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Creative retirement planning

By Barbara Whelehan ·
Friday, August 6, 2010
Posted: 1 pm ET

A new report on "Retirement Income Adequacy" released by the Employee Benefit Research Institute says, among other things, that nearly one-half of baby boomers between the ages of 56 and 62 are at risk of running short of money during retirement.

Yup, I'm at risk despite all my best retirement planning efforts. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Maybe it's time to get creative.

How can you generate an extra $2 million or so without robbing the proverbial bank? Here are a few ideas.

Sue somebody

It wouldn't surprise me if some people, in a last-ditch effort to pad their retirement accounts, deliberately file a lawsuit for the purpose of getting a potentially large reward. I'm sure it happens all the time.

A despicable motive, and in a perfect world, such machinations backfire. Take the case of the paralegal in Alameda County, Calif. She sued her lawyer boss for sexual harassment and wrongful termination. She claimed her boss fired her when she didn't comply with his demands, and that she had gone along with his demands because, among other things, she wanted to attend law school.

Her boss filed a defamation countersuit, contending that he never fired her, and that he broke up with her because she wouldn't stop nagging him about his weight, according to a report this week from

The jury bought the lawyer's story and awarded him $1.55 million in damages.

I'm not saying that the paralegal's purpose for suing her boss was actually related to concerns about her retirement fund. But now she's really going to have to do double duty to pay this huge award plus save for retirement.

Maybe she should consider supplementing her income by becoming a personal fitness trainer.

Adopt several children

This creative retirement strategy seems counterintuitive. After all, adopting multiple children usually involves draining your income and thus, neglecting a retirement fund.

About 18 years ago, I worked with someone in a foster care program who was in the process of adopting his seventh teenage son. I said to him, "How are you able to save for retirement when you have so many mouths to feed?"

He replied, "My kids will support me in retirement."

Now that is the most unusual strategy I'd ever heard of. But if you think about it, his plan mirrors our Social Security system.

I don't know how his kids feel about supporting their adoptive father through retirement. Every sawbuck they give him is a sawbuck they can't put in their own retirement accounts. And if they're anything like my adult children, they may still depend on him for certain things well into their 20s.

His retirement plan could backfire, too.

Orchestrate a fundraising drive

At a recent church service I attended, a priest made an appeal for a retirement fund for priests.

What a brilliant idea, I thought. Just go up in front of a big crowd and ask for money. Everyone coughs up a buck, and it all adds up.

I haven't worked up the nerve, though, to approach the pastor of my church about the Save-Whelehan's-Retirement fund. I wonder if people would be so willing to contribute to a fund for nonclergy members.

OK, just so that you can't possibly misinterpret, I share these creative retirement strategies with my tongue placed firmly in cheek. We all know that the best way to prepare for retirement is to start investing early and regularly, and let the magic of compounding work for you.

Then, after two bear markets and with retirement looming less than 10 years away, one can hope to win the lottery for supplemental income and financial security.

You have any better ideas to share? Let's hear them.

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1 Comment
so cool
August 11, 2010 at 11:14 am

Then, after two bear markets and with retirement looming less than 10 years away, one can hope to win the lottery for supplemental income and financial security.