It seems like the biggest issue in trying to get a jump on doing something - anything, really - to start on a retirement plan is the sheer weight of the unknown.
How long are you going to live? Is Social Security going to be around that long, and how much money might it provide? How much should you be saving right now?
2. Have a frank discussion on the realities of divorce and retirement. It's a sad but overly common outcome to many marriages, and an even more frequent issue in those latter, pre-retirement years. But the fact of the matter is that any pensions or retirement savings are joint assets and can be fairly split up - at the time of divorce, should that sad occasion occur. Wait until after and, as the experts contest, you may be out of luck as courts rarely ever approve post-divorce settlements related to retirement funds. Should a divorcing spouse be happy to take the house and sign off on receiving future retirement benefits? The general advice seems to be no, considering the length of time they might need those benefits in the future. On the upside, Social Security benefits can indeed be arranged after divorce, with relatively little drama.
3. Ask questions about survivor benefits. Another tough subject, but a good discussion point whenever paperwork appears related to retirement accounts. As Hounsell noted, they have to be chosen and are not automatic: The death of a spouse won't magically mean that pension checks or IRA withdrawals will just be reassigned to the surviving partner. Make sure to talk about it, and get it in writing.