Why retirement planning is different for women

By Megan Giles: Retirement Transition Consultant

It’s a question that’s been asked of me a couple of times lately. Without doubt robust retirement planning is critical for everyone and the earlier you commence the better, particularly in terms of the financial component. But what about the non-financial elements -things like social connection, health & wellbeing and relationship dynamics? Within these there do appear to be nuances that are specific to women, and I don’t mean in a Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus kind of way. It’s just that – nuances. This is not a bad thing, it is simply something that I believe is important to recognise and respond to in preparing for life after work.

Image: Joy in retirement.

Are the challenges really different? Here are five ways that planning for the non-financial aspects of life after work are different for women when compared to men.

Image: What is the journey in retirement supposed to look like?

The New generation

Whilst the prospect of retirement should be an exciting time with so much freedom, for many women, this can actually create a sense of anxiousness. For many women this is unchartered territory – what ‘should’ our retirement look like, what are we ‘supposed’ to do? The Baby Boomer women are really the first generation, as a majority, to experience retirement directly, rather than indirectly through their husband or partner. The women approaching retirement now tend to be healthy, active and have a whole ‘lotta’ living ahead of them. We don’t necessarily have the role-models to show us what is possible or to guide the path for us.

 We put others first

It’s quite a primal trait. It’s not uncommon for us women to put the needs of others before our own, and the research demonstrates it. Substantially more women are the primary caretakers of children, taking career breaks to do this, and more often than not women provide a greater proportion of care-giving to aging parents also. Again, this is not to say it’s wrong, it is simply recognition of a pattern. The risk that this poses, however, is that in retirement we can get swept up in the interests and pursuits of others, be it a husband and friend’s interests, or providing more baby-sitting support to our (gorgeous) grandchildren than we initially envisaged.  What happens to our own passions and drivers?

Image: As women we like to plan and prepare for the possibilities

We are Planners

As women we like to be prepared. Women tend to give more thought to the non-financial elements of retirement planning, such as ‘will I be lonely’ and ‘how will I fill my days meaningfully without the structure of work’? Considering the possibilities is a fantastic strength, but it then poses a question. How do I proactively work through these fears and look forward to life after work, rather than ruminating on the ‘what ifs’ and letting them become bigger than Ben Hurr in my head?



Women Live Longer

The statistics demonstrate it. The life expectancy of women in Australia is 84.4 as compared with 80.3 for men. The reality of this is that women are more likely to ‘fly solo’ in their later years and thus need to consider what this might look like. Not only will they need to navigate a huge sense of loss, but recognise that how they spend their time and who they will interact with will likely change in different stages of retirement.


What can you do to better plan for retirement?

The beauty is that by acknowledging these differences and reflecting on your own circumstances, you can then start taking action to create a lifestyle in retirement that is fulfilling, meaningful to you and lights you up each day!

  • Take the time to focus on YOU. Sit down with a piece of paper (or my Reflections & Planning Capture Sheet and webinar) and get really clear on what you value, what the non-negotiables are, what you enjoy doing and who you enjoy doing those activities with
  • Consider the activities that you not only enjoy but the ones that bring you fulfilment also. Of those, which are important that you do independently and which you might do with your significant other(s). Ensure that it is a mixture of both, as it’s commonly reported that living out of each other’s pockets in retirement after quite separate working lives can drive couples crazy!
  • Articulate your fears and the worst case scenarios for life in retirement. Interestingly, often when you write them down or say them out loud, they are not as bad as they first seem. Then consider each scenario and create one action you can take to prevent that becoming a reality or one way that you can respond should it arise. You now have a plan of action and are equipped with skills to cope more effectively

The transition into retirement should be an exciting time and with a little planning it truly can be! Make some time to sit down, either with yourself or with your significant other(s) and work through any questions or worries you have and create actions or a solution that will work for you.

Inspired to do some planning? Why not download your copy of the Focusing on You Reflections Sheet which has been designed to help you gain clarity and insight into what is important to you, and what you value in life after work.

What do you mean, I hear you say? I have kids, grandkids and ageing parents. I know all about their goals and what is important to them, but I draw a blank when it comes to my own dreams and aspirations – I can’t think of anything!

All too often we put the needs of others before our own, but to give our best to others, we need to first take care of ourselves.

This Reflections Sheet therefore provides an opportunity (and permission!) to take some time to focus on just you!

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I wish you all the very best in your journey!