Retired Husband Syndrome — Coming To a Country Near You

A book-signing event was when I first heard of retired husband syndrome. From across the booth, I watched a black-haired young man stare at the back of my newly-published book. He turned it over to the front, opened to the table of contents, flipped a few pages, paused several times on his way to the back, and turned it over again.

So far, he looked like the other book-browsers I had observed – front, back, front, flip. Some would then take it to the register, while others set it back on the shelf, but the whole decision took less than 2 minutes. This young man took so long reading, I wondered if he might consume the whole thing right there. Then I quit watching, distracted by conversation with another conference attendee.

When I turned back to look for him, he was gone. Figuring he had decided against it, I was surprised a couple of hours later to see he was the first in line at the signing.

Retired Husband Syndrome – in South Korea

Approaching me with enthusiasm, he began to speak in a very heavy Asian accent. He was from Seoul, South Korea, and said that he thought my book would be helpful to his male clients. Unsure whether I should be offended that he was excluding the female ones, I readied my pen to sign, but asked him to tell me more.

“In Asia, we have Retired Husband Syndrome (RHS),” he said.

“I’ve never heard of that. What is it?” I asked, putting the pen down.

“Some husbands spend their whole lives working for a company, and when they retire, they are at home, and it is not good for the marriage. The husband loses his identity because he is not in his job anymore, and he wants to be home with his wife. The wife has been at home her whole life, but she doesn’t like the husband being there, doing nothing.”retired husband syndrome

“So sometimes the retired husbands do…nothing? They don’t at least play golf, or go fishing with their friends?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Wow. So you must be seeing a lot more divorce?”

“Yes! And it is too bad. They have a pension, but the couples never spend time planning what they will do.” He explained more about the strain on the marriage; the sadness he sees at a time when there could be great joy and celebration; and the effect on their children and the families.

“I can understand that. Pardon me if this is too sensitive, but are you also seeing an increase in the suicide rate?”

“Yes! This makes me sad. Sometimes I am going to be the only person outside of the family who might see it. All of the financial advisors in Seoul could help people with this. This is preventable.”

I once heard a conference speaker say, “We spend more time planning what we’re going to eat for lunch than planning the next 30 years.” Since that book-signing, I’ve met husbands, wives, singles, straight, and LGBT, at risk for catching something like RHS. Due to longer life expectancy than ever, Retired Husband Syndrome in Asia might mutate to just Retired Syndrome in America.

As the year comes to a close, why not clarify how you might spend the bounty of time that increased longevity will likely bring? If you need help, find a financial professional or coach who takes as much interest in your time as they do in your money. Help stop the spread of a preventable international syndrome, and help your future happiness even more.

For help on finding meaning in retirement, check out John Nelson’s book, What Color Is Your Parachute? For Retirement.

Holly Donaldson

Holly Donaldson, CFP® runs an hourly and fee-for-service financial planning practice virtually from her Tampa Bay, Florida office. She also works with clients throughout the U.S. (except Texas) interested in retirement and tax planning advice without product sales or investment management. Holly is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch."

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