Are you in an age-gap relationship? Five percent of first marriages and 20% of second marriages need a special focus on making both of your needs work.

Financial matters for large age-gap retirement planning include retirement funding, Social Security planning and health care costs.

Retirement planning. Imagine a scenario in which the older spouse is ready to retire, while the younger spouse is hitting her/his stride and doesn’t want to slow down. How should you coordinate your retirement dates? Don’t even try.

  • Staggered retirement dates can be an advantage. A younger spouse who continues to work might maintain employer health coverage until both partners are eligible for Medicare.
  • The younger spouse’s earnings can reduce the need to live off investments, helping ensure that the nest egg lasts longer.
  • Most couples plan for three decades of retirement at age 65, but if you have a significantly younger spouse, the level of assets rises, and the withdrawal rate declines. The assets needed to fund a $50,000 annual withdrawal for 30 years is about $1.1 million, assuming a 5% rate of return and 3% inflation. For 40 years, the wealth required is $1.34 million.

Social Security timing. This is more complex in an age-gap relationship. While generally you’d want to delay taking Social Security benefits as long as possible to lock in higher rates and survivor benefits, there are other considerations.

  • If one spouse takes benefits early, the survivor will collect the deceased spouse’s benefits at full retirement age or reduced benefits at age 60. The survivor may qualify for benefits on his or her own earnings history. It’s important to take into account each partner’s work situation to see whether either will be dependent on the other’s benefits.
  • Remarriage after age 60 may impact survivor benefits. A surviving divorced spouse may be eligible for a benefit if he or she had been married for 10 years or more.
  • Defined benefit pensions, which provide a monthly benefit based on average compensation and length of service, are not as common as they were, but if either partner has one, you’ll have to be especially careful in deciding if and how the other will be covered. Terms also are very specific about when you may draw these benefits. Survivor benefits for spouses are reduced — the survivor may not get the full payout that the employee would be entitled to.

Health care. The cost of health care is a real concern for people with long-term serious health issues. If you’re the older retiree close to being eligible for Medicare, but your younger spouse depends on you for health care coverage, you see the problem. You’ll both have to purchase policies privately, and you know that can be quite expensive, if they are even available at all. When one of you retires and the other is still working, that may put a crimp in your overall relationship, but can work for health care benefits. Here, as with other decisions, make sure any plan accommodates the partner with the longest life expectancy.

Age gaps between spouses means wide variations in retirement dates, life expectancy, health and other factors. By coordinating with legal and financial professionals, you’ll be able to create an estate plan for your circumstances.