When 1,964 retirees and pre-retirees were asked what celebrity out of seven they would most like to emulate when they retire, Betty White was the hands-down winner, according to a survey conducted by Gfk Roper for The Hartford and the MIT Age Wave Lab. The only other one who came close was former president Jimmy Carter.
At 89, Betty White has managed to remain relevant and vital even though she happens to be an actress, a profession in which many females have flickering career lives rivaling those of professional athletes. But the primary reason 34% of pre-retirees picked her as their role model was that she knows how to laugh.
Among the six other celebrities in the survey, only White and Carter cracked double digits by more than a few points. Of those surveyed, 21% of pre-retirees and 14% of retirees selected the 87-year-old Carter because he is a humanitarian. Some might quibble with that characterization, but Carter's post-presidential activities have won widespread praise. He put Habitat for Humanity on the map and has served as an election observer in nations converting to democracy from dictatorship.
In a choice that might surprise some, Martha Stewart finished third, garnering the votes of 9% of pre-retirees and 12% of retirees. She may be a remarkably successful businesswoman, but the reason cited most often by those who chose her as a retirement role model was that she is resilient. After serving a jail term for lying to federal prosecutors about alleged insider trading, Stewart bounced back and tried to reinvigorate her company.
One clear takeaway is that when people reach a certain age, things like money and beauty don't mean as much as they once did. Actress Helen Mirren, who at 66 is striking for her ageless beauty, was the top pick of 9% of pre-retirees and 7% of retirees. That's a relatively small number, although those who picked her said it was because she is fit and fabulous. Rock star Steven Tyler commanded the top spot among 7% of both retirees and pre-retirees, who chose him because he was a 63-year-old free spirit.
Tyler's numbers may have been weak, but they still placed him ahead of two highly financially successful choices-former GE CEO and leadership guru Jack Welch, and former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman, who has enjoyed remarkable success as an entrepreneur since he retired from the ring. Welch was the choice of 6% of pre-retirees and 5% of retirees, while Foreman was picked by 5% of both groups.