What happens when a man decides it is time to spend more time with his family when he retires? It can be a case of … he’s home again and it’s awkward.

There’s a woman in my art class who complains to her recently retired husband: “I married you for life, not for lunch”.

It is one of life’s awkward twists that just when a man decides it is time to spend more time with his family, his partner is just starting to enjoy her independence.

Another of my “Thursday artists” lashes her canvas with paint in frustration, as she complains that her husband wants her to travel with him around Australia and she can’t think of anything she would less like to do.

The studio erupts with anecdotes of men who, suddenly, have too much time on their hands and decide to reorganise a kitchen that has been perfectly adequate for the past 40 years, or want to trail along to the supermarket because they have nothing else to do.

These women have already settled into a satisfying routine since retiring earlier, or winding back their work commitments, or seeing off their adult children. Elderly parents have died, or are in care, and their grand-children an occasional delightful diversion.

They paint, they go to exhibitions and festivals, they complete renovations, they join protest groups to agitate against developers, and take long walks with their friends to raise money for cancer research. They are really busy.

Once their retired husbands have tackled all the odd jobs around the house that have been waiting for their attention, met all their available friends for lunch, enjoyed a couple of gourmet cooking classes, and escaped for a “boys weekend” up the coast, they look around wondering where everyone is.

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Retirement can mean more time to spend with the grandkids!

My father-in-law, a former managing director of a well-known paint company, became the CEO of his children’s lives, keeping a schedule of who was travelling where and when he could pick them up from the airport. Lucky for him, he had eight children and 21 grandchildren, so that took up a bit of his time.

Where men of an older generation may have tinkered with a car or lawnmower, these days, they are more likely to fiddle about with a share portfolio and self-managed super fund.

These retirement “teething problems” tend to resolve themselves over time as people make room in their lives for each other, but they are also confirmed in a survey of almost 8,000 Australians aged 50+ in March by MevCorp on behalf of WYZA®.

The research finds that men in this age bracket value being in a loving relationship more than anything else in their lives, but women’s number one priority is independence.

Together, their priorities are:

  1. Being with family, time with partner, children and grandchildren.
  2. Travel, both overseas and within Australia.
  3. More leisure, time to smell the roses.
  4. Living life to the full
  5. Maintaining health with diet and activity.
  6. Friends: Keeping old ones, making new ones.
  7. Positivity, happiness, enjoyment and love.
  8. Participation through work, paid or volunteer.

In the coming year, men and women were equal in their intentions to travel (peaking at age 60) and invest in property. However, men are more likely to see a financial planner, buy a new car, invest in shares, funds or property and change their internet services provider (ISP).

While men and women may value different things according to the survey, their top priority is spending time with family

Women are more likely to change their diet or exercise regime, use vitamins, minerals or supplements, renovate or redecorate their homes, do further education, or investigate using outside services for their home.

Leaving the world of paid work and careers is requires a huge adjustment all round. However, men with fixed ideas of how it is all going to work might keep in mind that the biggest initiators of divorce in post-retirement are women.

Is this an issue you or your parents are dealing with? We want to hear from you. Email us at

Look out for this series of six articles Fiona Smith is writing for us based on the latest information discovered about the 50+ in March 2016 by MevCorp on behalf of WYZA®.

How are you and your husband retirement plans different? Join the conversation below.