Do You Worry About Becoming a “Bag Lady”?

As the dreaded R word (retirement) rapidly catches up to us Baby Boomers, we get to deal with the nagging fear of being a bag lady as well as IRA distribution rules and the viability of our future Social Security payments.

I’ll admit it – one of the reasons I married and agreed to be the wife, mother and homemaker was the fear of being alone and old without anyone to care for me or any money. And, I’ll also admit to wishing I’d had another kid or two so I have more options as I head into the elder years.


But now I’m focused on maintaining closer ties and being needed by the two daughters I have and helping them have some financial independence while having a couple kids of their own. Since I married well (financially and emotionally) I really have no rational reason to fear being dumped on the side of life… yet still I do.

And, I’m not alone. With the success of the most recent Woody Allen movie, Blue Jasmine, the subject of older women being abandoned on a park bench has resurfaced.

One commenter on a New York Times article examining the movie and fear of becoming a bag lady, titled The Fear That Dare Not Speak Its Name said:

Some years back, I worked on a consulting project concerning the operations of New York City’s shelters for the homeless. A significant percentage of the homeless are done in by a combination of ordinary misfortunes, including job loss and divorce. Such losses can happen to anyone, especially in lean times. An unexpected significant illness, especially if health insurance is unavailable, can also trigger a series of events that can lead to homelessness, as can unchecked substance abuse.

The message I heard from many of the homeless: they were once members of the workforce and/or the middle class. The message: Don’t be complacent. Homelessness could strike you.

The best remedies: planning, saving, strong family and community ties, a strong social safety net.

Since the current political climate attacks the strong social safety net option, we must shore up our planning, saving, family and community ties if we don’t want to seriously worry about being bag ladies.

The article refers to a recent survey indicating this is a prevalent fear:

In March, a 2013 survey on women, money and power, issued by the Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, made headlines with its findings that nearly half of all American women fear becoming bag ladies … — including 27 percent with household earnings of more than $200,000 a year. (And the worry is widespread: 56 percent among single women, 54 percent divorced, 47 percent widowed and 43 percent married.)

While I may not share the author’s overriding concern about BagLadyism, I do revisit the subject regularly. It’s the start of another month – that means I:

> check the net worth,

> check the investments,

> check the insurance.

And worry about how to turn my unique patchwork of experiences, education and training into something worthwhile enough to others that they’ll pay for it. So maybe then I can relax a little knowing it’s unlikely I’ll end up a bag lady.

But what about you? Since you’re here, with the Money Divas, let’s continue to explore the financial subjects we all are concerned about (according to the survey):

› Women as the chief financial officer of their households

› The rise of the “Woman of Influence”

› The modern family has put more demands on women

› Women are hungry for knowledge about retirement planning

› “Bag lady” fears persist among even the most successful women

› Women are being underserved by the financial industry

But first, I’ve got a movie I’ve been meaning to see…

Live Long AND Prosper, Leah the Money Diva

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