Maddy Dychtwald is a nationally recognized author, public speaker, marketing executive and entrepreneur. She has spent nearly twenty-five years deeply involved in exploring and forecasting demographic, lifestyle and consumer marketing trends. In 1986, she co-founded Age Wave, with her husband, Ken. As the nation’s foremost thought-leader on population aging and its profound business, lifestyle, and cultural implications, Age Wave provides breakthrough research (including the landmark study Women, Money and Power), compelling presentations, award-winning communications, and results-driven marketing and consulting initiatives to over half the Fortune 500 companies.
Dychtwald is the author of three books: her latest is Influence: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better (May 2010). She has also written Cycles: How We Will Live, Work, and Buy (2004), and co-authored an illustrated children’s book entitled Gideon’s Dream: A Tale of New Beginnings (March 2008). As a sought-after public speaker, she has addressed more than 275,000 business leaders worldwide. She has been featured in leading newspapers and magazines nationwide, including Newsweek, Time, Bloomberg/Businessweek, and US News and World Report. Dychtwald lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two children.
Morris: Before discussing a specific book, a few general questions. First, please explain the meaning and significance of the name of your firm, Age Wave.
Dychtwald: For the first time in history, we are seeing a dramatic shift in our population from one dominated by youth to one dominated by mid life and older adults. It’s metaphorically a wave of older adults hitting us, with the impact of a tsunami—transforming every aspect of our society from the marketplace to the workplace to the very way we define old. Not only does our company name describe the trend that our business is focused on, it suggest power and a positive vibe which, when we started the company in 1986, wasn’t usually associated with aging. We wanted to help change the attitude of aging to be more positive.
Morris: Given the number of speeches you have delivered and your interaction with the members of each audience, to what extent (if any) have the questions you’ve been asked and the comments people have shared changed within the last several years?
Dychtwald: When I first started speaking at conferences and association meetings, most of the audience thought age 50 was over-the-hill. It was also news that older adults had money and were willing to spend it. Today that has transformed dramatically. We all know that 50 and even 60 are no longer over the hill. And it’s the aging of the baby boom generation—those born between 1946 – 1964–that is responsible for this change. They are 78 million strong –1/3 of our population—and they have always done things differently than their parents and grandparents. With that in mind, we’re beginning to see how boomers are beginning to reinvent retirement and our perspective of what 50, 60 or even 70 can be like.
Morris: In terms of balancing one’s career with one’s personal life, is it easier, more difficult, or about the same today as it was a few years ago?
Dychtwald: Balance is a continuous struggle, but it used to be considered a “women’s issue”–something that primarily described women trying to figure out how to build a family and a career simultaneously. That has changed. Today, with the growth and importance of two income families, it’s become a “family issue.” We see men as well as women struggle to balance family and career. In many married couples, all roles and responsibilities are open to negotiation and that makes things even more complicated. However, now that balance is recognized as an issue impacting women and men, our workplace policies are more likely to become family-friendly, giving women and men a better shot at successfully balancing family and work rather than having to choose between the two.
Morris: Your discussion of women’s “money profiles” caught my eye. For those who have not as yet read Influence, what are the five types and what is the dominant characteristic if each?
Dychtwald: As we collected data from our study, trying to better understand women and their financial behavior, five profiles of women and money emerged. Overall, our research uncovered the fact that what determines a women’s financial personality is very much how she feels about money, how much she defers to someone else to get the job done, what she wants money to do for her, what she wants to do with her money, and how confidant she is in her relationship with money. While these profiles are merely snapshots at one moment in time, it immediately became clear that three of the five personalities helped women’s economic emancipation while two others did not. In the book, I describe these personalities in detail, but here’s a quick take.
The most confident of the five personality types is the Alpha Female. Eighteen percent of the women surveyed identified with this profile, and their behavior (when it comes to money) is much like a stereotypical confidant male: a quick decision-maker, risk-tolerant, and less interested in the details than the results.
The Perceptive Planner is not quite as confident as the Alpha Female, but this is the personality that 35 percent of women identified with, making it the largest segment in the study. They are analytical, disciplined and responsible.
The third personality is the Power Partner which is the second most common group in our study with 23 percent of women identifying with this personality. She is collaborative and willing to strike compromises, believing that two heads are better than one. These three personality types are pro-active and empowered when it comes to money.
The last two personalities are not: Supportive Traditionalists and Uncertain Searchers. About a quarter of all women identify with these two personalities. A Supportive Traditionalist demonstrates the de facto way women used to behave with money, deferring decisions around money to a male. She enjoys spending and is not too interested in gaining knowledge around finances. Amazingly, it is the smallest group in our study with only 8 percent of women identifying with this personality.
The least confident personality is the Uncertain Searcher with about 16 percent of women identifying with this personality. This personality is led by her emotions when it comes to making financial decisions. She knows little to nothing about finances and doesn’t know where to turn for information. She knows she’s lost and isn’t sure how to move on.
Read the Robert Morris interview in it’s entirety on the First Friday Book Synopsis blog.