Scary bedtime stories

I hate to sound morbid, but we all have to face facts: None of us is getting any younger. Note to all those who use artificial means to appear younger, whether it's Botox or Clairol's Instant Blonde coloring: This means you, too.

By DAVID SHAMAH
December 20, 2006 11:59
4 minute read.
Scary bedtime stories

Wheel chair 88. (photo credit: )

 
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I hate to sound morbid, but we all have to face facts: None of us is getting any younger. Note to all those who use artificial means to appear younger, whether it's Botox or Clairol's Instant Blonde coloring: This means you, too. It's at night - right before drifting off to sleep - that the existentialness of it all seems to hit us. By day, we rush to get our work done, oblivious to the passage of time. Then, when we get home, the kids and family concerns demand our attention, and we're too busy and exhausted to think about much of anything. Eventually, though, the house quiets down, and we drift off to sleep in front of the TV - at which point our spouse rudely nudges us to "wake up and go to sleep in bed." But sleep doesn't come so easily the second time - and the mind starts to drift. And sometimes, it drifts a few decades into the future, as we contemplate our vulnerability and mortality. But it's not our eventual death that worries us; what most of us are scared of is how am I going to pay for my retirement. There isn't a person out there who works for a living who hasn't imagined himself or herself living out their "golden years" broke, living at the mercy of the state in a nursing or retirement home staffed by Nurse Ratched types (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nurse-Ratched), when in the throes of a funk. That's when we're in a good funk; when we're in a bad one, we see ourselves on a rainy night, living in a cardboard box outside the old Tel Aviv bus station! Okay, maybe I have a wilder imagination that the rest of you (hey, I'm a writer!). But this is the question that's on the mind of anyone who works for a living - when they bother to think about it, which isn't often. And because the subject is not at the top of our thought processes, we don't usually think about it in organized way - which leads to the dark-side speculation many of us engage in. Don't be the victim of an overactive imagination - instead, use your computer to figure out where you stand, and what you have to do to make sure you don't have to sling fast food to make ends meet when you're 75. To get a handle on where your finances are headed, check out Forecaster, a free download available from http://www.retirementforecaster.com/, which has plenty of tools that will either put your mind at ease, or send you running to the phone book to look up numbers for retirement planning assistance experts. Most retirees survive on a combination of fixed income transfer payments (National Insurance pension, Social Security for former Americans, etc.), savings and work pension plans. The hope is that through a combination of the three, enough income will be generated to allow the elderly individual or couple to live in dignity. Unfortunately, though, a quick perusal through a newspaper like this one teaches that many retirees in this country unfortunately have lots of trouble making ends meet - and there are even significant numbers of poor elderly in the US (http://www.lisproject.org/keyfigures/povertytable.htm). Forecaster will collate information you enter about bank accounts, pension plans, expected annuities and other income sources, and compute future numbers based on tax and interest rates, as well as potential losses due to inflation. Each instrument (savings, tax free pension accounts, etc.) has a useful help screen that explains exactly what the entry means, a boon to many of us who have avoided thinking about retirement savings issues (the approach-avoidance thing again). In the end, you get a detailed readout of what you can expect your financial picture to look like down the road - and if your picture is anything like mine, you'll want to make sure you're sitting, and maybe restrained, before you click on the "calculate" button. There are many retirement software packages out there, but few (if any) free ones provide the kind of detailed information that Forecaster does. In addition, I found Forecaster, unlike many other programs, not to be too insistent on tailoring its input and results for the financial culture of the US. The only specifically American aspect of the program is the inclusion of IRA or 401K pension plans (which are actually, in terms of savings and tax deferral, very similar to Israeli pension plans) and benefits accrued under various American tax acts (which you can choose to ignore if they don't apply to you). One thing Forecaster doesn't include is a provision for income from the sale of your home, a very common feature of other retirement software packages, which seem to assume you are going to move to a retirement village in Florida (Eilat?) when you hit 65. It actually makes more sense to leave the proceeds of a house sale outside your potential retirement income. You still need a place to live when you retire, unless that cardboard box idea appeals to you. Forecaster is free. For Windows 2000/XP systems. Requires .Net framework. Http://www.newzgeek.com

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