Staying on the job is marital therapy for Boomers

Everywhere I look, I see another news story bemoaning delays in retirement plans for Boomers. Most of them feature some poor schmo who says he's going to be working until they haul him off the job toes up.

It's hard for me to be too sympathetic. Part of the reason is that I'm a woman. I spend a lot of time around other women whose husbands are retired or contemplating it and my conclusion is that they would do almost anything to keep the poor dear on the treadmill.

It doesn't have much to do with money, although healthcare is a factor. Many women are younger than their husbands and when he retires, she will have to find private health insurance and it almost certainly won't be as good as she had before.

But the real issue is that if he stays home, he'll drive her nuts. As one of my friends said, "If he retires, I can't stand it. I'll have to go live with my sister in Indiana."

Or worse yet, as another gal pal whose husband has already retired, said, "Imagine 30-plus years of marriage and now I'm thinking about divorcing because my husband doesn't know what to do with himself."

Women are the hunter-gatherers. We love to shop – for hours. Men are the warriors who attack retail swiftly. Retired husbands don't seem to understand that fundamental difference. They want to go shopping with their wives and then they stand at the door of the store, tapping their toes. "What took you so long?" they want to know. "Poor man makes me crazy," says one woman whose retired spouse even follows her to the knitting and yarn store.

Many of these women worked full time until they had children, but after the kids were born, they stayed home, managed the household and, maybe, did a little volunteer work. After their offspring grew up, they took interesting jobs, started their own businesses, got serious about their volunteer commitments or found other interesting things to do. And they're just not ready to quit. But their husbands retire and when they do, they want to be with their wives 24/7.

The wives aren't used to it and they don't like it. "The phone rings and he wants to know 'who was that?' 'what did he/she want?' 'What are we doing today?'" my long-time friend kvetches.

Yes, these women feel thankful that hubby wants to be with them instead of out running around, but, frankly, they're used to a great deal of alone time and all this attention makes them feel a little smothered. As one loving but frustrated long-time wife said, "I can't tell him this because he'd be insulted, but he really needs to get a life. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm sorry he retired."

They say every cloud has a silver lining and keeping Boomer men on the job could be one of them in this financial downturn. Good for them, their wives and the economy.
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