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You can be a master at planning, but then life happens.

This week, I wanted to focus the newsletter on a retirement scare that many people don’t anticipate: What if you have to retire sooner than you planned?

Only 54 percent of Boomers have retirement savings, according to a report by the Insured Retirement Institute.

Although that’s a scary statistic many people manage figure out how to retire with less than they planned. An email from Cynthia Smith of Lawrence, Kan., is an example of someone forced into early retirement but made the numbers work.

“I am retiring from my career in a legal specialty, but not by choice,” Smith wrote. “I was laid off in a merger in 2012 when I was already in my 50s. I moved away from my spouse (we are childless) to take the only job offered in almost three years of actively looking, but it was also eliminated after only one year. Even though I have a stellar resume, a great network and was a finalist for many jobs, in my late 50s I couldn’t compete with younger, qualified people for jobs in my field.”

Smith goes on to write, “Besides juggling the finances, I think I have done a pretty good job making the best of unplanned early retirement. I gave myself license to spend some money on travel, golf, volunteering and other ‘retirement’ activities, even though I thought I would still be working at my age. The retirement calculators show we should not run out of money, even if one of takes Social Security at 62. The thing I miss most in unplanned early retirement is being generous with our money, spending freely on family and friends and charitable causes, which we don’t do anymore because my income didn’t continue like we had expected.”

Douglas Keder of Vancouver, Wash., also found himself retired sooner than he had planned. He was forced into retirement unexpectedly at age 54.

“While on vacation in 2015 I was enjoying one of my favorite hobbies, hiking in the mountains, when I had a very bad heart attack,” Keder wrote. “After some testing it was determined that the lack of oxygen caused damage and I would never work again. I was put on disability. I’m just fortunate that I had over 36 years of railroad service, therefore my disability pays almost as much as retirement. We have downsized and are able to get by. It has been a wild and uncontrollable journey, but I am loving life. We do a little traveling. And I now have more time for my hobbies, mostly hiking and photography.”

I believe we can learn from other people’s experiences, so the recommendation to read the following articles comes from Smith and Keder’s testimonies.

5 Ways to Handle a Forced Early Retirement

What Retirement Will Look Like Without Savings

Be sure as you plan for retirement or continue to assess your needs in retirement that you factor in health care costs. Eighty-two percent of Baby Boomers underestimate the percentage of their income they’ll need to pay for health care, according to the report from the Institute.

Medical costs for retirees still rising

I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement.

Did you retire early and if so, how did you do it?

Is retirement everything you hoped for?

Are you scared you’ll run out of money?

Sharing your story might help others. So send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”

Retirement bloggers
I believe that wealth happens intentionally and that means for me reading as much as I can about all things financial, especially retirement.

In this section of the newsletter, I’ll feature postings from various retirement blogs.

In Smith’s testimony she mentioned that she used some calculators to determine if she and her husband would run out of money. The report from the Insured Retirement Institute found that only four in 10 Baby Boomers have tried to calculate how much they need to save to retire, and of these, only six in 10 included estimates of health care costs in their calculations.

Squared Away blogger Kim Blanton tested three retirement calculators. Try one or all of them. Can’t hurt.

Read: Retirement Calculators: 3 Good Options

Newsletter comments policy
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)

Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.

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