Planning for the Future
Whether yours is a newer marriage of two people at midlife or a long-term marriage in which you're approaching midlife, you must face the certainty that old age awaits you and that one of you will outlive the other. If you are like the typical couple in the Arps's survey of the long-term married cited earlier, joint financial management was likely to have been a challenging area for the two of you, too.
Now, however, mastering it, or obtaining professional help to handle financial planning, is of critical importance. All sources of joint and individual assets and income — real estate, pensions, investments, estimated Social Security payments due to you — as well as liabilities, including any mortgages or other debts, must be assessed carefully.
No one knows how long he'll live, or whether he'll outlive his partner. But this is the time when you can give each other the great gift of peace of mind by making concrete one of the key agreements of marriage: to see to each other's welfare in sickness and health. And, to carry out the wish of most married couples, to help the one left behind in whatever material ways you can by careful planning.
In addition to maintaining health insurance until age 65, and eventually availing oneself of Medicare, the choice of whether to purchase long-term-care insurance must be considered by each person independently and each couple together, and, with the complexities involved, many benefit by consulting with an insurance professional as early in midlife as possible.
For one thing, the younger you are when you enlist in such coverage, the lower the monthly premiums are likely to be. On the other side, the net cost of these earlier payments may outweigh any potential savings. A rule of thumb used by many financial advisors is if you have more than $50,000 in liquid assets, long-term-care insurance can be an important way to preserve wealth.
Why is turbulence in a long-term marriage healthy?
A marriage that works is able to withstand conflict, and it can accommodate the airing of strong differences without falling apart under the stress. The commitment is strong enough to withstand temporary discomfort, and the couple has learned that anxiety or pain can also lead to growth and positive change.
The main choice faced by midlife couples, especially empty nesters, is whether to downsize from the family home to a home built for two. Into this decision-making process should go any knowledge you have at midlife about health issues, such as a bad back or arthritis, conditions that should inform choices such as stairs, counter heights, and locations of rooms.
It's also valuable to begin acquiring a knowledge of senior housing options including active retirement communities, planned senior housing, and assisted living — all common options for couples beginning as early as age 55.