What To Do If You Want To Retire Before Your Spouse

Step By Step Financial |

Planning your and your spouse’s retirement will require you to get specific about what that era of your life will look like. Sometimes, it’s not always possible or desirable for both spouses to retire simultaneously. In that case, what should you plan for? Read on to see what to do to retire before your spouse.

What’s Your Vision?

Start with what your vision is. What exactly will early retirement look like to you? Will you be entirely done working? Or will you only be partially retiring for now? 

One reason to consider a partial or phased retirement is that some individuals struggle once they hit retirement. It’s a drastic change in life that may come with some unexpected consequences and emotions.

The structure and fulfillment of your time will look different. This is especially important to remember if your spouse is still working. You’ll need to decide precisely how you’ll spend your time. 

The good news is that retiring early opens the door to many possibilities that may have yet to be available while working full-time.

Get Specific

These possibilities include starting a business, devoting more time to a hobby or passion, monetizing a hobby or passion, doing freelance work, traveling, spending time with family, taking classes on something that interests you, and more. You’ll now have the time to do that “thing you’ve always wanted to do,” so don’t waste any time! 

If you are retiring before your spouse, they’ll, of course, still be busy with work, so ask yourself if you can achieve the lifestyle you envision on your own. That leads us to our next point. 

Financial Logistics

Once you’ve established what you want your retirement to look like, you’ll need to be realistic about the financial logistics of how you’ll achieve that lifestyle. 

The following are some examples of questions you may ask yourself, along with hypotheticals to help you answer them: 


If so, establish a drawdown strategy. This may include withdrawing your Social Security benefits and funds from an IRA or Roth IRA. 

Remember that the earlier your draw from your Social Security, the less you’ll receive rather than if you wait until full retirement age. That being said, it can be helpful to have those funds, especially if you’re retiring early and will need them.

One thing to note about drawing from a Traditional or Roth IRA is that if you’re under age 59 ½, you may have to pay an additional 10% tax for early withdrawals unless you qualify for an exception. 

Timing is everything when it comes to drawing from your accounts, mainly regarding taxes. Maximizing the timing and taxation of benefits to create additional after-tax cash flow can slow the decumulation of your other retirement assets. 


There are still more strategies you may employ. Here is a brief overview of five other common retirement withdrawal strategies:

  • The 4% rule: With this strategy, you’ll withdraw 4% of your investment account balance in your first year of retirement. After that, the amount will rise yearly. 
  • Fixed-dollar withdrawals: Unlike the 4% rule, these withdrawals will remain the same year for a particular time window. The downside to this strategy is you won’t be as able to keep up with inflation/ a rising cost of living.  
  • Fixed-percentage withdrawals: This strategy is between the 4% rule and fixed-dollar, a set percentage you’ll withdraw from your accounts each year. 
  • Systematic withdrawals: Withdrawing “only the income your investments produce from interest or dividends.” 
  • Buckets: Buckets can help you visualize your financial goals and plan for the future. Each “bucket” represents a different source of income, and short, medium, and long-term goals usually group it. For example, a bucket of savings for the next few years, a bucket of fixed-income securities, and a bucket for long-term investments that you won’t withdraw until much later. 

Whatever strategies you choose to employ in your retirement may directly affect your lifestyle, so carefully calculate and consider how they would play out with real numbers as the years go on. 

Will There Be Another Way to Support Cash Flow/Expenses?

As we mentioned earlier, just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you have to be done bringing in money. Do you have a skill that can earn you some extra cash? Perhaps you do woodworking or make jewelry and can sell your pieces online. Maybe you play or teach an instrument that can bring in additional funds.

You could even consult for something you specialized in for an extended period. You have knowledge and talents that you can capitalize on to bring in some extra cash flow during this time in your life. Take advantage of that!

Will There Be Compromises You Need to Make to Live on One Income For a Short Period?

While we all want a nice, comfortable retirement, it’s true that in life, sometimes we will still have to make sacrifices. If you want to retire before your spouse, sacrifices may be necessary, as you’ll only have one solid income flowing in. 

If you have to downsize, let go of some luxuries, or simply budget more strictly, it’s not the end of the world; just something you’ll need to make concrete plans for before and follow through with. Failure to do so could lead to potential problems down the road. 

Communication Is Key

Finances aside, mismatched expectations when one spouse retires, and the other does not is a recipe for disaster.

So, communicate about it!

Talk with your partner about exactly what you want out of your retirement. Then ask them what they want out of theirs. Identify any gaps that could throw things off, and discuss how you could bridge them. 

You should also identify areas where your expectations overlap. Try to get on the same page as much as you can. Write down your goals and list what you need to do to achieve them. 

A Team Effort

These decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly. Apart from the apparent inclusion of your partner in all of your retirement decisions, you’ll also want to work with a professional. 

We’d love to help you plan the retirement of your (and your spouse’s) dreams so you can achieve all of your personal and financial goals. Contact us today to get started!