(BPT) - What's retirement like? The answer may depend upon whether you're a man or a woman.
Women report more positive experiences in retirement than men, yet also say they are more likely to experience negative emotions, especially stress, according to a study conducted by MassMutual. The study's findings have implications for retirement planning, both financially and emotionally.
'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.'
The study surveyed 905 retirees within 15 years after retirement and 912 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.
One in five women (20 percent) is 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.
Though whether you are a man or a woman, saving for retirement contributes to positive emotions and experiences in retirement. Those who have a 401(k) or other retirement savings plan were more likely to report experiencing positive emotions as compared to those who did not. Of the retirement plan participants, 74 percent say they are 'extremely' or 'quite a bit' happy compared to 68 percent who did not participate in a retirement plan and 70 percent of retirement 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, whose firm conducted the study on behalf of MassMutual. 'People also tend to exaggerate expectations for retirement, 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 are typically less fulfilling than women, according to the study.
Sarsynski recommends that pre-retirees take steps to help themselves gain a more concrete understanding of what their lives may be like once they retire.
'Spend time with retirees to gain insights and better prepare both financially and emotionally for retirement,' Sarsynski says. '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 will actually be.'