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Retirement— Are you ready?

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BUSH
Mark Humphrey / AP
People look on as President Bush talks about his Social Security reform proposals in Memphis, Tenn., Friday, March 11, 2005. Bush is proposing a system of private accounts which would enable workers to divert a portion of their payroll taxes into stock market investments.
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Your Assignment:  Retirement— Are you ready?  Social Security: Are you saving for retirement or are you letting the government save for you?  Are you currently collecting Social Security? How do you use the money? What things do you have to go with out?  What is your plan? 

Your Reports:
I got divorced and raised 2 kids by myself without child support. I lost everything in the divorce due to various familiar legal maneuvers. We owned a home, cars, our own business and made very good money. I worked 2 full time jobs,  the business and a second job. I have worked all my life but starting over even as an educated professional women at 40 still doesn't put you on the curve for a happy financially secure retirement. The real issue is that single women are most likely to end up living in poverty and single women with children are even more like to be in this situation. I am concerned that the retirement issues as well as the proposed Social Security changes do not address the real issues, that the system is set up for the rich and for the married. I am now 56 years old and have been very careful rebuilding my financial life, but I see myself working until my 70's or later. I have invested and own my own home, but a 20 plus year "re-do" doesn't help. All the expenses for my children fell to me, college, weddings, etc. What is a creative and safe way to earn the type of retirement I truly deserve? You cannot predict what circumstances life will give you and even being "smart" and thinking you are prepare is an illusion. Advice welcome. — Lora

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Being a baby boomer I am planning for my retirement. I know it is necessary. However, I also know people who are getting Social Security checks for themselves and their kids and, in my opinion, are not entitled to it.  I know one person who is recieving benefits for herself and her child, when she can work just as well as I can.  My coworker's sister is getting social security for her two children, while both parents are still alive and married.  Now if Washington wants to help Social Security, they need to get those people off of it that are not entitled to it yet. —Laurel Willis, Whitehouse, Tex.

I've just recently retired after working for 48 years.  I started working after school at age 16. I haven't saved one red cent because I was a single, divorced mother raising a child.  I never made enough money to pay all the bills, much less put away anything.  My car, bought used, is now 16 years old.  I don't know what I'll do when it breaks down since the great state of Texas has now seen fit to tax auto repairs.  Another instance of raping the poorest segment of society.  What am I doing without?  Almost everything.  I can pay the rent and utilities (no cable tv, that's gone) with about $50 left over each month for food. Not old enough for Medicare so I have no health insurance, no dental insurance.  I do have expensive automobile insurance though, since it's the law.  Odd, isn't it, that we are required by law to have expensive auto insurance, but to hell with you if you can't afford medical insurance or buy food.  Those boys in charge of running things need to get their priorities straight.  There's way too much pandering to insurance companies and big business.  Hopefully, after another 4 years, the people will see the light and be a little more careful with their vote in 2008. —Evelyn W., Houston, Tex.

Well, my story is I could have retired in '95 under disability but I wanted to stay working longer.  I pushed my situation until my company, through cutbacks, piled more work on me by letting others go. Then they got wind of my health being bad and getting worse. They laid me off before I could collect the disability insurance I paid for — which would of been about three thousand a month extra. Now I'm only left with Social Security disability and just breaking even. I'm worried about what the future holds. This company brags about making the stockholders profits, about 30 billion each year, while they screw the employees out of their benefits. —William J. Porciello Sr., Naugatuck, Conn.

I retired at 51. From my first day in the work force I envisioned my retirement and put funds aside for it. I was the main bread winner in our home. My wife and I raised two, very successful children. I am paying the entire college bill for both of them. It is my gift to them. It is the only large gift you should give a child. Matter of fact, other than the small mortgage on one property, I owe no money whatsoever on anything. For those of you wondering, I did not get anything from an inheritance. My parents are both alive and so are my Grandmothers. I always read books on the lifestyles of the rich (not the famous) and how they got there. It paid off. I worked for the state of PA. I got promotions on a regular basis, which really helped out with the additional property purchases and investments. It also gave me a lucrative pension. I did not go on lovely vacations or buy an expensive Harley. I had better investments than that to make. I invested heavily in the Deferred Compensation Plan at work. I did have my share of toys, but usually I bought them used and at bargain basement prices.

You can try to keep up with the Joneses or you can do things the right way. Be willing to tell yourself 'no' once is a while. Pay yourself first. Put money away for retirement from every check. Yes, it can be difficult. Once you are used to it, there is nothing to it. Even in my retirement I am adding money to my investments from my monthly pension. That way I can give myself a raise later on, as needed, from my increased investment return. Young people, read up on the effects of compounding interest over a 35 year period of time. It will astound you. Anyone can do what I did if they fully apply themselves. —John Glasgow, Spring Mills, Pa.

I'm 51-years-old and I've got 30 years seniority.  I would love to be able to retire. But, with Young George's idea of a future with me paying into a private fund and with not knowing if the pension that I'm vested in not being solvent? We workers in the auto industry don't know day-to-day if our companies are even going to be operating in the future, let alone have the time frame left in our lives to fund any programs.  Maybe we should just work until we fall over dead on the job, at least that way our families can collect on an insurance plan.  —Emil H Schatz, Fenton, Mich.

Saving for retirement in the good ole U.S.A. wouldn't be so hard if folks didn't have to spend their entire pay check as if there isn't a tomorrow.  I'm not talking about the people barely getting by — my heart goes out to all of them.  I refer to the two income homes where mom and dad are pulling down good money (say 45k plus per person, reasonable here in Ohio).  Those same folks have the two SUVs, the timeshare in Orlando, the HD motorcycle with trailer (for that once a year trip to Sturgis) and the 2,500 square foot house in the new allotment.
Those people could fund their entire retirement without Social Security — but they wont.  As for me, I've got a plan and it doesn't include working full-time past 57.  —Bernie Pressman, Akron, OH

I'm 37 and although retirement seems far away, it will be here before I know it.  My wife and I are not planning on social security and currently our main approach is 401k.  To be honest it is really difficult trying to find the extra money to put away.  We have three kids that we'll have to put through college so that is our first goal.  It seems like we are getting stretched in fifty diferent directions.  Health care costs continue to rise.  My company 401k match just dropped.  The expected cost for a four year college continues to rise.  Someone asked me today when I planned to retire.  Honestly, I don't have a clue.  Most of the calculators that I try tell me that I need to have at least $1-2 millon. I guess I better start buying some lottery tickets. — Randy, Va.


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