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Women vs. men in retirement: More stress, but also more joy

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Women are more likely than men to be stressed before and after retirement. And women more often succumb than their male counterparts to negative emotions such as frustration, sadness, nervousness and loneliness.

So reports MassMutual in a new report, “Men, Women & Retirement.” 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, plus 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.

Despite their higher stress levels, the report notes, 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,” says Elaine Sarsynski, executive vice president of 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.”

One in five women (20 percent) say they are at least moderately stressed in retirement, as 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 more likely than men to report being stressed. The study reveals that 49 percent of women pre-retirees say they are at least moderately stressed compared to 38 percent of men pre-retirees.

Although more men than women report 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 does not find a correlation between emotional well-being and the respondents’ level of retirement assets.

However, those who have a defined contribution retirement plan are more likely to report experiencing positive emotions as compared to those who do not have a DC plan. Seventy-four percent of DC plan participants said they are “extremely” or “quite a bit” happy compared to 68 percent who do not participate in a DC plan; 70 percent of DC plan participants say they are “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,” says 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.”

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.

See also:

These are the 10 most tax-friendly states for retirees

Sizing up women’s retirement preparedness globally in 5 charts

Women and retirement realities [infographic]


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