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One Partner Retires, the Other Doesn’t


The New Retirement (Part 2): One Partner Retires, The Other Doesn’t

reverse mortgage newsLast month we examined when retirement makes sense in terms of competency. But what if your reverse mortgage prospect(s) are perfectly competent, yet one half of the couple is planning to retire while the other wants to keep working?

A Cornell University study found that although the transition to retirement is stressful on marriages in general, the conflict is greatest when only one partner retires — and when men retire before their wives, they can often spiral into depression. (Note: While this study focused on heterosexual unions, the following guidance can apply across the spectrum of domestic partner arrangements.)reverse mortgage news

Couples therapist Harriet Pappenheim recommends couples create a vision of their ideal retirement. Each partner should ask themselves:

  • How will I fill my days?
  • What would I like to achieve?
  • What new pastimes will I pursue?
  • What habits do I wish to avoid?

“So many couples head into an out-of-sync retirement without having even considered, much less discussed, what the retired partner will bring to the relationship now that the dynamics have changed,” says Pappenheim. This can create resentment for the working spouse unless you discuss the upcoming retirement and possible shifts in household responsibilities in advance.

Another option many almost-retireds tend to overlook is how they can repurpose and recycle their expertise for the second act. In the age of content curation, where using what already exists is considered as viable as starting from scratch, the decades of experience under someone’s belt could morph into the ideal retirement job. Consider whether you (or a reverse mortgage client or prospect who desires to keep working) can:

  • Consult for your former employer
  • Mentor a Millennial entrepreneur, or anyone who can benefit from your experience, as this new movie with Robert DeNiro showcases.
  • Use your skills and knowledge in a non-profit or service role.
  • Monetize a hobby: teaching piano, event photography, tutoring students in reading or math.
  • Put hidden talents to use in part-time work that’s satisfying to you now. For some elders, the jobs they’re doing late in life are their greatest joy.
  • See what’s needed in “your own backyard”.

There are a number of ways to work from home that don’t require a large expenditure to launch, such as pet sitting or blogging. Such ventures can be especially rewarding if income takes second place to doing something different and enjoyable.

Finally, re-evaluate what “retirement” looks like to you. This 100-year-old educator has been professionally retired for a while, but remains “a walking history and a role model for our students,” according to her school superintendent. “She’s always recommending good books for me and others to read at the library, where she still serves as a board member.” That’s a profile of someone who may be formally retired, but is still filled with purpose and passion for sharing her gifts with the world.


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Editor in Chief:
As a prominent commentator and Editor in Chief at, Shannon Hicks has played a pivotal role in reshaping the conversation around reverse mortgages. His unique perspectives and deep understanding of the industry have not only educated countless readers but has also contributed to introducing practical strategies utilizing housing wealth with a reverse mortgage.
Shannon’s journey into the world of reverse mortgages began in 2002 as an originator and his prior work in the financial services industry. Shannon has been covering reverse mortgage news stories since 2008 when he launched the podcast HECMWorld Weekly. Later, in 2010 he began producing the weekly video series The Industry Leader Update and Friday’s Food for Thought.
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  1. A fairly successful business man told a group of us after a very hard month at work that he was thinking about retiring in the next few months. He was in his mid 50s.

    The businessman then went to his wife and announced his plans. After a severe silence, she looked him in the eyes and told him: “I married you because I love you, not because I want to have lunch with you.”

    In a few days the business man told us he had reconsidered and based on his wife’s advice, he was in the business to stay. Of course, the truth was no one could imagine what he would do without his business.

    The businessman is now in his early seventies and a widower. But now he has come to understand that success in his business means appreciating the bad times as well as the good; however, his business is even more successful today than when he announced his retirement intentions to his now deceased wife.

    • James,

      What an excellent illustration of the importance of knowing yourself — and knowing whether and when retirement is right for you. Thank you for sharing it.

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