Financially Surviving Your Retirement Years

            Published August 10, 2012, Pawtucket Times

             Moving into their mid-fifties and sixty’s a growing number of Baby boomers wonder if Social Security benefits in their retirement year’s will even pay the bills.  Will they be able to survive in their “golden years”? 

             Federal officials say that there may be cause for alarm. 

             At the end of April, the released 242 page Social Security Trustee’s report, picked up by the nation’s media, gave bleak but “advanced” warning to future retirees that the Social Security program can pay full benefits until 2033, however, warning that probably only three-quarters of promised benefits could be paid out beyond that time.

             So it is not so surprising that the Associated Press (AP), a media cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio, and televisions in the United States, announced last week that the news agency will publish a four part series, to be released over four Sundays in August, examining the long-term financial viability of the nation’s Social Security program.  The series plans to also take a look at policy proposals that will be debated during the upcoming election by Presidential and Congressional candidates, that might strengthen, the nation’s primary retirement program.

             AP recognized that Social Security, a very politically-charged issue, is a topic that must be discussed meaningfully in the upcoming November election.  Because of this AP has chosen to bring substantive coverage of this important policy issue to the upcoming political debates that will take place in the upcoming months.

             “Few things affect more Americans than the future of Social Security, and yet it’s an issue most invisible during the current campaign, said AP Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee, who is directing the series.  “This series of stories tires to lay out complex issues in the most accessible way possible.  This is part of the ongoing efforts by The Associated Press this fall to make sure issues [like Social Security] aren’t absent from the campaign, but front and center…”states Buzbee.

             The headline of AP’s first report, published story on the upper fold of the August 6 issue of the Pawtucket Times, warn’s that “Social Security not deal it once was.”  The AP wire story notes that today’s retirees will be the first to have paid more in Social Security taxes during their lifetime careers than they will ultimately receive in retirement benefits once they retire.  Previous retirees paid less payroll taxes but got more benefits.

   Planning Key to Adequate Retirement Funds

             If Social Security bennies are chopped taking personal responsibility in planning your retirement may well become your financial safety net in your later years.

             Economic woes fueled by the worst economic downturn since America’s Great Depression, have left many Baby boomers financially struggling to make ends meet and to save adequately for their retirement years, according to survey findings released in July 23, 2012 by the Consumer Federation of America (CFP) and the Financial Planner Board of Standards.

              According to a 60-page report, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI), nearly two-fifths (38%) of the 1,508 household financial decision-makers surveyed said they live paycheck to paycheck, while less than one-third (30%) indicated they felt comfortable financially and only about one-third (34%) think they can afford to retire by age 65.

             Survey findings indicated that only 31 percent of respondents said they had a comprehensive financial plan, while about two-thirds (65%) indicated they follow a plan for at least one of their savings goals.  Those who have prepared a personal savings plan feel more confident and report more success managing money, savings and investments than those who don’t.

             By a margin of 50 percent to 32 percent, and for all but the lowest income bracket (under $25,000) where few have a comprehensive plan, those planning for retirement are more likely to feel they are on pace to meet all of their financial goals, such as saving for retirement or for emergencies, stated the survey findings.

             Additionally, an even larger margin of 52 percent to 30 percent, and across all income brackets, those planning for their retirement years are more likely to feel “very confident” about managing money, savings and investments;

             Kevin R. Keller, CEO of CFP Board: “Consumers understandably are more nervous about investing their money given recent revelations about financial fraud, manipulation and abuse of clients. This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t create a financial plan and be prepared.

   Taking Personal Action NOW

             Unless strong political pressure is placed on Congress to act swiftly to enact needed policy changes to fix the nation’s ailing Social Security program, expect political gridlock to continue to block any efforts in both Chambers to come up with bipartisan solutions.   

             Don’t get caught up in the political spins and negative rhetoric as Presidential and Congressional candidates begin their debates on Social Security before the upcoming September primaries and November election.  Become an educated voter and tell the Congressional candidates who seek your vote to seek bipartisan solutions to making the  Social Security Trust fund solvent once and for all. 

             Watch out for AP’s upcoming reports on Social Security to learn more about this important policy issue.  That’s a good first step.  Second, learn more about AARP’s  “You’ve Earned a Say’ initiative (www.earnedasay.org), a web site that can provide aging baby boomers with both factual and straightforward information about retirement policies being debated inside the Beltway by Congress, ones that hopefully will financially strengthen the nation’s Social Security program. 

             But on a personal level, until federal lawmakers get serious about financially shoring up the nation’s retirement program, developing a personal financial plan may well become an effective short-term solution to managing your money, savings and investments that could well supplement a shrinking Social Security check.  One useful tool is the website LetsMakeaPlan.org, allows a person to learn more about preparing a financial plan, including working with a financial planning professionals.

             Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com

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