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December 2014 Free Events

December 1 -31 Holiday Lego Contest
Central Library, 14949 E. Alameda Pkwy., Aurora 80012
Create something with a holiday theme with our LEGOs at our LEGO table. Staff will take pictures of your creation. Ages 3-12

12/1 Denver Museum of Nature and Science
2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver 80205
Natural history exhibitions, IMAX and planetarium shows, activities, and lectures that explore the wonders of science, Colorado, Earth, and the universe.

12/2 4-8pm Children’s Museum
2121 Children’s Museum Drive, Denver 80211


12/3 Molly Brown House Museum
1340 Pennsylvania St., Denver
Admission to the Molly Brown House Museum is by guided tour only. Wonderful Docents will lead you through the Museum telling you the story of Denver’s Titanic heroine and activist, Margaret Brown. All guided tours of the Museum last approximately 45 minutes. Museum tour tickets are available in the Carriage House Visitor’s Center. Open at 10:00 am – Last tour starts at 3:30pm


cangle flame12/5 Olde Golden Christmas Candlelight Walk
Washington Ave., Golden

Chirstmas bow12/5 5 – 9pm Holiday Walk and Tree Lighting
The 23rd Annual Holiday Walk in Downtown Evergreen will be held on Friday, December 5, 2014 beginning at 5:00 p.m. with the arrival of Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus at the Lake House to light the community tree. Continue on with the merriment by walking with Santa and Mrs. Claus down main street for photos, roasted chestnuts, choirs, bell ringers, face painters, and dance performers and more. Free shuttle service will be offered from many locations. A schedule of events and walking maps will be available at all downtown evergreen merchants the week of Thanksgiving.

note12/5 7:30-9pm Denver Brass Concert-I’ll be Home for Christmas
Bethany Lutheran Church (ELCA), 4500 E Hampden Ave, Cherry Hills Village 80113
I’ll be Home for Christmas Warm, inspiring sounds of the season!


12/5 Four Mile Historic Park
715 S. Forest Street, Denver 80246
Travel back to 1859…for free! Enjoy a tour of the Four Mile House Museum – a Denver Landmark, panning for gold, and meeting our many farm-animals! On the first Friday of each month, Four Mile Historic Park is offering free general admission, courtesy of the support provided by your Scientific & Cultural Facilities District.
info@fourmilepark.org www.FourMileHistoricPark.org

palette12/5 First Friday Art Walks
Art District on Santa Fe – Artify Your Brain. See, taste and feel the energy that is Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe
Belmar Block 7 Art District – Block 7 will feature four artist–owned working studios, a photographic school and a gallery showcasing a wide range of artwork by local artists. (Located in the Belmar City Center in Lakewood.)
Golden Triangle Museum District – Meet the artists, see new exhibitions, shop for local art and get inspired at the galleries open on First Friday. The neighborhood is also home to the Denver Art Museum, Clyfford Still Museum, Kirkland Museum, Denver Firefighters Museum and the Byers–Evans House Museum with Plein Air art on display.
Navajo Street Art District – Stroll the district tucked away in the Lower Highlands area of Denver, home to amazing galleries, great performance art and ample parking. Join us for Day of the Dead celebrations. It’s truly one of the best little Art Districts in town to experience art!
Old South Gaylord & South Pearl – Take time to visit these two neighborhoods south of downtown Denver; both are home to many artist’s studios and galleries, along with one–of–a–kind shops and restaurants.
RiNo (River North Art District) – Tour the district “Where art is made!” RiNo is home to creative businesses and more than 60 galleries and studios and 150 artists including painters, media artists, sculptors, photographers, illustrators, designers and furniture makers.

12/5, 12/6  Parade of Lights


Friday 8pm and Saturday 6pm

The FREE holiday spectacular features marching bands, ornate floats, and, of course, a special appearance by Major Waddles the Penguin and Santa! Grab your hot chocolate and ear-muffs, this year is going to be better than ever!

palette12/6 Denver Art Museum
100 W 14th Ave Pkwy, Denver 80204


12/6 2pm Frozen Party
Mission Viejo Library, 15324 E. Hampden Cr., Aurora 80013
Welcome winter with a special party celebrating all things Frozen. Wear your favorite Frozen costume, sing winter songs and make your own very special Olaf. You’ll even get to enjoy some special Frozen inspired treats. Ages 5 and up Registration required

Chirstmas bow12/6 3-7pm Holiday Celebration on the Ridge at 38
The Green, 7101 W. 38th Ave.
Featuring Santa, storefront decorating, crafts for the kids, free hot cocoa, cider and cookies, free horse drawn carriage rides, food vendors, artisans in local stores, live holiday performances, carolers, candy cane necklace souvenirs and more holiday festivities!

