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Thursday, April 29, 1999

I Had a Plan...

by Pat609

Retired for a year, I frequently surf the Retirement Investing Board where TMF Pixy patiently fields questions from both the prosperous and those just getting by. Often their queries begin the same way: "Here's my plan," they say, or "I plan to work another 20 years before I retire."

I had a plan, too. Unmarried, I worked for a utility company with a defined pension plan, and my friends and I often discussed plans to retire and travel around the country while we were in good health. We all socked money into our 401(k)s and, as they prospered, we kept lowering the age we expected to retire. I "planned" to retire on April 1, 2001 at the age of 59 1/2.

That plan fizzled the day I walked into my office and learned that our company was part of an impending merger. It soon became clear that my job would be eliminated in the consolidation. And then came eight tense months when I wondered whether I would be able to hang on long enough to reach my 55th birthday -- the minimum age for retirement with a reduced pension and health benefits.

I did hang on. Even better, the company surprisingly offered an early retirement package for which I give thanks daily. Many of my co-workers, who also had a plan for retirement, were not that lucky. So, I'm traveling all over the country living the good life, right? Wrong! I rarely get away for a day because I now have an elderly relative living with me who requires much of my time and attention.

I believe in planning, but I also know that life changes those plans in ways we can't anticipate. It's a good idea to have a Plan B in case Plan A bombs, and maybe even a Plan C and D. And if times are good, sock away a few extra bucks and let it work for you just in case your plans change, too.


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