Wednesday, November 2, 2011


The book is available on
(In the article below, Linda Lim takes a frank look at what makes retirement tick. Guys, if your retirement isn't turning out exactly the way you have envisioned it, Linda tells you why.) 

Retired husbands - pain or gain?    by Linda Lim
Working people on the verge of retirement look forward to their last day of work. After working for 30 over years, there is nothing more pleasurable then calling it a day, not worry about getting up early to go to work, meeting deadlines or projects to complete and producing results. They drool when they think about freedom from work, their much needed rest and needless to say enjoy their gratuity or pension, like going for holidays and pursuing their hobbies. In short, doing things they never had the time or money to do so when they were working. 

But alas, retirement is not all bliss as some newly retired husbands discover. A friend of mine who retired early as she had to take care of her children when they were young now finds that her newly retired hubby is a pain. He demands that his wife be at his side at all times and is annoyed when she has her own programme. To start with, he questions her on her daily activities.

“What!? Coffee morning again? Why do the luncheons with your friends have to stretch to tea-time.? Are you going shopping again? What do you need to buy? You have everything already. What is this activity call line dancing that takes two hours of your time?”

Manicure, pedicure, volunteer work at the handicap center, sewing sessions - all these words are foreign to him. The husband who once thought that retirement was bliss began to have second thoughts. Many of the friends he has are still working. His older friends who are retirees have their own activities. His adult children have no time for him. He turns to his wife for constant companionship only to find that she has activities of her own that do not include him.

The wives of today refuse to be tied down to housework. They have fun-filled activities that stimulate their minds and in so doing they have a bigger circle of friends. But the newly retired husband clings to his wife.  He becomes a pain. Soon he gets tired of reading. There is a limit to the television programmes that he can watch and then he becomes a nag. He is envious that his wife is more sociable than he is.

Another friend told me that her newly retired hubby decided to do spring cleaning and in so doing, cleared the storeroom of things that she needed. He meant well but angered her as he had disposed of things that she had cherished.

Yet another newly retired husband became a hypochondriac. From a healthy senior he started to develop imaginary aches, pains and headaches and demanded constant attention and unnecessary visits to the doctor. He became unkempt and was always seen in his faded tee shirt and shorts. As he had nothing to do, he started to find fault with family members and neighbours. He complained incessantly about life in general. Truth be told, he aged by leaps and bounds.

I remember this senior colleague of mine who used to mark on his calendar the retirement date and tell me what his activities would be like. He was going to paint his fence, repair some faulty appliances, polish his car till it looked like new and in his own words, just relax.

Two months later, this same enthusiastic retiree was looking for part-time jobs. Retirement, he sheepishly confessed, was not his cup of tea! He was bored to tears, and was a nuisance to his wife and family. Today he is doing part-time lecturing at a private college. He is enjoying himself, deeply immersed in his new found job. The pay packet though small is not an issue. He is gainfully employed and happily occupied.

But there are two sides of the coin.

Photo: Straits Times
My neighbour on his retirement has embarked on his hobby - gardening. After six months of retirement he has a manicured garden to show off, the envy of his neighbours. He grows passion fruits, bananas and papayas, and also herbal plants. The best part is when he reaps the harvests we all get a share of it. His organic fruits and vegetables are indeed a delight. It is such a joy to see him tend to the garden daily. He looks healthy. His eyes sparkle when he tells us about his plants.

My uncle too has taken to retirement kindly. He has his own activities and respects the activities which his wife has and they meet up for dinner. His day starts with golfing with his friends bright and early in the morning. He and his friends often lay a wager and the losers pay for breakfast. Nothing elaborate, just a cup of coffee and maybe a packet of nasi lemak or some cakes. Over breakfast they sit and yarn about politics, their health, and a post-mortem on their golf game. 

Photo from

By 11 am he is back home to read the papers. Sometimes he has lunch with his cronies and then he goes on the computer or watches television. If the weather is favourable he goes for an evening walk, this time with another set of friends. When he and his wife are not off on a holiday, they are grandparents on call. When their adult children need them to baby sit they are there to lend a helping hand. During long school holiday breaks they take the grandchildren to their home and give their children a break. It is evident that my uncle really enjoys his new found retirement.

