Bag lady syndrome: A real fear many women have

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It might sound like a made up illness, but so many over 60 women worry about the prospect of outliving their savings and becoming homeless. This fear is called Bag Lady Syndrome and is a paranoia that you will become a bag lady with no roof over her head. If you haven’t been lucky enough to have a good nest egg, you may have a growing and real fear that your money will eventually run out and the pension will not sustain you.

Finance expert Lance Drucker said that many people, men and women, are afraid of not being able to accumulate enough assets to retire with a life of dignity. He told USA Today, “People don’t necessarily say that they worry about ending up living in the back of their car, but they want to maintain a similar quality of life during retirement as they had during their working years. Many people wonder whether their money will outlive them or they will outlive their money”.

A 2013 report by Women’s Property Initiatives looked at Bag Lady Syndrome in Australia and found that Australian baby boomer women are facing a poverty crisis that will affect wellbeing, economic viability and housing – and leadership is needed to ensure these women do not become “bag ladies” on the streets in their twilight years.

The increasing problem of lack of affordable housing has a dramatic but under-reported impact on single older women.

The report also found that older women’s housing stress is linked to the following circumstances:

  • older divorced or separated women in Australia have the highest rate of financial disadvantage of all separating couples
  • women live longer than men but continue to earn less than men, both in lower wages and due to working part-time hence women have less savings and superannuation
  • the lack of appropriate and affordable housing
  • older women are subject to exploitation by others, such as family members whose interest is the housing not the women
  • older women face problems of cultural adaptation and can be embarrassed about revealing their plight, such as lack of family support, to public and/or welfare organisations
  • older women’s lack of money skills and knowledge of where to access help when their partner dies
  • older women’s susceptibility to the marriage breakdown of the adult children who support them, with the most significant increase in the proportion of divorced and separated adults in the 40-69 age range.
  • psychiatric disorders are more prevalent amongst older women than men.
  • older women have high rates of poverty.

Are you in any of these situations?

Forbes magazine reported that Bag Lady Syndrome is the most documented fear among women. So many over 60 women reading this article right now are feeling that anxiety and are dangerously close to losing it all. So many of us know that vulnerable feeling.

But being a bag lady doesn’t have to become inevitable though. You can change your situation so you don’t end up on the streets. First of all, try to save a little bit each week, even if it’s a tiny amount in a jar – it’ll add up. Then, get some financial advice whether it’s online or in person.

After that, it’s all about finding out what you really want out of your 60s and beyond. Remember: you have a community here that can help you if you need it – you’re never alone.

Do you fear becoming a bag lady? Why do you fear this? Tell us below.

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