Thursday, February 8, 2007

Retiring early may be tougher for baby boomers

The Orlando Sentinel explores changing conditions for baby boomers approaching retirement.

Times change, but rarely as rapidly as they have for the retirement ambitions of Americans in the past decade.

The 1990s produced dreams of early retirement, spurred by massive gains in technology and Internet stocks and the mutual funds that invested in them. With the economy's blessing, a philosophy was spawned of working hard but investing shrewdly so you could leave work and enjoy life in your prime. Especially if you worked for one of the blessed companies, you would live really well.

It still is possible to retire early, and not just because your company dictates that you must. But it requires in-depth planning, probably with the help of a professional who can run the numbers and variables, to assure that your finances have the staying power you will need. It also will require rigid budgeting and sacrifice. After all, many who retire early have the advantage of inherited money, a spouse who keeps on punching the clock or a financial windfall.

If early retirement is your goal, crunch the numbers. There is no easy or set formula. With the expectation that retirement expenses will be 75 percent to 80 percent of your preretirement expenses, be conservative estimating investment returns but aggressive when computing how much things will cost.

Figure how much you can expect from pension or other sources. Even reduced Social Security benefits can't be received until age 62. Go through all retirement accounts, whether 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts or profit-sharing, to see how much it is feasible to accumulate by retirement time and how much you can depend upon. Then consider how you would withdraw your money.