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Originally published Sunday, February 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Pat and Kristen Parman-Bethard

Pat and Kristen Parman-Bethard Kent Then: Pat, 61, a social worker, and Kristen, 54, a nurse, partners for 20 years, faced the "gay penalty,"...

Pat and Kristen Parman-Bethard

Kent

Then: Pat, 61, a social worker, and Kristen, 54, a nurse, partners for 20 years, faced the "gay penalty," in which unmarried couples, including same-sex partners, have to work harder to build a nest egg because they don't enjoy all the financial benefits a married couple would, such as inheriting each other's Social Security payments.

Their goal: To make up for the penalty and each retire at 66.

What they've done since: They've refinanced their mortgage, paying off a second mortgage and car loan. That saved them $800 a month. To pay off the new 30-year mortgage early, they make two extra payments a year.

They've doubled Pat's retirement-plan contribution from 3 percent of her income to 6 percent, and moved it into higher-yield — though higher-risk — investments. She plans to continue increasing it as she receives raises. CDs that were earning under 2 percent were switched to ones earning at least twice as much.

Best tips they got: Keep expenses down, and save and invest more aggressively. "We're more intentional with our investing now," says Pat.

— Carol Tice

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