Marriage Takes Work—Especially When Only One Spouse Retires
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Marriage Takes Work—Especially When Only One Spouse Retires

Relationships get complicated when one spouse retires and the other keeps working

Mon, May 13, 2024 8:30amGrey Clock 4 min

When one spouse retires but the other doesn’t, roles change and feelings get complicated.

David Buck, 60, stepped back from a long career in sales management just as his wife, Susan Rose, 58, an ordained minister, leaned in, working 40-plus hours a week.

They’ve had to rethink who does what at home. David now folds more of the laundry and takes on grocery duties. He also has freedom, which Susan sometimes longs for. He talks about going to visit their adult children, who live out of state. Their first grandchild is on the way.

“I do get jealous. I have a couple more years,” Susan says.

Most couples now retire at di’fferent times , research suggests.

Only 18% of retired households claimed Social Security at the same time, according to a review of Federal Reserve data conducted by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

A separate poll found that just 11% of couples retire at the same time. Nearly two-thirds stagger their retirement by at least a year, according to a survey of 1,510 couples ages 45 to 70 commissioned by Ameriprise Financial, a financial services company.

Timing two retirements

The timing of retirement is often out of a couple’s hands. Nearly one-third of retirees surveyed left the workforce unexpectedly due to layoffs and early retirement packages. Health is also a factor.

Women, who often leave work to care for older parents or in-laws, retire at younger ages, averaging 62 compared with 65 for men, according to the Center for Retirement Research. A younger spouse may continue working to keep family health insurance until Medicare kicks in, or to delay having to tap retirement savings. They may want to hold off collecting  Social Security to get higher payments.

Some people simply want to  keep working  even if their partner doesn’t. Living on one paycheck can be scary for people used to having two, no matter how much money couples have.

When couples retire at different times, routines, schedules and expectations diverge, and tensions can surface. Assumptions arise over who should clean or make dinner. The still-working partner may feel a twinge of envy when the other one heads to the beach or visits grandchildren.

“There can be resentment. This is the time people have been dreaming about,” says Pepper Schwartz, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Washington who focuses on relationships.

Other couples are wary of their partner retiring and being around all the time. “They dread too much togetherness,” says working filmmaker Sharon Hyman, 61, who  lives separately from her retired partner of 25 years.

Navigating new routines

David Brown, 70, and Beth Keenan-Brown, 64, planned to retire together. Last year, Beth left her nursing job and David retired from the Secret Service. They made plans to travel to Budapest and spend more time at their beach house.

Shortly after Beth retired, she received a dream job offer and returned to work full time, as director of clinical operations for a Maryland hospice agency. Now she spends the week in their Severna Park, Md., home, which is larger and has space for a home office, while David stays at their beach home in Delaware, where he bikes and volunteers with Meals on Wheels. They travel back and forth.

“It’s a challenge keeping our calendars straight,” says David.

Beth logs her meetings on a joint Google Calendar so David knows when not to call. Every morning, they FaceTime over coffee and talk about their plans. On Wednesdays they each get takeout from the same type of restaurant, recently Ethiopian, and eat together over a video call.

There are upsides, too. They have made two trips since she took her new job, one to Costa Rica and the other to the Netherlands, thanks to her added income. Beth has unlimited paid vacation with her new job.

She says it would be hard if they were still in the same house and she was working while he was retired. “I think I would drive you nuts,” says Beth, adding that she is younger and has more energy than David.

“I just can’t keep up with you,” says David, who had a stroke a few years ago and needed to slow down.

Tough choices, new roles

Jeni Mastin, 74, of Vancouver, British Columbia, retired a decade ago from a career in nonprofits and social work. Her partner, Cameron Hood, is still working as a musician, teaching music and performing jazz.

“I’m an artist. I imagine I will be working until I drop dead,” he says.

Their different schedules and responsibilities have led to some inconveniences. Earlier this year, Jeni planned a monthlong 65th birthday celebration for Cameron in Mexico. They cut it a week short because of his teaching job. Cameron’s work schedule also means that he can’t always go with Jeni to her doctor’s appointments. His substitute teaching job ends at 3:30 p.m. and there’s an hourlong commute.

David Buck and his wife, Susan Rose, the minister, are navigating the transition in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

David, who describes himself as “semiretired,” continues to advise some clients of his time-management consulting business. Susan logs more than 40 hours a week doing two part-time jobs, one as transitional pastor at a local church and the other at a nonprofit she formed to mentor women in ministry.

David has picked up more responsibilities at home, taking on tasks that Susan did before she began working more and he semiretired. He takes their cars in for maintenance and balances the checkbook.

“If the dogs need to go to the vet, that’s me,” says David.

