September 24, 2018

Mistakes Men Make Before and After Retiring


Men Making Mistakes. How's that for a provocative premise for a post? Well, there are two obvious reasons I want to address this subject:

1) Most blogs are written by and for women. I am one of the few males writing a non-financial retirement blog. I can speak honestly about my gender's retirement issues.

2) I am pretty sure this will generate some interesting comments that should provoke some fascinating discussions.

Obviously, it would be dangerous for me to write about mistakes women make before and after retiring. That wouldn't go well so I will stick with my own sex. Several of the points I make can apply to both men and women but, I will focus on guys for now. I am pretty sure female readers will be glad to add comments that cover any issues I have missed and if a problem listed is not exclusive to one sex.

I certainly hope some of my male readers (of which there are many... over 40% of the total readers) will join to defend, explain, or agree. So, let's have a little fun as we learn together. Just, please, no nastiness or name-calling. I am a sensitive guy.


A) Mistaking work identity for own identity. This leads the list as a serious male problem. We spend years building a certain image and identity at work. It could be as a top sales producer. It may be that we are seen as dependable and hard-working. For some it could be considered being the best negotiator in the bunch. For others it could be someone willing to take on the tough jobs or risky ventures. Being well known in one's industry can be a goal. 


Unfortunately, that often means our other identities are relegated to the back seat. Husband, father, son, dependable friend...are not the first ways we think to talk about ourselves. Yet, aren't they the roles that will outlast the job? Aren't they the ones that should truly define us?  When you leave work won't you be forgotten pretty quickly? 

Your last quarterly report, your excellent organizational chart, your hard work ethic and loyalty might have made you feel worthy. I suggest that being worthy of others' love and respect is much more important. I sincerely wish I could have learned this lesson quite a long time before retirement. Being a "success" in my career could never equal being an active part of a family. I missed the importance of balance between the two parts of my life.

B) Beginning retirement without a plan. Let me ask a few questions: would you tackle a problem at work without thinking through the options and outcomes? Would you set up an investment and savings plan without any research or investigation? 

Of course not. Retirement requires the same vigor. Beginning a stage of life that could last 20 or 30 years without some idea of where you are going or want to accomplish is unwise. An effective plan would include the proper managing of your finances. But, it should cover so much more. Thinking through relational issues, the amount of travel you envision, where to live, and how to use the roughly 2,600 hours of extra time you gain each year from not working five days a week must be addressed.

Importantly, a satisfying retirement will require a constant adjustment of the choices you have made. An passion or hobby loses its hold on you. A health issue causes changes in living styles or travel plans. A major financial shift in the country's fortunes means a budget reshaping is in order. You discover a creative outlet that suddenly calls out for fulfillment. Volunteerism suddenly enters your mind.

Beginning any major project without an initial idea of what you want to accomplish would never fly at work. Neither will it upon retirement. Too many men think retirement means the days of plans and goals are over. I will admit it took me almost two years to put together a semblance of an approach.

C) Upsetting the apple cart at home. The number one complaint or fear of a spouse who is at home is the tendency of their male partner to retire with a goal of improving the "efficiency" of household operations. Many men assume that the organizational approach used at work is easily transferable to the retired environment. The "plan" is developed and implemented....problem solved. 

Nope. Retirement doesn't work that way. There are too many moving parts. There is likely another person involved who has her own system for managing the household. As the new kid on the block, we must learn the system and make suggestion gradually and with consent of the other person.

A similar fear is that the person retiring assumes he has earned the right to relax and not participate in household chores and duties. Big mistake. The other person has probably been working at a job before coming home. If not, raising children and/or maintaining a home is a more-then-full time job. If someone needs a break, it is probably your partner.

D) Not sharing financial information with spouse, partner, or family. I have written a lot about this mistake. Not giving your partner the information needed to keep the financial ship afloat in the event of a major illness or death, puts her (or him, or them) in a perilous position. If you haven't shared where passwords are kept, how to pay bills on line, when taxes are due, and who handles investment information, the person suddenly in charge is in a pickle.

