Make sure there's enough for a comfortable standard
How much is enough? Money for retirement years, that is.
''Enough to make your retirement productive and pleasurable,'' says Frank Manning, president of the Massachusetts Association for Older Americans. ''Retiring should not mean being reduced to the irreducible minimum.
''The average retired person's income goes mainly for buying necessities, the more so the lower the income bracket, but there should be enough to comfortably include cultural and recreational activities as well.''
He continues by noting that retirement shouldn't be a bleak existence but should be as well rounded as the individual's life was before he or she retired.
A critical factor in providing a budget that will allow this kind of life is pre-retirement planning.
''Many people are catapulted into retirement without really realizing just what it will be like,'' Mr. Manning said.
He observes that typically, most people prefer not to think about it. But he adds that in today's world it's crucial to plan so as to get a sense of what they will really be faced with, both financially and emotionally.
''We try to point out that if people have many facets of expression open to them, they will not be traumatized by the transition. They can only provide for this by planning.''
''We're hoping to see more corporate responsibility for this kind of planning , especially as more social services are cut for budgetary reasons,'' he adds.
One retirement planning tool that will be eliminated for belt-tightening reasons is the yearly average budget predictions for retired couples put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These are ballpark minimum estimates based on the price of an average ''market basket'' of consumer goods and services in a given year. This has been updated each year since 1969 through multiplying it by the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers.
The figures themselves present the problems inherent in such broad figures, but nevertheless it has been the only nationwide information of its sort on which to base various pension plan projections and, perhaps most significantly, social security.
To date no private or government organizations have moved to fill in this research gap, and Mr. Manning notes that ''this could have serious repercussions for not just individuals who use it for their own purposes but for the future of the social security system as well. Without reliable statistics about the needs of our senior citizens, it will be very easy for those who would like to erode the social security system to make even further headway.
''We're doing all we can to make our representatives in Washington aware of this need.''
The BLS report is a summary of annual budgets for a retired couple at three levels of living, lower, intermediate, and higher. Income taxes are not included , because retired couples receive too widely varying an array of rebates and credits to produce a meaningful average including this figure.
The couple is defined as a husband, 65 or over, and wife, self-supporting and in reasonably good health. Briefly, the BLS budget estimates as of autumn 1981 and 1982, respectively, are as follows:
* Lower budget - $7,226 to $7,558.
* Intermediate budget - $10,226 to $10,696.
* Higher budget - $15,078 to $15,772.
The budgets include food, housing, transportation, clothing, personal and medical care, and miscellaneous personal and family expenses. Of all the categories, transportation and medical costs rose the most dramatically this fall over last, as well as over the whole 13 years since the budgets were first estimated.
Manning estimates that $10,000 a year is a reasonable minimum figure to expect for a retired couple to live comfortably, $7,000 for a single person - close to the intermediate budget estimate. And he says this could, and most likely would, include a variety of benefits and social services.
He adds, ''Those are nice figures, but the reality is, most of our retirees don't even live near the lower figure. We're working on getting the social security system stabilized around the lower budget estimate. At least then Americans can retire and feel they're still part of the country, not the outcasts that a bleak poverty-level existence makes them feel.''