Husband is Afraid to Spend Retirement Funds

Tracey Columns

Original Date of Publication: 3/8/11

Dear Tracey,
My husband retired last year after a lifetime of careful financial preparation. He’d meet annually with our financial planner to map out the year and save for our retirement. We have always managed our money to the penny and have spent our lives socking it away for our “golden years.”
Well, those golden years finally arrived and now he is afraid to spend any of it. He has us living on a budget like the one we had when we were in our college years. Honestly, I think he’d be quite happy to just shop with coupons, listen to the “free” radio, and walk everywhere. (Don’t get him started on the price of gas.) He constantly worries about the future of social security even though, get this, it’s only about 30% of our retirement income. Yes, we have managed well. Are you starting to get the picture?
He frets over the business section of the paper each morning, is glued to the internet and he’s convinced that every bad news story will result in our financial ruin. Of course, since things aren’t all that rosy in the world, he seems to always be in a bad mood.
He’s been frugal our entire lives but we’ve always been able to work out a comfortable compromise. But now, he won’t even listen to reason.
Some days I’m furious with him, other days I worry that I can’t go on living like this. How do I talk some sense into him?


Married to a Tightwad

Dear Reader,
It must be especially alarming to have planned for retirement only to have it backfire so miserably. It’s no wonder you worry about the future. of your marriage. Given your current circumstances, there doesn’t seem to be much to look forward to.
I also have great sympathy for your husband. It sounds like his financial prowess has always been central to his identity. Without a reliable paycheck, he seems to be scrambling. As cliché as it may sound, who is he now that he is not bringing home the bacon each week?
Many men and women struggle with their identity when they retire. The lack of purpose, loss of significance and worth is daunting. A paycheck represents all of these things. Take it away and some people are frantic to find a substitute.
From your description, I wonder if this is what your husband is doing. By micromanaging every cent, he can feel some control over his life while he continues to “provide” for his wife. It also gives him something to do – read the news, follow the internet, clip coupons – each of these activities provides him a connection to the world he has left behind.
It appears you have tried every possible way to approach your husband on this topic. It’s time for an objective voice to help you two navigate this situation. Fortunately, you have a long standing relationship with your financial advisor. Clearly, your husband trusts this professional. He/she may be able to reassure your husband about your financial welfare. Let him/her know in advance what you are dealing with. have your advisor help you decide upon a reasonable budget that works for both of you.
Money aside, just how happy is your husband with retirement? You say he is in a bad mood much of the time. He has limited interests and is lost in very narrowly defined pursuits. How much time is he spending out in the world? Is he getting any exercise? Are you two socializing? Just how much fun are you having? It’s also time to have conversations about these critically important subjects as well.
Defining oneself post retirement isn’t an easy tasks. This shift in our lives impacts everything. If your husband is resistant discussing these issues, pick up a couple of good books on retirement. Both of you need to educate yourselves on the realities you face, as well as the wonderful possibilities that come with this stage of life. Hopefully, you’ll eventually be able to see the future as one that is full of opportunities.

(Click here to return to The Second Half online archives)