My husband and I have saved for retirement all our life. Many of our friends have been going on trips and enjoying their nest egg, yet my husband is reluctant to push the button to go on any expensive trips with other couples or together. The past two years it seems he is almost stingier and more miserly than when we were both working. Do you know why my husband would have such an aversion to enjoying his money?
There can be several reasons for this reluctance to spend down one’s savings. Some retirees, especially those with considerable amounts of money tucked away, may plan on leaving a portion of their savings to their heirs or charity. Many are no doubt being cautious because they fear they’ll incur large medical expenses late in life or they’ll run through their savings too early and have to scrimp in their final years. But the most common reason may simply be the difficult task of making the transition from saving to spending. After years of thrift, they have developed an extreme reluctance to spend, or a condition called “spendaphobia,” which makes it difficult for them to loosen their purse strings and enjoy the benefits of all those years of saving for right now, their later years.
There was a study in 2016 of retiree spending habits and they found that with the exception of those of modest means, retirees on average were spending less than they could actually afford. Wealthy retirees were spending less than half of the amount of their savings and other resources. Last year when researchers examined the spending and savings of thousands of people who retired in the early 1990s, they not only found that most of these retirees still had at least half of their retirement savings remaining after nearly 20 years of retirement, but many actually had a larger nest egg than when they entered retirement.
Assuming you’ve planned to comfortably retire, and there are no other underlying issues that have not been addressed as a barrier, this apprehension your husband may be exhibiting isn’t a surprise given our current economic instability. You need to be on the same page or at least in the same book as to your future years together. By now you should have established your common interests, right? What is on your bucket lists? Do you even have a bucket list? If not, I suggest you begin creating one. Any dreams you each have should be verbalized and written down. Start with planning a short trip for no more than three days, maybe four days tops. Take the lead and do some of the legwork by researching the details of the trip. Be sure to include many of his favorite activities and eateries. Once the ball gets rolling it suddenly picks up speed and begins rolling faster and faster and soon it becomes more fun to plan trips together and it unlocks all kinds of experiences and a variety of things to do. The apprehension you’ll feel when planning a trip will be similar to getting on a roller coaster ride at a theme park; you feel very anxious and uncomfortable during the first 20 or 30 seconds, but soon you realize everything feels “ok” and as time goes by you adjust to the butterflies in your stomach and the sweaty palms begin to subside and you relax and enjoy the ride. I would label this apprehension as withdrawal symptoms for the addiction of “scrimping” — on every single facet of your life. Why would you allow your partner to suffer in a lonely self-imposed addiction? Time is of the essence, so get crackin’. Keep accurate records with credit card confirmation numbers. Organize contact phone numbers for hotels, events and reservations. Organization really eliminates any future stress during your trip planning process since many tours and restaurants are closed on certain days. The library, as well as bookstores, have plenty of good trip planning ideas once you pick a destination. My recommendation to you is gently lead by example. He will undoubtedly love the outcome! Self-deprivation is not an accident — it is caused!
Barb Rock is a mental health counselor for the House of Matthew Homeward Bound program in Tacoma, and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at BarbRockrocks@yahoo.com.