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  Will They Be Ready?

John and Jill Charlton, 46, Chantilly

Jobs: He is an Air Force colonel; she is a part-time office administrator.

Annual earnings: His, $99,370; hers, $3,000.

Sources of retirement income: His, Social Security, military pension, Roth IRA; hers, Social Security, Roth IRA.

Other assets: Approximately $64,000 in savings and investment and a house worth approximately $245,000.

By Martha M. Hamilton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 26, 1999; H6

John Charlton has 24 years’ active duty in the Air Force and plans to retire in two years. He anticipates working at a second career, perhaps into his mid-sixties. Jill Charlton is just returning to the paid work force, part time, after working many years at home taking care of four children, the youngest of whom is 16.

John has an advantage that is rapidly disappearing from the world of retirement benefits. He has a fairly sizable defined pension benefit, indexed to inflation and fully funded by his employer. His contribution has been, as he says, “only my blood, sweat and tears.”

When he retires, he will be eligible to receive a pension equal to 65 percent of base pay, which will provide him with approximately $50,000 a year. Although the couple have two Roth IRAs, they have relatively little in savings and should try to add to their savings between now and John’s retirement from his second job, said Martha Priddy Patterson, director of employee benefits policy and analysis for KPMG’s compensation and benefits practice.

John is looking for a job after retirement from the military that would pay $50,000 to $60,000 a year. Patterson said John should, if he has the chance, take a job with a defined-benefit pension plan and then elect to take the benefit when he retires from his second career in a lump sum if the plan permits.

The reason? Defined-benefit plans require employers to contribute enough money to provide pension benefits from the time the pension begins until the expected time of the worker’s death. A worker who is leaving may be able to elect to take it in a lump sum or over time. If a worker elects to take it in a lump sum, that sum—along with the interest it earns—must be enough to provide equivalent benefits for the worker over the same period of time. As a result, a lump sum would be larger for a worker with 10 years on the job retiring at 65 than it would be for another worker with the same tenure retiring at 50—because actuarial tables anticipate that the money would have less time to increase through investment earnings.

Patterson also recommended that the Charltons try to save at least $4,000 a year in a regular IRA to increase their retirement income. Assuming earnings of only 6 percent, that amount could add up to $147,000 in 20 years, and at a 10 percent rate of return it would amount to $229,000. Saving more would be better, she said.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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