Chirstmas bow12/6 10am Englewood Chamber’s Holiday Parade
Englewood Parkway from South Acoma to the Civic Center
The Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce will help the community celebrate the season with a Holiday Parade down Englewood Parkway.

Chirstmas bow12/6 Home for the Holidays (and Spot the Elf)
Festival Plaza, 311 S. Public Road
1:00pm Elf Storytelling
1:15pm High Peaks Twirlers
1:50pm-4:15pm Visit with Santa
4:15pm Caroling led by Rachel Fetler
4:30pm Holiday Tree Lighting

Chirstmas bow12/6 – 12/14 Georgetown Christmas
Georgetown Community Center, 6th & Argentine
Saturday 12/6
12:00 Santa Lucia Children’s Procession
1:00 Calico & Boots Dancers
2:00 choir fire singers
3:00 ye wanton singers
Sunday 12/7
11:00 Boulder scandanavian dancers
12:00 Santa Lucia Children’s Procession
1:00 Denver & District pipe band
2:00 west side chorale
Saturday 12/13
12:00 Santa Lucia Children’s Procession
1:00 step in style dancers
2:00 last note singers
3:00 Colorado chorale
Sunday 12/14
12:00 Santa Lucia Children’s Procession
1:00 john adams
2:00 Denver jinglers
3:00 cherry tones

palette12/10, 12/13, 12/17, 12/19, 12/27 MOA – Museum of Outdoor Arts
1000 Englewood Parkway Suite 2-230 Englewood, CO 80110
MOA offers indoor galleries, studios and special events and programs.


12/21  First Day of Winter 

note12/21  1pm  TubaChristmas

Skyline Park at 17th and Arapahoe

santa claus12/24  Santa Tracker
The official site to track Santa’s journey.


12/24 4 – 5:30pm Las Posada
The Fort, 19192 Highway 8, Morrison 80465
Celebrated in Mexico and throughout the United Sates from December 16-24, The Las Posadas celebration commemorates Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter on the night of baby Jesus’ birth. Tesoro partners with the Christian Life Movement to present this traditional event. Outdoor event-dress warmly.

12/25  Christmas Day

palette12/26 5-8 pm Last Friday Gallery Walk
Downtown Evergreen
Art Galleries are open until 8 pm on the last Friday of the month.
Galleries throughout Evergreen.

fireworks12/31 9pm and midnight New Year’s Eve Fireworks in Denver
The sky will once again sparkle over the 16th Street Mall at the close of 2014 with the New Year’s Eve Fireworks Downtown. The two spectacular fireworks shows will occur at 9 p.m. and midnight. For the best viewpoints, stand along the 16th Street Mall. Costumed entertainers will interact with crowds between shows, including magicians, mascots, balloon artists, stilt walkers, comedians and more.
Please note, between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m., RTD Light Rail trains will not cross the 16th Street Mall and mall ride shuttles will stop temporarily during the two fireworks shows.

Love Music? Check out these web sites for DU and UCD. There are concerts and recitals by students and faculty for free or very low cost. Guest artists that come for the Colorado Symphony also do mini concerts for the students/public. It is a wealth of excellent music! UCD also offers theater from their drama majors. ♪



Not free but…SCFD 10 for $10
Low cost ticket program supported by the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.
The Denver Center for the Performing Arts provides $10 tickets throughout the year. Supported by the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, we invite people who have not experienced the joy of live theatre to attend. Each Tuesday at 10am, we will release “10 for $10″ – a limited number of $10 tickets for every Denver Center Theatre Company performance in the coming week (up to 25 shows per week). Occasionally, tickets to select Denver Center Attractions shows may be available.
How to buy – each Tuesday at 10am: Call 303.893.4100 or Visit our Box Office at Speer & Arapahoe in the lobby of the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex

6 Numbers You Must Know

Retirement Planning in 2015: 6 Numbers You Must Know

By Dan Caplinger | More Articles | View My Articles
October 25, 2014 | Comments (3)

Source: Phillip Ingham, Flickr

Retirement planning requires constant vigilance, as every year, what you can do to prepare for your retirement changes. In particular, many of the guidelines that set contribution limits, retirement account eligibility, and tax breaks are indexed for inflation. Now that the final figures that go into establishing federal cost-of-living adjustments are available, the IRS has released the numbers that will guide your retirement planning in 2015. Let’s take a look at the numbers you need to know in order to plan better for your retirement.

