December 9, 2021
Men Make Bigger Changes After Retiring
Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. That continues to hold true in retirement.
A new study that examines two aspects of this major life change – personal and financial relationships – finds that men and women use their newfound freedom in different ways.
The change in men’s social lives after they retire is more dramatic because they greatly expand their network of friends, adult children, and extended family, and they have more conversations with them about personal matters.
Men “become more dependent on family,” concludes research by two University of Wisconsin sociologists.
Retirement doesn’t mark the same type of social shift for women, however. They already had a larger network and always took more responsibility for maintaining relationships, and not much changes in retirement – with one exception. Women increase the number of hours spent taking care of their grandchildren.
The differences are consistent across much of the western world, according to this study, which was based on surveys in the United States and Europe – from Sweden to Spain to Estonia. Although married and single people participated in the survey, the heart of the analysis was asking each individual this question:
“Looking back over the last 12 months, who are the people with whom you most often discussed things that are important to you?” Each individual listed up to five people in their networks, the nature of the relationships, and how often they are in contact.
In addition to branching out socially, retired men are more likely to give money to offspring or other family members. In married couples, this is often jointly decided by husband and wife. But the actual money transfers picked up only after the men – and not the women – retired and had more energy to devote to family.
One obvious explanation is that men in these older generations have traditionally been the primary source of financial support for the family. Another finding in the study could also be a clue: more educated men, who have more wealth to give away, are the only ones who strengthen their ties to family.
So, are they using their wealth to buy affection? The researchers don’t say that. But retirement does give men more freedom to develop the relationships that have always mattered to them. Perhaps the money just eases the way.
To read this study, authored by Won-tak Joo and Michal Engelman, see “Retirement in the Context of Intergenerational Transfers.”
The research reported herein was derived in whole or in part from research activities performed pursuant to a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) funded as part of the Retirement and Disability Research Consortium. The opinions and conclusions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not represent the opinions or policy of SSA, any agency of the federal government, or Boston College. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, make any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the contents of this report. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof.