Carrie Schwab Pomerantz

(SET ITAL) Dear Carrie: My wife and I are in our 50s. I'm a numbers guy and keep a spreadsheet of all our investments. My wife, who is great at managing our everyday finances and easily handles the details, says all those projections make her eyes glaze over. How can we get on the same page to plan for our retirements? -- A Reader (END ITAL)

Dear Reader: As a 50-something myself, I can certainly relate. And from where I stand, it sounds like you and your wife have some powerful advantages -- at least on the financial planning side of things. You're a long-range guy, and she's a detail person. What a team!

On the other hand, it seems what you first need to do is a little more old-fashioned talking. Rather than discussing the spreadsheets, why don't you start by making a date to simply explore ideas about what you'd like to do once you're no longer working? Without context, it's just about impossible to know how much money you'll want or need. So this could be a good first step to getting on the same page -- and giving some meaning to the numbers.

FIND OUT WHAT RETIREMENT LOOKS LIKE TO EACH OF YOU

A lot of couples are surprised to discover they have very different ideas about retirement. One person may envision the traditional approach of kicking back and relaxing, while the other may see it as a chance to accomplish new things, perhaps even start a new business. Some people can't see themselves ever really retiring.

Together, look to the future. Do you want to travel? Move to a new location or stay put? Keep working part time at your current job or begin something new? These are important things to talk over now because they not only affect your finances, but also your individual senses of fulfillment.

TALK ABOUT YOUR TIMELINE

Timing is another important issue. Some people may want to retire at a young age, and others may want to keep working as long as they can. Being close to the same age doesn't necessarily mean you'll want to retire at the same time, nor do you have to. Retirement is a transition in many ways, and each of you needs to be personally -- and financially -- ready for this major change.

If you have differences of opinion, see how you can turn them into positives. For instance, if one of you chooses to retire earlier than the other, you'll still have one income covering the basics that could preserve your nest egg for a longer time.

Again, it's something you'll want to talk about in advance because retirement is as much about your life as your life savings.

PUT SOME NUMBERS ON PAPER


Carrie Schwab Pomerantz

Carrie Schwab Pomerantz is a Motley Fool contributor.

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