The story was written in the Sunday Morning Harold by Cosima Marriner in March of 2014
Men think about their bank balances or their health when deciding when to retire while women quit work when they need to care for their spouse or want to spend more time with their families, research shows.
Despite the different motivations for exiting the workforce, one in three couples plan to co-ordinate the timing of their respective retirements, according to the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.
Researcher Diana Warren tracked retirement trends among couples between 2001 and 2008 and found 66 per cent of couples who had retired quit work within two years of each other. The most common pattern is for the wife to retire before her husband, and at a younger age.
Men who own their own homes outright, have completed year 12 and have a higher level of relationship satisfaction are more likely to retire. Poor health more than triples their likelihood of retiring. Yet neither health nor potential retirement income is a big factor in partnered women's decisions to retire. They are more influenced by caring responsibilities: Many women now over 50 have young grandchildren and elderly parents to look after as well as their spouses.
Ms Warren said the different considerations for women reflected the fact that men still tended to be the main breadwinners in couples.
In contrast, financial considerations were paramount for single women when deciding when to retire.
Ms Warren said couples' desire to co-ordinate their retirements had implications for policy debates, such as raising the pension eligibility age. "Whatever policy implemented that affects one member of a couple is likely to affect the other member, so the [ultimate] effect might be larger than anticipated," Ms Warren said.
However, National Seniors Australia chief executive Michael O'Neill advised couples thinking of co-ordinating their retirements to be honest about individual desires: "If one partner is not ready to retire, it's important to respect that rather than subsume it to what the other partner wants, which comes with a degree of resentment …"
The president of the NSW branch of the Council of the Ageing, Ian Day, said a person's health, independence, financial security, access to health services and network of friends and family determined their wellbeing in retirement.
"How you go in retirement is very dependent on owning your own home," he said. "If you own a house you can live on the pension. If you don't, you're destitute from day one. It's impossible to live in Sydney on the pension and rent."
More Australian couples are delaying their retirements. The Bureau of Statistics says 20 per cent of couples now intend to work until they are at least 70.