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Hi! 54 year old single with "bag lady syndrome"
Old 07-28-2011, 07:47 AM   #1
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Hi! 54 year old single with "bag lady syndrome"

Hello all--I don't anticipate retiring early but hope I'm still welcome here. I've learned a lot from you all by lurking. As my title indicates I'm a never-married woman with tremendous fears about retirement and trying to take a sensible approach to planning for the future. I am a college professor with a good savings, frugal habits, and a trusted financial advisor (I do not feel confident investing myself, although I'm an active learner/participant in my financial matters). I am in excellent health and in a field I love, so retiring because I dislike my job and/or can't do it well anymore is not a concern. What does concern me is that fact that the women in my family are very long lived (~95-100 years old) and even if I retire at 70 I'll be many years in retirement. My job does not include a pension although I've contributed the max to my 403B (with an excellent matching program) for many years. My job is 100% secure as I have tenure with a very stable university. Still, with the shakey markets, I worry too much about the future. Evidently I'm not alone: the group of people most likely to be poor in retirement are single women, and even if they have savings they often--like me--have "bag lady syndrome"--anxiety about ending up demented and eating cat food on the streets!
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Old 07-28-2011, 08:01 AM   #2
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Welcome Marita40. You are of course welcome here, and I'm sure you will learn a lot as well as enjoy lots of entertainment. So, when you do retire, what are your plans? Travel? Gardening? Just relaxing?

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Old 07-28-2011, 08:10 AM   #3
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So, when you do retire, what are your plans? Travel? Gardening? Just relaxing?
Whatever you decide to do, resist the urge to get a grocery cart and start collecting things on the street... j/k

Welcome to the forum. I've learned that fears are highly overrated and rarely prophetic. That said, I don't climb tall ladders or walk close to the edge of high cliffs - it's a personal thing.
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Old 07-28-2011, 08:16 AM   #4
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Welcome aboard Marita! great to have you join in on the discussions here.
I think that the topics and discussions here are educational for all of us and help build confidence for facing the unknown. Agree?
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Old 07-28-2011, 08:17 AM   #5
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Welcome Marita40 (are you my DW in disguise?)

While I/DW planned on retiring on the same date, a bit over four years ago, I retired - as planned but DW got "cold feet" a month before her retirement, and pulled her paperwork. And yes, she also used the term "bag lady syndrome" to explain her decision (are you sure you are not my DW?)

Being that we both grew up in households that were "financially challenged", she still feels that she needs to be gainfully employed (even being of early SS age).

It's not a financial challenge, but a mental one, IMHO. If you need to stay employed to satisfy your emotional needs - not financial needs, and it only affects you, so be it.

In our case, we had no plans to travel (we do, anyway), relocate, downsize, or do anything else that needed us to be both retired.

She's happy (and if momma's happy, that's all that counts) and I have no problem being a "househusband" and helping her out with the tasks that she took on during my employment years - when I was not around much.

Don't be so hard on yourself. Life is too short to worry about what is "correct" in other people’s minds. Like the name of a book says, "What You Think Of Me Is None Of My Business"... That says it all.

Do what you wish, and stay happy...
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Old 07-28-2011, 08:18 AM   #6
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...........I am a college professor with......... a trusted financial advisor (I do not feel confident investing myself, although I'm an active learner/participant in my financial matters)............
Welcome. If anything, this is what I would worry about. Trusted financial advisers can cost you big time in the end, especially if you live to be a hundred (due to compounding).
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Old 07-28-2011, 08:23 AM   #7
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You must be aware that "trusted financial advisor" is an oxymoron, right?
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Old 07-28-2011, 08:47 AM   #8
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Welcome Marita. I used to have "severe" bag lady syndrome as well but I found that the anxiety lessened over time when I became increasingly more systematic and diligent with tracking my spending and managing my portfolio. I sleep well at night knowing that I've done virtually all there is to do with respect to planning and implementing my ER plan for ensuring a well-funded, comfortable, and decades-long retirement. You will find good advice on this Forum for your journey.
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Old 07-28-2011, 09:00 AM   #9
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Welcome Marita!

If you expect to live to be 100, then retiring at 60 or 65 would be "early" as in "planning a long retirement". So you certainly belong here!

I echo what others have said about financial advisors. Even the nicest and most ethical ones have agendas they have to meet, such as sales targets. Use them if you need to, but be informed, and question everything.