1. 401(k) contributions are on the rise
Savers will be able to set aside more money in their 401(k)s in 2015, with limits on both standard contributions and catch-up contributions climbing from this year’s levels. In 2015, those under age 50 can contribute $18,000 to a 401(k) or similar plan, up from $17,500 in 2014. If you’re 50 or older, you can make an additional contribution of $6,000 in 2015, as opposed to $5,500 this year.

2. IRA contribution limits will stay the same
Unlike 401(k) contributions, IRA limits won’t change in 2015, remaining at their current level of $5,500 for at least one more year. In addition, the catch-up IRA contributions that those 50 or older can make will remain at $1,000, as that figure actually isn’t indexed for inflation at all.

3. Income limits for IRA deductions will climb slightly
If you (and your spouse if you’re married) don’t have a 401(k) or other retirement plan at work, then you can always deduct your IRA contributions. But if you do have a retirement plan, then those above certain income limits can’t deduct what they put in their IRAs.

In 2015, IRA deductions are phased out for single filers making between $61,000 and $71,000, up $1,000 from 2014 levels. For joint filers, the similar phase-out range is $98,000 to $118,000, up $2,000 from this year. And for those who aren’t covered but whose spouses are, the phase-out range will climb next year by $2,000 to a range of $183,000 to $193,000.

4. Income limits for Roth IRA contributions will also go up
If you make too much money, then you aren’t allowed to contribute to a Roth IRA at all. The phase-out range on Roth contributions for singles will go up $2,000 to between $116,000 and $131,000. For joint filers, an income range of $183,000 to $193,000 is where contributions are phased out, which is also $2,000 higher than it was last year.

5. Various self-employed retirement plans will allow larger contributions
Self-employed individuals have a number of choices to help them plan for retirement, and inflation also adjusts the amount that they’re allowed to contribute on their own behalf. If you have a solo 401(k) plan, the total limit on all contributions — both employer and employee — will rise from $52,000 to $53,000 next year.  Other types of accounts will also see increases. SEP IRA limits will also go up by $1,000 to $53,000, subject to the usual 20% limit based on your adjusted income. The limit on SIMPLE IRA contributions will jump by $500 to $12,500 in 2015. For those who are 50 or older, the catch-up contribution on SIMPLE IRAs will rise by $500 to $3,000.

6. Taxpayers will have slightly greater access to the saver’s credit
Low-income taxpayers are allowed to take a tax credit if they make contributions to an IRA, 401(k), or similar retirement account. The income limit to take that tax credit will go up slightly in 2015, with joint filers allowed to make up to $61,000, heads of household having a limit of $45,750, and single filers having a $30,500 limit. Those figures are $1,000, $750, and $500 higher than they were in 2014, respectively.

In order to plan effectively for your retirement, it’s important to keep up to date with the changes in these and other important numbers from year to year. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your retirement planning for 2015 and beyond will be the best it can possibly be and put you in the best position to have the retirement you’ve always dreamed of.

November 2014 Free Events

smashed pumpkin11/1 12 noon to 4pm 6th Annual Pumpkin Smash
Scraps-to-Soil, Idaho Spring Baseball Fields, 101 Idaho Springs Road East

11/1 Pre-School Nature Nuts: Wild Symbols of America
10:15 – 11am and ll:15am – 12noon
Lookout Mountain Nature Center

palette11/1 Denver Art Museum
100 W. 14th Ave., Denver

11/1 9am – 5pm Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield
8500 Deer Creek Canyon road, Littleton


alarm clock

   11/2    Daylight Savings Ends


11/2 12noon – 4pm Boulder History Museum
1206 Euclid Ave., Boulder


tiger  11/3, 11/14 and 11/20 Denver Zoo
2300 Steele St, Denver


vote  11/4 Election Day


11/4 4 – 8pm Denver Children’s Museum

Art week11/7-15 Denver Arts Week
With more than 300 events at more than 100 museums, galleries and arts districts all over The Mile High City, it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of Denver Arts Week.  Includes First Friday Art Walk.

