Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 550 Retiring at the same time as your spouse

This is Del Lowery with, “Retirement Talk".

"What is it like to retire at the same time as your spouse?" is a question some of us face. In this area I have some experience. Like 30 years worth.Perhaps my experience can open a window for you to view at least this one attempt.

I remember deciding to retire and told my wife that I would always drop her a card from exotic destinations all over the world. She didn’t see the humor. She knew that there might be a chance that I would do that very thing. The day I retired - she retired.

What has been our experience of adjusting to this new arrangement in our relationship? We have all  heard horror stories about the idea of the man being underfoot – so to speak. When I ask my wife for comment for this program she never mentioned it. So…I guess I wasn’t underfoot.

We have found things to fill up our hours without interfering with each other. In the mornings we each go to our personal stations. She sleeps later than I. We eat breakfast alone. Then she focused on watercolor in her studio. I arise earlier; practiced Tai Chi, shoot a few hoops and then practice the guitar for at least two hours.  

Except for  the guitar there is no sound in our house until after noon: nothing electric; no radio, no TV, no music – other than the guitar.  I always ask her if the music bothers her, but she always claims that she rarely hears it. I guess she is focused on painting and my music is just meaningless background. Perhaps that is a reflection of how well or poorly I play.

A little side note here about the lack of electronic stuff coming into the house before noon. We have found it very refreshing to save all political chicanery, airplane crashes, murders, fires, crashes, and wars for later in the day -usually presented to us in the print media. I could never figure out why people listen to the news in the morning. It seems like such a poor way to start a day that you at least have hopes of enjoying.

At 11 o’clock we join together to get our exercise. She and I see this as a real plus in retiring at the same time. It is easier to keep to a regimented exercise program if you have someone to do it with. Types of activities have varied over the years but have included skiing, playing racquetball, running, cycling, lifting weights, ballroom dancing, or just going for a fast walk. We are to lunchtime without getting in each other’s way. It has worked this way for all these 30 years – and counting.

In the afternoons we again pursue our own particular interest whatever that might be, or we might join together on some project around the house or in the community. We might do a woodworking project: building a greenhouse, a table, a deck, or an addition to our house. She might go shopping or run errands. I might work at the computer or write.

Late afternoons always sees us coming together again for coffee. We are regular customers at the local coffee shops. We know the baristas by name and they know our drinks. This is not as simple as it seems since we rotate between several different coffee shops; two in Bellingham and three in Vancouver. Here is where we read the paper or a magazine, do a crossword, or talk to friends. It is our place to socialize first and foremost. We love to sit and solve all world and local problems within the time it takes to drink an Americano.

Just because you retire at the same time doesn’t mean you can’t do things your spouse doesn’t do. We have each taken different classes and workshops and explored various aspects of painting, music, language, or technology. Sometimes we have traveled separately and certainly spent our time having lunch with friends where the other is banned.

Retiring at the same time has fostered a time to work together on projects. We have enjoyed working together on human rights issues, community projects, political campaigns, and environmental problems. It is great to have the same time and interests to combine efforts.  

I think we have grown closer since retirement. We are more sensitive to each other’s needs to run off and be alone or to just sit quietly. We are more sensitive in criticizing each other. After 52 years together retirement has been our closest years. Perhaps we are more comfortable with our own egos. We are more assured of our place in universe and we are more aware of the importance of each of us to each other.

Of course, I realize this may not be the case for everyone. Perhaps your experience has been different. If so, drop me a line at and I will read your letter on a program. It will be good for all of us to hear different approaches, different practices, and the unique circumstances that may have led to various results.  

This is Retirement Talk.

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