Even in retirement, ‘Mars and Venus’ speak different languages

"So, it seems that we not only give retirement advice at BMO, but also marriage enrichment seminars," says Dr. Amy D'Aprix, above, a gerontologist hired by the Bank of Montreal.

Jana Schilder

“Baby Boomer men want to retire to Venus. And Baby Boomer women want to retire to Mars,” says Dr. Amy D’Aprix, a gerontologist who’s been hired by the Bank of Montreal to help Baby Boomers, and especially Baby Boomer women, with retirement planning. But she’s no banker.

You must be from another planet if you have not heard of John Gray and his Mars-Venus principle, published in 1995 in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Not only do men and women want different things from relationships, but they also communicate differently.  This principle continues in retirement, too.

“Dr. Amy,” as she’s being marketed by BMO, dispenses advice to women on retirement planning.  Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, move over. 

And BMO is not the only bank that has seized on the women’s market. Over at RBC Financial Group, Lee Anne Davies, a gerontologist with an MBA, was hired in 2004 as head of retirement strategies.

In May, RBC announced a “Your Future by Design Retirement Research Centre,” a partnership with the University of Waterloo, to better understand issues Baby Boomers will face in retirement.

BMO’s and RBC’s research confirms that men and women do want different things in retirement. 

“Women talk about expanding their horizons and personal growth. They want to take self-improvement courses. Meanwhile, men talk about rest and relaxation in retirement. They want to go golfing,” says Dr. Amy.

Another difference between men and women evident from BMO’s research into the Baby Boomer market is the answer to the question:  “Who will you spend your time with when you retire?”

A husband tends to concentrate his entire support system into one person:  his wife.  A wife is more adept at building social networks, and has many more relationships as a result.

“So, men want to travel and go to lunch with their wives. Women want to spend more time with their friends, their adult children, and oh yeah, the husband too,” says Dr. Amy.

“Clearly, there is a disconnect here. So, it seems that we not only give retirement advice at BMO, but also marriage enrichment seminars,” she quips, adding that there is frequently a period of imbalance in early retirement because husbands and wives have not talked about what, specifically, they will do together and apart in retirement. 

Even before retirement, women have different financial circumstances than men.

“Women tend to marry older men, chronic diseases are typical of old age, plus women tend to outlive their husbands,” says RBC’s Davies.

“Because of this, women are much more likely to be the recipients of a one-time lump sum of money,” adds Davies.


"Women’s self-earned wealth is increasing,” says Lee Anne Davies, RBC's head of retirement strategies.

Life expectancy for Canadian men is now 83 years and 86 years for women—and improving. The average Canadian man who has already made it to the age of 65 could expect to live an additional 18.1 years. That’s an increase of two years from the previous decade. A 65-year-old Canadian woman can expect to live an additional 21.3 years, up by 1.3 years, according to 2005 data from Statistics Canada.

Yet almost 40 per cent of Canadian women will not celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary because of divorce, according to Statistics Canada. Divorce tends to lower women’s living standard.

“Women’s self-earned wealth is increasing,” says Davies.

Patterns and trends in retirement tend to paint a grim picture for many, according to ongoing RBC research. 

According to the 20th annual RBC RRSP poll, research showed only 25 per cent feel they will have enough money to fulfill the retirement of their dreams.  Nearly all Canadians (90 per cent) feel they will have enough income to cover their necessities in retirement.  

Both pre-retirees and retirees are concerned about maintaining their standard of living (40 per cent). Retirees are also more likely to be worried about healthcare (33 per cent) than pre-retirees (28 per cent).

Similarly, in RBC’s Savings poll released October 13, research showed that many Canadians are having difficulty meeting their savings goals. More than a quarter have reduced the amount they are saving (27 per cent) and a further one-in-five (19 per cent) indicated they have stopped saving altogether since the market crash of 2008. Only a small minority (12 per cent) of Canadians have managed to increase their savings.

To this end, BMO now offers two free courses for retiring Baby Boomers that are part of a cross-country tour by “Dr. Amy”:  Take Charge of your Retirement and Women and Money.