When I ask my working girlfriends when they plan to retire, or if they plan to retire, I usually get a quizzical look — and then a shrug. Most of them are in their 50s and 60s and they all seem to think the notion of not working for pay is rather unrealistic.
Why? “If I stop bringing home a paycheck of some sort, I’m afraid I’ll outlive my money,” one of my college friends, who is single, told me recently. Even the ones who are married, and have a spouse who has presumably also been socking money away, echo that deep-seated sentiment.
It’s there lurking in the shadows and pushing many of us out of bed to get to work: the bag lady specter. While I truly dislike this image, there is a grain of reality in the fear.
Retirement Fears Are Pervasive
A 2013 survey from PNC Financial Services Group found that more than half of women agreed with the statement: “I’m afraid I may not be able to retire.” And 38 percent of women said they believed they were prepared for retirement; 48 percent of men felt that way.
For women over 50, the stakes are especially high.
“Women age 50 and older — especially unmarried women — face extreme financial risks and potential poverty in retirement,” Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies President Catherine Collinson told me. Many of these women who Transamerica has surveyed say they plan to work until age 70 or later or don’t plan to retire at all.
That plan, however, might be faulty. “Life’s unforeseen circumstances such as health issues or a job loss can derail the best-laid plans,” Collinson said. “It is imperative that women realize that we can still take steps today to improve our long-term outlook.”