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For a happier retirement, think like a woman Add to ...

When it comes time to leave the work world behind, it seems women may be better suited to a life of leisure than men.

A new Harris Decima survey commissioned by BMO suggests that even though, on average, women are less financially prepared than men, they are more likely to enjoy their retirement.

The fact that women are happier than men in retirement seems to defy the odds, since women face certain statistical obstacles when planning for their senior years. As I wrote in a series of articles last year, women, on average, outlive men, which creates a longer, more costly retirement. They also tend to earn less than men during their working years, which leads to a smaller retirement nest egg.

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Men are also more likely than women to have investments and a financial plan in place for retirement - 61 per cent versus 52 per cent, the survey found.

So why are women so content? Is ignorance bliss?

Not necessarily, says Tina Di Vito, head of retirement strategies at BMO. Women tend to enter retirement with a stronger social network than men, and also tend to have lower expectations about living it up on their savings.

"That's allowed them to cope a bit better and not be disappointed in their retirement years," Ms. Di Vito said in an interview.

"Historically, men's identities have been very closely tied to their work, so when they stop working, they find they haven't replaced work with something that gives them a sense of purpose. This is reflected in high rates of depression and anxiety among men," she wrote in the report.

Women's identities, on the other hand, are still very closely tied to the relationships they have built while nurturing their families. "A lifetime of caregiving equips many women with a sense of purpose that will last into retirement," she said.

Although a good financial plan is important, retirement is not all about the money, Ms. Di Vito says. "Men would do well to keep in mind that retirement is a life event as well as a financial event, and that preparing for the social aspect of retirement is equally important as preparing for its finances."

And women would do well to better educate themselves about how making less conservative investment decisions early in their lives can help their retirement savings grow, she says.

Times are changing, of course. In my own household, my husband and I both have careers. He leaves the investing to me and he's just as likely as I am to cook dinner or drive our kids to their various lessons and play dates. He also has many hobbies, so I have no worries about whether he'll enjoy his retired years.

I am, however, a little concerned about his Freedom 55 plan - winning the lottery. Lucky for him, I have Plan B in place: saving money and avoiding debt. Yes, with a little help from me, I think he'll be just fine.

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Follow on Twitter: @diannenice

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