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  Thursday January 29th, 2015    

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Not just a statistic (08/27/2006)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Did you know - 31% of the employed and their spouses, age 40 and older, have not saved a dime for retirement?

Like treading water with no life jacket on, retiring from a career or steady employment with an inadequate source of savings is a constant struggle to keep one's head above water.

How justifiable is this? After years of hard work, paying income taxes, and raising a family, the aging couple with big plans finds themselves strapped with unexpected expenses and inadequate investments for the future, their dreams shattered.

I feel it's important to point out pertinent poll results from August's AARP bulletin. "Color Me Confident - Why many Americans may be working when they retire" was compiled by Paul Magnusson. He speaks of a new economic reality: "The responsibility for funding retirement is shifting from business and the federal government onto the shoulders of workers themselves."

No wonder it's become a caveat - "living through the senior years is not for sissies." In order to be financially fit to retire, working two extra years or saving 3% more can substantially improve retirement security. Not exactly what you had in mind?

Aware of the escalating cost of living, it is troubling to learn that 58% of retirees report that Social Security is a major source of their income. Those who are confident about having enough money to live comfortably in their retirement years often fail to calculate their capacity to meet their future needs, and to enjoy ventures they'd been counting on.

Will my employer reduce or eliminate my pension or healthcare benefits before I retire? Another insecurity to weigh on a stressed sector of society, many of these perks have already been reduced or frozen. Medically speaking, will my spouse and I have enough money for doctor and medicinal expenses or, worse yet, long-term care costs! Forty percent of workers are afraid they won't.

Can we have our cake and eat it too? More than half of workers see their (or their spouses) current level of debt as a problem. Keep on truckin'! Two in ten workers in the bulletin poll plan to rack up a major portion of retirement income with a job and a paycheck (last minute strategy?).

Be assured, gaming at the casinos isn't a profession. You may rationalize that you're going to fill one hole, but you're only digging another.

A formula for determining what it takes to retire is to replace 60 to 70% of pretax employment income with savings and investments, figuring less if you're out of debt and healthcare is covered.

Tidbits from other articles in this issue tarnish the Golden Years. Barbara Basler informs the frazzled reader that, in towns and cities across the country, developers have been buying up apartment buildings and converting these rental properties into condos to sell.

This has been devastating for the elderly tenants with fixed incomes who cannot afford to buy, forcing traumatic moves. One hundred ninety-one thousand apartments nationwide were sold for condos last year.

AARP's Watchdog report reveals that during the three months after the Medicare prescription drug benefit went into effect on January 1, pharmaceutical companies increased prices for brand-name drugs by an average of 3.9%.

Then there's that "dream vacation scam" which is swindling $12 billion from Americans yearly. Sid Kirchheimer, author of "Scam Proof Your Life," writes about one victim who paid a deposit of $898 for a "free" vacation only to discover that the luxury hotel promised was 15 miles from the beach, the cruise was horrible and came with lots of tack-on charges, and the "free" rental car cost $400 in taxes and fees.

No one aspires to be reduced to a mere statistic, an object of deception, a number on an insurance policy, prescription ID's on little brown bottles, or a signature on a paper application for elderly low-income housing.

Color Americans well informed - a priceless prerogative.

Be accountable.

Janet Burns has been a lifelong squatter in this neck of the woods. She can be reached at patandjanburns@earthlink.net 


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