Nothing kills a romantic buzz like talking about individual retirement needs, but couples who stay together long-term usually learn how to face the cold facts of life together. One of those facts is that you might not always be together, and each person within a couple should look toward his or her own future. That doesn't mean you can't plan for retirement together, but you should make investments and plans that ensure you have an income to draw from for yourself.
When Both Individuals Work
When both people within a couple work full-time, individual retirement investments are as easy as setting up 401ks in the workplace. If your employer offers a 401k option - especially if they match your contributions - take advantage of the opportunity to put away savings for retirement. While you can designate beneficiaries on such investments, the money primarily belongs to you in your lifetime.
If your employer doesn't offer a 401k benefit, consider an IRA and other savings options. Savings can be automatically deducted from a checking account each period, so you don't have to remember to make deposits.
When One Individual Works
If one person works and the other does not for a length of time, then individual retirement options become more challenging. Couples should discuss how they want to handle investments and savings in such cases, and both individuals should understand the importance of protecting each other now and in the future. The person who does not work and has no access to work-related retirement options might want an outside investment made in his or her name. If the couple remains married for life, then 401k and other investments do revert to the estate - and often, the widow or widower - upon a person's death. But if the couple divorces after many years of marriage, the unemployed spouse might feel he or she has to fight for part of the retirement funds or other savings.
As with any financial consideration, both married and unmarried couples should discuss retirement savings carefully. In the end, the couple should choose a path that is best for both individuals now and in the future.