balloon festival11/7 – 9 Arkansas Valley Balloon Festival (Rocky Ford)
Rocky Ford High School
Balloons launch right after sunrise each morning, weather permitting. Visitors are welcome to walk out with the balloons while they launch. Bring your camera and enter your photo in our photo contest. Information: 719-469-1894 http://www.hotairballoon.com/Arkansas-Valley-Balloon-Festival/

11/7 Four Mile Historic Park
715 S. Forest Street, Denver 80246

11/7 5 – 9pm Museo de las Americas
861 Santa Fe Dr. Denver
Joining the many diverse art galleries and museums that make up the Santa Fe Arts District, Museo de las Americas opens its doors to visitors on the first Friday of each month free of charge. Art-walkers along Santa Fe Drive may visit the Museo for free from 5-9pm and enjoy drinks and our current exhibition.


bird walk11/8 8:30am Bird Walk
Quincy Reservoir, 18350 E. Quincy Ave., Aurora 80015
Enjoy a morning bird walk with a knowledgeable Naturalist. Ages 8 and older.
Liz 303-326-8445

Travel back to 1859…for free! Enjoy a tour of the Four Mile House Museum – a Denver Landmark, panning for gold, and meeting our many farm-animals! On the first Friday of each month, Four Mile Historic Park is offering free general admission, courtesy of the support provided by your Scientific & Cultural Facilities District. 720-865-0800 www.FourMilePark.org

big horn sheep11/8 Bighorn Sheep Festival
Georgetown Community Center, corner of 6th and Argentine
Come to historic Georgetown for a full day of celebrating Colorado’s wildlife. Watch for and learn about Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep; take a nature hike; learn from the experts; listen to stories; get the kids involved in activities just for them; relax—enjoy Georgetown’s friendly atmosphere. Childrens activities and crafts, music, wildlife programs, hikes, tours and more. Be sure to stop by the Bighorn Sheep Viewing Station and the Georgetown Gateway Visitor Center as trained volunteers with binoculars and spotting scopes help viewers locate the head-banging sheep and offer a brief lesson on the animals!


Chirstmas bow11/8 9am Winterfest
Evergreen High School
Winterfest is a one day community festival of handmade gifts and more held indoors on “Main Street” of the Evergreen High School. Winterfest has an excellent reputation as one of the best indoor holiday shows in the Denver area with a fabulous selection of gallery quality fine art, as well as unique crafts, for the holidays. Performances by the Evergreen Chorale and Evergreen Children’s Chorale add to the festival spirit, and Santa’s Workshop keeps the younger crowd busy with holiday craft activities while parents shop.

Art week11/8 10am – 9pm Night at the Museums
Dinosaur Ridge, West Alameda Pkwy., Morrison
Dinosaur Ridge will be open for Night at the Museums with free exhibit hall admission to Trek Through Time from 10am to 9pm, and free hands-on activities for the kids – fossil sifting and dinosaur track painting – from 5pm to 9pm. Bear Creek Lake Park (City of Lakewood) will have telescopes on site to gaze at the stars. For a $3 fee, explore the Dinosaur Ridge tracksite by flashlight with a guide.
For more information contact: Amber Cain at amber_cain@dinoridge.org or 303.697.3466 x107. Websites: www.dinoridge.org and http://www.denverartsweek.com Presented by Friends of Dinosaur Ridge and Denver Arts Week.

veterans day     11/11 Veterans Day


11/11 and 12/3 Molly Brown House Museum
1340 Pennsylvania St
As more and more historic properties were demolished in the 1960s, a group of preservation-minded Denver citizens joined efforts in 1970 to rescue the home of Titanic survivor Margaret Tobin Brown — a.k.a the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown. Enjoy a guided tour of this famous Titantic survivor and Denver


