The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Transition to the Second Half of Life

Couple's Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Transitioning to the Second Half of LifeReview by Ann Mackey Kling, Las Vegas, Nevada

Book by Roberta K. Taylor, RNCS, M.Ed., and Dorian Mintzer, M.S.W., Ph.D.

This is a book about how to communicate with your partner regarding the important choices surrounding retirement to allow you both to make decisions that suit your needs, talents, resources and dreams. Its purpose is helping the reader envision and create a retirement that is both practical and enjoyable. The first portion of this book reads more like a straight-up therapy book than a retirement guide, which can be helpful in introducing men and women to differing communications styles, but may leave some wondering whether they are reading the right book. This “therapy” feeling of the book is generally limited to the first twenty pages, however, and then the style transitions into one of extensive storytelling interwoven with advice, discussion pointers and homework (which the authors call “Funwork”). The authors are generous, albeit a bit repetitive, in giving the reader talking points, communications tips and exercises for both the individual and couples to complete.

The core of this book is the 10 Must-Have Conversations the authors present and which are designed to help the reader consider and face the main factors of retirement. The book’s overarching theme is the value of communications in determining the what, why, how, and when of one’s own retirement. This is presented through the heavy use of vignettes to illustrate their point that there is no “normal,” and the differences between individuals can be used to customize a retirement that is right for you and your loved ones. The stories presented throughout each chapter add entertainment and make the content relatable. After reading all ten of the Must-Have Conversations chapters, it seems that if you have thought it, watched it, or lived it yourself, there is a story that reflects something you know or have thought about regarding relationships and retirement. The authors also weigh in, giving illustrations from their own lives that directly or indirectly show how the Must-Have Conversations have come into play in their personal experiences.

The 10 Must-Have Discussions address:

  1. When to retire
  2. Finances and financing retirement
  3. Changing roles at retirement and thereafter
  4. Managing your time together, and apart
  5. Sexual intimacy
  6. Family relationships
  7. Health and wellness
  8. Choosing where and how to live
  9. Having and managing a social life
  10. Giving back and leaving a legacy

The book presents very little substantive information on the technical aspects of retirement planning. There is practical advice given about finding a financial planner or retirement specialist, including a list of issues and questions that would help the reader find an appropriate advisor. The authors also give a basic estate planning checklist and provide some introductory advice about long-term care insurance. This information lends intellectual weight to the book without pretending to present comprehensive advice on these matters.

Each of the Conversation chapters wraps up with a communications reminder, two exercises (one to do alone and one for couple time) as well as “Funwork.” Each time, the authors cheerfully remind the reader to have a BLAST! getting started taking things through, which stands for:

Blaming gets in the way
Listen without interrupting
Agree to disagree and don’t make assumptions
Set a safe space for discussion
Take time to talk without distractions.

Following the exercises, the authors help the reader put the “puzzle pieces” together by presenting additional questions for which the reader is encouraged to write out discoveries on a basic worksheet page at the back of the book.

In moving through the Must-Have Conversations, the authors present interesting ideas that remind the reader to be open-minded about what retirement may look like. They discuss myriad ideas about continuing some form of work through reinventing oneself, finding an Encore Career, working part-time or volunteerism. They also discuss how to handle the inevitable transitions of starting retirement and how one’s vision of retirement may change as time goes on. There is additional reassuring and helpful advice on: How to consider caring for parents and children while you are retired; maintaining or coping with health issues of advancing age; considerations about sex and intimacy; and things to think about for leaving a legacy.

The book’s Afterword reaches out to the reader with its discussion of how to continue on a thoughtful path regarding retirement when the unplanned happens. This chapter touches on divorce, death and how to work around a partner who just does not want to talk about the issues. Again, the authors take a kind and “there is no normal” approach in presenting this information, highlighting the fact that life is unpredictable.

The book also provides a rich resource section, giving a list of related books and references for each separate chapter and Conversation they present. The authors even provide an additional long list of books the reader might consider. Many of the references include website inks and there are two separate web resource sections containing more suggested information. Lastly, if the reader is interested, there is a Reading Group Guide for Individuals or Couples with an 18- point set of questions to encourage group discussions about the book and retirement in general.

The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle by Roberta Taylor Dorian Mintzer is a somewhat long, but easy read, that focuses on communicating about retirement so the reader can make purposeful, caring, and reality-based decisions about retirement options.

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