Retirement can be difficult, even if you can afford it

Q: My husband and I have at least $700,000 in savings. I am 63 and can collect $1,040 a month now for retirement, as well as go on Social Security in a little over a year. My husband is 56 and still working. Why am I so reluctant to give up my teaching job, even though it is difficult to handle full time? Is there something about people in my age range? Will I ever have enough money to feel "safe"?

Name withheld, Oklahoma

A: "You are among the first full generation of American women to work professionally throughout their entire life, and that is to be commended," says Michelle Smith, who heads up the Mutual Fund Education Alliance in Kansas City, Mo.

"I cannot address your emotional needs. But in financial terms, you sound like you could retire, or work part time," she says.

"Make a complete assessment of your current and future financial needs," says Ms. Smith. "What assets do you now have? What will you need if you retire?" The MFEA website (www.mfea.com) offers screening tools to help you answer such retirement-related questions.

Finally, in terms of the job market, "remember that there is a tremendous demand for part-time substitute teachers, as well as mentors with community organizations," Smith says.

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Q: We own annuities issued by Transamerica and Safeco. Is it true that states back annuities if the company fails? How do we find out if an issuer of annuities is financially "safe"?

N.L., Basin, Wy.

A: Check out the "Annuity Shopper," which provides financial information, including ratings on financial soundness, of companies offering fixed annuities (800-872-6684 Cost: $14).

And, yes, state guarantee groups generally back annuity amounts, usually up to $100,000. Call your state insurance department to find out if your annuities are "guaranteed."

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Q: My wife and I are going through a divorce. She claims that a check for about $40,000 from a wrongful-death lawsuit was made out only to her, and then put into an account in her name. Where do I begin to research this issue?

"Allen," via e-mail

A : Start by determining if you live in a community-property state, where property is held jointly, or a state allowing equitable distribution, where a judge can allocate assets in a fair manner, says Gary Schatsky, a financial planner and attorney in New York.

Also, find out if the check was commingled in your joint accounts, or used to pay for family expenses.

Finally, hire an attorney, Mr. Schatsky says.

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