I’m 54 and have $2.6 million saved. My husband, 68, wants me to retire early, but he has very little retirement savings. What should I do?

i’m 54 and have $2.6 million saved. my husband, 68, wants me to retire early, but he has very little retirement savings. what should i do?

I’m 54 and have $2.6 million saved. My husband, 68, wants me to retire early, but he has very little retirement savings. What should I do?

Dear MarketWatch,

I am 54 and my husband is 68. He was previously married and has two kids from that relationship. We have a 14-year-old child together. I have a fair amount of money saved — $1.5 million in retirement accounts, $1.1 million in an individual investor account and I own $1.6 million in real estate.

My husband is the spender, not saver, and he does not have a lot of retirement savings ($157,000 in an IRA and $200,000 in an annuity).

He started collecting his Social Security at age 66 1⁄2, and brings in about $75,000 a year between his part-time work and Social Security. He previously had an e-commerce business, which he is now shutting down. He is on Medicare, and is fit and healthy.

I just took a new role working for our local city and have cut my salary in half but am enjoying the stability and benefits. I make $82,500 and plan to stay with the city until I turn 60 or 62 to get a reduced pension of approximately $900 or $1,000 a month.

As we have a 14-year age gap, he wants me to retire earlier so we can travel and explore (which I would like to do as well) but I don’t want to leave pension money on the table and I need healthcare benefits. We have a little over $100,000 in a 529 plan for our son and if needed, we would use extra money from savings to cover more of his education.

We do not have any debt or mortgage on our home. About $3 million in the bank/brokerage should be enough to retire early, but I am worried because my husband doesn’t have enough money for retirement and he can’t or won’t tap into my savings.

I live well below my means and will continue to do so, but once our kid is in college, I do want to travel more and be healthy enough to enjoy it.

The Saver

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Dear Saver, 

I understand the trepidation, even if you do have a substantial amount of money already tucked away for the future.

Planning retirement, especially an early one, can be unnerving. You’re shifting to a mentality focused on spending down all you worked to accumulate. On top of that, you do have to think of additional layers, such as healthcare and your child’s education. There’s also the fact that you and your husband approach money differently, and that can weigh heavily on anyone (even if it could work out just fine).

Spouses don’t have to have the same approach to money — many do not! There are so many reasons for this, like the relationship people have with money growing up, their salaries and work benefits, and so on. But your husband is your teammate, and all teammates have their own strengths and weaknesses. Talk to him about what those are and how you’ll maximize what you’re both good at doing.

For example, it appears you’re very good at saving. Wanting to stay at work to reap those pension benefits later on is not a bad idea, and it’s only about six or so years away at the earliest. Your 60th birthday is also around the time your child will be in college, so your desire to start traveling more would coincide quite nicely with your eventual retirement, and you’ll have the ability to save more money along the way.

If you retired at 60 or 62, you’d still have to pay for healthcare until you reach 65 to qualify for Medicare, but at least it would be less time than if you were to retire now. Private health insurance can be expensive, depending on what tier you choose and where you live, but if you incorporate it into your retirement plans and budgets, you’re ahead of the game. Given your current net worth, it sounds like you’re in a good position for retirement.

Ongoing and future expenses

Get on the same financial page as your husband (and vice versa). Talk about both of your spending habits — not just his — and see if there’s anything you both could do better. Approaching the topic this way will help alleviate any tensions, and he won’t feel as if he’s being attacked. Also take into consideration ongoing expenses, including your child and stepchildren. Kids — and, yes, sometimes grandkids — can be expensive.

Put some protections in place. Set up powers of attorney and healthcare proxies in the event one or both of you are incapacitated. Review, or name, beneficiaries on accounts that allow for it, so that those assets don’t have to go through probate. Consider life insurance or trusts that will take care of the people left behind when either of you pass — a financial planner or an estate attorney can help. Make a will, and make sure each of your wills are clear.

Look into provisions that will protect extravagant spenders. Spendthrift provisions or trusts will maintain the assets and distribute according to the benefactor’s wishes so that the beneficiary can’t spend it immediately, or have creditors seize the money. You can also ensure that the provision states the inheritance can only be used for certain expenses, such as healthcare costs and education. This won’t all be done in one day or one conversation.

An early retirement is great, but age 60 is also still pretty early for retirement. Your husband is older and he wants to spend time with you, which is a beautiful thing. When you review your finances as a couple, build vacation plans into your monthly and annual budget. Do you have any new hobbies you would like to try? And remember: You don’t have to wait until retirement to enjoy your life to the fullest.

By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

Have a question about your own retirement savings? Email us at [email protected]

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