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Retirement and Gender - Why Do Women Have All the Luck?

Updated on January 22, 2013

Ladies - Do You Feel Lucky?

Hub Question

“Why is it that women on average live 10 years longer than men and yet men are expected to work for longer, giving them less retirement fun time before they die?”(sic) -- asked by Mr. Stephen Patrick

Dear Hubber Stephen Patrick:

© Patty Inglish, MS Preventive Medicine. Published April 27, 2010. All rights reserved. Written permission required to use this material elsewhere.

Your question implies that

  1. Men work a greater number of years on average than women,
  2. Women live 10 years longer on average than men,
  3. Men have fewer years total available to them for enjoyment,
  4. Men enjoy fewer years than women of happiness in retirement before death ,
  5. Women enjoy an unfair advantage of longer lifespan and less work than do men,
  6. Men should not have to work so long,
  7. Women should be punished, not given a natural advantage,
  8. Someone should be able to fix this

I wonder at the motivation for your question.

Looking into the future at a trend already evident today, the US Social Security Administration tells us in its Life Expectancy tables that the lifespan of infants born in 2009 is 80.0 for females and 74.88 for males, only about 5 years difference. (SS Administration,, data for 2009). The difference is not 10 years, because natural forces are narrowing the gap for the 7 or so years it is for Baby Boomers. At the same time, retirement age is going up↑. In the year 2084, a huge number of men may, infact, drop dead a month before retirement, while the women live on for 5 years while suffering fatal and painful diseases. This is not "fun" for either.

Men in 2084?

Difference Bad

Women 80+ years old. The largest segment of the American population that is increasing in percentage of the total population is not only Baby Boomers, but the Oldest Old. The majority of the Oldest Old are - pardon me for the designation - old women, ages 80 and older. The majority of these women are not well and many of them are very sick and experiencing tremendous pain. Heart disease afflicts as many older women as men in the 2010s. The diseases of old age are largely diseases of women. The Oldest Old women are also often alone, because they have outlived their family members and friends, except for other senior women. This is not enjoyment of retirement years.

Women ages 50 - 80 are in only a somewhat better condition. Many are single, unemployed, do not quality for public benefits of any kind - some ahve no family at all and have outlived most of their friends - and are not happy. The years under the Clinton and Bush Administrations and the Recession of 2008 - 2010 relieved many of them of their jobs. Without work and healthcare, their physical and mental conditions deteriorate and they do not live as long as the projected longer-lifespan-for-women-than-men. This equalizes the number of "fun" years for men and women overall, to a certain extent.

While you ask why women live longer and men are denied as many "fun" years of retirement, many of these millions of unemployed and underemployed older women ask,

What am I supposed to do - we have to work until we are 65 or even 67 in order to receive full Social Security benefits and we are fired or laid off at age 50. What do we do for 15 or 17 years?

Actually, these are the people that recent tax cuts and parts of the changing healthcare system of the nation may be able to help.

The age at which a woman or a man can collect 100% benefits from Social Security increases above age 67 (set for those born in 1960) at a graduated rate month that shows significance in birth years 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, and so on, with larger penalties for every month these workers retire before the full-benefit threshold year. People born in 2000 will work to age 75 - or close to it. This equalizes the number of "fun" years for men and women again, to a certain extent.

Men and women are both losing "fun" years at the same rate, if retirement is generally and always "fun" as the original question implies.

What Retirement?

While some women are married to well-paid husbands and can enjoy free time while their husbands continue to work, these women are not in the majority of the American population.  

The larger percentage of American women is one that becomes increasingly alone as the women in it age. When married, they are not able to retire at all in any years, let alone the years of "fun" attributed to them in the question levied at the beginning of this response article. Millions of these women must maintain and home and meal schedule 24/7/365 until they lie down on their death beds. This is not enjoyment of retirement years. Hopefully, it is enjoyment of their ONLY years.

100-year-olds are increasing in number, mostly female. (public domain)
100-year-olds are increasing in number, mostly female. (public domain)


All of this is one reason of utmost importance that young people plan an education and career path early on, before they begin working full-time. Kindergarten is too early, high-school-senior may be too late. As with all choices, it is individual.

Women can benefit from these plans just as highly as men can benefit, even if some women believe that they will marry a well-paid husband and not need to work outside their homes. At the same time, they need to ensure the means of paying the hired help through their Oldest Old years - and an insurance plan for long-term care in a retirement/nursing home and attached healthcare is a wise idea at that. In fact, it is wise for all people of all genders.

