The Five-Year Countdown to Retirement

I now have less than 4 years to retire at 66, and every once in awhile I Google “retirement” and find a whole crap-load of links to investment companies that will help me save enough money – ha!

Since I don’t have a lot of retirement savings, my fall-back is to target paying off the house by the time I turn 66, minimize my costs, and be able to live off of the Social Security benefit.

Below is an article I ran across that does more than tell you to save more:  via The Five-Year Countdown to Retirement: How to Prepare.

When it comes to retirement planning, the top regret among American seniors is this: they wish they had saved more. In fact, a recent survey by the National Council on Aging found that this regret outranks all others, including how well they prioritized health and maintained family connections in their younger years.Retirement planning, done well, starts early in a career but intensifies in the five years leading up to your actual retirement. Once you are within that time-frame, you should be pushing hard on saving as much as possible. But this part is relatively easy once you understand what’s required. Before we get to that, let’s talk about a less quantitative factor in retirement planning: what exactly are you going to do with yourself?

Set Some Goals

It might sound like a question for young people: what do you want to do with your life? But a surprising number of folks go into retirement with no idea what they’d like to do with their time. While the money has to be there for retirement to work, happiness in retirement also requires an answer to this big question.

So, make a list of goals. Maybe you want to volunteer your time, and one goal might be to try out several volunteer opportunities. Maybe you’d like a part-time job in a field that you’ve always found interesting — perhaps a bookstore or a library if you are a big reader, an art museum or gallery if you enjoy art, or a tutoring company if you like working with children. I have a client, a retiree, who volunteers with the Red Cross and travels to disaster zones all over the world.

If you are a golfer or enjoy fishing, if you want to spend more time with your grandchildren, if you’d like to travel — some of the more classic retirement activities — then put those goals on the list, and plan out ways you can achieve them. Setting goals and making plans will lend structure to your day-to-day life, which is a very important factor for retirees used to the hustle and bustle of a long, busy career.

Practice Retiring

This may sound a little silly, but it’s actually a great planning tool. Once you are within three to five years of retirement, take a long vacation — consider it a practice retirement. See how you spend your time, and consider what works and what doesn’t. You might find a balance of leisure time and productivity (that volunteer job, for instance) that works well for you, and having that information before you officially retire will make the transition that much easier.

Simply put, human beings are happier when they have a life plan and goals, and that’s not something that goes away in retirement.

The Numbers

As you come within five years of retirement, it makes sense to conduct a feasibility study. That means figuring out what your goals are, how much money you’ll need to meet them, and how much money you actually have. Try this step-by-step process:

Step 1:  Identify your assets, income source and debt

What and how much do you have? Assess all possible sources of income and equity: pensions, retirement accounts, other resources like property and liquid savings. Next, identify your debt, including money owed on credit cards, loans, and your mortgage. Will they be paid off or continue into retirement?

Step 2:  Assess your Social Security options

Identify how much income you will receive from Social Security and explore different strategies to elect your benefits. You can register online with Social Security to obtain your latest statement. Also, use the Retirement Estimator to receive an assessment of your actual benefits, and learn about your different benefit disbursement options.

Step 3: Determine your income needs

How much, exactly, will you need when you retire? This means understanding your spending habits and creating a realistic budget. Most people, surprisingly, don’t have a firm grasp of exactly what they spend from month to month. Your list should be specific and exhaustive, as the rest of the plan is built on it. Once you complete your list, use the PSA Retirement Readiness Calculator tool to help you figure out whether you will have sufficient income upon retirement.

Step 4: Consider your health and where you will live as you age

While most people underestimate the size of their savings necessary to cover retirement income even more fail to plan for rising health care costs or the potential expense of a retirement, assisted living or nursing care facility. The protracted illness of one spouse could leave the other spouse destitute. Will you have enough assets and income to cover the cost or should long-term care insurance be considered?

Step 5: Identify gaps

Do the numbers add up? If not, identify what you must change now in order to meet your goals. Review our blog about avoiding pitfalls by adjusting your plan. You might be able to put more into savings in the years before you stop working, or you might have to adjust your target date for retirement. It is important to conduct the study while you still have time to make adjustments in the plan, rather than a year before retirement.

