The Checkout

Retirees Worried Their Savings Won't Last and Recession-Proof Jobs

Annys Shin

Howdy. It's Monday. And not just any Monday. It's the day before what David Broder would say has been "The Best Election Ever"--that is if he was a 20-something who had nothing better to do but watch VH-1 all day. (This weekend he wrote a piece on how Obama v. McCain was the best election he's ever covered, topping even the 1960 JFK v. Nixon contest! Take that Gore v. Bush!)

So I know you've got hours of staring at red-and-blue colored maps ahead of you. Not to mention the headache you'll probably get watching the outlines of Ohio, Virginia, and Florida expand and recede over and over again with the tap of Wolf Blitzer's fingers.

Meanwhile, though, there's this little thing called the financial crisis that is quietly eating away at your retirement savings and your kid's college savings fund. I can't do anything about Blitzer-induced motion sickness. I can try to ease your anxiety a bit about your finances with what I hope will become a regular recap of personal finance stories that run in our Sunday newspaper. You know, just in case you missed it. (Not that you had an excuse this weekend. You had a whole extra hour!)

Okay, enough rambling. On to the useful stuff.

This weekend, my colleague Nancy Trejos, our ace personal finance reporter, tackled the ugly conundrum of what to do if you're well into retirement and are dependent on your investment income for daily living expenses. For these folks, watching their portfolios shrink is a lot like watching the boat they're on take on water. Yikes.

It's a classic case of "longevity risk" as financial planners put it. People live so long in retirement that they're vulnerable to outliving their savings and their savings--if it is tied up in stocks--is also vulnerable to market upheaval.

Nancy looks at the case of Elizabeth Small, age 64 and a decade into retirement. Her portfolio has taken a hit before. In 2000, she lost $800,000 and has yet to recover it all.

"The next time, I may lose it all," she said. "I don't want to spend the rest of whatever life I may have left being at the mercy of Wall Street."

Amen to that.

While Small was worried her nest egg was a stock market crash away from being wiped out, financial planners were less grim about her prospects. You can read the advice they give her here.

For those of you who aren't retired yet and are looking for job security, Color of Money columnist Michelle Singletary looked at a list of the top "recession-proof jobs" and casts a critical eye on the data that underlie it.

That's it for this week. Keep those personal finance questions coming through the website. And don't forget to vote!

By Annys Shin |  November 3, 2008; 10:07 AM ET Annys Shin , Economy Watch
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