Bag lady – a term used to describe a homeless woman who walks around the streets of a city carrying her possessions in a bag. This is still a real and persistent fear of even the most successful women.
I wrote about this eight years ago when I read that the rich, the talented and successful admitted to having bag lady fears. “Bag lady syndrome is a fear many women share that their financial security could disappear in a heartbeat, leaving them homeless, penniless and destitute,” MSN money columnist Jay McDonald wrote in January 2006. “Lily Tomlin, Gloria Steinem, Shirley MacLaine and Katie Couric all admit to having a bag lady in their anxiety closet.” http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/1688656/posts
What’s surprising is that years later, a survey conducted by Allianz Insurance company, showed that bag lady fears still torment the wealthy woman and cut across all corners of life and levels of education and income. Half the women who responded to the survey say they ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ fear losing all their money and becoming homeless.
A third of the highest-income earners ($200,000+) say they worry about becoming a bag lady. Even 46% of Women of InfluenceSM, who generally are less worried about their retirement savings, can’t shake this fear.
While bag lady fear may be irrational for Katie Couric, Gloria Steinem and Lily Tomlin, it may not be for most women. It’s not just about money. It’s about the fear of not being in control of one’s life, of feeling weak and unsure about our ability to survive on our own. Psychologically, it goes even deeper – it’s the anxiety of being utterly alone.
According to the survey, after the fear of losing a husband, the thought of running out of money in retirement is what 57% of women say keeps them up at night. Many of us who are or have been married don’t have a history of managing our own money. We’re not used to thinking about the bigger picture. We think our husband is better at making the ‘really big’ money decisions. We balance the household budget and decide what to buy; he handles the investments for our future. Our financial decisions result in money spent and gone, not invested for growth.
Divorce or widowhood is the wake up call that we really are on our own. Our future is up to us and what if we blow it?
Men, whether successful or not, don’t seem to worry about becoming destitute in their old age, invisible, unloved, roaming the streets, scrounging in garbage cans for food.They don’t spend their adult years fearing it. There is no ‘bag gent’ syndrome.