3 ways men and women view retirement differently


What makes a satisfying retirement? Everyone’s idea of happiness in retirement is somewhat different,  although there are some commonalities like relatively good health and financial freedom. One factor that apparently makes a big difference is whether you’re a man or a woman. Men and women view retirement differently, prepare for it differently, and engage in it differently. That’s one major finding from the 2016 Voices of Experience Survey by TIAA, the financial services provider to nonprofit organizations. This has implications for retirement advisors, and also for you if you and your spouse are entering retirement together.

The fact that the genders regard retirement differently should not be completely surprising. Men and women tend to be attracted to different fields of study, different occupations, and different recreational pursuits – why shouldn’t their views of retirement be different?

1. Men view retirement as a time for recreation or a second career; women tend to view it as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends. This is reflected in how men and women spend the majority of their time in retirement: men tend to pursue hobbies, work, or play sports, while women are more likely to be socializing, taking care of family members, or being involved in the community.

Among women who participated in the survey, 80% were spending time with family, compared to 67% of men. Socializing with friends was an activity for 75% of women, versus 52% of men. And 58% of women retirees spent time giving back to the community by volunteering compared to 42% of the men. Finally, 43% of women were caregiving, versus 26% of men.

On the other hand, men were more likely than women to engage in sports (38% of men versus 18% of women) or work full-time or part-time (28% versus 19%). A substantial majority of both men and women spent some time alone pursuing personal interests (80% and 70% respectively).

2. Men are more optimistic about retirement. A 2015 study by MassMutual Financial Group found that women were more likely to be stressed both before and after retirement. The study found that 49% of women pre-retirees were at least moderately stressed, compared to 38% of men pre-retirees. After retirement, 20% of women reported feeling at least moderately stressed in retirement, compared to 15% of men. The TIAA survey found that men were more likely than women to say they found the transition to retirement “easy” (77% vs. 69%). Women also are more prone to negative feelings like frustration, sadness, nervousness, and loneliness when entering retirement.

These feelings of stress may be related to finances. A study by the Society of Actuaries found that men were more confident that their finances would last throughout retirement, and that they could adjust to any financial situation that might arise. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to say that they could work to age 65 and still not have enough saved for retirement, according to a 2013 study by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

3. Women approach retirement with greater anticipation. In the years approaching retirement, women have higher expectations than men about socializing, having new experiences, and reinventing themselves in retirement. During retirement, women are more likely to have new experiences, spend more time with friends, and explore new opportunities. Men’s expectations and their eventual experiences in retirement both tend to be less fulfilling than women, according to the MassMutual study.

On the other hand, as retirement goes on, both men and women report greater levels of happiness. Seventy percent of men and 65 percent of women reported being “extremely” or “quite a bit” relaxed in retirement, and nearly 75% of both men and women retirees said they were happy.

One way to a satisfying retirement for both genders is to engage in a variety of activities. Of retirees who engaged in 10 or more activities, 76% reported being “very satisfied” in retirement, compared with 52% of retirees who had one to four activities. Of those retirees who had five to nine activities, 66% reported being very satisfied.

Differences in retirement expectations and activities are something couples should account for when entering retirement. Divorce rates among people 50 and over, a.k.a. “gray divorce”, is on the rise. To avoid having their marriage become part of this statistic, couples will need to be flexible and adaptable in their retirement planning. They also will need strategies to help them deal with the inevitable problems that will arise and help them make the most of what they have instead of bringing each other down.

If you and your spouse have different plans and preferences for retired life, you will want to make arrangements for pursuing your individual retirement dreams. Time apart can nourish and bring joy to a long-term relationship. Deciding how much time you will spend apart and how you will spend it is just as important as following a financial plan in retirement.

This video gives some tips for what couples can do when they have different retirement dreams.

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