Read the story of a well-paid husband and his wife and their not-fun years of retirement (her's a few years longer than his) in the biography of actor DeForrest Kelley and his wife: From Sawdust to Stardust and the precursor A Harvest of Memories. She lived a bit longer, they were both helpless and miserable.


Since obesity has become an increasing problem in America, the results of the condition, including many illnesses, chronic conditions, and death will hit more women and well as more men before retirement age and there will be no "fun" retirement years for many of either of them, unless the general population responds to education about how to combat it effectively.

Unfortunately, some factors are already narrowing the gap between fewer "fun" years for men and more "fun" years for women in retirement -- they both are receiving fewer, on average.

Individual choices can change these outcomes.

"Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow"
- William Shakespeare

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Submit a Comment

  • barryrutherford profile image

    Barry Rutherford 7 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Fortunately here in Australia the social security system is thankfully not so dire or should i say mean !

  • ethel smith profile image

    Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

    Too much of a minefield to comment. However........

    In the Uk the female retirement is gradually increasing to that of men. The age difference in death will have changed somehwat also due to the fact that women also hold down paid employment these days.

  • theherbivorehippi profile image

    theherbivorehippi 7 years ago from Holly, MI

    could it be that we are blessed with longer lives to make up for all of the men that we have had to put up with in our lives? lol excellent hub!

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

    I find that the question comes from a company that sells anti-aging products.

    Folks, do you feel lucky?

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

    @BDazzler - I'm "lucky" that way, eh? haha

    @U Neek - How horrible for your friend. Some hsubands work even harder after retirenemtn than before, but some are, indeed, at loose ends and almiost "in the way" at home. How sad for all, but I feel bad about your friend. Must be a better way, right?

  • U Neek profile image

    U Neek 7 years ago from Georgia, USA

    As a good friend, a career homemaker who also did clothing alterations to add to the family's income, replied to the question of how "they" were enjoying "their" retirement after her husband retired, "He retired. I am still doing everything I have always done." I thought she was very nice not to add that now she was having to do it all with twice as much husband and half as much money! In the end, he outlived her and it wasn't fun.

  • BDazzler profile image

    BDazzler 7 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

    I think points 7 & 8 reflect the arrogance of the question itself. I frankly would have ignored the question and written the questioner off as a bozo un-worth ever responding to on anything.

    And yet, you created a wonderfully informative piece from it. Nicely done.

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

    I am enjoying the fantastically good comments here from everyone - Thank you!

    @billyaustindillon - It probably could be a song or two! I had not thought of that.

    @Steve 3.0 - Wow, heart disease and alcohol use as well - more equal all the time. Thanks for the info!

  • JenDobson27 profile image

    JenDobson27 7 years ago

    Well done, I guess that pretty much sums it up! Great answer.

  • Steve 3.0 profile image

    Steve 3.0 7 years ago from Cornwall UK

    The gap will probably decease in my country, the UK, as more women are drinking as heavily as men now. I am sure that is one of the factors.

  • billyaustindillon profile image

    billyaustindillon 7 years ago

    Reminds me of a song or two Patty :)

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

    I agree with you about living longer than men but as for working less; I can't see that. Especially these days where most women go out to work and then come home to do the cooking and housework. Speaking for myself, I definitely worked harder than a man. Thank you for a very thought provoking hub and well written.

  • valeriebelew profile image

    valeriebelew 7 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

    I'm one of those older women you mentioned, who is too young to retire, but probably considered less marketable in the job market due to being 59 years old. The recession caused my business to fail, and I have been unable to find full time work. My part time job pays about as much a week as I once made per hour, and I have over two years to wait until I can draw my social security, which will not be my full retirement income, because I am not willing to wait that long to draw it. I am tired of living on a part time minimum wage income that is not stable from week to week in hours worked or money earned. At least at 62, I can know I am receiving a stable amount of income every month, even if it is reduced. I hold a Masters Degree and a certification in my field, but know men who have no education at all, and earned more doing construction work than I earned with my 7-year education. If we aren't working as long, it isn't because we aren't trying. We're unemployed, and can't find a job with a reliable income. Lucky us.

  • CASE1WORKER profile image

    CASE1WORKER 7 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

    i think the gap between men and women death age will narrow still further because we are perhaps the first generations to keep the balls juggling of work outside the house and family- pretty exhausting

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

    Thanks for reading, Aya Katz!

  • Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

    Wow! You certainly answered that question! Very direct!