Money Doctor: Why it's vital for couples to discuss their retirement finances

Fergus Muirhead sets out the benefits of joint planning after a Prudential survey revealed nearly 20 per cent of us are avoiding talking to our partner about the future.

They say a problem shared is a problem halved and that's certainly true when it comes to our money.

We're not always very good at talking to our partners about our finances, but it seems there's one area where we are really falling down - and that's retirement planning.

A survey carried out by Prudential last year suggested that fewer than one-third of over-40s in Scotland have ensured their partner will have any sort of income at retirement following their death.

To make matters worse, 20 per cent of couples admit to never talking about their finances with their partner.

Many of those who do talk about money seem to just scratch the surface, with 60 per cent admitting they don't know how much they are likely to receive in their retirement.

Nearly two in 10 of those questioned have no clue how much their partner has in pension savings.

We all need to have an income when the time comes to bowing out of our careers and, unless you have a company to sell or wealthy parents who are going to leave you a fortune (assuming that happens before you retire), then for most of us a pension is the most tax-efficient way of financing our later years.

There are lots of different types of pensions out there and the rules around them are changing all of the time so it's really important that we have at least a basic understanding of the options available to us.

It's equally helpful to know what each of these options means for our income when we retire, and also what it means for our partner's income when we die.

The best way to do that is to sit down as early as you can and look at the type of arrangements you currently have and whether they are likely to be sufficient for you.

If they are not going to be adequate then you have to look at the options available to increase the benefits you will receive.

It’s also vital to understand what happens when one of you dies. Different pension schemes have different rules about who will continue to receive a lump sum or income in the event of death, and for how long.

The pensions world keeps changing.

In recent years we've seen increases to the age at which we can access our state pensions, amendments to the rules that determine what we can do with the funds that we have built up, and changes in the way we can pass pension money to our partner and family.

That's why it's important that the conversations you have with your partner are regular and factor in all of the above so that you can rest easy about retirement and, most importantly, enjoy it.