11/12 9am – 5pm MOA – Museum of Outdoor Arts
1000 Englewood Pkwy., Englewood 80110


note11/14 7:30pm  /Concert at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral
Jeri Jorgensen, violinist and Cullen Bryant, pianist – 7:30pm November 14
Violinist Jeri Jorgensen and pianist Cullen Bryant perform sonatas by Beethoven, Brahms, and Stravinsky. Jorgensen, first violinist of the Da Vinci Quartet from 1980-2004, is a member of the performance faculty of Colorado College and formerly adjunct faculty in violin and chamber music at the Lamont School of Music of the University of Denver. Bryant is among the most active chamber and collaborative pianists in New York City, maintaining a schedule of over 70 recitals a year. Freewill offering.

flower pink11/14 Denver Botanic Gardens
York Street

palette11/21 6 – 9pm Art Night in Lafayette
ARTiculars, 401 S. Public Rd., Lafayette
Please join us to explore the world of art in a series of fun-filled, hands-on workshop and demos during our openings on the third Friday of each month    http://www.particularsart.com/events/

11/22 2 – 7pm Starlighting
Downtown Castle Rock
The Starlighting ceremony will begin promptly at 5:00 PM and the lighting of the Star will be at approximately 5:30 PM.

santa claus11/22 3:30pm Holiday Lighting Celebration
Centennial Center Park, 13050 E. Peakview Ave., Centennial 80112
Bundle up and bring your friends and family and join in the fun! Enjoy local school choral groups, photos with Santa, holiday treats and top the evening off with the lighting of our 20-foot tree!

11/22 9 – 11am Colorado Freedom Memorial
756 Telluride St., aurora 80011

santa claus11/23 5 – 6:30pm Switch on the Holiday
Pearl Street Mall/Courthouse Plaza, Boulder
Caroling followed by Santa counting down to the grand illumination of the Pearl Street Mall, the County Courthouse and the star on Flagstaff Mountain.


cornucopia2   11/27 Thanksgiving



cangle flame11/28 5:30pm Candlelight Walk
Littleton Main Street

11/28 5pm Last Friday Gallery Walk
Downtown Evergreen

cangle flame11/28 6 – 8pm 31st Annual Candlelight Walk
Main Street Littleton
Gather at Town Hall Arts Center, Bega Park or Bradford Auto Body for free hot cider and music from 5-6:30 p.m. Children can also enter their name into a drawing to flip the huge switch that lights all of downtown. Bring your camera for a photo with Santa at Town Hall Arts Center.
Candles may be purchased for $.50 and donations of non-perishable food items for Interfaith Community Services will be accepted. Additionally, toy donations for the Arapahoe Santa Claus Shop are encouraged.
Get your holiday shopping done downtown that day as Main Street will be open to pedestrians, but closed to traffic at 4 p.m. Santa begins his march down Main Street at 6:30 p.m., starting from the courthouse.

12/1 Denver Museum of Nature and Science
2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver


