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Reader Voices

Half-Retired, Half Not

Roger M. Williams

Partly out of economic need, partly because they have inquiring minds, educators have long gravitated toward marriages in which both spouses work outside the house.

That almost always means one will retire before the other, ensuring significant and sometimes disruptive changes in their everyday lives.

As Carol Ballerstein, a correspondent and NEA-Retired member in Stratford, Wisconsin, recently observed in the Stratford Record-Review, “… the first year or two of a husband’s retirement is a real testing of a couple’s commitment to each other.”

That may be the case no matter which half of the couple retires first. “As the saying goes,” Ballerstein puckishly added, “no one mentions divorce, a few mention murder.”

She went on to list a few oft-cited rules for “half-retired” happiness: plan ahead to overcome the difficulties; do some things separately; be open about finances; work at staying healthy; and maintain a sense of humor.

Some observations from our readers:

DIANE EICHNER, South Windsor, Connecticut: I recently remarried, and my husband won’t retire for four years. I often hear him say, “Wish I was retired!” Since I tend to be a Type A and always busy, I guess waiting for him to retire will help me learn to relax more. [When he joins me,] we’ll enjoy lazy days on the Boston Whaler he is restoring. 

CLARA SMITH, Jacksonville, Florida: I have returned to the workforce part-time. My husband stresses enjoying his half of retirement. This causes no problems for us. We have so much to catch up on in the afternoons—bicycling, walking, then out to dinner, visiting with family friends, and church activities. 

CANDACE KNIFFEN, Halifax, Massachusetts: I loved that my husband retired early—I describe my last two years at work as being “semi-retired,”  because he took over the day-to-day responsibilities of running the house. He also got involved in volunteer opportunities and hobbies. Because he had time to establish his retired life, it was easier on both of us when I retired: we were not going through that huge transition at the same time! 

DAVE SINO, Ft. Madison, Iowa: My wife has four more years before she, too, can retire from being a school counselor. Sometimes the tension can be a bit strong.  I fish, she works. I hunt, she works. I can come and go as I please, she works. Truth is, however, that the arrangement works because we make it work, and I’m sensitive to her feelings. And her day will come! 

KAY FULLER, Dallastown, Pennsylvania: My husband retired eight years before I did, and became my domestic engineer. He did all the cleaning except dusting, and he had my dinner ready when I got home. At school, he worked one-on-one in math with my second-grade students, volunteered [to fill in] for other teachers, and—his favorite role—played Santa at Christmas. Because of his help, he and I had more time together doing fun activities! And having interests and activities in common made it all easy.  

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