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Source: Fred Brock, 785-532-3958,
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News release prepared by: Kristin Hodges, 785-532-6415,

Monday, Feb. 9, 2009


MANHATTAN -- For many people wanting to retire right now, the economy might make it seem like a daunting challenge. But retirement is still possible despite such economic difficulties as the widespread stock market losses, according to a Kansas State University retirement expert.

K-State's Fred Brock is the best-selling author of "Retire on Less Than You Think: The New York Times Guide to Planning Your Financial Future." Brock, an assistant professor who holds the R.M. Seaton Professional Journalism Chair at K-State's A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications, said if people are savvy and careful, retirement is possible -- even while living in today's economy.

"What people need to do is relax a little bit," Brock said. "I don't think it's time to panic. It's time to be cautious and time to be prudent. If you're motivated to retire, and if it's important to you, you can do it. It just takes a little more skill and a little more cost cutting."

Brock said the trick to retiring today is not solely the amount of your income, but cutting expenses to increase your income, which is easy in our affluent society. Still, at the top of the list of worries for retirees are the housing market slump, retirement account losses and the possibility of getting laid off, he said.

The housing market

Brock encourages people wanting to retire to downsize their lifestyles by selling their home and moving to a smaller town. For those wanting to move, he said the market is not down everywhere.

Even in a down market, people who have lived in their house for a long time and have paid for it can still sell it for a lot more than they bought it for and make money, Brock said.

For people who have trouble selling their house or who will lose money by selling it, Brock said they might have to rent it out until prices go up if they are set on moving. Their other options are simply selling their house for less than they would like or postponing their retirement.

Retirement accounts

Brock said people panic when they look at their retirement accounts and their 401Ks and see what they have lost, which for some has been 30 percent to 40 percent of their account.

However, he said people can still retire, and they need to remember several things when looking at their retirement accounts: the market goes up and down, you don't lose money on your stocks until you sell them, and when you withdraw money from the account it is gradual.

"You're not going to retire and pull all your money out," Brock said. "What you'll do when you retire is probably take about 4 percent of your money out each year, so it's a long-term withdrawal. When there's another up market, it will help replenish your account."

Brock recommends people talk to financial advisers to make sure they're in as safe investments as possible and to look at future growth.

Getting laid off

Brock said getting laid off might force some people into retirement earlier than they want, though it shouldn't affect their pension money or 401Ks. Some might need to find another job, though that will be difficult right now.

"If you are older and want to retire and work part time, it's going to be easier to find a job when the current crisis passes -- and it will pass," Brock said.

Brock said the unemployment problem should reverse when most baby boomers retire in about three to five years, when he expects there will be a labor shortage.

Despite any issues with the economy, retirement is an emotional and psychological decision more than a financial decision for most people, Brock said. Some people want to retire but decide to stay with a company for a few more years for the possibility of receiving a bonus or buyout, but Brock said if you don't want to be working, you probably don't want to spend a few more years being miserable. He said a good time to retire is when you are ready to retire.

"You're going to spend one-fourth to one-third of your life post-retirement," he said. "If somebody is 60 and they retire and live to be 90, that's 30 years they'll have spent retired – so you better like it."

Brock continues to write for the New York Times, where for years he worked as a business editor and writer. His other books include "Live Well on Less Than You Think" and "Health Care on Less Than You Think."