“Barbie Let Girls Imagine Their Future”...She Can Help With Retirement Too

Ed Kerns |

It may be somewhat serendipitous that Barbie’s birthday, March 9, occurs during Women’s History Month. She turns 60 this year. After all these years, who would have imagined she’d still be going strong? Barbie’s longevity came as a surprise even to the doll’s 1959 creator, Ruth Handler. Mattel, Barbie’s manufacturer, remarks on the success of a toy that eventually inspired generations of women eager to make their mark in a changing world: “Barbie took the world by storm and let girls imagine their futures like never before.”

And take the world by storm she did. Barbie has enjoyed more than two hundred careers. She was an astronaut in the 1960’s. She was a surgeon in the 1970’s and a CEO in the 1980’s. She’s been an Aerobics Instructor, Computer Engineer, Zoologist, Video Game Developer, Police Officer, Mars Explorer, Architect and Robotics Engineer, just to name a few. Barbie’s even run for President.

Somehow amidst all these different careers, Barbie also found time for a relationship. Ken showed up in 1961 and they were together until 2004.  Apparently, they never got married, but the embers must’ve still burned, as Ken won back Barbie’s affections on Valentine’s Day 2011. With all the ups and downs, Barbie never loses her inventive, effervescent spirit. She’s been known to confront crisis with a makeover. In fact, over the years she had seven body types, eleven skin tones, and twenty-eight hairstyles. Her lifestyle needs similarly have ranged from a variety of dream houses, castles, townhomes, treehouses, cars, airplanes, and campers too.

With all the opportunities Barbie has provided for exploration, encouragement of imagination, and reinvention, she has a new accessory to offer those who played with her decades ago – instruction for your financial future.

Consider these lessons Barbie has to offer:

  1. Longevity: Barbie’s been around and still going strong longer than anyone expected. While her longevity may have been unexpected, for a variety of positive reasons, we all must prepare for living a longer life – especially women. According to the Social Security Administration’s Period Life Table, a 65-year-old single woman can expect to live to 85 with a single man of the same age living to age 82. For those who are married, you can add from four to seven years onto these figures, which is significant when it comes to your financial planning.
  2. Life isn’t a straight line from Point A to Point B: When you look back on your life up to this point, I bet you can see several stops and starts. Think of the relationships, family, jobs and places you’ve lived. Things were probably better than expected at times, while other times it didn’t always work out like you hoped. Most certainly this element of life continues when you retire. The difference is this may likely be the longest phase of your life. That equates to a lot of change. Barbie’s had a team of designers and marketers creating her life adventures. Who’s helping you create a vision for your future?
  3. Maintain faith in the future because you’ll need to invest for it: Out of curiosity, I looked up where the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial average traded on March 9, 1959, Barbie’s birthday. The S&P 500 was at 56.16 while the Dow came in at 609.96.  As I write on March 7, 2019, the S&P and the Dow now stand at 2,748.95 and 25,473.23 respectively. The S&P 500 is up almost fifty times since Barbie’s debut. While this may be surprising to many, the signs are there as to how this occurred. In some respects, it’s almost as if Barbie has been pointing the way. Inspiration for exploration and encouragement of imagination sure sound a lot like entrepreneurship and innovation. Places around the world where these activities are encouraged combined with the exponential growth of advancements like information technology are a good place to start to explain much of the increase of these numbers. To reap the benefits of this phenomenon over time, you need to have a consistent and verifiable strategy for investing, control costs, and stay invested regardless of the economic, geopolitical or financial happenings of the day. You can further your education on this topic in my new e-book, “You Made It, Now Make It Last…Evidence-based Investing: The Clear Choice for Women Investors”.
  4. Accessories = Lifestyle. A Barbie doll cost $3 in 1959. Today on Amazon, you can buy a Barbie doll for as little as $7.14. With inflation over this period running about 3.6% according to Consumer Price Index (CPI) data, the cost of a Barbie doll has only gone up by 1.46%, well below the general increase in prices. However, rarely does anyone just buy the doll. Barbie is bought for a specific person who has her own personality and needs her own accessories. A more expensive doll, like one of the signature career dolls, might appeal to an individual searching to express her aspirations through that purchase. Or someone may even want multiple dolls, each with its own accessories. It works the same in our own lives. Some of the things we buy may not go up much in the future and some, like a mortgage, may even go away. On the other hand, some expense may go up a lot, like healthcare. What is unique to you is your lifestyle. How you live, where you live, where you go, how you go, how you give, etc. are the accessories of life. Only by having a plan tailored to you and your family’s needs can you reliably and positively impact the likelihood of maintaining your lifestyle throughout retirement.

So as this icon celebrates another decade, take a moment to ponder your own dreams. Use it as an opportunity to doll up your financial future. Happy Birthday, Barbie!  

Photo Credit: Mattel, Inc.