What to do with a small pension that needs a boost

Q I have a pension which stipulates that at my death, my spouse gets only a meager fraction of the payments I currently receive because she is 15 years younger than I am. Is there anything I can do to improve this situation?

M.C., via e-mail

A "You could stay with the pension, which is apparently adjusted for your wife based on her age," says Paula Hogan, a financial planner in Milwaukee.

But if you want more money for her sooner, Ms. Hogan recommends you check with your pension provider to determine its lump-sum value. At that point, "you could consider rolling it over to an IRA, where you will probably get larger monthly payouts, providing you don't outlive it," she says.

Check with several IRA providers to get the best deal, Hogan says.

Q I am retiring from a job in a large school system at the end of this year. I can't believe how complicated the decision appears to be from a financial perspective. Our school district, one of the largest in the US, has only a handful of people who assist prospective retirees. And their advice is not always considered sound. Are there retirement counselors who will see me through this maze, people who will give advice and do not have products to sell, or companies to push?

L.T., via e-mail

A According to a spokesman with a large national retirement organization, you can always talk to a fee-only financial planner. Contact the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) at 800-366-2732 for a list of fee-only planners in your area.

You could also ring up financial companies such as T. Rowe Price, Fidelity Investments, or Vanguard Group, to see if they are sponsoring a free local seminar, or could provide a counselor for free. (If they tout their own products, just ignore that information - unless of course, you find it worthwhile.)

Local community colleges and high schools also offer free seminars on retirement. Finally, for general information, check out the Web site for AARP (www.aarp.org/moneyguide), as well as other financial sites such as Fidelity (www.fidelity.com), Vanguard (www.vanguard.com), and Morningstar (www.morningstar.com).

Questions about finances? Write:

Guy Halverson

The Christian Science Monitor

500 Fifth Ave., Suite 1845

New York, NY 10110

E-mail: halversong@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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