'Ready to Retire?': Author looks at challenges for men

TORONTO -- Many issues surrounding retirement are universal, but there are some that are unique to men, says sociologist Lyndsay Green.

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In embarking on her new book "Ready to Retire?", Green found that many retirement-age men in her life weren't anxious to leave the workplace -- a stark contrast to those Freedom 55 commercials.

Money, of course, was a factor. But after digging deeper, she also found other reasons, including fear.

"There's no question that men still identify with being a wage earner, a breadwinner," says Green. "They will admit their identity is tied up with work."

For her research, Green interviewed 45 men and 17 of their partners, who lived across Canada and ranged in age from 58 to 88.

She also spoke with various experts for the book, which she says is also resonating with women.

For those considering retirement, Green offers some advice:

-- Figure out your retirement dreams and discuss them either with your partner or anyone in your "emotional circle." Then crunch the numbers.

"One of the things that I found very interesting was that when you ask couples what their retirement dream is -- and these were couples over 60 so they were close to actually retiring -- 50 per cent of them have different retirement dreams," says Green.

"They never discussed it and then they realized that they were actually on different pages. And one in five actually had retirement dreams that were not at all compatible and that were actually going to cause conflict."

-- Develop multiple selves or "a multitude of lily pads," as one of Green's interview subjects put it. It will help if you want to move on to an "encore career."

"It's that sense of, if your working lily pad goes soft you've got other passions, other interests, other pursuits that you want that are really, really gripping -- not just as one person said to me, the three Gs: golfing, gardening and grandparenting," says Green.

-- Consider taking a sabbatical before retiring to get a feel for retirement. Green cites two such cases in her book.

"In one case the man decided that he really, really did not like working and he was going to really have to strategize then to have to get out of work permanently," she says.

"The other man decided that he hated retirement and so he leapt back into to work with both feet and then he really was happy that he knew that he wanted to continue working as long as possible."

-- Build a social network. Having friends in retirement can help not just the mind but also the wallet.

"One of the really important components of retirement is what I call your RECP -- your retirement emotional circle plan, and these are your friends and your family who are going to sustain you, and in many ways they can substitute for cash," says Green.

"For example, I was just reading a very recent study which shows that if you have a network of people who take care of you, you're much less likely to be hospitalized early, because they can anticipate, they care about you. They can help you modify your home, they can bring you food, they can see if things are going badly, they can intervene. They sustain and support you, so in many ways."

-- Maintain the body and mind: If you are feeling depressed about retirement, consider therapy, and work out regularly.

"Physical health is really so connected," says Green, "because if we're not feeling good about ourselves, we start not going outside, we start becoming more isolated, we start not eating as well as we should, we start not exercising, and so it all becomes a vicious circle and we're caught in that downward spiral."'



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