Addressing the Post-Career Pendulum Swings

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Allison is stressed, she just went into retirement. Her husband is on the countdown to ending his career soon. While they both feel the finances are in fairly good shape, Henry has not had any intertest in establishing routines for his and their retirement. Allison is worried that they need to have some type of plan, without one she feels they will not enjoy post-career life.

Henry and Allison are on opposite swings of the lifestyle pendulum.  Because there is not an emotional understanding of what is important for them individually and together, it will impact their lives. I see a pattern in traditional marriages. It is the wife who tends to lead the way in trying to gain an understanding for both.

While I think Allison and Henry have a strong relationship to weather through the upcoming adjustments, the same cannot be said for other couples. In 2021, the divorce rate was highest among those aged 65 and older, tripling from 1990 levels. Increased life expectancy and changing societal attitudes, make couples more willing to end unsatisfying marriages later in life.

Using the concept found in my book, The Time-Optimized Life, let’s walk through and apply the PEC technique of preparation, execution, and control. I am certainly not making any guarantees that reading this article will save your marriage, but it can help bring to light any underlying issues.

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Pendulum Preparation

As a planner, I appreciate Allison’s diligence to what to provide structure, but she also needs to give Henry some grace and let him come to his own conclusions about this new life. Therefore, when it comes to preparation, a little patience might be in order. Allison may choose to enter retirement life with a full set of activities. Henry might need a gap year to figure out his next steps.

Whatever the timing for each, there should be discussions around things like career mindset, time management, retirement mindset, financial mindset, anticipated lifestyle, and planned activities.  Henry may not have any of them figured out, but talking to Allison about his current state of mind will help both prepare for the initial post-career life.

Pendulum Execution

Even though Allison has a plan and Henry does not, as both execute their retirement life, each is going to have to adapt. They will be reframing the things they do today in a different light tomorrow.  Execution is about making sure you maintain a plan and honor what is being done, write and adjust what does not seem to fit into your lifestyle.

That might seem easier for Allison because she has a desired structure. However, she might find she totally changes her initial assumptions and decides to do more preparation. Henry might realize having no guardrails is not a long-term solution and is ready to come up with some options.

Pendulum Control

Control for Henry and Allison is not meant to be done in isolation. Couples who head into retirement at about the same time will suddenly be spending around two-thirds of their awake time together. That can be additional opportunities to enhance and deepen the relationship or it can exasperate a tense situation and tear a couple apart.

This goal of our featured couple or any marriage is not to go it alone, all the time. Pendulum control is focusing yourself to go back to preparation or execution, with the help and support of your spouse, and adjust.

Pendulum PEC-ing

Henry and Allison will figure it out. However, as they dedicate the time and communicate how they want to prepare for retirement life, there needs to be a certain level of patience on both parties to let the other figure their own rhythm. When life starts to seem more routine and they execute their plans, collectively and individually they should embrace adapting and changing to enhance post-career living. Finally, this is not a time to isolate themselves from each other. They can control their lifestyle outcomes much better when they work together.

Where are you and your spouse on the pendulum swing?

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David Buck is the author of the book The Time-Optimized Life, owner of Kairos Management Solutions, LLC, and founder of the Infinity Lifestyle Design program. As a certified professional retirement coach (CPRC), David works with financial services providers helping their clients create a post-career lifestyle strategy. To learn more, contact him at or visit Infinity Lifestyle Design.