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Providing for a Surviving Spouse in Retirement

May 11, 2021

Key Takeaways

  • Many married couples are saddled with growing debt, making it harder to plan for retirement.
  • These issues are magnified when the higher earner passes away first.
  • Financial advisors can help couples save more for retirement and help manage their risks.


Growing numbers of couples today are saddled with rising healthcare costs, mounting household debt, and other personal liabilities, but have less savings with which to pay these bills. That leaves them unprepared to manage their retirement risks once they’ve stopped working. And for widows and widowers, the outlook is especially unnerving.

Fundamental changes in U.S. retirement landscape have made it harder than ever for married couples to generate enough income for retirement. The biggest development is the shift from defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution saving plans in the workplace. The demise of retiree healthcare plans and modifications to Social Security means that the three traditional pillars of the system no longer provide adequate retirement security for a growing number of Americans.

The upshot? Many couples now face the prospect of either working longer than they planned, or for settling for a lower standard of living. These issues are magnified when one partner in a marriage dies – especially if that partner is the husband.

Life insurance and annuities can help a surviving spouse pay off any remaining debts by providing a guaranteed source of income in retirement, enabling them to maintain their preferred lifestyle in retirement. Financial advisors can help as well, by working with married couples to develop strategies that enable them to save more for retirement, and to make sure they’re protected against outliving their retirement savings.

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To learn more about how the right financial strategy may help couples ensure a surviving spouse is taken care of, read Providing for a Surviving Spouse in Retirement   PDF opens in a new window

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Executive summary   PDF opens in a new window

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