Parallel Lives

How Men and Women Experience Retirement Differently

Study: Moreso than men, women make the most of retirement
despite feeling more stress and other negative emotions 

ENFIELD, Conn. – It’s the best of times; it’s the worst of times.

When it comes to retirement, women report more positive experiences than men yet also say they are more likely to experience negative emotions, especially stress, according to a new study by MassMutual Retirement Services.

The study, Men, Women & Retirement, finds that women are more likely to be stressed than men both before and after retirement, and more often succumb to negative emotions such as frustration, sadness, nervousness and loneliness.

Differing Perceptions

Conversely, women more often report having positive experiences such as enjoying new opportunities, spending more time with friends and family, and reinventing themselves. And women pre-retirees typically have higher expectations for life in retirement.

“We know that women often experience high levels of stress before retirement as they juggle both professional and family responsibilities,” said Elaine Sarsynski, Executive Vice President, MassMutual Retirement Services.

“We are learning that the stress women feel often carries over into retirement. But we’re also hearing that women often make more of their retirement opportunities and experiences than men.”

The study is part of a larger research project conducted on behalf of MassMutual by Greenwald & Associates.

The research culled information from 905 responses from retirees within 15 years of retirement, as well as 912 responses from pre-retirees within 15 years before retirement.

The responses for both groups were evenly split between men and women, and respondents had a minimum of $50,000 in retirement savings.

Stress Factor

One in five women (20 percent) said they were at least moderately stressed in retirement compared to 15 percent of men, the study finds.

Women also are more likely to feel frustrated, sad, lonely and nervous. Before retirement, women are much more likely than men to report being stressed. The study finds that 49 percent of women pre-retirees say they are at least moderately stressed compared to 38 percent of men pre-retirees.

Relaxed and Happy

Although more men than women reported being “extremely” or “quite a bit” relaxed in retirement (70 percent of men vs. 65 percent of women), nearly three-quarters of both men and women retirees say they are happy.

The study did not find a correlation between emotional well-being and the respondents’ level of retirement assets. However, those who have a defined contribution retirement plan were more likely to report experiencing positive emotions as compared to those who did not have a DC plan.

Seventy-four percent of DC plan participants said they were “extremely” or “quite a bit” happy compared to 68 percent who did not participate in a DC plan; 70 percent of DC plan participants said they were “extremely” or “quite a bit” relaxed compared to 61 percent who did not have a plan.

“Overall, positive emotions for both men and women tend to increase and negative emotions tend to decrease in retirement,” said Mathew Greenwald, President of Greenwald & Associates. “Expectations for retirement also tend to be exaggerated for many people, especially women, partly because it’s difficult for many people to envision what life in retirement will actually be like.”

High Hopes

In the years before retirement, women have markedly higher expectations than men for enjoying the social aspects of retirement and somewhat lower expectations for their financial fortunes.

During retirement, women report having less free time than men and yet are more likely to have new experiences, find more time for friends, and enjoy more opportunities. Men’s expectations tend to be more in line with their eventual experiences, which tend to be less fulfilling than women, according to the study.

                                                                Pre-retiree Retirees’
                                                                Expectations                   Reality

Expectations for retirement also tend to be exaggerated for many people, especially women, partly because it’s difficult for many people to envision what life in retirement will actually be like

                                                                Men      Women              Men   Women

Enjoying yourself:                                     88%      91%                   83%     81%
Having more free time:                              85         91                      84       76
Having new experiences:                          78         80                      66        71
Having more time for friends:                    63         73                      61        68
Feeling financially secure:                         65         60                      68        65
Opening up more opportunities:                57         62                      48        53
Reinventing yourself:                                 24         34                      21       29
Having friends and family to depend on:   25         33                      22       34
Feeling anxious about financial security:   12         15                      11       14



Sarsynski recommended that pre-retirees take steps to help them gain a more concrete understanding of what their lives may be like once they retire.

It’s helpful for pre-retirees to connect more often with retirees as well as actually practice being retired, she said. “Spend time with retirees to gain insights into what the Japanese call their ‘Second Life’ to help better prepare both financially and emotionally for retirement,” Sarsynski said.

“We also suggest that pre-retirees track all of their purchases, especially when on vacation or participating in activities they enjoy. That will help them better understand how costly and therefore how feasible the lifestyle they envision actually will be.”




About MassMutual
Founded in 1851, MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. The company has a long history of financial strength and strong performance, and although dividends are not guaranteed, MassMutual has paid dividends to eligible participating policyowners consistently since the 1860s. With whole life insurance as its foundation, MassMutual provides products to help meet the financial needs of clients, such as life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, retirement/401(k) plan services, and annuities. In addition, the company’s strong and growing network of financial professionals helps clients make good financial decisions for the long-term.

MassMutual Financial Group is a marketing name for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and its affiliated companies and sales representatives. MassMutual is headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts and its major affiliates include: Babson Capital Management LLC; Baring Asset Management Limited; Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLC; The First Mercantile Trust Company; MassMutual International LLC; MML Investors Services, LLC, Member FINRA and SIPC; OppenheimerFunds, Inc.; and The MassMutual Trust Company, FSB.