By Mark Evan Chimsky, contributor on Next Avenue
While I was researching my new book “Not Your Mother’s Retirement: Secrets for Today’s Women to Live Fully in the Best Years of Life”, I noticed an amazing statistic: According to a study by Allianz Lebensversicherung, 49% of all women were in The United States shares a common fear: becoming a pocket lady in later years.
Why does this worst-case scenario haunt women across the socio-economic spectrum and what steps can be taken to ensure that this fate is avoided?
Many women are so busy that they don’t have time to think about their own needs and proactively prepare for their own retirement. Research by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies shows that only 29% of boomer women have made saving for retirement their top financial priority.
This was one of the key reasons I developed Not Your Mother’s Retirement, a handy resource to help women in their forties and fifties plan a successful retirement. It features 20 essays by respected retirement experts (including Next Avenue work and volunteer blogger Nancy Collamer) on a variety of topics including financial planning, work, health, travel, housing, education, volunteering, being single, spirituality, and caring.
I gave the book this title because the whole concept of retirement is so radically different from our parent generation’s view – the possibilities are greater, and the opportunities to be active and do something meaningful have increased exponentially.
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Here are seven tips from the authors that are critical to planning a fulfilling second half of life:
1. Estimate how much money you will need in retirement. M. Cindy Hounsell, president of WISER, the Women’s Institute for Safe Retirement, says few people ever take the time to figure out how much they actually need to live in retirement. “For a quick back-of-the-envelope approach, look at your current after-tax income and multiply it by 20 or 30,” she says. This approach doesn’t deal with inflation or unexpected healthcare costs, Hounsell notes, but it’s a quick way back to the bigger numbers.
2. Take advantage of bad stock markets. “Regular investments in small amounts of money, even $ 100 a month, make a difference over time,” writes Julie Jason, founder of Jackson, Grant Investment Advisers in Stamford, Connecticut Reject. “
Jason provides an impressive example of how a long-term approach pays off: if you were to invest monthly in a mutual fund that mimicked the S&P 500 index as of October 1, 2007 and sold out on March 31, 2009 due to the collapse of the market , if you did so you would have lost more than 57%. However, if you hadn’t sold and invested monthly through September 30, 2013, your average annual return would have been 12.8%.
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3. Find a financial advisor to help you find the right path. Sara Zeff Geber, a life planning and transition coach for boomers based in San Francisco, says if you don’t have a financial planner or advisor, “ask friends and co-workers for recommendations.” She also suggests going to the Financial Planning Association website ( fpanet.org) to find an expert near you.
4. Look for alternative housing options. Sally Abrahms, a boomer and senior housing writer who blogs for AARP, says there are plenty of them and that there will be “more on the street.” One of the “coolest housing models”, she says, is living together, where a group of people buy land together and help shape their community.
“There are roughly 20 private houses grouped together with inviting front porches to encourage community and informal, daily interaction,” writes Abrahms. The residents sometimes own or rent their houses or condominiums and share an outdoor area and a “common house”. The roll call, says Abrahms: “There is as much privacy (you have your own space) or group time as you want.”
For more information, she recommends visiting the websites of the United States Cohousing Association and Cohousing Company.
5. Learn more about “caring communities”. To avoid isolation in retirement, Dorian Mintzer, a leading retirement agency based in Boston, recommends joining one of the increasingly web-based and community-based models for “caring communities”.
For example, Mintzer says, The Transition Network developed a program called The Caring Collaborative, which has become a model nationwide. “People help others because they know that they can count on being helped when they need it. This is particularly helpful for women living alone, ”Mintzer writes.
One of her recommended web-based communities is Lotsahelpinghands.com, which Mintzer used to coordinate care when a friend was sick.
6. Consider an encore career – a second act for the common good. “If you have another 20 years to go, you should know that the best investment you can make is in your own skills and training,” writes Marci Alboher, vice president of Encore.org and author of the Encore Career Handbook . “Take the chance to give yourself a revision of your skills and education so that you are the best version of yourself as you find out where to stand out.”
7. Get involved in lifelong learning. Kali Lightfoot, executive director of the National Resource Center for Osher Institutes for Lifelong Learning (OLLIs), advocates nourishing your brain in retirement through adult education programs. “You will be able to use your curiosity and passion,” she writes.
There are two ways to find out about lifelong learning institutes near you: the websites for the Road Scholar Institute Network and Lightfoot’s National Resource Center for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes.
Note: All contributors to Not Your Mother’s Retirement have made their essays available for free, as all royalties from the book’s sale will be donated to nonprofit organizations dedicated to preventing and curing cancer.