If you don't have a will and power of attorney along with a health directive in place, your partner may be unable to execute your wishes. She (or your family) may be unable to pay the bills if checking and credit card accounts are not properly designated. 

If you have always handled the money stuff, make sure your partner, or a trusted relative can step in when needed. Guys...give up total control to help protect those you love. Admission: my wife is uncomfortable with financial stuff so she hasn't pushed me to tell her everything she needs to know. This remains a work in progress. 


OK, I will stop here. There's no reason to pile on! I have several more "mistakes" that guys make regarding life before and after retirement, but it is time to let you have your turn.

Women: add your thoughts, comments, and anything I missed.
Guys: defend, refine, agree as you see fit.

I am guilty of all four of these flaws. I stand at the head of the line. Hopefully, my wife of 42 years will agree there has been some progress as we take our retirement journey together.



36 comments:

  1. I think every point you make applies to women as well as men, or at least I certainly feel that to be the case from my own experience where, just like my husband, I had an all encompassing career. Whilst I may have managed the children side of family life more when they were very young, it was never my sole province and we were both aware of the sacrifices being made at all ends. Will commit to making amends if grandchildren ever come along, perhaps.

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    1. I am sure you are correct, but to save my skin I thought it best to let readers make that determination! These are human foibles that aren't necessarily limited to one sex.

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  2. I couldn't agree with you more. I am a female and a retired RN after 37 years of hospital nursing at a Trauma center. I found it was difficult not to identify myself as a RN even had trouble with my signature dropping the RN. I had become that person who identified and defined myself by my profession. After about a year I was able to let go of that. I am now 3 years retired and am volunteering, meeting new people and, some travel

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    1. That is interesting...still attaching the RN after your signature. Something like that becomes an ingrained habit that takes effort to eliminate.

      It would be like me answering the question, "What do you do?" with some form of, "Oh, I used to be on the radio." It was so much a part of me for so long.

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  3. You are spot on. I have many friends who have entered or just entertain retirement and it is not easy.

    For me I had A, B and C in view and we were at a level field in those areas. We have prepped for the potential need for Trisha to be able to do financials if required. We have an emergency recovery plan in place which we have discussed many times but never run a drill. What ever plan you build needs to be simple as it may be needed in a stressful time and the KISS method will make it easier for them.

    One area you could also discuss is the reverse plan. We still need to figure out what will I do, how will I keep things moving and what are all those pieces that she does as a normal daily life.

    We have now been officially retired one year. We have had our challenges and worked through them, but love being retired. But we both agree we would do it again

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    1. Your point about the reverse situation where the man becomes a widower or has a wife who is disabled or seriously ill and has no idea what it takes to keep a household running is a good one. There is more to life than finances.Both partners need to be switch hitters.

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  4. Great topic. My DH retired several years before me and it was definitely an adjustment, as I was working from a home office. I was used to him traveling a lot, and having both of us home together all day while I tried to work was touchy. We worked things out over time, but I do remember that time period as stressful and contentious.

    Some of these issues are the same for women, though. I took quite a while to let go of my work identity, only because it had so much real estate in my brain for so many years. I also have a strong sense of how I want things to go in the house - some might call me a clean freak ;-) - so we have maintained the chores we had pre-retirement pretty much. It's a much more traditional division of labor than I would have predicted, but it works for us so far.

    As for the finances, I was the CFO when we ran a business together, so I'm still the CFO. Like Betty, my DH would have some digging and learning to do if I die first, but we do discuss it all regularly, and he knows how to access the accounts, etc. We have a living will, trust, etc., set up and he would take it over if need be.

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    1. The transition to having two people home, full time, is usually one of the first hurdles that a couple must overcome. Like you and hubby, it takes compromise to balance "me" time and "together" time.

