Careers define women's identity, make retirement uneasy

Movement helping women 'renew' rather than retirement

ORLANDO, Fla. - Yolanda Londono is a wife, a mother and a grandmother, and for many years she's worked as an executive at Tupperware. Before that, she had a high level position with JP Morgan Chase.

But her career could be coming to a close soon.

"I would love to stop working for a salary in the next five years, but I'm always thinking about what is there for me to do next either unsalaried or a different way of earning an income," said Londono.

She is not alone. More women than ever before who've spent the majority of their lives working outside of the home in a career are getting ready to retire.

And many of them, like Londono, reject the word retire. She was born in Colombia and fondly recalls that her father never retired. When asked he would tell everything he would retire when he was dead.

"In Spanish it's really interesting (because retire or) 'muy consado' (means)  you're really tired, so I don't want to be there," she said.

Since so many women feel that way, a movement is afoot which rebrands retirement as 'renewment', or not of something that's ending just something that's changing.

'Project Renewment', a new book by Bernice Bratter and Helen Dennis, offers a different spin on retirement for this generation of women. 

"These women were the pre-boomers and baby boomers who pioneered the new territory of women in the workplace and work-life balance," wrote the authors on the book's website.

The book emphasizes positive change, enlightment and adventure for women once they leave their careers and encourages women to create renewment groups that meet to discuss their goals.

"In my business I work with a lot of successful, executive women that a lot of their identity comes from their job and a lot of their relationships are part of their work," said Jen Ferguson, the financial advisor helping Londono plan for retirement.

Ferguson, who runs the Symphony Financial Team in Lake Mary, has been recommending 'Project Renewment' to her clients and is even bringing one of the authors to town for an event to try to start a group.

"They want to spend time on some of the things they weren't able to spend time on in their career, or develop things that they learned about in their career, and take it to a deeper level," said Ferguson.

Londono said the biggest step for her was overcoming the fear of seeking out financial planning advice. She said part of their lives, she and her husband were afraid to meet with someone because they felt they didn't have any money.  Later on, she said their biggest obstacle was ignorance because they did not know how many options were available for them.

She described meeting with Ferguson for the first time, like walking into Disney World.

"Being able to find a partner to walk with you to walk in that path of unknown entities because we don't know what we don't know," she said.

But Ferguson encounters many people that do not have the same financial options as the Londonos.  Many women are facing retirement alone, without a spouse and the reality of a life without a steady paycheck can be terrifying.

"When you lay it out and say here's the reality of it, it's not fun but there is power in letting people know what the truth is," said Ferguson.

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