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Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

Not too late, or too early, for women to plan for retirement, professor says

By Irene Hannagan

September 14, 2006 | It's the same at 19 as it is at 50. Prepare now. Save now.

USU Professor Jean Lown, Ph.D., led the monthly Financial Planning for Women workshop at 7 p.m. Wednesday, focusing on investing in preparation for retirement.

Workshops are designed for women who are 10 years away from retirement, but younger women, Dr. Lown said, need to start saving now so 10 years before retirement they will have the education and foundation to fund it.

"I want to stress that young people should be thinking about and planning this," she said.

Dr. Lown began the Financial Planning for Women workshops 10 years ago to reach out to women because they statistically lacked financial knowledge, explained graduate student, Tiffany Smith. She is working on her master's degree in commercial science and led part of the discussion Wednesday night.

The workshop began with congratulations to women who are taking steps to control their finances.

"One woman at [the earlier workshop] said she cut up all her credit cards but one," Dr. Lown said. "My husband and I put new insulation in our house, the gas costs went down."

Dr. Lown's key points to remember when saving for retirement

Be aware of inflation rates, generally around 3 percent per year, which greatly affect the actual value of the money you receive from an investment.

Put your savings in various places. Having all your savings in one place leaves it at a high risk for loss. (Enron, etc.)

Don't worry about having money in several accounts with one company such as Vanguard or Fidelity.

Check budget and savings every year to stay up-to-date on inflation, and additions to savings during the previous year.

Remember when investing in the stock market, within a span of any 15years you will never be left in the negative.

There are pro's and con's to working until 62 and 65. Research them and your own medical history before you decide to retire. Social Security will be around; changes introduced in 1983 are being implemented now.

Don't get annuities that you have to buy into. Always consider taxes, they are getting higher all the time and depending on investment types, when you cash in, you may have to pay a big chunk to the government.

The workshop quickly changed to the idea of saving money.

"If you don't have enough . . . you're in good company," she said.

Because "pensions are a thing of the past" added Dr. Lown, steps for women who will retire in 10 years include preparing to work longer and investing savings now in something that has low risk, or less chance of losing money.

Dr. Lown and her student assistants added that unfortunately with low-risk investments there is a low return, meaning lower interest rates or getting less money coming back to you.

At a younger age, explained Karissa Berndt, a senior majoring in family finance who also led part of the discussion, it's safe to put some money in high-risk investments such as the stock market. A high-risk investment means the potential for a high return, or more money coming back to you in the end. The stock market rates, said Berndt, will rise and fall throughout the years but over a long period of time will balance out for someone who has a long time before retirement.

Guests at the workshop received several things, including a workbook, in a free informational packet. Worksheets in each chapter can be used to figure out how much money you have now, how much money you'll make off of investments, taking into account increases in medical costs and decreases in job place spending and current and retirement budgets.

"There's a greater responsibility for the individual," said Berndt.

Financial Planning for Women educates guests so they can make decisions needed to save for retirement and live within their means now and then.

Dr. Lown hosts the Financial Planning for Women workshops the second Wednesday of the every month, one at 12:30 p.m., FL 318 and the otherat 7 p.m. in the Family Life Center at the bottom of Old Main Hill. Men are welcome.

The Family Life Center also offers affordable financial counseling and free housing and mortgage counseling.

More information as well as worksheets and contacts are available at www.usu.edu/fpw or www.usu.edu/fchd/hfc.cfm

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