Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hope For the Financially Lost

Financial plans can be blown up because of job loss, illness, elderly parents who need support, or bad investments. Some people simply can't save. Whatever the situation, there remains hope for the financially lost to have at least a decent retirement.

Boost your benefits. Work as long as possible to build up Social Security and, if available, pension benefits. This is especially important for those that can't save. Even if you aren't working, delay taking Social Security benefits as long as you can (unless you're 70 or older). Delaying Social Security increases benefits. For more, see

Stay together. Couples generally are better off than singles, because they can pool their resources. Even if their only resources are Social Security benefits, a couple are usually better off together than individually. Of course, togetherness isn't always possible. When it is, there are financial, as well as other, benefits. For more, see

Get a job with a pension. Government, law enforcement, military and educational jobs usually offer a pension or other retirement plan. Although pension benefits in many state and municipal jobs are being adjusted to meet fiscal realities, they will still be better than nothing. Not everyone is cut out for these lines of work. If you find a private sector job with a pension, then try to stay there long enough to accrue meaningful benefits. For those who can't save, a pension is golden. You just have to work long enough to vest; saving isn't necessary. If you need assistance figuring out if the amount of pension benefits your employer promises is correct, contact the American Academy of Actuaries at They'll give you up to four hours of free help. If you think your benefits are too low, contact a regional pension counseling project for free assistance.

Buy a house and pay off the mortgage. Buy a house, pay off the mortgage, and don't borrow against the house until you retire. This strategy will build equity in a piece of real estate that you can add to your Social Security benefits (and pension benefits, if any). Even though strategic defaults have become fashionable, the unfashionable may have an advantage in the long run.

None of these strategies will finance a yacht. Remember that it's never too late to save, even if you're living on just Social Security. Cash is sublime when times are tough.

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