As a professor, you must be a smart lady. Whether you are a Prof of Engineering or of Sociology, you have the skills to learn how to manage your money. There are many wonderful resources here, and it's a welcoming environment for the civilized, so jump right into the pool!
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Old 07-28-2011, 09:12 AM   #10
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Welcome ,
Even Katie Couric admitted to bag lady syndrome so you are not alone . Since your family has such longevity you should probably look into Long term care insurance . Also form a family of close friends it will be helpful as you age .
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Old 07-28-2011, 09:38 AM   #11
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Thanks for your warm welcome, everyone! I do consider myself a smart person, but (alas! rue the day!) in an English literature type of way (and not financial stuff). I do understand the caution about the "trusted financial advisor"; I question every suggestion, do research, and ultimately make (I think) informed decisions. But I also very much appreciate the guidance of an expert in the field. Working with her is helping me educate myself at this point. As one of you mentioned, my peace of mind--if I have it--at least comes from the fact that I am doing all I possibly can right now to ensure a decent retirement. Someone also asked what my hobbies are. As a college professor, 1/2 my job is research/writing, and I very much enjoy this aspect of work: indeed, it rates more as a hobby than work as I do it avidly even on my days "off." I read anything I can get my hands on, especially local history and biography. I am active bicycling, hiking, and x-country skiing. I also love to travel and am lucky that a grant award I won at my university a number of years ago provides annual travel money for nearly anything I want to use it for even if only vaguely "educational." Last year I did some work in Nantucket, and this fall I'm headed for Austria/Czech Republic. Frankly, this is another reason why I'm in no rush to retire: it is a good job, with considerable "side" benefits if not hugely high paying. Again, thanks for your kind welcome and I will continue to lurk, learn from you all, and post at times.
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Old 07-28-2011, 09:40 AM   #12
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P.S. I wanted to add that somehow my name area of my posts got the subtitle "confused about dryer sheets" although I never elected that moniker. But I guess it is appropriate as I AM confused about dryer sheets. Can anyone explain this inside joke (?) to a newbie? For the record, I don't use dryer sheets. . .
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Old 07-28-2011, 09:43 AM   #13
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P.S. I wanted to add that somehow my name area of my posts got the subtitle "confused about dryer sheets" although I never elected that moniker. But I guess it is appropriate as I AM confused about dryer sheets. Can anyone explain this inside joke (?) to a newbie? For the record, I don't use dryer sheets. . .
"What's the deal with the dryer sheets?!?"
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Old 07-28-2011, 09:45 AM   #14
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For the record, I don't use dryer sheets. . .
Studies have shown a high correlation between frugal use of dryer sheets and successful retirement. Makes perfect sense - I've never seen a bag lady with a load of dryer sheets, have you?


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Old 07-28-2011, 09:49 AM   #15
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Before we decided to use DH's first retirement opportunity in 2012 for both of us we had run our numbers through firecalc for quite a while and also through some other calculators in the net.
As our numbers constantly looked good this helped us to relax over time.
We also track our expenses regularly and in writing. So we know where we stand.

Inflation and increase of health care cost can be frightening but carrying forward the increases of the past into the future and comparing with our projected net worth shows us that we will be able to cope with normal scenatios and some unusual ones.
(I touch wood when I write this).

By the way, we share the longevity of women in the family. And you know what: even though they all had modest incomes compared to mine, none of them had to live on the street or died with debt or had to live from public assistance.
Let's have confidence that we not only inherited their longevity gene but also their ability to live within their means.
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Old 07-28-2011, 02:11 PM   #16
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............ I do understand the caution about the "trusted financial advisor"; I question every suggestion, do research, and ultimately make (I think) informed decisions............
Do you know how much you are paying for the services of this adviser - in total? You can safely spend about 4% of your investments a year when retired. So if you are paying this person, say, 1%, they are taking 1/4 of your retirement income derived from investments.
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Old 07-28-2011, 02:36 PM   #17
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If "bag lady syndrome" results from you contemplating retirement, then don't plan to retire. You have a great job -- you can plan to work til you drop. Then, no more retirement anxiety. A side benefit: you don't need to be so concerned about the prospect of eventual dementia, since colleges are used to eccentricity. Maybe no one would even notice.

Later, with still more money saved, you can always change your mind and retire, after all.
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Old 07-28-2011, 02:59 PM   #18
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LOL Greg, how true about dementia/eccentricity in college professors! It makes us more loveable . Undergraduate students, by the way, are endlessly tolerant: all they want to know is: will it be on the exam?
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Old 07-28-2011, 09:29 PM   #19
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together

Well' at least you won't be alone. What kind of cat food do you like?
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Old 07-28-2011, 11:17 PM   #20
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I get that fear as well. Mine comes from watching my parents' considerable savings disappear due to paying for care for my mom's Alzheimers. So not only do I fear being a bag lady at times, I also fear losing my mind. Welcome to this board.
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