As a writer and speaker who is actively engaged in fighting ageism and promoting women’s rights . . . it was with great pleasure that I accepted an invitation to join the AARP “Decide.Create.Share” Kitchen Cabinet, a group of women who have banded together to push women to take control of their health, finances and lives. Click here to get all the details about the Decide.Create.Share. national initiative.
For too long women have allowed others to make major decisions for them, or have spent so much of their lives focusing on the needs of others, that they’ve completely forgotten about themselves, until they find themselves gazing at the future . . . without a plan. It can be frightening.
A while ago I asked friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter to reveal the one thing that keeps them awake at night . . . that single nagging worry that haunts their sleep and has the potential to cast a shadow over their generally positive dispositions and happy lives.
Conventional wisdom might say that women over 50 are most concerned about how they look, how many wrinkles they have and how young they appear.
There’s big business in convincing us that these should be our focal points. Women often are made to feel invisible and unimportant once we move past our 40s, but that isn’t a gut-wrenching fear; it’s an observation, and one that most women I know shrug off with a knowing smile.
When I asked them to share their worst fear, none of these issues came up. A few mentioned health as a priority, or maintaining the ability and strength to keep doing everything they have to do . . . and want to do.
It’s clear that these women, many of whom have retired, or are out there working (or trying to find work), concerned about children (even if they’re grown) and aging parents, engaging with partners and friends, and contributing to their communities in meaningful ways, have something much bigger than crows feet on their minds.
The one common thread that linked their thoughtful comments was this:
The fear of not having enough money as they get older.
Those of us post-50 Americans who are fortunate enough to be employed could be working well past our 60s because too many of us didn’t save enough to retire. And even though older Americans may be faring better than other age groups — among all U.S. workers, 20% are unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for jobs compared with 17.4% for those between 55-64 — it doesn’t negate the growing fear that many will have to drain their savings — if any savings exist — just to make ends meet.
Women seem to be in the most precarious position as we age. Financial destitution could end up being more than just a fear for far too many in this country; it could become a fact. In a recent interview, Ken Robbins, a geriatric psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin said,
Men tend to be more financially secure, make more money, and have bigger pensions and Social Security checks. Widows are often left with dramatically less money.
But no matter what your age or circumstance . . . it’s time to sit down and write your own future . . . right now.
How? By simply taking action. It’s time to decide where you see yourself in the future; create a plan; and share your vision with the most important people in your life.
And a great place to start is by taking the “40 Day Pledge” which is a major part of the Decide.Create.Share. initiative. Click here for how to take the pledge.
- stay healthy and fit by eating well and moving my body every day
- stay current with skills so I can be employable for as long as I would like
- save more and spend less
- update my will and other essential “life documents”
- spend time with my financial advisor to see if my husband and I need to revise our financial strategies, including adding insurance for long term care
- think about how I want to live my life, and where, after I retire
And, don’t feel like you’re ever alone. Join in the conversation taking place on the Decide.Create.Share. website by clicking here, and get motivated to start planning now.
The best advice of all is this: It’s okay to be afraid, but it isn’t okay to live in fear. Don’t let fear get in the way of making prudent financial decisions that could have a positive impact on your future. Stay in touch with others who are supportive, caring and sensitive to your situation. And lastly, take back control of your life. It’s never too late to write your own future.
I am a proud member of the Kitchen Cabinet for AARP’s Decide.Create.Share. initiative on long-term planning.