When Fritz Gilbert retired, he and his wife, Jackie, a stay-at-home mom, knew there would be adjustments. But they wanted to make the most of this next phase of their life, so they used an “activity jar.”

Each week during the year leading up to his retirement, the two would scribble ideas of activities they could do when he was finally out of the workplace. Some ideas were repeats of experiences they already knew and loved, but others were completely new territory, like taking a woodworking class at a center nearby. They also participate in charitable work, like volunteering at a dog rescue organization.

“It’s the first time in your life since entering kindergarten where you can truly define what you want to do with your time,” he said. “The exciting thing in retirement is you finally get to determine what it is that really motivates you and gives you passion.”

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For many couples, retirement is more than leaving the workforce — it’s about reconnecting with one another. With this next chapter, however, comes learning how to balance each spouse’s needs and goals with the amount of money saved or coming in from savings and Social Security.

Lynne Burns, 65, retired as a nurse on Dec. 31, years after her husband, Bob, retired. The couple wasted no time to enjoy their retirement, buying an RV and heading down to Florida, where they eat lunch out every day and go by the riverwalk. But even with a new lifestyle, everything is as usual, she said. “We run our lives the way we always did,” she said. “We’re great together.” As for finances, they had decided this was what they wanted out of retirement two years ago, and use a mix of savings, investments and Social Security checks to make it happen.

The key to a good relationship is communication, and that’s especially true come retirement, when couples have all of this newfound time together and begin living on a fixed income, said Thomas Faupl, a financial therapist in San Francisco. “What’s really important for couples is that they really try to come together and talk about a number of things,” Faupl said. “What they hope for, what they envision for how they’d like retirement to look.”

Spouses should ask themselves a few insightful questions, first separately, and then together, Faupl said:

• Do they have enough money to work part-time or not at all? Should they still work in some capacity in retirement?

• What are their expectations for retirement? Do they want to travel, spend more time at home, volunteer or go back to school?

• Will roles at home change at all?

• What are their hopes and fears for retirement?

• How do they envision their retirement to look?

• What does this transition mean to them separately, but also as a couple?

“If there’s not this communication over the years, they’re really going to feel that and they’re going to have some difficulties going forward,” Faupl said.

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Here’s what else retired couples need to consider when they get to this next stage:

Adjustments to routines

Gilbert, who is also a blogger at The Retirement Manifesto, knew there would be a transitioning period for himself and his wife when he finally retired. Instead of jumping straight into retirement, he took a 10-day vacation the year before and “tested” it out, going about his day as he imagined he would upon retirement and avoiding his email. He and his wife spent that time discussing how they’d want to structure their time during this new phase of their life, and found the time off went smoothly.

Gilbert also does more of the housework now that he’s retired, and tries to be conscientious of not overstepping his wife’s routines. “When you have someone who’s retired before you or a stay-at-home mom or dad, the adjustment for that stay-at-home or retired person is just as big of an adjustment as the one leaving the workforce,” he said.

Burns, the RV owner, was worried she and her husband wouldn’t adjust well to a new lifestyle, but they have, she said. Although they spend most of their time together now that they’re in Florida, he’ll occasionally go on bike rides and she’ll take time to read. When they go back to their Long Island home, they’ll also have more responsibilities and tasks that keep them away from each other, like babysitting the grandchildren, she said.

Meanwhile, they’ve continued to make their dreams a reality, such as planning a trip to Italy in September.

Spending down their assets

Retirement can seem stressful, as couples move away from accumulating wealth and into withdrawing from their assets. Instead of trying to reinvent the way they manage finances, however, couples should discuss what works for them and expand on that, said Edd and Cynthia Staton, a retired couple now living in Ecuador with a book series called “Mission: Rescue Your Retirement.”

“If we always pooled our money, it’d be weird to suddenly decide to go in the opposite direction,” Cynthia said. “If you’re lucky to have a financial plan going into retirement and everything is working like the financial plan dictates, that will determine a lot of your decisions.”

Those who can’t afford to (or don’t want to) work with a financial adviser can make their own financial plans, by incorporating budgets, establishing an emergency savings account and estimating what income and expenses they’ll have in retirement (such as a mortgage or rent and medical bills).

Gilbert and his wife took sage advice and made their foreseeable major purchases before he left the workforce, including buying an RV. They also have a portion of their savings automatically transferred to their accounts each month, just as they would a paycheck, and annually review their withdrawal rate to ensure everything is as it should be. “If you don’t overspend, it makes it pretty seamless,” he said.

Also see: You’re happily married. Will retirement ruin that?

Isolating arguments and pushing ahead

Retirees are not safe from divorce, no matter how long they were together before retirement. The divorce rate for U.S. adults aged 50 and older has roughly doubled since the 1990s, according to a Pew Research Center report. Gray divorce is a result of people living longer and wanting to live more fully during their extended lifetimes. It could also stem from the destigmatization of divorce, as well as financial troubles or disagreements.

Whether they’re fighting about money or something entirely different, couples could try a few key communication techniques, like waiting their turn to talk, repeating what they heard (not what they interpreted) and finding a day or time to discuss their issues instead of in the heat of an argument, Faupl said. They should also find a quiet time to create a budget and look at their cash flow, he said. When all else fails, they may want to consider seeing a professional therapist.

Retirement can be challenging for men and women in different ways, including how they cultivate friendships and hobbies, manage the home and find a purpose in life outside of the workplace. Even before retirement, they should think about what those aspects of life mean to them and how they will be addressed. “If you’re going to retire and you’re not forced out of the workplace, then shame on you for not putting any thought into how you’re going to use the rest of your life in a fun and interesting way,” Edd Staton said. “It’s a golden opportunity to do so.”

Couples should also look back on other big moments or challenges in their lives, such as the death of a family member or a job loss. How they handled those moments can be a good indicator of how they’ll treat this next stage, Cynthia said. “Retirement is just another life event,” she said. “It’s a transition period.”

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