The recent economic, financial and social changes in our country have impacted not only our investments and financial planning but our entire view of the future as well. From a personal finance perspective, the current job losses will make it more difficult for many to retire on schedule, send children to college and make mortgage payments on time. Even worse, the sudden economic decline saps our confidence and belief that the economy will recover.
So let’s deal with that first. You don’t have to be a student of American history to recognize that we’ve lived through unsettling times before. The strength of our country has always been to move forward and surmount our challenges —economic depressions, wars, inflation, social divisions and even terrorist attacks.
Warren Buffett put it best: No one ever got rich betting against America. We will move forward from our latest crisis. While it might rearrange our financial planning, it can’t derail our future. The time to review your financial plans is right now.
In the midst of this economic crisis comes a retirement planning book aimed primarily at women but that is extraordinarily useful for anyone. “Your Next Chapter: A Woman’s Guide to a Successful Retirement,” by noted financial planner Alexandra Armstrong and psychologist Mary R. Donahue (Amazon, $19.99), quickly hooks us with the stories of four women approaching the challenges of retirement.
Catherine is a lawyer whose husband must retire early, while she wants to work longer. Emily is divorced but in a relationship, contemplating unwanted retirement as the director of a nonprofit. Melissa is a traditional, happily married homemaker who doesn’t want to leave grandchildren and her parents behind to move to a warmer climate with her soon-to-retire husband. And Victoria is a single, never-married college professor and breast cancer survivor, now teaching her last semester.
Through their characters’ stories, the authors make planning for retirement seem easy and natural as they deal with both the financial and psychological implications of leaving full-time work. Whether they’re discussing the best time to take Social Security, the potential need for long-term care insurance, the personal issues involved when a spouse retires first, or an adult relationship impacted by the “moving in together” decision, they have the answers.
It’s hard for women to think about retirement money strategies in a vacuum. The authors understand the challenge, reminding the reader: “You may find yourself juggling feelings of being put out to pasture and not being a productive member of society, with feelings of relief related to no longer being trapped by the demands of daily life that included work and other responsibilities.”
And they also understand the psychological implications of financial decisions. “It’s normal for you to be feeling anxious as you adjust to this major milestone in your life where your daily needs are met by withdrawing money from existing accounts as opposed to adding money on a predictable basis,” they write.
Especially for women, longevity presents challenges. The authors note that not only is the average life expectancy for a 65 year old woman 86.5 years (vs. only 84 years for men). But one out of five women will live past age 90, and one of every 10 will live past age 94!
Armstrong and Donahue wrote the best-selling “On Your Own: A Widow’s Passage to Emotional and Financial Well-being,” now in its 5th edition. I heartily endorsed it on the first cover, many years ago. Their new book is another timeless guide, demystifying retirement planning for women, without talking down or leaving anything out.
I want every woman in her 50s or 60s to read this book because the challenges start early, and it’s best to be educated and prepared. Instead of being paralyzed by fear, the solutions are to face up to realities — both financial and psychological — and get good trusted advice for this next stage of life.
The place to start is “Your Next Chapter.” And that’s The Savage Truth.