Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's time to get real about retirement

Career choices get even tougher when potential early retirement is on the table too.

Older workers who get downsized often say finding new jobs is harder for them than for younger workers. But tapping your retirement savings too early is risky too, even if you are old enough to avoid some potentially hefty penalties, researchers say. Retiring before you are ready roughly triples your chances of a bleaker future, insurance giant Prudential reports.

Few of us appear to be ready. Charles Schwab finds that nearly four in 10 of us are saving nothing for retirement, which seems to be something that someone reports every year. That's not just a U.S. phenomenon either. Researchers in the United Kingdom not long ago calculate that half the savers in 23 countries aren't salting away enough money for secure old ages either.

Solutions in those countries are basically the same as here, say contributors to the British-born website. Take control. Know yourself. Save a little and often. Invest for the future. Get advice when you need it.

Things get trickier if you are pressed for time. The Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association recently listed some suggested priorities for its members, whose jobs often make time horizons shorter than those of us who've worked office or assembly line jobs. You know the drill, though. Cut debt, live within your means, save for emergencies and invest for your future.

The rules change if you have no time. Borrowing may be smart - The Wall Street Journal's Brett Arends recently ran some ideas about when red ink might be your better choice. Liz Pulliam Weston at MSN Money Central offers suggestions about which bills you don't pay if you are squeezed that hard, but also writes that, financially, you can cut into the bone too if you really need to.

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