What’s Scary After 50? Everything!

If we are to believe ad campaigns and talk show hosts and gossipy tabloids,  the only thing women worry about as they age is their fast-retreating youth…right?  We are overwhelmed with dark visions of wrinkles and radiance deficits, desperate to appear forever under 30, anxious about every new young thing on the horizon…right?

Wrong.  We are worried about money, specifically, not having enough money as we get older.  In a well-written recent essay by speaker and writer Barbara Hannah Grufferman, she makes a pretty compelling case for this widespread fear.  Remember that women make less money than men, period.  We live longer, too.  We live in retirement longer. We worry about and care for our families and children even as we are often the only breadwinners in single-parent homes.  We need to stay in the workforce well past age 50 and have access to decent healthcare benefits.  To do this, we need to stay healthy, employed – and employable – and solvent.  Not so simple to pull off!

Our culture does not make it easy for older women to stay in the workplace at well paid  jobs.  In this era of layoffs and recession, it is becoming harder and harder for aging women to keep up.   I am not talking about grannies in their 90’s, rather women in their mid-40’s and beyond.  And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 90% of the new jobs created in the past 12 months went to men. Not that women weren’t applying! Apparently, unemployed men present a far more sympathetic picture than unemployed women!

Ms. Grufferman also offered some tips to women from Jane Bryant Quinn that go a long way to getting us to rethink our financial lives:

  • Tighten your belt: stop spending and don’t live above your means.
  • Stash it away: put as much money as you can into your 401(k) and other retirement plans.
  • Hands off the house: stop yourself from tapping into your home equity for cash.
  • Cut the cord: stop helping your adult children.  Put money into your retirement fund first, then the college fund.
  • Stay healthy: this generation of ‘after 50’s’ will most likely have to work many more years than we expected, so we want to get and stay healthy.
  • Maintain health insurance until you are 65: having no health insurance is a much greater financial risk than almost anything else.  Stay insured, by working if possible, until you are 65, at which time you’ll switch to Medicare.
All of this is good stuff.  And when we consider the number of young graduates starting their work lives with enormous student loan debt, there isn’t any reason that this sensible approach should be limited to women in their 50’s.  We all have a lot of belt-tightening and clear financial thinking to do!

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