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Dear Liz: My husband is quite a bit older than I (about 18 years). When we married, we agreed that we should put all our savings into joint funds and into his retirement accounts. Our thought was that since I’m younger, we’d have much earlier access to retirement money by funneling it into his retirement accounts (as opposed to mine), and that it was unfair for me to sock away money that he may never have access to.

Intellectually it feels like the fair way to go, since we both work and are equally responsible for our family’s finances. The money we’ve been putting in his retirement accounts will ultimately belong to both of us. But emotionally, I feel anxious about not having my own accounts. Should I just work this out in therapy (joking) or am I right to be concerned? What would you advise for a couple like us with an age difference?

Answer: You are likely to outlive your husband by at least two decades. Rather than focusing on early access to retirement funds, you should be making sure that money lasts for a lifetime: your lifetime, not just his. By the way, considering your own needs is not unfair — it’s sensible. A loving husband wouldn’t want to leave you old, alone and impoverished.

You may not need a session with a therapist, but you should definitely have a meeting with a fee-only financial planner who can review your situation and make sure the needs of both of you are considered.

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1 Comments

1

My wife and I are years apart in age as well and we keep our retirement accounts separate because we’ll need those accounts at different times. We keep our emergency fund, play money and checking accounts held jointly as I think all couples should do. Those separate accounts also double as another layer of legal protection if one of us were to encounter huge medical expenses or some other catastrophe.