Planning for retirement can be a serious source of conflict if you and your mate don't see eye to eye. In my professional practice I work with couples who are in conflict over finances. Every couple has its own situation and dynamic, but three situations come up time and time again. See whether your husband is most like Phil, Fred or George -- and how you can work with him to get your retirement spending on track.
Men like Phil, for instance, do not worry much about saving. "Phil is carefree, which attracted me initially," says his wife Marcia. "But in 10 years we haven't saved a dime, and it bothers me, but he doesn't care." What makes it worse is that Marcia is a dedicated saver: "I feel guilty because I squirrel money away."
Then there's Fred, who refuses to discuss money matters at all. He needs to feel that he is in control, and tells his wife Susanne, "Trust me, I've always provided for the family and I always will." But Susanne never knows where she stands financially, and although they are well off, Fred complains that her spending will bankrupt them.
Finally, there's George. He is so eager to save that it seems like an obsession. George spends hours charting the progress and fiddling with the mix of mutual funds in their 401(k) plans. George is so excited about the growth of their money, says his wife Rosemary, that he hardly wants to talk about anything else.
No matter how your spouse handles money, you need to be prepared before you bring up the subject of your retirement. Read articles, then try using online retirement planner and calculators such as those at Quicken.com or T. Rowe Price to get an idea of how large a nest egg you need.
If Phil sounds like your husband, be firm. Tell him how much you must save for retirement. If you have your own plan, you have more control and can maximize your contributions. Convince your husband that he must contribute to his 401(k) plan as well. But then give him some ideas about how he can begin making regular monthly contributions. In addition, consider investments that require monthly contributions such as variable annuities or mutual fund accounts that draft funds from your bank account. Title the accounts in both names with "and" rather than "or" so they require both signatures for withdrawals.
If your mate is domineering about money issues like Fred, knowledge is power. Sneak a peek at the papers he keeps hidden to find out whether he has kept your retirement savings on track. If not, supplement his savings with savings of your own, such as a retirement plan through work or your own IRA. Don't let him dissuade you. As you move toward financial independence, he'll loosen up -- he'll have no choice. As he begins to save more, let him know you appreciate it. Once he knows that discussing money will bring compliments rather than criticism, he may become more open.
Got a husband like George? Consider yourself lucky. Chances are you are in pretty good shape because he has been saving. Find out how much you have saved, and use a calculator to estimate how much you need to save. Then reassure him that you are on track, and convince him he does not need to make money the central focus of your lives.