OCCUPATION DIRECTLY IMPACTS A WOMAN’S RETIREMENT, STUDY SAYS
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Women doctors, teachers and other professionals may have a tougher time adjusting to retirement than do women who hold jobs customarily considered nonprofessional, such as clerical positions and cafeteria help, reports a new study from Ohio State University.
Nearly 30 retired women – about half of who had been employed in professional careers and half who had held nonprofessional jobs – were asked about their retirement experience. Most of the women retirees in the study found the transition to retirement to be generally positive, and the majority spent a good part of their free time volunteering and taking care of their families.
But there were some fundamental differences between how women in the professional group and those in the nonprofessional group perceived retirement, said Christine Price, author of the study and an assistant professor of human development and family science at Ohio State.
For instance, women who worked in professional occupations reported feeling a sense of loss once they left their jobs, while women who held nonprofessional jobs felt relieved to retire.
Also, women in the professional group tended to base their decision to retire on pension eligibility and health concerns, while women in the other group based their retirement decision on family issues, such as being able to spend more time with grandchildren.
“Women in the nonprofessional group explored new interests with no feelings of loss,” Price said. “In comparison, women in the professional group enjoyed the retirement experience overall, yet still felt a sense of loss.”
The research appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Women and Aging.
Price said she conducted the study because information on what happens to women during the transition to retirement and retirement itself is scant.
“More and more women are seeing employment as a lifetime commitment,” she said. “It’s likely that women do and will continue to identify more closely with their work roles, and the results from this study may show what future generations of women will face when they retire.”
Price interviewed 29 women who had been retired for at least five years. She asked each woman to provide personal and occupational histories and to talk about her decision to retire, the transition to retirement and her life as a retiree. She also asked questions related to a woman’s economic security, identity, retirement activities and family relationships.
Price put each woman into one of two groups, based on the woman’s previous occupation. Women in the professional group included teachers, university administrators and medical doctors. The nonprofessional job group included women who had worked in clerical occupations, in school cafeterias and as telephone operators and seamstresses.
Interview results showed marked differences between the groups in attitudes toward certain aspects of retirement:
The women in the nonprofessional group didn’t place as much emphasis on community involvement, Price said. When they did volunteer, they were interested in activities that expanded their interests, rather than pursuing activities related to their former occupations. In comparison to the professional group, the nonprofessional women spent more time doing recreational activities, such as quilting, painting and using computers.
In the next five to10 years, Price expects to see a rising number of women retiring from full-time jobs. She also said women need to put more thought and planning into their retirement.
“Women might know how much income to expect once they retire, or have a retirement date in mind, which is often based on their husband’s retirement plans,” she said. “Yet women tend not to consider what they will actually do in retirement, regardless of what type or kind of occupation they held.
“Because women have diverse work histories, various social roles and the ability to adapt to transitions throughout life, it’s likely that women’s retirement will evolve into something specific to their gender, something that does not necessarily mirror men’s experiences.”