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Financial plan urged for baby boomers at Pasco club meeting

 | Published on 11/1/2008

PASCO -- Baby boomers who are uncertain about their financial futures need to "understand what they own and what they owe" even though facing money issues can be scary.

That's what Sandy Matheson, director of the state Department of Retirement Systems, told a group of about 60 people who attended Friday's meeting of the Columbia Basin Badger Club at TRAC in Pasco.

She was one of three panelists who answered a variety of questions about the national financial crisis and how it affects Mid-Columbians.

"If you don't have a plan, start planning now," Matheson said.

"Review what you have, assess what you think you're going to need, then get busy," added Laurie Tufford, chief executive director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Kennewick.

Craig Eerkes, president of Sun Pacific Energy, encouraged retirees to consider part-time employment.

"There is a void out there ... and we would love to have those people work with us on a part-time basis," he said, adding that it provides them with money, as well as physical and mental activity.

Matheson said keeping healthy can lead to big savings on health care costs.

The three also urged people to keep from panicking.

Don't sell assets just because your emotions are running high, Matheson said.

Her department issues more than $70 million in retirement checks to people in Benton and Franklin counties each year, she said, adding that about 80 percent of the money the department issues comes from returns on investments.

"It's really hard not to react when it goes down, but we don't," Matheson said of the department's investments, which are structured with a long-term outlook.

And while the Tri-Cities has been somewhat insulated from housing and credit crises that have hit hard in other parts of the country, the area's not completely immune.

"The Tri-City area has been blessed with job increases but I think that's about to burst," Tufford said.

Consumer Credit Counseling Services has seen an 18 percent increase in counseling sessions during the last quarter, she said.

One member in attendance asked about the possibility of consumer credit becoming less available.

Tufford replied that people could see reduced credit limits, particularly those who are missing payments on one or more of their multiple cards.

The panelists also generally agreed that privatizing Social Security isn't a good idea and won't happen in the near future.

"Social Security was never intended to be a retirement plan," Matheson said.

Tufford said, "Maybe it's not going to make you a million dollars, but it's going to be there for you. It's a supplement."

While the causes of the current crisis are complex, the panelists urged personal responsibility.

"With every crisis comes opportunity," Tufford said. "I would encourage people who have gotten themselves overextended ... to make some serious progress (on financial well-being)."

Planning is the key, Matheson added.

"We should plan our own lives and live within our means," she said. "If we each do that we contribute to not letting these crises take hold."

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