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Originally published March 9, 2013 at 8:02 PM | Page modified March 10, 2013 at 11:10 AM

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Scott Burns: Life expectancy, the ultimate guessing game

Syndicated columnist

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"Another limitation is that you can purchase only $10,000 a year per Social... MORE
"We have a Fidelity account worth a little more than $600,000, invested in about... MORE

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Investing

Q: My wife and I are in our early 80s.

We are considering going into a continuing-care retirement community with independent living.

We live in our own home now, worth about $280,000 to $300,000. We are debt-free.

We have a Fidelity account worth a little more than $600,000, invested in about 60 percent bond funds, 30 percent stocks and 10 percent cash.

About $160,000 of this money is in regular IRAs. The rest is in a joint account.

We also have about $60,000 in a CD at 4.5 percent interest, maturing in November.

We have about $30,000 (today’s value) in EE bonds, also at 4.5 percent.

Our only income is from Social Security and a very small pension, a total of about $33,000 a year.

The unit we would like costs about $4,600 a month, including our main meal, all utilities, etc.

The only added cost is for telephone.

Our children are doing well and don’t need our help at all, but I still would like to leave them a little something.

What are your thoughts?

A: The rough numbers here are that you have about $900,000 in assets and Social Security or pension income of $33,000 available to support you and your wife as you move into the independent-living section of a continuing-care retirement community that has an annual cost of $55,200.

This means you’ll need to take at least $22,000 a year (plus taxes and other living expenses) from your savings.

The biggest worry most people have is whether they will run out of money, and the answer, for you, is probably not.

If your savings earned absolutely nothing over the next 20 years, you could spend an additional $45,000 a year and not run out of money until age 100.

While withdrawals from your IRA would be taxable, none of the money from your other accounts would be taxable. The amount of money you leave will depend on when you die and what return you earn on your savings.

The hard part here is accepting the idea that you are entering the period that you saved for — the time to spend your savings.

Once you do that, I think you’ll find your choice of going into a continuing-care retirement community will make your life a lot easier and less anxious.

Q: I am 83 years old, with diversified banking and investments. Do you recommend investing in I-Bonds?

A: Currently the only “yield” that I Savings Bonds provide is an adjustment for the inflation rate.

Eventually you will get your original purchasing power back, but every dollar of inflation adjustment will be subject to income taxes.

Another limitation is that you can purchase only $10,000 a year per Social Security number.

I suggest looking for a more flexible alternative, such as a TIPS (Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities) mutual fund or exchange-traded fund.

Questions: scott@scottburns.com

Copyright 2013,

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