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  5. I still have my work identity for two reasons. My friends are either old colleagues from work or other people I knew in my field. And I also still work part time as a consultant for my old company as well as a couple of other similar places. But I've been wondering lately. Maybe I'm clinging on to my old life. Maybe it's time I make a clean break and do something else with my life.

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    1. Just keep writing the excellent articles for the web site of US News!

      Reading your blog it seems to me that you have a pretty full and varied life. But, if you feel that the "old" Tom identity needs a retrofit, then by all means, give it a go.

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  6. My BFF's mother (87) is in the middle of learning to be a widow. A strong, independent woman, she never asked about finances since her husband was amazing at it. Her brother took over for dad- and was just as amazing/forthcoming.
    This weekend my friend went to see her mom. Mom was curled in bed. She felt that she could not afford the $700 out of pocket for an infusion she gets for her arthritis. Maybe the new doctor (appointment in November) would find something better. My friend called her brother. He returned the call stating that mom is more then a millionaire, she needed to get that infusion!
    I wonder how many other spouses suffer needlessly because people are protecting them?
    You hit that point well Bob. In fact, my husband read this one and says you hit the snags that he has fallen into the last four years. Thanks!

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    1. My dad was always very secretive about money issues. Like your BFF's mother, my mom was always overly concerned about spending anything. When she died they had almost two million dollars in their estate. I think his attitude came from being badly affected by the depression when growing up.

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  7. Overall, for us, the transition to retirement was relatively smooth. I never did identify closely with my job. I was headed down that path but a downsizing about 10 years into my career let me know that despite recognition and promotions when push comes to shove your work doesn’t care about you. It’s your family that truly cares and loves you.

    I can not stress too much that you should retire with a plan but build in flexibility too. I recall years ago in my 30s & 40s being asked by financial planners “What kind of lifestyle do you want in retirement?” I thought this was a ridiculous question so I always answered “The best possible lifestyle under the circumstances” and really isn’t that what everyone wants? What other answer is there? “I want to be fabulously rich in retirement so put me down for that”.

    But seriously I would say about 5 years out from your target retirement date you need to start thinking through what your retirement is going to look like, by then you should have a pretty good idea of where you are financially, how your health is, and what’s possible. I read as much as I could on what people were doing in retirement, it’s how I found this blog. I also recommend Dave Bernard’s book "I Want To Retire!" It was perhaps the best single resource that I found for the non-financial side of retirement but everything you can find helps.

    Spend the 5 years immediately before retirement thinking through various scenarios. Do you want to spend 6 months a year sailing in the Caribbean? Some people do, and we thought about it, but after a serious look that wasn’t for us. What we did settle on is 3 months a year in a village in the mountains of Mexico and another month each year travelling to a destination in the world we’ve never been to. For some that would be too much and for others not enough but it’s your retirement not someone else’s. It’s worth spending a good amount of time thinking about it and discussing it with your spouse or significant other – you might not have the same vision of retirement they do so best get that out on the table early.

    Because of work schedules I retired about 2 months before my wife did and we’ve never really had a problem with “upsetting the apple cart” at home. We each have our household chores but spend lots of time together and do most things together. We just enjoy it that way, we even got rid of our second car because we rarely used it. I am perhaps a bit more of an “out of the comfort zone” type of person but as long as I organize it my wife generally goes along, sometimes with a little trepidation, and usually enjoys it. We do each have a few things we do on our own but in truth not that much. It works for us but everyone needs to find their own balance.

    For the finances I am the person who does that in our family. I keep my wife posted on everything I do but honestly, she really isn’t interested so it’s a bit tough to get her deeply involved. She knows the accounts we have (though I doubt she knows how much in is them at any given time) and she knows and has met our financial adviser a few times but she usually doesn’t go to our financial adviser’s semi-annual reviews. I do tell my wife how things are looking and where things stand but until the time comes when I am no longer here I think she’ll just carry on as she has been – about the same as me shopping and cooking meals I suppose. At least she knows where to go and who to contact.

