Men and women are still different. We didn’t really need to read 1992’s “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” to know that.

But what’s discussed more these days are how those differences (and many other issues) may be even more pronounced in how we prepare for retirement.

TIAA (formerly TIAA-CREF) recently released ts new Voices of Experience Survey, which measures the changing attitudes on life in retirement and how people prepare.

The 44-page report covers a lot, but you might be particularly interested in the section that focuses on women in retirement — or more specifically how men and women differ both in planning for retirement and living in retirement.

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In an earlier column, “On women’s paths to retirement security, there are plenty of hurdles,” I wrote how women face a number of unique challenges before and during retirement. Longer life expectancies, lower average wages and more time out of the workforce due to caregiving for both children and parents can undermine their savings.

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Some highlights of the TIAA report:

  • Men start planning for retirement earlier. Twenty-two percent of men said they began planning before age 30, versus only 12 percent of women.
  • Men were more likely to be very satisfied with their financial health (58 percent) than women (46 percent).
  • Women were more likely than men to spend time alone for personal interests (80 percent vs. 70 percent), spend time with family (80 percent vs. 67 percent) and socialize with friends (75 percent vs. 52 percent).
  • Women were also more likely to volunteer (58 percent vs. 42 percent), care for family members (43 percent vs. 26 percent) and participate in religious activity (36 percent vs. 25 percent).
  • Although women and men were equally concerned about being a burden to others, women were twice as likely to say that their biggest concern in retirement was running out of money (29 percent vs. 15 percent of men). They were also more concerned about being lonely (19 percent vs. 11 percent).

The report said it is the responsibility of employers and the financial services industry to create new and innovative programs that will give women new confidence in their ability to save for a secure retirement.

Roger W. Ferguson, TIAA CEO, says the full survey looked at how feelings about retirement have evolved over the past 30 years, and a lot has changed. “But nearly all of the retirees we surveyed said they feel satisfied with their life in retirement,” he said. “They are planning better, retiring earlier and able to approach their retirement with excitement and optimism.”

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One less Social Security strategy

As my Washington Post colleague Jonnelle Marte wrote, one Social Security strategy disappeared last week. As Marte wrote:

“The filing strategy, known as file-and-suspend, could increase lifetime retirement benefits for some high-earning couples by as much as $60,000. The approach allows one spouse — typically the higher earner — to file for benefits and then suspend the payments. That makes it possible for their husband or wife to begin receiving spousal benefits while waiting for their own Social Security benefits to grow as much as possible.”

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To learn more, you might look at a New York Times bestselling book on Social Security, “Get What’s Yours: The secrets to maxing out your Social Security.” It’s coming out in an updated edition to reflect the changes on May 3.

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Question of the Week

We got such a tremendous response to the question on Social Security two weeks ago that we’ll publish more of your comments. We’ll post responses to last week’s question in next week’s edition.

From Richard Watt, New Rochelle, N.Y.:

My wife and I started taking Social Security at age 62, mainly because we needed a good cash flow to start paying off a large home equity loan we took out to send both our sons to college.  Yes, the middle-class doesn’t get much help.  We’re now 73 and we don’t regret having done this.  We sold the house and moved into an excellent co-op.  The cash flow is still good, thanks to my pension, IRAs and Social Security.  I only wish more businesses offered pensions; that would be better for everyone.

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From Ron and Grace Rindfleisch:

I retired at age 60 in 2007 with a relatively decent diversified portfolio intending to live on a 4 percent withdrawal as well as my wife’s wages. By 2009, when I turned 62 the portfolio had decreased by 50 percent and continued 4 percent withdrawals did not appear wise, so I took Social Security earlier than originally planned and reduced my withdrawals from my portfolio. My portfolio has recovered nicely so the reduced Social Security benefits that I am getting are okay. Given those particular circumstances, I would take SS early again. The message is to be flexible about plans for taking SS.

From Elisabeth P. Schouten:

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I started at 70.  I was working and paying in to Social Security.  I had the advantage of letting my monthly payment grow/compound to the limit before taking payouts.

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Next week’s question

You’re sitting down talking to your 30-year-old millennial neighbor. It’s a one-on-one conversation. What piece of advice would you give him or her to prepare for retirement?

My most recent retirement column

Michelle Singletary’s last column: Celebrate that college choice, but consider the debt

Write to Rodney Brooks at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or rodney.brooks@washpost.com. Follow on Twitter @Perfiguy. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more, go to washingtonpost.com/business

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