Do Men Flunk Retirement More Often Than Women?

Two female friends of ours recently announced their plans to retire from their jobs in September.

But not our friend, Larry. The idea of retirement terrifies him.

Larry is 64 and has no plans to retire anytime soon (in part due to the recent addition of a new family room and lovely screened porch on the back of his house where he plans to relax if he ever retires -- but first he has to finish paying for the addition so he can't retire soon, even if he wanted to).

Which he doesn't. He doesn't want to retire. Ever.

Larry likes being a lawyer. He worries about how he would fill up his time if he stopped working. So far he has come up with only Two Retirement Tasks.

1. The first task is to Clean Out His Garage. He and his wife, Susan, have lived in their house for 32 years where they raised two kids, now young adults, and cat named Phil, who thought he was a dog, now sadly no longer with us. The clean-up of Larry (and Susan's) garage is long overdue.

That should take about 10 days, he figures.

2. The second task is to Organize his Family Photos. Ektachrome slides taken by his late Dad in the 1950s, color snapshots of his then young family taken in the 1990s and a jumble of more recent travel shots residing on his iPad, iPhone and various older computers in his basement.

Larry thinks the photo organization project will take about two weeks.

So if he were to retire, let's say, as of September 4, Larry, a very motivated fellow, should be done cleaning out his garage and organizing his photos by about September 29th. Then Larry would go out onto his new porch, have an iced tea and think about what he will do for the rest of his life.

This is why our friend Larry is concerned about retiring.

He can only think of two things to do. He does not play golf or tennis. He does not have a man-cave in which to putter. He does not want to start a new business. He bikes regularly, travels and does volunteer work already.

So why retire?

I told Larry that retirement isn't what it used to be. We aren't supposed to sit at home, on our new or old porches, and just rock ourselves into aging oblivion. The new thing is to "reinvent" ourselves in retirement!

Why not, I suggested to Larry, look at one of those websites that encourage pre-retirees to find their passions and reconfigure the second ideas of their lives?

Larry's response: Ridiculous! I have a passion (see: Susan). And why should I have to reinvent myself anyway? He's had about 40 years in his working life for invention purposes and doesn't think he can come up with anything new.

We had a small friendly argument about this recently.

I had to retire; I was cardiologically told that going back to Washington, D.C. law firm life was not a possibility for me. But Larry believes he is isn't old enough to stop being a lawyer and that (unless fate knows otherwise), he is well enough to continue to do so ad infinitum.

Maybe just thinking about retirement is scary because we don't want to face the inevitability of getting older?

Indeed, the word "retirement" does have unpleasant connotations. It comes from the French word retire -- "to go into seclusion." The dictionary refers to retirement as that "period between employment and death."


Larry likes putting on a nice suit every morning and commuting downtown to his K Street law firm office. It is a big part (the main part?) of his identity.

I liked lawyering too but it didn't wholly define me. Like most of my female friends, I always had multiple interests beyond my day job. As I entered my late 50's and retirement loomed on the horizon somewhere in my 60s, I could easily come up with a list of productive and fun projects to look forward to doing. None of which involved cleaning out our garage or organizing my photos.

So I wonder.

Do Men More Than Women Fear They Will Flunk Retirement?

Larry told me he recently had his annual physical. His female internist asked him about his future pans. He told her he did not intend to retire. His internist nodded in approval,

"Good", she told Larry, "Men don't do Retirement well."

My women friends and I plan to get straight A's in retirement. Not that it is a male-female competition or anything.

But sometimes, Larry admits, it just seems easier to keep going downtown to the office every day than to have to part ways with his professional identity in favor of garage cleaning and photo organization.

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