Do men and women view retirement differently?

Joe Coughlin, Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab.

  • There are many commonalities, but men and women have different outlooks on retirement, according to research from the MIT AgeLab.
  • Both men and women emphasize the importance of family, but men tend to focus on their significant others where women also mention children, grandchildren, siblings and close friends.
  • Volunteering, part-time work and caregiving are priorities for women; men tend to think of retirement as a reward and look forward to time for leisure pursuits.

While there are many common retirement dreams — recreation, travel, time with family or simply more time to do what we want — recent research suggests our gender may affect how we look at life after work.

The MIT AgeLab conducted a series of in-depth interviews and found that men and women may view retirement differently and that can impact how both genders plan for retirement.

 

Who will you spend time with in retirement?

The people we think we’ll spend retirement with are a vital part of planning for the future. Consider these differences between men and women.

  • Men focus on partners. Men tended to focus on the health and security of their partners when planning for retirement, more so than that of other family members. Often their first priority for retirement planning was making sure their partner was taken care of financially.
  • Women zero in on family. Women were more likely to mention adult children, grandchildren, siblings and close friends as part of their financial planning for retirement.

What will you do in retirement?

That question is critical to retirement planning, including how much to save for future goals and pursuits.

  • Men look forward to rewards. Men often describe retirement as a reward. It’s time to do the things they may have delayed for decades. They often talk about retirement in terms of leisure and travel time.
  • Women continue with their roles. Women often describe retirement as continuing to do the things they are often already doing, such as part-time work, volunteering and providing care for a loved one. They often talk about retirement in terms of specific tasks and activities.

In retirement, women are still more likely to serve as the household multitasker, chief family officer, health care decision-maker and advocate for family members across generations.

How do you feel about retirement?

Interviews suggest that men were more excited than women about retirement.

  • Men can’t wait for free time. After full-time work is done and the children are grown, men see vast amounts of time in front of them that they never had before. That often gives them a sense of optimism.
  • Women may be more realistic. Women saw retirement as a potentially happy life stage but with a tempered optimism. Women used the word “worry” more when talking about retirement. This more cautious outlook may stem from the fact that women are likely to outlive their male partners. Also, their caregiving role may give them more insight into the realities of aging.

Learn more about the common retirement risks.

What this means for your retirement planning.

Retirement planning is about more than money. It’s about defining who is most important to you in your retirement planning decisions, what activities are truly likely and necessary, and, above all, generating a discussion between couples of all types and ages on how they envision a quality retirement.

Talk to your advisor about your expectations for retirement and how they may differ from your partner’s. Learning from each other can help you build toward a confident retirement.

Joe Coughlin

Meet Joseph Coughlin

Joe Coughlin, Ph.D, is Director of AgeLab, a multidisciplinary research program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. Coughlin provides insights on how demographic change, technology, social trends and consumer behavior will converge to drive the future of retirement.