Aug 20, 2008

For Men Only: Look Beyond Your Paycheck

Many men work hard to fulfill their traditional roles as providers, but less of a good job at being family members. Even in an era when the majority of women work outside the home, too many men absent themselves when it's time to pitch in with day-to-day chores or take care of the kids.

What does this have to do with retirement? Sadly, for many men, a great deal -- and it's mostly negative. That's because a man who works long hours and then spends much of his free time watching sports on TV, bonding with male buddies, or participating in other activities that exclude his family, is at high risk of being lonely, isolated and depressed in later years.
The reason is easy to grasp: When work stops and physical limitations make it more difficult to participate in sports, many men have few family relationships to fall back on. Indeed, one reason why women typically outlive men is that men are typically such social misfits -- in some cases unable to call the kids or invite over the neighbors without asking their spouses to do it for them.

Perhaps the single best way for men to increase their chances of enjoying a fulfilling retirement is to spend more time becoming close to their families during mid-life. Start by becoming more significantly involved in lots of day-to-day family activities. Yes, this includes changing diapers and getting up with a sick child in the middle of the night, but it also means being sure you have a close personal relationship with each child at each stage of his or her life.

Unfortunately, many men never seem to understand that intimacy doesn't just somehow happen as a result of sharing genes, but must be earned by reading or telling bedtime stories, helping with homework, driving carpools, volunteering in the classroom, coaching Little League (for daughters' teams as well as sons') and even helping a seven-year old make a new dress for a favorite doll. Of course, you should be doing these things because you want to, not just because they'll pay dividends later on when your adult children will want you to be a part of their lives, but it's definitely a side benefit you can consider money in the retirement bank.