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    1. An overall excellent comment, David. Two parts are worth extra emphasis: "What kind of lifestyle do you want in retirement?” I thought this was a ridiculous question so I always answered “The best possible lifestyle under the circumstances” That is perfect. Those of us who have been at this awhile know you can't a fully answer a question like that until you are living it. Planning is essential, but no one really grasps all the options until being retired.

      The second point I want to pick up on: "It’s worth spending a good amount of time thinking about it [retirement ideas] and discussing it with your spouse or significant other – you might not have the same vision of retirement they do."

      Too often the dominant one in a retirement situation determines what will be done, without considering if both people are happy with the choice. That can lead to long term problems.

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  8. I guess I'm more like Betty. I am not good with numbers and I leave it up to my husband. He's not necessarily the best at dealing with money, either, but we try to stay on track. We've made it this far with that system so, I guess we'll go out with it, too. After 50 years together it's best to trust each other to do what best for us.
    b

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    1. Betty knows she must know enough to find the passwords and PINs for various accounts, who to call, and when certain financial things must happen. While I assume my daughters and son-in-law would step up to help, they will have to have the same information to be of much value.

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  9. Hi Bob! My husband and I are only semi-retired (not sure if or when the "full" will come into play) but I can see where each of your "mistakes" could be hurdles for many people (men and women.) I especially appreciate your money tips because far too many women leave finances to the husband and then end up in big trouble if he is incapacitated in any way. Far better to learn the basics and perhaps even divide up the money chores so that there is a sense of knowing you can handle it should the time comes. Another issue is the "space" issue that I think couples need to negotiate. Both my husband and I have worked at home together for many years so we know when we can disrupt, and when silence and or quiet is necessary. VERY important for those of us who do best when given space to create. Thanks for another great post! ~Kathy

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    1. During the almost 20 years of the consulting phase of my career my office was in my home. When I wasn't traveling, I was home full time so Betty and I had a two decade head start on figuring out how to operate around each other. Even so, when we both retired there were some adjustments in our daily interaction that still needed to be made.

      The financial issue is one too many of us put off until too late. It is an act of love to make sure your partner won't have major problems simply for lack of knowledge.

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  10. I'm the poster boy for item A. And it has resulted in a less than enjoyable retirement. I retired from a state government job in 2014, took a federal government job in 2015 and returned to retirement life in 2017. If there were do-overs, I would have never retired in 2014 and would have worked until they carried me out with a sheet over me. Your blog has been very helpful. At least I know I am not the only one with retirement issues. Still searching for a solution.

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    1. You are far from the only one. Often your situation is one voiced by those who built a business or developed a product. Retiring is akin to leaving a child...it is very hard to do.

      Frankly, there are some people who really can't stop and when they do their health suffers. Retirement then becomes a trap instead of a joyful time of life.

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  11. I always believed that I did not identify with my job but sometimes I still think of myself as someone who gives workshops and interviews. I have been retired 8 years so maybe part of your work identity lasts forever.
    I think I have been looking forward to retirement my whole working life. Just hated having my time structured. I did have some days planned when I retired but it was on my schedule.
    I was already widowed so I did not have anyone else to consider and always handled the investments.

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    1. For someone so heavily involved in the retirement culture this may be a strange admission, but I never really thought about retirement until I was forced to. I started saving and investing at age 27, but in my mind I wasn't picturing anything in particular. I just knew that at some point I would be permanently unemployed!

      When retirement came I embraced it and feel it has been a tremendously fulfilling time of life. But, I never would have been one of these folks who have a goal of retiring in their 30s.

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  12. While early in my career I was full of myself and intensely loyal to the company, I broke myself of the former as the years went by, while the companies I worked for quickly began to show that loyalty was an outdated concept. I was never laid off by anyone and always moved on to bigger and better things, but as both a manager and individual contributor at various stages of my career, I was privy to too much insight into companies and their managements. I suppose that more easily facilitated my retirement at 60 (early for me since I literally had no end date in mind) and to be honest, I have never had any of the issues you mention transitioning to retired life.

