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Dealing with unexpected retirement expenses

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That's another rub. Indications are that the job market for older Americans -- particularly in youth-dominated industries such as information technology -- has cooled. The post-retirement position you need may not exist.

The bottom line: While it's good to work -- it helps keep you active and engaged in life -- if your financial health depends on a job after you retire, then you're not ready for retirement. Add to your other expenses out-of-pocket medical costs, and you might need to rethink things.

Stayin' alive: a tale of survival
Toni Oliphant, 68, of Wichita, Kansas, was a stay-at-home mom. Although she and her spouse carefully planned their retirement, an unanticipated divorce left Oliphant on her own.

Now she lives on less than $13,000 annually -- a combination of Social Security and an annuity. She sold her former home, which was remote and had a huge yard, and moved into Wichita to reduce the amount of upkeep. She says she'll pay her present place off in about five years.

Oliphant -- who suffers from diabetes -- makes living on a tight budget an art. "I waste nothing," she says. "When someone comes by and drinks part of a glass of water, most would pour the water out when they leave. I water my plants with it."

Oliphant doesn't have money to squander, so she shops like her life depends on it. Combining coupons and spending no more than $100 a month for food, she combs circulars for sales. She has family, but fights to preserve her self-sufficiency.

"You have to live within your means and a lot of people don't," she says. Living by her credo, "pay yourself first," helps her save money and waste nothing. "You don't have to start out with a big plasma television and a closet filled with clothes you probably won't ever wear," Oliphant says. "I come from a generation who uses things up before replacing them."

Aging expert Koff says the "average life expectancy for a 65-year-old woman is 86, but one-half will live longer and 20 percent will live past 95." The smart ones, like Oliphant, live as though they're in the 20 percent category. "You never know what life's going to throw at you," she reasons.

The bottom line: " I don't shop. My biggest thrill in life is seeing how much I can save. All my granddaughters do is shop until the stores close. You don't have to keep up with the Joneses," Oliphant counsels. "Besides, the Joneses are probably rolling in debt."'s corrections policy -- Updated: Oct. 1, 2007
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