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Ways to Make Sure You Can Pay for the Golden Years

Is there a source where you can look up the average income needed to live a middle-class lifestyle in various communities?

Cullinane: Try www.homefair.com (click on "cost-of-living comparison"). It allows you to see how far your income will go in various cities. For example, if you move from Arlington to Fairhope, Ala., and have $50,000 in annual expenses in Arlington, you would need to spend only $33,062 to have a comparable lifestyle in Fairhope. Moving to Naples, Fla., from Arlington would require $50,918 in annual spending, virtually a wash.

_____Column Archive_____
Retirement Savings By the Book (The Washington Post, Apr 10, 2005)
Car Buying Doesn't Have to Be Combat (The Washington Post, Apr 7, 2005)
Read Michelle's Past Columns

Assuming you are still working part time and do not need the money, are there any online calculators that help decide when to take Social Security benefits?

Cullinane: The Social Security Administration has three versions (differing levels of detail) of online calculators to help you make a decision. You can see your benefits in present-day or future dollars. Go to www.ssa.gov and click on "Calculate your benefits."

Did the Roth IRA contribution ceiling increase this year?

Cullinane: The maximum annual contribution you could make to your Roth IRA for 2004 was $3,000. This limit increases to $4,000 for the 2005 through 2007 calendar years and then to $5,000 for 2008. In addition, individuals age 50 or older by the end of the tax year are permitted to make an additional catch-up contribution of $500 for 2004 and 2005 and $1,000 for tax years 2006 and later.

I have done all my homework. Is 50 too young to retire?

Cullinane: That is a question that you have to answer for yourself! When surveyed, the No. 1 reason people give for retiring is "to do other things." If you feel comfortable that your money will last as long as you will, and it's what you want to do, go for it!

Michelle Singletary discusses personal finance Tuesdays on NPR's "Day to Day" program and online at www.npr.org. Readers can write to her at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Send e-mail to singletarym@washpost.com. Comments and questions are welcome, but because of the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note that comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

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