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The retirement plan

WHEN Bismarck's actuaries initialed 65 as the retirement age in 1898, there was no perception of the increasing longevity that would take place in the next century. Retirees are better off, both physically and economically, than anyone thought possible. And with greater expected longevity, they aren't ready to sit calmly by the fireside.

Big-name retirees can often ease into any of several prestigious positions offered them. The rest of us may need to plan more carefully. Like any worthwhile endeavor, retirement planning can be exciting.

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In today's society, while most everyone is computer literate, seniors need to become retirement literate. The productivity built into retirement can make the difference between whether it succeeds or fails.

Most experts agree that retirement should be gradual. Successful retirees, particularly professionals, seem to be the ones who cut down their workload step by step. Generally, there are few problems if sufficient other activities are progressively programmed in.

Beginning at least a year before retirement, one can start building on several basic points pertaining to his or her particular situation:

Marital state: Since one's spouse plays a large part in any plan, his or her reaction to change of residence or locale, different life style, and possible separation from immediate family and friends should not be glossed over. Any projected plan for major changes or purchases needs to be discussed and agreed upon before incorporation into the main design.

Financial status: Family funds may need to be studied, audited, and inventoried. If there's sufficient income to ensure good living and take care of emergencies, there isn't much to worry about. However, should income from retirement pensions and other funds prove insufficient to continue an existing or expected life style, the need for supplemental income becomes a factor.

Personal attributes: Sometimes we aren't sufficiently cognizant of our own personal characteristics. Heart-to-heart talks with good friends, conversations with other retirees, and reflection should result in reasonable self-evaluation.

It's important to know yourself and your interests, then work out a plan from there. For example, senior clubs and hobby organizations are often recommended, because the commonality and synergism can benefit retirees.

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Special interests: Whether they result from occupation, experience, education, or hobby, interests need to be included in the plan. In sports, particularly golf or tennis, capabilities can be honed to greater satisfaction by practice and professional instruction.

Likewise, a plethora of courses is available at local high schools and community colleges, at low cost, for those interested in computers, writing, or similar subjects.

In the Elderhostel catalog, year-round bargain educational travel courses are offered at domestic and foreign school sites.

Designing a retirement plan isn't difficult for the average individual. All facts might be gathered and written down under main headings.

Additional informational points can be written under subheadings, all aiming toward the eventual goal - successful retirement.

When all the data have been gathered, the completed plan should show a fairly clear picture. It can be an important key to successful retirement.

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