Avoiding Family Squabbles Over Your Estate

by Kevin Wingert of American Retirement Planning
What steps may help assets transfer without a fight?
Should you rely on “will power” to bequeath assets? The more complex your estate, the more ill-advised that choice becomes. Having only a will in place when you die may not be enough. As MarketWatch noted recently, research from the Williams Group (a major estate planning firm) indicates that estate fights reduce inherited wealth for as many of 70% of families.1
Inheritance is no simple matter. In a simpler world, an individual with a $3 million estate could pass away and simply leave $1 million each to his or her children – enough said, over and done. But life isn’t so simple: one heir may deserve more money as a result of a disability or fate dealing out hardships, while another may truthfully deserve less due to his or her behavior, or his or her financial success.
If you feel one heir should receive more of your estate than another, that wish needs to be articulated in your estate planning. Stating these wishes before you pass away (the why, the how, the how much) and letting your heirs know how you feel isn’t cruel – candor now is preferable to confusion and in-fighting later.
Beyond money, what about possessions & real property? Homes, businesses, raw land, antiques, artwork, collectibles, heirlooms, and pets: your children and grandchildren may have different perceptions of their future value, and disagree on their destiny. Being clear about who is going to get what today (and why specific decisions are being made) may help defray potential legal challenges tomorrow.
Consider leaving some things up to the kids. You could call in appraisers to set values for your real and personal property, make a list of those assets and their values, and subsequently allow your heirs to take turns choosing the possessions or properties they want to inherit. If a squabble breaks out between heirs over this or that item, you can settle it with a family auction – that item goes to the highest bidder when you pass away.
Also, consider a revocable trust. More people should, as wills have basic shortcomings. If they have any imprecise language or lack in terrorem clauses (which threaten heirs that challenge them with disinheritance), they can invite lawsuits and other battles. If the author of a will is elderly, a spouse, ex-spouse or children could try to assert that the author had insufficient mental capacity at the time of authorship or wrote the will under undue influence.2
Wills are made public; they are probated. While there are many non-probate assets that pass directly to a designated beneficiary or a joint tenant (jointly held bank accounts with right of survivorship, jointly titled real property, POD accounts, most types of IRAs and workplace retirement accounts), other assets do not. The length of the probate process varies by state. It takes weeks in some states, months in others.3,4
Probate requires money as well as time: even if you have named the most capable executor
around, the court costs and lawyer and appraiser fees involved may still eat up as much as 5%
of your estate (if you’re a millionaire, that’s $50,000). Mostly, those fees go for basic clerical
Assets within a revocable trust can avoid probate (assuming they have been properly
transferred into the trust, of course). Upon the death of the grantor who established the trust,
the grantor’s appointed trustee distributes the assets within the trust per the grantor’s wishes,
no probate involved. The chance of a family fight over inherited assets lessens.5
Living wills? Those can prove quite valuable. You may not die suddenly, and you could be
incapacitated for a period just prior to your death. Should that be the case, a living will (also
called an advance directive) can articulate how you want to be treated. Additionally, a health
care proxy document can appoint someone (known legally as a health care agent) to authorize
doctors and nurses to carry out those directions. A health care proxy is also crucial in instances
when a younger individual becomes severely disabled.5
Opt for more control. When you pass away, your money will have only three possible
destinations. Percentages of it will go either to your heirs, to charity, or to the government. If
your estate planning goes no further than a will, you could be inviting a dispute and things may
not turn out quite the way you want. While creating a revocable trust can cost ten times as
much as creating a simple will, it may be worth every penny in the end.6
1 – blogs.marketwatch.com/encore/2014/09/29/how-to-prevent-family-feuds-when-it-comes-to-your-inheritance/ [9/29/14]
2 – nolo.com/dictionary/in-terrorem-clause-term.html [10/9/14]
3 – nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/why-avoid-probate-29861.html [10/9/14]
4 – nyparenting.com/stories/2013/5/fp_askattorney_2013_05.html [5/13]
5 – money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2012/07/17/how-to-avoid-fights-over-inheritance [7/17/12]
6 – nhmagazine.com/July-2013-1/Wills-Trusts-and-Estate-Planning/ [7/13]

Be Ready for that Unexpected Early Retirement: 8 tips

Five Things Daughters Need TO Know About Their Parents FinancesBy Rodney Brooks, USA TODAY 7:44 p.m. EDT September 24, 2014
Unexpected retirement can be a lot easier if you plan for the unexpected, financial advisers say.
That retirement you’re looking forward to in five years: Be prepared for it sooner than you expect.
Numerous surveys have shown that people think that they are going to retire later than it happens. The two big reasons: health issues and losing your job.
According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), 47% of American retirees in a 2013 survey retired before they planned, mostly because of health or disability.
Unplanned or unexpected early retirement can create havoc with your retirement plans. Some who had to retire early weren’t quite ready financially: Those five or 10 additional years of saving for retirement were no longer possible. Some may have had to take Social Security earlier than expected. And, as we all know, the earlier you take Social Security, the lower your monthly check.
“I have several clients and families who have gone through this,” says Greg Sullivan, with Sullivan, Bruyette, Speros & Blayney In McLean, Va. “What we are always doing is trying to keep our clients prepared for the unexpected.”

