How the Golden Girls are Redefining the Golden Years
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Lifestyle

The New Retirement: How Golden Girls are Redefining the Golden Years

If anyone should be in the driver’s seat, it’s us.

illustration of car driving off highway, sunset, retirement, golden girls
Vincent Kilbride

The golden years are getting a makeover. Old-school thinking about retirement is being called out, in many cases led by women who are challenging the status quo. We’re the same women who broke glass ceilings and forged new definitions of work-family balance and partnership. We’re the same women creating new role models as business owners and leaders proving age is not a limiting factor.

We’re the same women who will redefine retirement. As we consider what this looks like, let’s consider what we bring to the table:

· Tenacity, resilience and leadership.

· With technology, access to a global stage.

· Recognition of our continued need to advocate for ourselves.

We are all Wonder Woman — the 1984 superheroine who has battled on behalf of our families, communities and gender. We’re taking care of our aging parents, adult children and grandchildren while considering what the next phase of our lives looks like. In many respects, we’re at the same place we’ve always been, faced with accepting the status quo or changing it.

Here are few ways we can rethink and redo our golden years, so they continue to shine.

Create a Vision That Challenges Assumptions

Ageism is real. It is the practice of discrimination or stereotyping on the basis of age starting with ourselves. We joke about when we’ll end up in an old folks’ home, though in these changing times, likely we will not, as noted by Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism.

As Applewhite writes: “People are happiest at the beginnings and the ends of their lives. Only 2.5% of Americans over 65 live in nursing homes. Older people enjoy better mental health than the young or middle-aged. So how come so many of us unthinkingly assume that depression, diapers, and dementia lie ahead?”

So, a first step toward creating a new retirement might be to check on our own prejudice around getting older. What stories are we telling ourselves and why are we buying into them? What game-changing action might we take if there was no script for getting older?

Leverage Our Skills and Experience

You don’t have to go far before running into an older woman getting an advanced degree, starting her own business or making plans to live in another country. We’re stepping forward as corporate refugees and empty nesters with more time to focus on ourselves. We’re taking our skills, wisdom and networks and creating new work opportunities based on our previous experience and changing family structures and our changing expectations:

· Maybe after leaving work to spend years at home raising children, we have ideas on how to rise up again with a start-up business.

· Maybe we’re discovering how capable we feel on our own after years in a corporate culture that beat us down

· Maybe we’re finding inspiration from stellar role models for our own stellar second or third acts.

Diana Nyad, at the age of 64, was the first person to make the swim — on her fifth try — from Cuba to Florida. It took her 53 hours, in what she called “inky black” waters. Patricia Forehand from Perry, Georgia, became a comedian after retiring from teaching for 32 years. Suzanne Watson, now 57 from Cincinnati, went back to medical school at 50 after her husband passed away and she needed to make more money.

At 63, I left a full-time job running leadership programs for senior government executives to focus full-time on money-mindset coaching, digital course development and engaging facilitation. It’s been rewarding to show up in communities of entrepreneurs of all ages offering insights into business strategy, technology and design.

Whenever one of my own children say: “Mom, are you having fun?” I check in with my joy meter and realize this is really fun!

Love Our Money

The National Institute for Retirement Security (NIRS) reported in May 2020 that women remain at a disadvantage when it comes to retirement savings. Notable reasons included being paid roughly 80 cents on the dollar throughout their careers compared to men, not able to earn as much due to caregiving responsibilities (thereby affecting Social Security income), and divorce having an outsize impact on women’s overall assets.

On top of the practical reasons for financial gaps, we may lack confidence or have anxiety about managing our money. We consult with our husbands or fathers for advice even when we know what to do. We avoid meeting with a financial planner for fear of facing tough decisions. We learned in our early life that talking about money was taboo, or that it created conflict. Financial education wasn’t a priority, and the growth of easy access to debt has left too many of us living beyond our means. The fact is, we can take actions today that can make a difference, even if it’s just in how we relate to money.

· We can consider how love for our money might show up differently than discomfort or fear around it.

· We can imagine our older, wiser selves looking back on us wishing we had lived and spent differently.

· We can ask ourselves where or what makes us happy and how money can play a better role paired with those values. In the end, what retirement looks, feels or sounds like is up to us. We have an open road now due to women-led cultural changes, even if the road we’ve been traveling has been bumpy and filled with pit stops. If anyone should be in the driver’s seat, it’s us.

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