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Ditching the Bag Lady Syndrome

Ditching the Bag Lady Syndrome

October 27, 2021

Ditching the Bag Lady Syndrome


“Bag Lady Syndrome” was a term coined in the 70’s which referred to those who fear growing old, destitute and penniless. It is a real feeling that many women struggle with no matter how successful you are or how much money you have in the bank. A third of the highest-income earners ($200,000+) say they worry about becoming a bag lady


MSN money columnist Jay McDonald wrote in an article in January 2006. “Lily Tomlin, Gloria Steinem, Shirley MacLaine and Katie Couric all admit to having a bag lady in their anxiety closet.” 


According to the Allianz survey, The thought of running out of money after the fear of losing a husband, this thought of running out of money in retirement still is what we think and worry about.

Sometimes in the culture we have been raised in, women have not been or weren’t allowed  to be the financial decision makers; groceries yes, clothes, small things but still depend on their significant other to handle the finances whether bills, debt, investing, saving or what to do with it. There is a reality that 1 in 5 older women end up in poverty. This is a valid fear. Women are also primary caregivers whether for parents or children so that takes them out of certain careers, or working at home with their children and don't always want to share those burdens with others in order to not lose their jobs or careers. 

Many of us who did become widows had a huge learning curve. Some of us have faced this long curve with fear of failing at it and that can sometimes end in self sabotage, giving it away. We don’t think we can manage it, we don’t want to be responsible for money, we hope that a knight in shining armor might show up and rescue us. 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 can be the wake up call that we need and that we really are on our own. We can't always help what happens to us, however, we can do our best to understand our situation and make changes. Our future is up to us.

I've made it part of my mission to help women in situations like these, therefore I read and study a lot around this subject. I read books written through the ages and still the disparity comes up even to now, year 2021.  

There are two women who made an impression on me while doing my research, not that I would want to be either one but the difference and disparity between the two are interesting. One is Mae West, the other Hetty Green who amassed a huge fortune yet did not enjoy her wealth.

There's a part of me that admires Mae West who was known for her famous one liners and beauty. But how many knew she was a whiz at finances? 

Mae West and Her Famous One Liners

She learned to earn her money, negotiate what she felt she was worth and managed what she earned wisely while leading an extravagant life. She had an awareness of the value of money. Mae did marry once at 17 but kept her husband locked in their hotel rooms. I think she was a little better at money than men or relationships. 

Hetty Green known for her name, The Witch of Wall Street, was more paranoid than anything although she was worth millions. It was reported that instead of taking her only son to the doctor she took him to clinic after clinic acting like a poor immigrant, he eventually lost his leg due to an infection that set in. She was a  true bag lady in that she looked and acted the part with her clothes and her attitude towards money.

Going back to my blog post Out of Balanced Accounts, do first things first,  you have to embrace where you really are, You need to know where you're at so you know where you're heading.” If you don’t start here you won’t be able to make the changes. Once your face what you have (assets), your debts (liabilities) and your income, you can begin to make changes and plan purposefully.

Understand the difference between wealth and income. Income is the money that flows into your accounts, wealth is what you keep and grow which leads up to your net worth. This includes things such as a home or real estate, investments, gold, silver, art, things that appreciate in value. Then going back to core values, this helps in our day to day decision making process. You want to question your decisions against your core values and consult with others also. I find that if I ask others who I trust, their opinions on my major life issues, they can bring up good possibly different issues that I need to think through. 

Use Joe for sound financial advice. He understands finance, the long term effects of your financial decisions even your business financial decisions. For those of us as women, don't be afraid to share where you really are and for those of you who are wives, be involved in the financial decisions of your husbands or significant others. I think it helps to keep in mind, that as romantic as the cinderella story is, you probably are not going to be rescued.