    As for the financials I wish Deb was interested in our finances, but she is not. She is happy handling her bills and leaving me to do most of the heavy lifting in that regard, and all the lifting when it comes to investing. She wants me to educate our daughter on our situation but has no desire to know anything herself.

    She was also amazed at how well we transitioned to being at home together. She had already been retired four years prior to me when she turned 56 so she had her routine down pat. But I never infringed on that; perhaps it helps that we have a big house and each has a large office where we can do our thing. Maybe that is why we can travel 4-5 months out of the year together and not want to strangle each other by the end of each trip.

    Not the norm compared to many retired people, but it's my story and I'm sticking to it, Bob.

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    1. And a good story it is.

      As I noted in the comment just above, I had no end date in mind either. That decision was made for me as my business slowly dissolved away due to massive changes in my industry.

      I was fired once, just after a move, with a wife and two small daughters in tow. That was a scary time but led to a tremendous career and life. As many philosophers and religious tracts tell us, from disaster comes opportunity.

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  13. Bob, I think this blog post could have been titled - Mistakes "People" Make Before and After Retiring. There's the old saying about not putting all your eggs into one basket and I think that applies to self-identity, whether it's the individual who is all about work or the kids or the hobby, etc. I learned a long time ago not to identify completely with my job. I read Barbara de Angelis' book - Real Moments - more than 20 yrs ago and identified with the distinction she made between job and work. I was retiring to something, not just from something. Previous responses allude to loyalty being an outdated concept. There had been many changes in the organization that I worked in. The immediate supervisor worked in another community. On my last work day, after 34 yrs of employment, I called the supervisor to say goodbye to which she replied - Oh, yeah, I meant to call. I knew at that moment that it was time to move forward into my retirement and not look back. I looked at the next 6 months as an extended holiday that I used to get the "stink" of a disparate organization off of me at the same time recognizing the contributions I had made to individual clients I had worked with. I committed to the task of looking after myself and my home which included family and community. I often wonder how I had time to work! Life is so much easier without managing the time constraints of work. Being single, I didn't have to coordinate this management with a partner. It's easy to say I'm a nice person, living alone! I am very cognizant that there would be other issues with a partner. Retirement does take some planning, evaluation and flexibility, alone or in partnership.

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    1. Yes, the problems detailed in this post can apply to both sexes, but I decided to focus on men and see how readers responded. As women have become more of a force in the workplace (and on track to become the majority) the problem of self identity with work will become just as much a female problem as it has been a male problem over the years.

      How your supervisor responded to you is a good example of the chance in corporate culture in this country.

      Loyalty to the organization is pretty much a one-way street, but your point about doing your best for individual clients is important. I think the vast majority of us want to give a full day's work for a full day's wages because of our sense of personal responsibility. The company used to be part of that commitment but not so much anymore.

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  14. Loosing contact with younger age groups and working friends can sometimes happen after retirement resulting in a rather restricted view of the world / current trends etc. All to often I have found retired friends start a conversation about their latest ailment or a recent funeral they have attended and unfortunately start to adopt a narrow view of life. There is a of course a wider and changing world out there - make sure you're part of it !!

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    1. This is something that seems to happen to retirees after awhile...the go-to topics of conversation are health and doctor issues. As you note, Alan, there is a much bigger world out there and most of us really don't want constant updates on your IBS problems.

      That said, we must remember to show compassion when a friend or acquaintance shares these problems. They may have few people to talk to. Maybe they just need to be heard. What could be helpful is to "hear" the medical talk and then gently try to steer the conversation in another direction.

