Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

By Aimee Picchi

If you’re a woman looking forward to a comfortable retirement, well, good luck to you.
Women deal with three issues that don’t affect the majority of their male counterparts, according to financial education company Financial Finesse, which on Tuesday released its annual report on the gender gap in financial wellness. Women not only earn less than men during the careers — making it tougher to save as much for their retirements — but they need to make those dollars last longer because of greater longevity. Lastly, women are more likely than men to take a career break to care for family members, which can also hinder their retirement planning.

How women experience retirement — and the societal and workplace issues they face in building a nest egg — is gaining attention from both lawmakers and economists. In old age, women are more likely than men to live in poverty owing to a lifetime of accumulated disadvantages such as the gender pay gap or when women are paid less than men for doing the same job.

Although the financial gap between men and women is narrowing, there’s still a lot of distance to close, said Liz Davidson, the CEO and founder of Financial Finesse.

“Women have challenges that men don’t have,”she said. “Women should actually be ahead to overcome the structural challenges of life expenses, health challenges and career breaks.”

Davidson added, “You used to hear, ‘The numbers are the numbers’,” meaning that certain retirement goalposts, such as an investment’s rate of return, won’t vary depending on the demographics of who’s investing. Yet that ignores the fact that “variables are different” for women, she said.

Aside from the gender wage gap, career breaks also impact women more than men, since the former are more likely than the latter to take time out of the work force to care for children or elderly relatives. While more men are increasingly taking on the role of caregiver, it remains predominantly a role taken on by women.

A career break can seriously set back a woman’s retirement preparedness. For instance, a woman who chooses a mid-career break — meaning a break from her career between the ages of 45 to 55 years old — may end up with a retirement savings shortfall of $1.1 million, the study found.

Even more harmful is taking an early career break between the ages of 35 to 45, which is when many college-educated women are starting families and also hitting their highest annual earnings. Taking a break at that age leads to a retirement shortfall of $1.3 million, the study found. The financial hit is larger for younger woman because they end up missing out on compounding interest over the course of their lives. Putting away more money earlier in a woman’s career can help close the gap.

“The vast majority of women don’t contemplate” the impact that career breaks will have on their retirement income, Davidson said.

Women (and men) who take time off from their careers to raise children or care for elderly relatives may be more concerned with whether they’ll be able to cover daily expenses, rather than their comfort in retirement. But financial planning for the future should be part of the discussion when a worker is considering taking a career break, she recommends.

It’s clear that women are ending up in a more dire situation than men when they hit retirement age. A 2014 report issued by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) found that women older than 65 have annual median retirement income that’s $11,000 below that of men in the same demographic group. Women not only need to make that income stretch longer, due to longer life spans than men, but have higher medical spending, as well.

Aside from losing out on income, career breaks can also prove financially harmful because workers miss out on years of salary gains or promotions. A survey from financial firm Ellevest in 2015 found that one in five women suffered a pay cut of at least 20 percent after taking a career break, for instance. Women need to be aware of these issues and, if possible, plan ahead, Davidson noted.

“The optimal scenario is that women look at it say, ‘Here’s the reality: We are more vulnerable, and career breaks need to be funded,” she said. “Let’s plan ahead and be conservative in our planning, so they have all the choices on the table because they have taken steps to protect their wealth.”

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

by Mary Saracino

Howling from the mountaintops
wailing from the riverbanks
scooping the moon into their waning wombs
the old women know that lies kill,
distortions maim, hope isn’t enough to feed starving
babies, school the ignorant, put and end to war.

Like Furies, the old ones rise,
clench their furious fists against the blazing sun;
like Harpies they roar, casting dire warnings
upon the winds of change; soothsaying Sibyls
decipher omens, portend the future, speak in baffling koans.

With dakini wisdom they cut through
illusion, vote in primaries, attend caucuses,
raise their voices against power, shatter
the corrupted ceilings that chafe the crowns
of their wizened heads.

The wandering Maenads cry: “This is no country
for old women.”

Medea calls down her midnight powers,
prays for revolution, strengthens the tired tongues
of memory. Eloquence isn’t enough to heal
a wounded country; sequined celebrities
can’t mend a nation’s odiferous past. Kali avenges
her sisters, the long-patient Queens & Crones,
Maidens & Mothers. The forgotten ones
wait and watch and warn: “Beware the hubris
of ages. Beware the greedy hand that grabs the golden fleece.”
Mary Saracino is a novelist, poet and memoir-writer who lives in Denver , CO . Her most recent novel, The Singing of Swans (Pearlsong Press 2006) was a 2007 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist. Her short story, “Vicky’s Secret” earned the 2007 Glass Woman Prize.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

by Kiran Manral

We have a much better sense of who we are but perhaps, we’re just that little bit confused about where we’re headed to

I had my mid-life crisis circa forty, and that’s around five years before the norm. But then I was always early on my crisis milestones. I believe I had my first teen rebellion when I was nine. The good thing that came out of the mid-life crisis was that I wrote my first book. This seems so much more acceptable than saying I coloured my hair pink and had an affair, even though, those were complete possibilities given how utterly panicky I was at that point about life having passed me by and given me the cheeky middle finger to boot.

Circa the age of 45, it’s not just the men who stop battling the comb-overs and get hair plugs, a power bike, a sports car or an affair, but the women too struggle with this sudden intersection of all that represented hope, glory and youth, and then sudden and inexorable decline into old age and ergo, invisibility. The rebellion, the refusal to accept this point where the graph suddenly does a volte face and morphs into decline and then eventual death, is where the mid-life crisis emerges

It is a strange age. We can still bear to look at ourselves in natural light without wincing. The body, give or take some cellulite and stretch marks, is still resisting the dulcet calls of gravity with stoicism. We realise we’re now on the fast track from ‘Pretty in Pink’ to ‘Driving Miss Daisy’. We keep shifting the goalpost for being old. “40 is the new 20,” we tell ourselves. We try to reclaim ourselves and our lost passions, self-esteem (or fill with whatever you think fits best).

I read somewhere, a mother’s advice to her married daughter, which still holds good. “At forty,” she said, “You can either change your career, have a baby or have an affair.” To quote Michelle Obama on her mid-life crisis, “I couldn’t get a sports car. They won’t let me bungee jump. So instead, I cut my bangs.”

I saw variations of this when friends hit middle age. Some had discrete cosmetic procedures. Some had their last-chance babies. And yet others had affairs. A few switched sexual preferences. More power to them, if this is what they wanted and had been frogmarched by society into the conventionally acceptable marriage with 2.5 offspring.

The most public figure we know to have announced this is the author Elizabeth Gilbert who went from divorcing her hot Brazilian husband to announcing her love for her best friend, female. And we do know now that sexuality is not carved in stone but is in fact rather fluid.

The female mid-life crisis. It comes with the good and the bad. The bad are none of my business, but the good are worth mentioning. We have less to prove, and less four-letter word beginning with an F to give. We have a much better sense of who we are but perhaps, we’re just that little bit confused about where we’re headed to.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

By Amber A. Penrose

 

As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself,
and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own best friend.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive.
You care less about what other people think.
I don’t question myself anymore.
I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old.
It has set me free. I like the person I have become.
I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here,
I will not waste time lamenting what could have been,
or worrying about what will be.
And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it).
 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.