Yet another newly retired husband is my cousin’s other half. He converted his garage into his work- room. He bought a DIY set and now he churns out useful things. I was presented with a footstool to put up my legs when I watch TV – a much appreciated handmade gift of love. His children too get lovely gifts. The other day, his daughter-in-law proudly showed off the wooden trolley that he had made. He is now going to make for his wife a spice rack.

Yes, these retirees are certainly really a gain.

And so retired husbands, which one are you - a pain or a gain? Don’t know the answer? Ask your wife.


Pak Idrus said...

Lily, Thanks for writing this up. I am a retiree, so is my spouse. My spouse retired at 45 years and I at 50 years.

What you wrote is true. It is not easy to start enjoying your retirement together without due respect for each other especially each other personal space. The first year is difficult since this is the first time in your marriage life you see each other more than before. This fact must not be taken for granted and both mindset must start adjusting to the new situation where both of you are going to see each other more and more. This is where the personal space became important. We must continue to learn that we are still two individual who are join by a social contract that we call marriage. When both are now at home the status quo has changed and if we are going to enjoy life we have to adjust to the real situation confronting both of us. First the financial aspect has changed, second you both are going to see more of each other and the third is that the kids are all grown up and on their own.

My advice is for couple to continue to respect each other personal space like what we like to do and don't. The husband must now help in the chore ritual. The wife must also try to adjust to the present of the husband in the house by reducing her activities slowly and eventually come to equilibrium with the husband. This is easy said than done but one must try. As for the wife she must understand that the money is no longer like before and had to accept for a fact that she too had to change her lifestyle. And both must continue to tolerate each other and go out to have lunch or dinner of just lepak together or with other couple. And both must dress up for occasion and dress properly for different occasion. This is a serious matter and not to be taken for granted. That would help lots.

There is no one single formula but remembers folks do go into divorce at this age but my advice is stay together since you both need each other more than ever before. Kick the ego out and learn to adjust everyday to the new lifestyle just like you first adjust when you first get married.

Well that is my two cents for now.

Take care.

seniorsaloud said...

Well said! You should consider a second career as a marriage counsellor specializing in counselling older couples!

There are commencement speeches to prepare fresh graduates on how to cope with the challenges they may face in society, why not also have retirement speeches to prepare soon-to-be retirees on how best to live their retirement years? Retirement planning should not focus only on the financial aspect, but also on how to make retirement the best time of our lives.

There's a need for give-and-take when two people share the same space 24/7 as in retirement. Either they end up enjoying each other's company or getting on each other's nerves.

William said...

Lily, thanks for sharing the article on retired husbands.

I recently retired at 53 and going into my 7 month of retirement. I started my plans to retire 3 years ago, so as to give my wife and myself enough time to 'prepare' for any new changes. I am aware of the possibility of what the Japanese term as 'croak coach' husbands ie being a pain to their wives after retirement.

So far, we have kept up pretty well with each other. We have been together for the past 35 years and since the first day of my retirement, we treat it like I am on a long vacation. Our 2 grown up sons are practically occupied with their own career and studies respectively. We are doing some traveling which we always look forward and enjoy very much, just like we have been doing for the past many years. We continue to exercise regularly, me in the mornings and hers in the evening due to individual preferences.

I have more time to devote to my hobbies of videography, editing our holiday clips, learning new skills and exploring new apps on the iphone, learning up on computer softwares, reading up on current issues (thanks to the internet!, including your Senior Aloud blog), watching pre-recorded TV programmes on documentaries, food, travel etc and lately brushing up on my Mandarin language. I am thankful we could afford a full time helper so that gives us the chance to spend quality time for movies and other ad hoc activities together.

For me, I regard retirement as a blessing. We do not know how many good years we will have together as a couple, as parents and as we grow older, the challenges ahead would be greater especially when we fall sick and needed care giving. Given the chance, it would be good to 'start early' to make adjustments to each other, the issue of being a pain or gain should be relegated to the bottom. That is my advice to those who are seeking or preparing for retirement. Good luck!

Lakshmi said...

A very interesting write-up, Lily and I enjoyed reading it. It did give me a clear picture of what would happen, both the positive and the negative.

As you said, we ladies have no problem filling up our time with lots and lots to do, in fact, even though I'm not an office worker myself, I hardly have enough time to do all my activities in any given day. It's the men who will have to watch out and take stock of their lives.


Pak Idrus said...

Please note that both of us are now 70 plus. Thanks.