An AARP study, in conjunction with Roper Public Affairs and Media, found some important, interesting, and (frankly) scary contrasts in what women reported compared to their actual situations. The survey, “Looking at Act II of Women\’s Lives: Thriving and Striving from 45 On” interviewed women from 45 to 90 years old, with an emphasis on money, health, and housing.

Let\’s take a look at several of their findings in the area of finances and health:

Theory: 62% of women said they “know what to do to save part of their monthly income.”
Reality: 41% actually save part of their monthly income.

Theory: 61% “feel confident that they will have enough money to enjoy life in their later years.”
Reality: 62% have no long-term spending plan for their retirement.

Theory: 90% say they “have a doctor they see as often as they need to.”
Reality: 32% “feel the cost of healthcare or prescription drugs sometimes prevents them from seeing a doctor or getting treatment when they need it.”

Theory: 73% of women said they “always or sometimes have a few thousand dollars available” for emergencies
Reality: 28% said they didn\’t know where they would get the money for an emergency, or would have “no way of paying the unexpected bill.”

Theory: 91% say “they are doing all they can to keep themselves as healthy as possible.”
Reality: 28% say “having to care for other people leaves them with too little time for taking care of their own health.”

Although optimism is considered a positive trait, false confidence can result in poor preparation for retirement. Hopefully, by examining several of the results from this survey, women will take a more realistic approach to planning for their future.

Jan Cullinane is the co-author of The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale, 2007). She gives seminars on the (primarily) non-financial aspects of retirement through her company, "Retirement Living from A to Z."