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December 17, 2004

Retirement planning: Choose your own scenario

From Ben Stein, who in real life is an accomplished economist:
Try this on for size. You’re seventy five years old. You live in the comfy home you’ve always lived in. You play golf in good weather. In bad weather, you travel to where it’s warm and sunny. When your grandchildren call, you take them out on the lake in your new boat. Your wife takes classes in the local college and paints. This is your life in retirement and it’s everything you always hoped and dreamed it would be.

Or, try this scenario: you are seventy-five years old. You live in a tiny apartment with the smell of boiled cabbage and noisy neighbors all around. You live in a scary neighborhood and you dare not go out after dark. Eating at restaurants is just a dream. Your apartment is too small to have your kids or grand kids visit. If you get sick and you have to spend time in nursing care, you don’t know how you’ll afford it. Your life is pure fear.

The fact is that if you are a baby boomer, one of the 77 million racing towards retirement, you have -- to a large extent--your choice of which of these retirement outcomes is yours.
In case you don't quite get what he's saying, he spells it out clearly later in the essay:
The point is, making sure you have a swell retirement is up to you. Not to Uncle Sam, usually not to your employer, not to your kids.
Short essay, well worth the read.

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