You plan a long ca­reer? Life may say oth­er­wise.

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSINESS - Rod­ney Brooks

A third of Amer­i­cans ex­pect to work at least un­til age 65. Another 10 per­cent don’t plan to re­tire at all.

Many don’t think they’ve saved enough money. And baby boomers are re­defin­ing re­tire­ment and must keep busy to stay happy — es­pe­cially if many ex­pect to live into their 80s and 90s.

But they are in for a shock. A 2015 Em­ployee Ben­e­fit Re­search In­sti­tute sur­vey found that 50 per­cent of re­tirees left their jobs sooner than planned. Why?

Half had to leave be­cause of dis­abil­ity, a health is­sue or to care for some­one close to them. Another 18 per­cent left be­cause of lay­offs or down­siz­ing.

“We al­ways try to tell peo­ple you should be pre­pared for that ev­ery day,” says Nancy Coutu, co­founder of Money Man­agers Fi­nan­cial Group in Oak Brook, Ill. “Even if the plan is to work for­ever, Mother Na­ture of­ten does things out of con­trol, and you are forced into re­tire­ment.

“Bad things hap­pen to good peo­ple,” she says. “You could be best worker on the planet, but no

one in in­dis­pens­able.”

What can you do to pre­pare? Fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers and re­tire­ment ex­perts of­fer some tips. Just in case.

Doa bud­get. “If you have time to plan, the most im­por­tant thing is to have de­tailed bud­get of cash in­flows and out­flows,” says Michael Dal­ton, au­thor or co-au­thor of more than 100 books on fi­nan­cial plan­ning. “That’s the only way you know where money is com­ing from and where it’s go­ing.”

Coutu agrees that this step is crit­i­cal. “First they run num­bers to see if there is a deficit,” she says. “Then we fig­ure out how much they have to make. A lot will go back to work mak­ing less. Or they may have to get a part-time job. If they want to main­tain cur­rent lifestyle and can’t find a full-time job, we look at real es­tate. We look at down­siz­ing and if they have to do a re­verse mort­gage. “

Make ex­tra pay­ments on your mort­gage and car. “Man­age­ment of hous­ing ex­penses is a crit­i­cal item, be­cause it’s the big­gest,” Dal­ton says— about 40 per­cent on in­come.

The strat­egy here is sim­ple. If you are 55 and wor­ried about los­ing your job at 60, make ad­di­tional mort­gage pay­ments. So, if you have a 30-year-mort­gage with 23 years left, try to pay it off in seven. Sim­i­larly, look at au­to­mo­bile pay­ments, he says. “I need to get the car paid off around the time I am at the high­est risk of be­ing ter­mi­nated,” Dal­ton says.

“Pay down debt,” says Greg Ham­mer, pres­i­dent of Ham­mer Fi­nan­cial Group. “If you are mar­ried, ask your­self, ‘Where would we be if we only had one in­come?’ If you have an un­ex­pected re­tire­ment, most will not be pre­pared.”

Boost your emer­gency sav­ings. “We tell peo­ple to pay your­self first,” Ham­mer says. “You should have six months of cash re­serves. And if you are el­i­gi­ble, you should be con­tribut­ing to a Roth IRA. Prin­ci­pal dol­lars can be pulled out at any time af­ter you reach 59. You can stretch those dol­lars.”

Paul Ben­nett, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of United Cap­i­tal Fi­nan­cial Ad­vis­ers in Great Falls, says six months of sav­ings is not al­ways pos­si­ble, so there are al­ter­na­tives. “Some­times they will rely on un­tapped home eq­uity to act as bridge,” he says.

Have a plan. Coutu had clients who had a long-term plan: Upon re­tire­ment, they would sell their home and move to Ari­zona. “Out of nowhere the hus­band lost his job,” she said. “We went back to draw­ing board. I asked the wife, ‘If he can’t find a job, what do you want to do?’ She said if he’s not work­ing, she’s not work­ing.

“We ac­cel­er­ated their plan,” she said. “I said, ‘Let’s work it out on pa­per.’ We looked at what So­cial Se­cu­rity would be, what the pen­sion would be, what we would get for the house, what it would cost for the dream house in Ari­zona. It turned out they could go right now. They sold their house and are liv­ing in Ari­zona. Be­cause they had been plan­ning for years, it was a won­der­ful suc­cess story.”

Con­sider dis­abil­ity in­sur­ance. “Per­son­ally, if some­one is dis­abled, it is crit­i­cal that they have a dis­abil­ity pol­icy to pro­tect their big­gest as­set— abil­ity to earn a liv­ing,” Ben­nett says.

Sim­i­larly, he says, some peo­ple leave jobs be­cause their par­ents are fac­ing long-term health is­sues. “That can cre­ate a real prob­lem. One way to cover that is to con­sider pur­chas­ing long-term care in­sur­ance for your par­ents if they can’t af­ford it. The costs on av­er­age in this area are over $10,000 a month for nurs­ing-home care.”

Keep your skills cur­rent and your ré­sumé up to date. “Keep­ing your skills sharp, keep­ing your ré­sumé up­dated, stay­ing ac­tive on pro­fes­sional net­works is im­per­a­tive,” Ben­nett says.

But lower your ex­pec­ta­tions for salary and ben­e­fits if you do land another job. Peo­ple over 50 sep­a­rated from their jobs of­ten find it nearly im­pos­si­ble to find sim­i­lar jobs and salaries.

If the lay­off hap­pens, ne­go­ti­ate your sev­er­ance, es­pe­cially health in­sur­ance. Dal­ton said that when he was bought out by a univer­sity, he se­cured group health in­sur­ance, even though he pays the premi­ums. His goal was to keep it go­ing un­til he qual­i­fied for Medi­care. “What you do about health care is crit­i­cal,” he says. “For­tu­nately, un­der Oba­macare, you don’t have to worry about pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tions. “

“Plan for the fu­ture like Imay not have a job to­mor­row,” Coutu says. “Peo­ple need to make sure they don’t out­live their money.”

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