One of the most common personal finance questions I’m hearing from people (of all ages!) is this: “Is it possible for my golden years to be… truly golden?”

The one, two, three punch of the housing, stock, and job markets has left millions reeling. Thankfully, there is some go

Money management for women

od news. And here to deliver it is Mark Miller, author of the newly released book, The Hard Times Guide to Retirement. Below are some excerpts from a recent Q&A with Mark:

Mark, what prompted you to write The Hard Times Guide to Retirement?

I’ve been covering retirement and aging for more than five years. Before the economy crashed, I was struck often by the lack of planning, preparation and thought that my generation—baby boom boomers—has given to retirement. Now, the Great Recession has made the planning gap much more critical… I wanted to show how strategies for money, work and living can be interwoven and leveraged for retirement security–even in tough times…

What was the most surprising thing you learned in researching this book on retirement?

One of my major themes is that the traditional notion of retirement—hanging it up at age 65—will be discarded, and not only for economic reasons. But I was surprised—and really amused—to learn where that notion of age 65 came from. Otto Von Bismarck, the chancellor of Germany, started the first system of social security in the 19th Century. He initially set the German retirement age at 70, and later adjusted it to 65. When FDR started the American Social Security system in the 1930s, he looked to the German program as a model. That’s where the idea of retirement at age 65 got its start, and it has stuck with us ever since….

If you could give a woman in her 30s or 40s just one piece of “retirement advice” what would you say?

I’d urge younger women to confront the fact that they are greater risk of retirement insecurity than men—and take steps to fight back. Unfortunately—and outrageously–women earn less over the course of their lifetimes than men…

Even for middle-class or affluent women, the risks are high. Single elderly women are the largest segment of Americans living in poverty. In 2007, 20.5 percent of unmarried women age 65 and older had income below 100 percent of the federal government’s definition of poverty—far higher than rates experienced by men or married couples, according to Census Bureau data….I urge younger women to get educated about retirement security, and to build a plan at the earliest possible date… Finally, focus on debt management, not just investing! In particular, try to avoid building up big credit card balances, because they can eat even the best retirement plan alive.

You can keep up with Mark’s latest thinking on retirement on twitter at @RetireRevised and read my complete interview with Mark Miller HERE.

What about you – what questions or concerns do you have about your retirement?