Step 6: Develop an income distribution strategy

Assuming the numbers do add up, you’ll need to determine from what sources you’ll derive your monthly income. It might make sense to delay taking your pension and live off of your savings for a few months, if possible, until the new tax year begins and you fall into a lower tax bracket.

Step 7: Conduct an estate check-up

The years just before retirement are a perfect time to review your entire estate. Update account titles and beneficiaries, take a close look at your life insurance, annuities, will, power of attorney, advance directives, and the like.

Working through these important steps — and taking some time to set some life goals — in the five years before retirement will help you realize the relaxation and enjoyment a quality retirement affords.

via The Five-Year Countdown to Retirement: How to Prepare.

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Seniors: Safe Sex, Please

Senior Citizens are spreading STDs like wildfire according to statistics recently released from the CDC. Some might find the numbers shocking, especially those who might be surprised at the level of sexual activity among single seniors. According to the CDC, diseases like Syphilis and Chlamydia increased by 52 and 31 percent respectively from 2007 to 20011. This puts seniors in competition with young people between the ages of 20 and 24 in terms of the biggest increase in STDS. Young people in this age group had similar numbers in terms of increases in these types of illnesses.

The rate of STDs among seniors has been growing steadily for the last several years. In 2010, the CDC reported that rates of STDs in seniors had doubled from 2000 to 2010. They continued to increase after that report with rates being the highest  in the state of Florida.

Reasons for the increase may be connected to drug use, specifically use of erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra and Cialis. In 2010, a study showed that older men taking these types of medications had an STD rate that was double that of their counterparts who did not take medicines for erectile dysfunction.  Besides drug use, the fact that seniors are living longer with better health also contributes to their increased sexual activity.

Senior citizens are also far less likely to use condoms than are their younger counterparts. A study out of Massachusetts General Hospital found that men aged 50 and over were six times less likely to use condoms than men in their twenties. Despite the fact that STDs are becoming a major problem among the senior set, the CDC reports that a mere 5 percent of seniors are utilizing the free STD testing that is provided to them through Medicare.

Besides the statistics that prove senior citizens are spreading STDs like wildfire, there are also many anecdotal reports in the media of senior citizens living in retirement communities who enjoy a “college dorm” type of atmosphere. This issue has also been reflected in movies and television shows, often with comedic effect. However, STDs are no laughing matter. Besides the curable diseases like Syphilis and Chlamydia, life-threatening HIV is also on the rise in the senior demographic.

Seniors who live in assisted living centers or retirement communities aren’t getting the education they obviously need with regard to STDs and how to take preventative measures against contracting such diseases. The combination of access to drugs like Viagra and a lack of education on susceptibility to STDS is a perfect storm of danger for seniors who are still enjoying an active sex life.

Senior citizens are spreading STDs like wildfire and this issue shows no signs of abating anytime soon. STDs have been rising drastically in this community for at least the last 14 years and seem be continuing their upward trend despite a public service announcement about the problem, which was produced last year. It seems clear that more resources and educational opportunities are needed to stem the rising tide of STDs among senior citizens.

By: Rebecca Savastio

via Senior Citizens Spreading STDs Like Wildfire.

Baby boomer women won’t go quietly into the good night

So here we are, at an age we thought happened only to our mothers. We thought we’d be wearing heavy gold bracelets by now and learning about wine. In Italian. While we traveled the world. Doing Yoga.

The children — if we had children — should have launched themselves into successful adulthoods, so we could go trekking in Patagonia and dabble in watercolors, gently dispensing wisdom and sassy quips. We expect any minute we’ll be full of infinite beauty and graceful maturity.

But alas, no. We’re not feeling very mature about this extra padding around our middle and the furrow that has taken up residence between our eyebrows. Sadly, we see no Italian-wine-lessons or water-color -dabbling on the horizon. We’re living in a household full of hot flashes, hormones and teen angst.

We are the women of the boomer generation, and we’ve arrived at “a certain age” with relative health and sanity intact. But some of us are inching into and past menopause with more than a little trepidation.

And some of us are doing what boomers have always been good at doing: We’re sharing. As a generation, we’ve learned to market our angst better than any generation before us. So now we’re writing about our aging selves.

Hurtling headlong into 50 and beyond need not be fraught with fear, anxiety and bad cheek implants. In fact, note Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff, authors of “Queen of Your Own Life: The Grown-Up Woman’s Guide to Claiming Happiness and Getting the Life You Deserve,” it’s the perfect time to feel your power and admire the woman you’ve become.

