As my husband and I neared retirement, we did what smart pre-retirees do -- we saw a financial planner. Of course, we quickly learned that we should have seen that financial planner when we first opened up our joint bank account four decades ago.

Back then we were too busy trying to make enough money to pay the rent, buy food, and fill up the car, with the occasional trip to Disneyland thrown in. We didn't have a lot left over to actually "plan" with. Soon we'll be on a fixed income and will need to budget our money so that we can continue to survive for the next four decades -- our predicted life span.

The recent appointment with the financial planner went better than we expected -- at least initially. We gave him all of our receipts and whatnot, and he typed up a bunch of numbers and put them in columns. According to his calculations, we could live comfortably on what we'd rake in from our retirement accounts until at least the age of 106.

That was until my husband remembered he'd neglected to include the monthly Visa bill.

Uh-oh. For that we needed a whole new column. After the financial planner finished recalculating, he told us if we retired now, we'd have enough money to last until Halloween. Maybe Thanksgiving if we gave up food and gas.


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Well, this was quite a shock, to say the least. We figured all that money we'd been pouring into various retirement accounts, including Social Security, would keep us in a life of leisure indefinitely. Now it seems we may not be able to retire until we're 106. We're currently looking at ways to cut expenses for things we probably won't need when we're sitting around the house all day, watching TV, reading the newspaper, and drinking coffee.

Like, do we really need a landline telephone when we have two cell phones? Well, yeah, because what if someone from our distant past tries to call us, like my old boyfriend from college?

We could cut down on cable, but I won't give up my channels -- Sci-Fi, FX, Chiller -- and Tom won't give up his -- sports, food, history. Besides, sometimes, when I'm surfing the 500 choices currently available, I stumble upon a show I wouldn't have found if I didn't have cable, like reruns of "The Big Bang Theory." So what would we do all day if we're retired and didn't get but four or five channels?

We could stop eating out at restaurants so often, but every time my husband buys groceries for a simple pasta dinner, he ends up spending twice as much, what with all the extras he puts in the cart, like beer, wine, ice cream, candy bars and potato chips. We could give up annual trips to Disneyland, except the grandkids are growing up so fast and we'd hate for them to miss any of the rides.

Oh well. I guess we'll just keep on working, earning and spending like we've been doing all these years. If we run out of money, we can always move in with our kids. After all, according to Wikipedia, where I get all my important information, we spent $389,000 raising each of our two children. If they'll just pay us back, we could live comfortably pretty much FOREVER.

Reach Penny Warner at www. pennywarner.com.