When I spoke with my publisher about writing a book on retirement we tossed around the theme “men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” The stereotype is that men are attached to their work so they have difficulty retiring. But when it comes to women, although they may enjoy their work, they don’t have as much difficulty saying goodbye because they have many other irons in the fire and are more likely to have strong networks of family and friends. But I was reluctant to go down this road because I had seen many examples of the converse. I knew women who had struggled in retirement and men who found this stage of life to be a time of reinvention and jubilation.
To do the topic justice, I felt I needed to focus on one gender and I chose to look at what was happening to my generation of men when they hit retirement-age. One of the happy outcomes of this decision is that many women have told me they identify with the men’s stories and find them equally reflective of their own connection to work and their experience with retirement. I received the following thoughtful feedback from Anne-Marie Bugeaud. Her own dad worked until he was 78, then died at 80. “I vividly remember him always wanting and needing to be active,” she says, “always meeting people, staying energetic and vibrant and being a great inspiration to his family and friends.”
She writes, “Why would it be any easier for women to adapt to retirement than for men? For the past three or four decades women have invaded the workplace, many as either the main or sole bread winner, many others were single or single moms, in all walks of life, from teachers, psychologists, to doctors, nurses, programmers, engineers, architects, police officers, managers, business owners. etc. Therefore for women, as for men, work is often extremely rewarding and gratifying in many more aspects than just the financial side. We invest so much for so many years that when we retire, we face similar psychological, intellectual and emotional challenges. We can fall in the same kind of ‘black hole’ that some men do. It is as difficult to find valuable gratifying replacement activities, we feel useless at times, and we also appreciate not having to deal with the stress of a constantly overbooked agenda. The fact is, we have not left our brain and our heart at work and we still wish to use them in a positive way.”
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