Of course, there are many different permutations of what could possibly happen, that there might not be a one size fits all template of how couples can handle retirement timing. I got an email from a reader who asked a question about an issue with her husband regarding retirement, and I thought I’d pose it below.
In doing so, I’ll summarize the issue rather than posting the question verbatim – as it will be easier to follow this way. Here’s the deal as I understood it:
- Second marriage for both of them
- Her husband had significantly more money prior to their getting married
- They signed a prenup, so each person’s pre-marital assets are separate
- With current income, they share it – along with current expenses during the marriage
- He wants to retire early, based on his premarital savings and his share of their shared marital savings
- She can’t retire early, as she can’t afford to do so.
- He expects that if she continues to work, that her income will be shared between the two of them
- Her big issue: she wonders if he can do that, and why he can’t share his premarital assets with her
This is how I can best characterize the situation from what I understood.
Quite a touchy situation, right?
It’s not a totally straightforward situation. But, I mostly side with the woman (reader) here in the big picture.
Now, on the one hand I do think that if there was a prenup signed, and both party had a significant enough time to discuss, consider, then sign it (in other words, not immediately before marriage or something pressured like that), then it’s totally okay that he keeps more money than her. That part is fair, and it’s often understandable why someone would ask for a prenup.
However, aside from the legalities, there are moral issues at play here in my opinion. If her married her, he should have consideration for her feelings in the spirit of partnership. That doesn’t mean he has any moral obligation to share his premarital money with her, as it’s totally fair that he should control it. But if we wants to retire early, he shouldn’t expect her to then subsidize him by sharing her income with him. Isn’t that like a wealthy person engaging in freeloading?
I think that the idea of sharing income as they apparently did is totally normal. And if one person retires early in a typical marriage, then the other’s income should support both and be shared as a team. However, this is a much different case where they’re not on an equal playing field. If he is retiring partially on his money and not sharing it, then I don’t see how he could actually expect her to share her own current income with him. Even if it’s marital. When can she retire then?
Somehow, I think the onus is on him to be gracious to his less well-off spouse. This would apply equally the same way if the genders were reversed. The principle is the same either way.
My Questions for You
What are your overall thoughts about this?
Where do you agree or disagree with her?
What do you think of my assertion that he shouldn’t get any of her income if he retires?