Tips to prepare for retirement

Average American families don't save money. The Consumer Federation of America found that more than half live from paycheck to paycheck. And a typical household's assets, including retirement savings, total less than $10,000.

Yet about 80 percent of Americans say they are comfortable with the planning they've done for their financial future. Why the discrepancy? According to the Financial Planning Association, many people underestimate the preparation required for retirement.

To get on track, they suggest families first set down a written budget to inject a dose of reality into their financial planning. Some additional tips to get ready for retirement:

* Retire in stages. Work full-time past age 65 and then downshift into part-time to improve your financial nest egg.

* Avoid "lifestyle creep," like boosting expenses after children leave home and the mortgage is paid off.

* Consider delaying Social Security payments. Monthly benefits will increase for every year you work beyond your normal retirement age.

* Stretch savings by withdrawing from taxable savings accounts. This allows any tax-deferred accounts you have to continue to grow.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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