If you’re hustling in your career right now, you probably find yourself daydreaming about the day you can put your feet up once and for all. But even though a lot of us love to dream about retirement, actually getting there takes a bit more planning. When do you want to retire? How much do you need to save? How do you want to spend your time? And most importantly, how do you find a sense of purpose? Because when we’re saving for retirement, we’re really saving for the freedom to explore ourselves and what we want out of life.
And now is an especially good time to answer those questions. Just 41% of women were able to save for retirement every month of the pandemic, compared to 58% of men. As a result, we’re coming out of these last few years with an even wider retirement savings gap than we previously had. A 2019 study by Bank of America found that women already retired with an average of $70,000 less than men.
That’s why it’s more important than ever for us to think about what we want our later years to look like, and how we can get there. Our guest Maddy Dychtwald has spent decades researching retirement, and she’s learned all the steps that successful retirees take to be happy, healthy, and financially stable. In 1986, Maddy and her husband Ken founded a think tank called Age Wave that seeks to understand the attitudes, hopes, and fears of our growing aging population. Age Wave has spearheaded dozens of studies on aging and retirement spanning thousands of participants, and it has advised more than half of the Fortune 500 on how older generations are transforming the economy. Maddy is also the co-founder of the nonprofit Women Against Alzheimer’s, as well as a board member of the BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit that funds research to cure brain and eye diseases.
Maddy and Jean unpack the casual ageism that we see everywhere these days — especially in advertising. Maddy reminds us not to be swayed by phrases like “anti-aging” that imply growing older should be avoided at all costs. Instead, we should focus more on the positive effects of aging, like the increase in life experience and wisdom.
We also dig into what it really means to be happy and fulfilled in old age. Age Wave’s research has shown that people are thinking about retirement very differently these days — it’s not the end goal, but a new beginning with its own opportunities. Maddy explains the four pillars of support that set retirees up for success: health, family, purpose, and finances.
And what does aging mean for women specifically? We talk about how women live longer than men on average, spend more years in poor health, and are more likely to live alone in old age. This means that we have to spend more time and money building our savings, taking care of our bodies, and developing strong relationships. And an important thing to remember about that last point — especially for women who are single or childfree — is that your support system can come from many different places.
“Just because you don’t have kids doesn’t mean you don’t have family relationships,” says Maddy. “And today, many people have expanded the definition of family. It may be your best friend or colleagues at work. It can go in a lot of different directions.”
In Mailbag, we hear from one listener who’s wondering what to do with her pension from her previous company. Another listener wants to know how to ask for a raise while her company’s struggling with layoffs. And in Thrive, tips for getting your small business off the ground, courtesy of Citizens’ panel on female entrepreneurship.
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