Top retirement financial concern: Health care bills

Others are not prepared psychologically.
“Don’t leave your retirement to hopium,” says Kimberly Foss, founder and president of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif., and author of Wealthy by Design. “Hopium is a foolish hope. It allows people to ignore sometimes unexpected realities, such as unemployment. It keeps people from making a proper plan. If they do ignore it, it leads to financial ruin.”
Some advice on how to be ready in case unexpected early retirement happens to you:
• Do an assessment. Sullivan says you should look at cash flow, balance sheet, insurance and estate plans to get an idea of where you are today and the impact of earlier-than-expected retirement.
• Plan for the unexpected. “If you pre-rehearse those types of contingencies, you are far more likely to make good decisions in an emotional moment,” says Joe Sicchitano, head of wealth planning for SunTrust Bank. “Faced with unexpected retirement, your life is in turmoil. If you thought about it, you can make good decisions.”
It’s not that different from helping children who are afraid of monsters in the closet, Sicchitano says. “The best solution is turn the light on, and see how big he is, how scary he is.”
When you know your fears, you can react to them and plan for them, Sicchitano says. “Start with the question, ‘What are you afraid of?’ That can take a number of different turns. I’m afraid of early retirement. I’m afraid of if inflation gets unwieldy, or an unexpected health concern. What if the market tanks when I retire? We can give any client the ability to toggle these scenarios and see how that scenario affects them personally.”
• Build an emergency fund. “You want to make sure you’ve built an adequate emergency fund,” says Marc Freedman, president CEO of Freedman Financial in Peabody, Mass., and author of the book Retiring for the Genius. “Six to 12 months of your living expenses,” he says. “If you are 55 and faced with retiring soon, you should be able to do that.”
• Consider what you want in retirement. Once people get into their 50s, they need to look at how early they can retire, based on what they want, says Joe Franklin, president of Franklin Wealth Management in Hixson, Tenn. “Determine at what age you are independent enough to say, ‘I can keep working if I enjoy it or leave if I don’t like it.'”
• Reduce debt. “The more you can lower your committed expenses, the more flexibility you have,” says Sicchitano.
• Maximize contributions to your 401(k) and minimize fees. Jerry Schlichter, partner in the St. Louis law firm of Schlichter, Bogard & Denton, says the more attention you have paid to your retirement plan, the better you position yourself for an unexpected retirement. “You want to avoid paying fees that will deplete those assets. The Department of Labor has said a 1% difference in fees over a work life expectancy of 25 years will make a 28% difference in the retirement assets you have. Watch your fees, and make sure they are appropriate. Your company has a duty to make sure you are paying reasonable fees.You should look at what those fees are.”
If and when that unexpected and unwanted retirement does happen, here are eight tips on what to do.
1. Prepare for a range of emotions, says Janet Taylor, a New York City psychiatrist and consultant with AARP’s Life Reimagined. “Feel them and process them, but avoid feeling compelled to act on your feeling immediately,” she says.
“Relax,” says Freedman. “Don’t panic. What you may not be able to do tomorrow, may be an opportunity to do something different down the road.”
2. Examine your budget. “Make sure you are comfortable with how much it costs to support your living expenses,” says Freedman. “Many people don’t know what they spend. Grab your bank statements. Look at the total withdrawal number, add up six months of total withdrawals, multiply by two (giving you a year) and divide by 12.”
When you are faced with a surprise entry into retirement, you have to identify your fixed expenses and your discretionary expenses, Freedman says.
3. Set up a time to talk to human resources, if possible. “Assess your resources and sources of support,” says Taylor. “Lean on them.You are not alone.”
4. Look at your current lifestyle. “Look at your current living environment and say, ‘Can I support this lifestyle?'” says Freedman. You might have to downsize a bit. “Maybe it’s stopping the support you are providing to your children and grandchildren,” Freedman says. “There are a lot of things you can consider.”
It may not be easy, says Sullivan. “We can get you to be financially independent, but you have to make some major changes. Some people will go into denial and keep living as they were and not making changes, because it is an emotional issue. You know it will be a train wreck if they keep going that way. Counseling them on the emotional side is just as important as the financial side.”
5. Do not raid your 401(k). “It still is best to conserve assets in your 401(k) plan if at all possible because they are tax deferred, and you may pay penalties,” says Schlichter. “It should be the last resort for an employee unexpectedly laid off.”
6. Consider an encore career. “Maybe you look at unexpected retirement as a gift — as a chance for something you always wanted to do,” says Sicchitano. “Retrain and enter a new chapter. Our first question is how retired are you going to be?”
7. If you are retiring for health reasons and are unable to work, visit the Social Security Administration. “You can apply for disability benefits,” says Freedman. “It’s the main reason Social Security was built. It was really a widow’s, orphan’s and disabled person’s benefit. If you can’t work for health reasons, you can apply for disability benefits and collect at whatever age you might be. If you have young children you can collect checks for them, too.”
8. “Pay attention to your physical health,” says Taylor. “Changes can be stressful. Monitor your sleep and strive for healthy diets and regular exercise to combat stress.”