In their book, Kinney — best known for her work as Mimi on “The Drew Carey Show” — and Ratzlaff set out to “redefine the idea of beauty, age and courage.” They think you ought to crown yourself queen of your own life and have a fun party while you’re at it.

Jaki Scarcello, author of “Fifty & Fabulous!: The Best Years of a Woman’s Life,” agrees with many of their points and makes a few of her own: “Life slows down as we age, not to take the sprint from our last mile, but to bring us back to wonder.”

Scarcello is not writing for the crown-and-cocktail set, but both books raise many of the same questions: Why do maturing woman become invisible? Why has the definition of beauty become so narrow that looking “younger” always means looking “better?” Why is the idea of being older than 50 laden with such fear and regret for so many women? Why this mad clinging to some youthful vision of oneself that no longer exists?

Speaking via Skype from Kiev, Russia, where she is in the middle of a six-week book tour, Scarcello bubbles with enthusiasm over her subject, although she is saddened to find an almost universal fear of aging. “In the pursuit of eternal youth,” Scarcello says, “everyone loses. A woman loses the gift of age, society loses the wisdom of the mature woman, and youth loses the hope of a deeper future.”

Youth also loses the hope of any visible role models, as attractive older public figures start zealously tightening and implanting. There seem to be fewer Jeanne Moreaus and Anna Magnanis and more Joan Rivers, who actually paid someone to cut and paste her face into a caricature of her former self.

Scarcello, who has worked as a corporate leadership conslutant, is very open about how changes in her life propelled her to write. “I was seeking an answer to that question driven by my own age,” she explains, “the death of my parents, my feeling of being off the bench and on the field … this curious ‘invisibility’ phenomenon my senior female clients and associates mentioned. I suppose I was interviewing women to get the answers I needed, personally. But I was amazed by what I found in the interviews. I had no idea that the answers would be as deep and as rich.”

Kinney concurs. During lunch at a Los Angeles restaurant, she discusses the current fear-based reaction to aging, which she said made her and Ratzlaff want to start a “quiet revolution.” But then they decided that their voices needed to be louder. And in print.

“We wanted to blast away the societal tall tale that young is beautiful and old is just … old,” she says.

The project got its start when Kinney was searching the Internet for an explanation as to why her feet were hot. She stumbled upon the word “crone,” which currently comes with a New-Agey spin meant to imply that we’re not old bags, really; we’re Wise and Wonderful Elders of the tribe.

Kinney cites “the C word” as one reason she and Ratzlaff wrote the book, and she skewers the whole idea that we’re supposed to “transition” into our “Crone years.”

“Being a crone for next 40 years just wasn’t an option,” she says over sandwiches. Fresh-faced and luminous, she seems entirely comfortable in her own skin. Not everyone, however, feels that way. “When we were on tour,” she adds, chuckling, “we did have a few hecklers.”

Hecklers? Apparently, some women have taken umbrage at Kinney and Ratzlaff’s take on the “crone” issue. It turns out there are a number of gals who do embrace their “inner crone” and don’t like to be told they can’t. Who knew?

For her part, Scarcello says she “was driven by a desire to find an answer to the question ‘What is a woman’s role in society once the biological urge to reproduce is past?'”

She continues: “I looked to a type of woman I had admired my whole life to find my answers. They are the vibrant, strong older women whose energy radiates from the light in their eyes.” In “Fifty & Fabulous!” she focuses on women between 45 and 103, who are not about to stop their lives because of some ridiculous notion that they’re “old.”

“Menopause is just a reminder that we’re aging, it’s a nudge,” Scarcello says. She points out that in days gone by “women generally died before they went through menopause. Now we have years ahead of us.”

Her concern is that so many women are spending those years trying to stay as young as possible instead of embracing and enjoying this new phase of life. “I want every woman — and man, for that matter — to know that life after 50 is a stage of human development,” she says, “not a stage of decline.”

Or, as Kinney puts it: “While we most definitely enjoyed our youth, the best might really be yet to come.”

Mellor is the author of “You Look Fine, Really” and “The Three-Martini Playdate,” among other books.

via Baby boomer women won\’t go quietly into the good night – Los Angeles Times.