Retirement Transition and Change

“Couples Facing Retirement” by Patricia Cavanaugh

By April 5, 2011 May 21st, 2023 No Comments

I recently visited a lovely southern California mobile home park.  It was designed for those over 55 and I saw many couples leading active lives as I walked through the park.  I wondered if their decision to move there was difficult.

I remember my Mother dreading the thought of moving to the isolated Outer Banks of North Carolina where my father wanted to move when he retired, but in those days women followed their husbands.  Today, the individual partners may have different goals. One may want to continue living in an urban setting; while the other may want to live in a foreign country.  I know several couples who have moved together to Mexico because it is more affordable and they love the slower pace of the country.  But others have become LATs (Living alone together) with a bit of a tweak.   For six months out of the year, one couple I know of lives in Maine and for the other six months they live separately in Northern California.

Studies show that almost half of those of retirement age think about moving.  But, where? It is a huge question that can become a serious challenge for many couples since the partners may have different and potentially contradictory visions.  Researchers find that the shift in women’s role in this decision process has a huge impact on where couples retire.
Where to live isn’t the only tough decision facing couples planning retirement.  Focus, involvement and life style desires may also be drastically different. One may be anxious to travel to exotic places while the other partner wants to settle in at home with a long-postponed hobby such as gardening.  One spouse might want to go back to school and the other   wants to join the Peace Corps.  The journey of the couple is to find a way to help each member be supported in the vision for each person and the joint vision for the couple.

An added challenge is that many couples enter their 3rd act at different times.   The continued demands of career and work may not fit well with the more carefree desires to travel, socialize and be spontaneous. One couple has more quarrels and spats since one spouse wants to spend more time together now, experiencing the loss of social contact once provided by the work place.  The other spouse struggles with what feels like an additional burden in the relationship since she is still focused on work with plenty of interaction. After talking about their separate needs and taking time for reflection, he has decided to build his social network circle and they both continue to plan to travel together, something they have both enjoyed.

Planning Your 3rd Act: Conversations, Compromises, and Shared Visions

Many Boomers have the opportunity to choose and to create their own design for sharing life during their 3rd Act. The key word is “choice”. Without a plan for your 3rd Act and retirement, you may not have much choice.  It is important to have a conversation with your partner early. Don’t wait until your last day at work and announce that you want to move to the south of France. Conversation may lead you to compromise or a completely different solution to what you want in your 3rd act including the “where shall we live?” question. Create a vision of what you want your life to be like together for the next 2,3 or 5 years. Look for what engenders passion and purpose for each of you in your next phase.   Create a shared vision and then develop a plan for that vision.

If some support and guidance would be helpful in creating your vision and plan for 3rd Act together, we have designed a straightforward one-day workshop to help you do just that.  Join us on 5/1 for a day of reflection, fun and planning. Another option is to pick up the newly released book by Roberta Taylor and Dori Mintzer The Couples Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Transitioning to the Second Half of Life.  You can order it through The 3rd Act Bookstore on our website or through

Please let us know your thoughts. This is truly new territory for couples and all design suggestions and comments are needed.

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