Men and women: the differences in what we look forward to in retirement

By Megan Giles: Retirement Transition Consultant. First published by Over 60 (Link:

We all look forward to spending more time with the significant people in their lives in retirement, but when that definition of ‘significant others’ differs, trouble can arise. This is what a recent study conducted in the US looking at gender differences suggests. The study purports that men look forward to spending quality time with their spouses in retirement whereas women are more likely to be planning to spend more time with the wider family unit.

Have you thought about the people you most look forward to sharing your retirement with and what this might mean for you and your partner?

The study found that men assume they will spend more time with their wife or partner once they step into retirement and they see time together as their reward for a lifetime of work. For women, however, being available to support and care for relatives, and in particular grandchildren, is what is equally important in retirement.

Both are great opportunities to look forward to in retirement, however, tension can develop when one or both of the partners’ expectations are not met regarding how time is spent. Imagine finally retiring to enjoy holidays and lazy afternoons with your spouse, only to find that they have competing priorities, and that your time with them has to be shared.

Joe retired and Maureen followed suit 12 months later. In waiting for Maureen to retire Joe started devising plans for the two of them in retirement – caravanning trips, landscaping the garden and becoming members of the local golf club. He had things to do each day but was essentially biding time until Maureen joined him to really kick off retirement.

Unfortunately, whilst their interests were shared and Joe’s ideas held much appeal, they weren’t Maureen’s only plans. From the outset Maureen had a busy social life. She and Joe did things together but she had other people to spend quality time with also. The Mother’s Group ladies (where did 35 years go?!) had decided to meet for monthly lunches once they were all retired, she was excited to care for her first grand-daughter each Tuesday, and she would be taking her elderly mother shopping one morning a week.

Having not considered retirement activities without Maureen, Joe quite often found himself at a loose-end. He was listless and a little lonely on some days and whilst he recognised the need to find himself a hobby (with some gentle prodding from Maureen) he was slightly anxious about joining a new group and having to meet new people.

Fortunately, Maureen and Joe recognised that their priorities in retirement were mismatched and they were comfortable to discuss this challenge with each other. They were able to re-focus and get the balance right between togetherness and independence. That said this shaky period could have been avoided if they had talked about their plans for retirement in detail, rather than just the abstract, before they actually retired.

Have you had the conversation with your partner about the people who will be important to you in retirement and thus how you will spend your time?

This may not be on your radar, but here are three reasons to have that conversation now (don’t wait!):

  • No surprises! Rather than assume you know what your partner wants in retirement, ask the question, explore and ensure you are both on the same page in order to help smooth the transition into retirement
  • Bring about the change you want. If you are feeling unhappy or disconnected, the sooner you have the conversation the sooner you can start taking action to get the balance right in your relationship
  • Help your partner. If you sense that your partner is feeling isolated and struggling to adapt to life in retirement, find out why and decide what changes you can make together so that you are both feeling connected and energised.


If you enjoyed this article you may also like to read There's More to Retirement Planning Than Superannuation and Life Was Great...Until My Husband Retired!

If you would like to explore your particular circumstances with someone who can provide an objective perspective in planning for the non-financial aspects of retirement via structured, action-focused coaching, you may like to consider booking a one-on-one or workshop-based planning session. I would love the opportunity to work with you and all of the details are available on my For Individuals page

For ongoing insights, ideas and resources I would love for you to sign-up for my fortnighty newsletter and ‘like’ my Facebook page.