The topic of ageism and finances is broad, but nuanced. There are, however, two large, obvious clusters where age and money matters intersect: As people earn income, and as they save, manage, and protect their accumulated assets. Unfortunately, ageism in the workplace is common and will rise in notoriety, as the share of the workforce ages 55 and older will increase by 38 percent from 2010 to 2020 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012).
Dr. Robert N. Butler coined the term ageism in 1968 and spent his career trying to eradicate it. Unfortunately, despite his many accomplishments, “systematic stereotyping and discrimination against people because they are old” still occurs today (Achenbaum, 2013).
During the 1984 presidential debates, 73-year-old President Ronald Reagan was asked whether he was too old to serve—to which he famously replied, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” Though his response elicited a laugh from his opponent, both the question and the answer were examples of ageism in action.
Aging is life itself. That’s what makes it so damn interesting. But you wouldn’t know it from all the hand-wringing on the part of most Americans when it comes to the prospect. “Hey, it beats the alternative,” we mutter reflexively. What does that saying actually mean? The only thing worse than being old is being dead.
Eight leaders of eight national aging organizations walked into a room. One asked, “Why hasn’t the Older Americans Act been reauthorized?” A second one wondered, “Why aren’t there more funders [in aging], given the country’s demographics?” A third questioned, “Why do so many people think Social Security is an entitlement, not the earned benefit that it is?”