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  15. Great post Bob. On the money across the board. I see the identity issue as a big one that catches people by surprise in more ways than they expect.
    Thanks,
    Joe
    @RetiremntWisdom

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    1. Adjusting to being someone who isn't defined by work is tough for many. After all the years and effort we put into building and maintaining a career, that shouldn't be unexpected, I guess.

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  16. Brett and I were lucky in that we had a "dry run" for retirement when Brett retired from the navy. While he was on active duty I had been in charge of *everything* (I had to because of his frequent deployments, and there was no email, phone calls, etc. back then - just mail which could take weeks). I joked that he had been in charge of 250 men with a position of respect and responsibility, and suddenly all he had "under" him were me and our son. Talk about defining yourself by your work! It was a very tough transition - he wanted to have a say in everything (including telling me what groceries to buy, how to cook, etc.) but we slowly got it figured out. He went back to work and eventually ended up with a schedule that once again left me having to care of everything. When he retired from work in 2013, the lessons learned following his navy retirement came into play and we talked in advance about how responsibilities would be divided, how money would be handled, what kind of "space" we each needed, etc. and that transition went very smoothly.

    I always felt like the time we spent apart early in our marriage made spending more time together following retirement much easier. I remember how much I missed him when he was deployed, and enjoy his company all that much more now. We're very different people, and have different interests, but we enjoy being together more than we ever did all those times we were apart.

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    1. Your story can resonate with many. The man (usually but not exclusively) who comes home and tries to organize things is a real problem that cannot be ignored. Your experience makes it clear of the risk to a relationship if this occurs.

      It is to Brett's credit that he did learn from his first retirement and was open to a real discussion of how a shared life can be so joyful. From someone who traveled a lot during his work years, I would agree that being together now is both easier and sweeter once how two individuals operate as both a couple and separate people is clear.

      Thanks to you both for your addition to this post, and enjoy your continuing journey around the world! (follow Laura and Brett on the Occasional Nomads blog..link is on right sidebar).

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  17. Hi Bob, I think that the identity problem at retirement will likely remain a bigger issue for men than for women for quite some time, even as most women are in the paid labor force. In our culture, men are encouraged to put work at the core of their identity. A man who said that his work was what he did, but not who he is would probably be regarded as kind of sad or maybe lacking in ambition. Even when a woman is single and without children, however, making her work her life is frowned upon. A woman who says that her work is the most important thing in her life will probably be regarded as kind of pathetic and advised to "get a real life." The result is that women enter retirement with a broader base to their sense of identity than is typical for men.

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    1. You are probably right. Also, because women tend to be more social they have a wider circle of friends both in and out of work. It will be interesting to see what happens as more women are part of the workforce as managers and executives. When the glass ceiling is finally breached will women act more like men in this regard? Is it something about work that triggers this identity connection? Time will tell.

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  18. Hmm, the retirement mistakes don’t fall along gender lines for us. I, the female in our relationship, had tremendous difficulty letting go of my work identity, and I still haven’t completely. In contrast, although Rob liked his work (but not his company’s management), he had no strong attachment to a work identity. I planned for retirement but Rob did not. I management my own investments and I admit that I have not really briefed Rob on all the joint financial stuff. However, we have been together for only 11 years (second marriage for both), and we each keep separate bank accounts which we handle independently. We share or take turns paying the large expenses. As for housework and maintenance, we each do the tasks we prefer to do (he vacuums and I clean bathrooms). He does more of the outside maintenance. We each tend to the maintenance of our own cars. When I was still working, Rob did most of the housework, but now we share it more equally.

    Although we have similar points of view and approaches to life in many ways, we have a couple of different wishes about retirement. I would like to travel more, and to more exotic places, whereas Rob is content to be a homebody. Also, I am very active and want to do things, whereas Rob likes to take it easy. But we work around these differences and compromise.

    Jude

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    1. Compromise is the key. Of course, this is not a male only problem, but I am allowing female readers point that out rather than me!

      Betty and i have shared chores since the very beginning (42 years and counting) except when my travel meant I was home only 1 or 2 days a week.

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