Is adjusting to retirement easier for men or women?

two elderly men and two elderly women on rope swings

Adjusting to retirement can be difficult. But which gender makes the transition more smoothly than the other?

For some, switching gears from working life to retirement life is like switching from top gear straight down to first. The experience is jarring, and many people find adjusting to their new paradigm difficult.

Many people report losing a sense of purpose, and boredom can quickly set in. Losing their normal daily work and home routines can leave some people feeling aimless.

But are there any substantial differences between the genders when it comes to adjusting to retirement? It turns out one of the sexes does indeed have a tougher time of it, but it’s due to reasons not of their own making.

Read: A retirement plan that’s not about the money

Men adjusting to retirement

For a lot of men, their entire sense of worth and identity came through their work. Playing the role of provider has shaped their entire adult life up until this point.

Turning that all off overnight can have a devastating effect, which can catch some normally stoical men by surprise. Without feeling useful, many men’s self-esteem can take a hit, and depression can take hold.

Many men also draw much of their social circle from work. It’s easy to see how losing daily contact with colleagues can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Read: Where you live can determine when you’ll retire

Women adjusting to retirement

For women, the biggest problems they face when adjusting to retirement are often financial. On average in Australia, women retire with around 19 per cent less superannuation than men. This equates to a dollar value of approximately $65,551.

The difference can often be explained by the time away from work that women are forced to take in order to care for a family. Women from past generations were also often forced to resign when they became pregnant, leading to even great gaps in super balances.

The significant gender pay gap also plays a role in the lower balance. As a result of these imbalances, older women are the fastest-growing demographic experiencing homelessness in Australia.

Read: Survey reveals what older Australians really care about

Who has it harder?

The mental health issues faced by men when adjusting to retirement are very real and shouldn’t be minimised. Losing your sense of self-worth can leave many feeling they have no reason to exist.

But there are many approaches you can take to combat this. Volunteering and becoming involved in community projects can be a great substitute for a job.

Even making a new daily routine based around your hobbies can give structure and meaning to retired life.

On the other hand, for women, entering retirement can mean financial security being stripped away. Without a regular income, many women will go from being comfortably secure to virtually penniless almost instantly.

That kind of financial about-face will cause its own set of mental health issues.

While there will always be exceptions on both sides, it’s safe to say that on the whole, women have a tougher time adjusting to retirement.

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