gestiegen als im Jahr zuvor. Das Statistische Bundesamt bestaetigte am Mittwoch, 17. Januar 2007, erste Schaetzungen, wonach die Jahresteuerungsrate im vergangenen Jahr bei 1,7 Prozent lag. (AP Photo/Michael Probst) --- An elderly couple is seen in a shopping mall in Frankfurt, central Germany, Wedn

The husband and wife, both near 60 years old, have been strong savers and invested wisely for decades. He’s an art dealer and she runs a non-profit women’s organization. They own several homes and have built up significant retirement savings. They agree that they want to slow down and enjoy spending time together, but they can’t agree on how to do it.

She wants to downsize and live more simply. He doesn’t want to part with the lifestyle to which they’ve grown accustomed. They decided they need a financial advisor to help – not just to figure out if they’ve saved enough – but to talk about how they want to live in retirement.

Questions To Answer

It’s a common dilemma for many couples. Not only figuring out how much money will be needed for retirement, but also answering broader questions that will take some reflection. Where will we live? Will we work part-time? How much will we travel?

You’ve probably heard financial experts tell you the key to growing your retirement nest egg is to be consistent, have a plan and stick to it. All true. But the reality for many couples is that having a plan that you both agree on can be difficult.

Even if you’ve saved a lot, you or your spouse may be worried it’s not enough. A new survey by Mass Mutual found those who save more and are more active in managing their retirement savings are usually less secure in the decisions they make compared to individuals with lower savings rates.

Women are more confident in making their own investing decisions than men (60 percent vs. 45 percent), the report found, but more women than men say they’d prefer to spend as little time as possible making these decisions. Women are also less concerned than men about whether they’ll have enough money to retire.

Steps To Take

So how do you start the conversation and get on the same track? First, you need to both envision where you want to be five, ten, 20 years down the road. Will you still be paying off your child’s student loans? How much will you owe on the mortgage? How much will you have saved? What will you be doing at various stages during retirement: traveling around the globe in your 60s? Sticking closer to home in your 70s and 80s? What kind of care might your require?

Next, think about the financial missteps you’ve made and how well you’re prepared to fix them now. Do you still owe too much on credit cards? How long will it take to pay off your mortgage? Sue Stevens of Morningstar.com suggests the best way to start out financially is to make a list of all of the things that worry or keep you up at night.

That’s true whether you’re newly married or you’re celebrating your 25th wedding anniversary.

Then, work toward making sure you have saved and properly invested the money you need for retirement. Like the couple I met, you too may need to seek professional advice. If you don’t want to spend much money, hire a certified financial planner to work solely on your retirement plan. You can a planner through the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors or Financial Planning Association.

Editor's Note: CNBC correspondent Sharon Epperson is the author of "The Big Payoff: 8 Steps Couples Can Take To Make The Most Of Their Money – And Live Richly Ever After" (Collins).