Susan says she has a hard time letting some things go. “I will say, ‘I can go to the grocery store on the way home,’ and Dave will say, ‘Stop. I can go to the grocery store. Tell me what we need,’ ” she says, although he tends to pick up snacks and cookies that she wouldn’t buy.

It has been an adjustment for David, too.

Being semiretired, he says he sometimes forgets about the demands of a job, especially one in ministry where congregation members have needs outside of 9 to 5. She might call and say her meeting went longer than expected. “Then I’m sitting there thinking, ‘I got dinner about ready. What am I going to do now?’ ” he says.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Should AI Have Access to Your Medical Records? What if It Can Save Many Lives?

We asked readers: Is it worth giving up some potential privacy if the public benefit could be great? Here’s what they said.

Tue, May 28, 2024 4 min

We’re constantly told that one of the potentially biggest benefits of artificial intelligence is in the area of health. By collecting large amounts of data, AI can create all sorts of drugs for diseases that have been resistant to treatment.

But the price of that could be that we have to share more of our medical information. After all, researchers can’t collect large amounts of data if people aren’t willing to part with that data.

We wanted to see where our readers stand on the balance of privacy versus public-health gains as part of our series on ethical dilemmas created by the advent of AI.

Here are the questions we posed…

AI may be able to discover new medical treatments if it can scan large volumes of health records. Should our personal health records be made available for this purpose, if it has the potential to improve or save millions of lives? How would we guard privacy in that case?

…and some of the answers we received. undefined

Rely on nonpartisan overseers

While my own recent experience with a data breach highlights the importance of robust data security, I recognise the potential for AI to revolutionise healthcare. To ensure privacy, I would be more comfortable if an independent, nonpartisan body—overseen by medical professionals, data-security experts, and citizen representatives—managed a secure database.

Anonymity cuts both ways

Yes. Simply sanitise the health records of any identifying information, which is quite doable. Although there is an argument to be made that AI may discover something that an individual needs or wants to know.

Executive-level oversight

I think we can make AI scanning of health records available with strict privacy controls. Create an AI-CEO position at medical facilities with extreme vetting of that individual before hiring them.

Well worth it

This actually sounds like a very GOOD use of AI. There are several methods for anonymising data which would allow for studies over massive cross-sections of the population without compromising individuals’ privacy. The AI would just be doing the same things meta-studies do now, only faster and maybe better.

Human touch

My concern is that the next generations of doctors will rely more heavily, maybe exclusively, on AI and lose the ability or even the desire to respect the art of medicine which demands one-on-one interaction with a patient for discussion and examination (already a dying skill).


People should be able to sign over rights to their complete “anonymised” health record upon death just as they can sign over rights to their organs. Waiting for death for such access does temporarily slow down the pace of such research, but ultimately will make the research better. Data sets will be more complete, too. Before signing over such rights, however, a person would have to be fully informed on how their relatives’ privacy may also be affected.

Pay me or make it free for all

As long as this is open-source and free, they can use my records. I have a problem with people using my data to make a profit without compensation.

Privacy above all

As a free society, we value freedoms and privacy, often over greater utilitarian benefits that could come. AI does not get any greater right to infringe on that liberty than anything else does.

Opt-in only

You should be able to opt in and choose a plan that protects your privacy.

Privacy doesn’t exist anyway

If it is decided to extend human lives indefinitely, then by all means, scan all health records. As for privacy, there is no such thing. All databases, once established, will eventually, if not immediately, be accessed or hacked by both the good and bad guys.

The data’s already out there

I think it should be made available. We already sign our rights for information over to large insurance companies. Making health records in the aggregate available for helping AI spot potential ways to improve medical care makes sense to me.

Overarching benefit

Of course they should be made available. Privacy is no serious concern when the benefits are so huge for so many.

Compensation for breakthroughs

We should be given the choice to release our records and compensated if our particular genome creates a pathway to treatment and medications.

Too risky

I like the idea of improving healthcare by accessing health records. However, as great as that potential is, the risks outweigh it. Access to the information would not be controlled. Too many would see personal opportunity in it for personal gain.

Nothing personal

The personal info should never be available to anyone who is not specifically authorised by the patient to have it. Medical information can be used to deny people employment or licenses!

No guarantee, but go ahead

This should be allowed on an anonymous basis, without question. But how to provide that anonymity?

Anonymously isolating the information is probably easy, but that information probably contains enough information to identify you if someone had access to the data and was strongly motivated. So the answer lies in restricting access to the raw data to trusted individuals.

Take my records, please

As a person with multiple medical conditions taking 28 medications a day, I highly endorse the use of my records. It is an area where I have found AI particularly valuable. With no medical educational background, I find it very helpful when AI describes in layman’s terms both my conditions and medications. In one instance, while interpreting a CT scan, AI noted a growth on my kidney that looked suspiciously like cancer and had not been disclosed to me by any of the four doctors examining the chart.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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