Adam Shell, USA TODAY Published 12:01 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2018
American women aren't buying into the doom-and-gloom retirement narrative any longer.
They increasingly are viewing their retirement years with optimism, referring to the aging process as a "liberating phase" of their lives, a time to pursue fresh goals, experience new things and pursue meaningful work, according to a new survey from TD Ameritrade that USA TODAY obtained exclusively.
"Women are so enthusiastic when it comes to aging, and that is a different message than what is out there," says Christine Russell, senior manager of retirement and annuities at TD Ameritrade, a discount brokerage firm, referring to female savings shortfalls and other retirement obstacles.
"We tend to focus on hard dollars and cents and the fact that women live longer than men," she says. "And that often can cause doom and gloom. But the survey found that women feel much more confident about their golden years."
70 is the new 50
In a sign that women are becoming more optimistic about the aging process, nearly three out of four (73 percent) agreed that "70 is the new 50," versus just 59 percent of men, according to TD Ameritrade's "Women & Aging Survey," a July poll of more than 2,000 U.S. adults 18 and older conducted for it by The Harris Poll.
The statistics suggest women are "planning for a longer life," an acknowledgment that should focus them more intensely on taking the financial steps necessary to be able to fund the life they want to lead in their later years, Russell explains.
"It's important for women to know why they are saving and how they want retirement to look," Russell says. "It's important to have both pieces."
Retirement as 'opportunity'
For an increasing number of women, retirement equates to opportunity and a life with "a higher purpose," rather than a period of boredom and a sense that their best years are behind them, according to the survey results.
Sixty-two percent of women said retirement will be "the most liberating phase of my life." Seventy-two percent said after years of focusing on others, aging finally gives them an "opportunity to focus on myself," while 83 percent said aging provides a fresh chance to "reach new goals."
When asked what age they would like to retire, the average age was 61.
While 68 percent of women said they would like to spend more time with family and friends in retirement, 56 percent said they wanted to focus on their "health and wellness" as well as "seek out new experiences," such as traveling abroad, versus just 47 percent of males.
And most women said there were plenty of opportunities to find rewarding work to fill their days. Seventy-six percent said that "compared to 20 years ago, there are more opportunities to pursue meaningful work as people age."
Nearly nine of 10 (88 percent) women surveyed said, "It's important to me to retain a sense of higher purpose as I age."
Money isn't everything
Money isn't everything, the women said. Their health is more important.
Nearly half (47 percent) of the women said they were willing to trade away half or more of their wealth to "be healthy to the end of (their) life." "The survey shows that women don't view aging as just sitting on the porch or rocking chair waiting for death," Russell says. "They're saying, 'that's not what we are going to do.' Instead they are moving ahead, learning new things and achieving new goals."