Op-ed: The Golden Girls Retirement Plan
You all know the show. Four single women move in together and grow into the best of friends. We know this show as being ahead of its time on issues like AIDS, gay marriage, coming out, unwed mothers, discrimination, cross-dressing, immigration, and many other topics, but it also was quietly ahead of the curve when shedding some light on the impending retirement crisis facing the aging U.S. population. For a variety of reasons the reduced cost of shared housing was a necessity for these Golden Girls, but gay retirees share many of the same threats to a secure retirement faced by these funny ladies. As a group, we are more likely to be single in retirement and less likely to have children. Each of these factors can greatly decrease the safety nets available during these years.
With some proper planning, a “Golden Girls” retirement may be a great way to help make your golden years more fulfilling, and help make your hard-earned dollars provide more security in what could easily be a 30-year-plus retirement. Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia came together out of necessity; hopefully you and your friends can come together out of friendship and get the added benefit of a higher standard of living than you might be able to enjoy on your own.
I assumed that not everyone reading this is a widowed 60-something grandmother, but all the same I’m sure many of us will face similar challenges when it comes to retirement. I love the idea of spending my golden years surrounded by friends and family, but I’d prefer that this type of living arrangement be a choice rather than being forced to live with strangers simply because I couldn’t afford to live on my own. Think of how much money the girls save by combining household expenses. Those savings could be rolled into luxuries you may not have been able to afford on your own, like travel, upgrading your home, or theater tickets. Personally, I think these savings may pale in comparison to the value of just knowing someone is there to hear about last night’s date or even listen to a St. Olaf story, or just hearing “Thank you for being a friend.”
Shared housing can have its drawbacks as well, and it isn’t for everyone. But if you are behind on your retirement savings or just like having people around, this may be a way for you to retire and stay retired. The lower your expenses are in retirement, the longer your money will last, and longevity of life is one of the biggest issues facing retirees today. Increased longevity has made running out of money a serious threat facing many seniors.
The cold, hard facts are that about 80% of gay retirees are single, and 90% have no children. So paying for your retirement falls squarely on your own shoulders. While not having children may mean a bit less security in old age, it does allow you the opportunity to save a lot more money during your working years. Make a point to get your retirement plan on track so you have the option to be a Golden Gay in retirement, rather than just having to get a roommate to simply keep the lights on, or ending up at the dreaded “Shady Pines” or somewhere even worse.
Keeping yourself out of a “Shady Pines”-type nursing home may not just save you money but help extend your life. Finding ways to keep you and your friends living a healthy, socially engaged, independent lifestyle shouldn’t be just a personal goal, but should be a societal priority. Golden Girls living could even be looked at like an “extra insurance plan.” It's like when Rose went in for her triple bypass and the other girls were there to help her through this difficult and expensive time.
Please take a moment and answer these two questions below. Which Golden Girl are you the most like? And would you be open to a Golden Girls living arrangement for your golden years?
DAVID RAE, CFP®, specializes in retirement planning for the LGBT community. Follow him on Facebook on Twitter at @davidraecfp or via his website, DavidRaeFP.com. Securities and advisory services offered through National Planning Corporation, member FINRA, SIPC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Trilogy and NPC are separate and unrelated entities.