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Mothers and daughters often disagree on retirement

To all retired mothers with daughters out there: If you could give your daughter one piece of advice about planning for retirement, what would it be?

And for working-age daughters with retired moms: What advice would you give them?

Daughters tell their mothers to be willing to spend a little more money to enjoy themselves, a new study found. Mothers, on the other hand, caution daughters not to live beyond their means and to save more so they can adjust to living on a smaller income in retirement, and to help deal with the unexpected.

Clearly, it is foolish for retirees to deprive themselves of things they want to do or have and that they can readily afford. But it’s also foolish - and irresponsible - to overspend while young and fail to save adequately for retirement.

So on this issue we’ll side with the moms, as does “It’s Not Your Mother’s Retirement,” a study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute on women and generational differences.

“When it comes to preparing for retirement, daughters will benefit from listening to their mothers and heeding much of their advice,” said the study, conducted by the research firm Mathew Greenwald and Associates in cooperation with the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER).

But daughters are not always listening, and the study reveals a generation gap in perceptions, expectations and communications.

“It will be interesting to see if daughters, as they approach traditional retirement age and are faced with the financial realities of a long life, are more open to their mother’s advice,” said Sandra Timmermann, director of the Mature Market Institute, MetLife’s not-for-profit information and policy center on aging and retirement issues.

Based on the study findings, younger women “may not be responding to their mother’s advice, nor emulating their behavior,” said Cindy Hounsell, president of WISER, a not-for-profit group that provides low- and moderate-income working-age women with basic financial information.

The study, based on interviews with 1,267 women (757 daughters and 510 mothers), found older women have a conservative outlook toward saving and spending (hardly surprising, considering these women’s financial experiences are very much tied to the Great Depression and post-Depression era).

According to the study, two-thirds of mothers believe they are enjoying an excellent or very good retirement. But less than half the daughters rate their mothers’ retirement that way. For mothers who believe the quality of their retirement is less than excellent, financial problems or lack of money are cited as the biggest barriers.

Daughters report having higher levels of consumer debt (they’re twice as likely as their mothers to have debt of $25,000 or more, not counting a home mortgage, for example) and may not have sufficient pensions and investments to retire with 80 percent of their pre-retirement income, a figure often cited by financial planners as a target to shoot for. Yet, most daughters believe the quality of their retirement will be better than their mothers.

“Daughters are currently in the process of redefining retirement and anticipate that their retirement will be more active and interesting,” the study said. “They plan on managing finances and investments, traveling, pursuing further education and caring for relatives.”

Now for the reality check: “The new reality is, however, that these activities, particularly travel and continued education, cost money,” the study said. “One way daughters can generate additional savings and income, and at the same time stay involved and active, is to extend their work life. They expect to work longer - with 17 percent planning to work until they are age 70 or older and 6 percent saying they may never retire.”

A free copy of the MetLife study is available by calling 203-221-6580, via e-mail to maturemarketinstitute@metlife.com, or by download at www.maturemarketinstitute.com. A companion publication, produced by the MetLife Mature Market Institute and WISER, “What Today’s Woman Needs to Know: A Retirement Journey,” is also available.

Humberto and Georgina Cruz are a husband-and-wife writing team who work together in this column. Send questions and comments to AskHumberto@aol.com, GVCruz@aol.com.