retirement
Ben Stein talks about investing

Most of us remember Ben Stein from the hit 1986 John Hughes comedy, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," where he gave that inimitable performance as the ever-droning high school teacher who labored to explain intellectually challenging economic concepts such as "voodoo economics" to a group of thoroughly disinterested teens.

At a glance
Name: Ben Stein
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Education: Graduated Columbia University, 1966, with a B.A. and honors in economics; Yale Law School, 1970.
Career highlights:
  • Active in civil rights
  • Economist with the Department of Commerce
  • Serves on the board of the University of Pennsylvania Population Aging Research Center.
  • Speechwriter at the White House for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford
  • Taught at American University in Washington, D.C., the University of California at Santa Cruz and at Pepperdine Law School
  • Screenwriter, TV writer, syndicated columnist, author of 23 books, the latest of which is "The Real Stars"
  • Appeared in some 30 movies and TV series, but best remembered for his role in 1980s comedy hit "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"
  • Honorary chairperson of the National Retirement Planning Coalition
  • Lives in Beverly Hills, Calif., with wife Alexandra and son Thomas

Not unlike in the popular film, the affable economist, lawyer, former White House speechwriter, Hollywood personality and author is reprising his role as educator; but this time the subject is much more serious and the information he has to convey could be life altering, depending on whether or not his "students" actually pay attention.

As honorary chairperson of the National Retirement Planning Coalition, Stein is the writer and star of three two-minute segments on retirement readiness. Focusing on a simple and practical plan, he guides viewers on how to get started as well as how to gain and grow income.

Stein recently sat down with Bankrate to share his insights and recommendations for how to better financially prepare for the future.

q_v2.gif Why are Americans finding saving for retirement so challenging? What aren't they getting when it comes to retirement?

a_v2.gifWell, what people aren't getting is the basic idea of deferred gratification. They basically want to have everything they want now -- but, of course, they also simultaneously want to have all the savings that they will need for their future. What they haven't gotten is that you just can't have everything all at once. So, they're like children ... and they think that everything should and will be provided for them by Mommy and Daddy -- be it a real mommy or daddy, or an employer or the government. And that's just not going to happen.

There needs to be a greater measure of personal accountability and responsibility out there because retirement is something we all know is coming and it's something that we, if we choose to, can all actually do something about. If you want to live well at 75, you have to plan for that when you're 45.

q_v2.gif Yet there are still many out there who are convinced that the federal government will inevitably step in and come up with a solution that will save everyone who had not prepared for the reality of life in retirement.

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a_v2.gifTo provide all of the future retiring baby boomers with a middle-class existence upon retirement, the sum of money needed would be so large that it would not be in the grasp of the federal government to raise, let alone provide. And so it's just not going to happen -- and it never has historically happened.

Social Security has always been just a small fraction of what people need to live on when they retire, and it will continue to be just a small fraction of what people need to live on when they retire. Now, yes, there's been lots of talk lately of fixing Social Security in the future, but it'll change only in the sense that there will be tremendous cutbacks in the amounts that will be paid to us middle-class and upper-middle-class people. But in terms of what's ultimately going be paid out to those who perhaps hadn't saved, well, they're not going to get another $20,000 to $30,000 a year from Social Security.

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