By Lindsey Collins
Authors Alexandra Armstrong and Mary Donahue joined the WBA for a discussion regarding strategies for transitioning from a busy legal career to a successful retirement, based on their book Your Next Chapter: A Woman’s Guide to a Successful Retirement.
The book is written from the Armstrong’s and Donahue’s combined experiences as a financial planner and a psychologist, respectively, and aims to be a resource for getting the most out of retirement from planning to mental health.
“It occurred to us that there really was a need—and we thought a void—for a book that would help people with challenging and stimulating careers like ourselves deal with retirement,” said Armstrong. “Retirement is a major transition, and it’s not just a financial one. It’s an emotional one.”
According to Armstrong, most of the books about retirement are gender-neutral, but the topic is especially important for women. In the United States, women live an average of five years longer than men and twenty percent of women live past the age of ninety, which complicates saving for retirement.
“This means our assets have to last a lot longer than our male counterparts,” Armstrong said, and women often “may not have accumulated as much as our male counterparts.”
For Armstrong and Donahue, one of the most important guidelines for the retirement transition is to ‘take it slow’ when making big decisions regarding housing, work and more.
“I really can’t stress enough the importance of balance, of not trying to do everything at once,” Donahue said. “These are all areas that are so complex, we would advise you not to do anything major immediately – allow yourself to take time to think about all these matters.”
The pair also emphasized the benefits of early retirement planning—an issue that has become even more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This was an ideal time to publish the book because so many women are now faced with issues they had not anticipated; namely, if they continued to work, would they be endangering the safety of themselves of their families of their children,” Donahue said. “This is a group that never thought they would have to retire at this early point, but are now forced to it. There is no longer an option as to whether they were going to be able to stay employed. Their jobs were terminated, or they found themselves in a caregiving role that required all of their time.”
Though the book is primarily geared towards women, Armstrong and Donahue maintain that the experience and strategies needed for a successful retirement are similar for all genders.
“Retirement is more than a loss of a paycheck, it’s really a loss of identity, loss of purpose and loss of a social network,” Armstrong said. “It is a shock and that applies both to males and females.”
Armstrong and Donahue remind readers that retirement looks different for everyone and to remain self-aware and reflective during the transition.
“It’s really important to recognize that retirement is not just financial – and that there is a major emotional component to your life as you move forward into retirement,” said Donahue. “This is your personal journey, . . . you can make it whatever you wish to make it.”
WBA members can watch “Your Next Chapter: A Woman’s Guide to a Successful Retirement” in its entirely. Log in to your member profile and click on video library.