Early retiree Jeffrey Foss plans to supplement his $49,000 per year pension by going back to work as a consultant for at least 10 years.

Share story

Profile: Jeffrey Foss, 55, retired ironworker and construction expert, and Sue Foss, 57, former office-administrative worker, Bothell. Married, raising their grandson.

To afford to raise Taylor, their 10-year-old grandson, energetic, early retiree Jeffrey Foss plans to supplement his $49,000 per year pension by going back to work as a consultant for at least 10 years.

Current assets include Jeffrey’s pension with health benefits; a $150,000 annuity; Sue’s state pension worth up to $3,600 per year, depending on when she starts taking it; stock and stock funds around $7,000 total; savings bonds of about $10,000; plus equity in their $300,000 home.

Retirement goals: Supporting and educating their grandson in their 50s and 60s; continuing to save money so Jeffrey can cut back to part-time work in his 60s; staying in their Bothell home.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

They refinanced their mortgage recently, and now face payments for another 29 years and a $7,300 line of credit to pay off.

The advice: The joy this boy brings to the Foss home doesn’t temper the financial reality. Seattle certified financial planner Shawn Donnelly says that when a grandchild moves in permanently, “In general, people have to work longer than they anticipated.”

The scenario isn’t rare anymore: AARP, the advocacy group for Americans 50 and older, estimates that more than 4 percent of all children in Washington state live in grandparent-headed households.

Trim spending: Cut by as much as 30 percent. Then, shut the tap: Stop tapping the home-equity line of credit; “people tend to use these for current expenses and because ‘things came up,’ ” Donnelly says. “The problem is, things always come up. There needs to be a plan to pay it back.”


Don’t touch annuity:

Leave it intact for now and live on Jeffrey’s pension and earnings from whatever new work he undertakes.


Delay Social Security:

Both Fosses should wait until they’re eligible for full benefits (age 66 for those of their birth years) to minimize taxes on Jeffrey’s earnings.


Track spending:

Budget, perhaps with a software program such as Quicken or Microsoft Money. Money trimmed from current spending can pay off the home-equity loan, be saved toward college expenses and toward full retirement 15 or more years from now.


Figure for inflation:

In 20 years, assuming an annual inflation rate of 4 percent, the $4,000/month pension will be equal to about $1,900 in today’s dollars, Donnelly estimates. “Inflation can really eat into a flat pension over the years.”




Work longer:

Working as long as he can will enable Jeffrey to pay today’s bills, delay taking Social Security until full retirement, and perhaps participate in a tax-advantaged savings plan at a new job, Donnelly suggests.


Draw-down assets:

Certified financial planner Roger Scott of Kirkland suggests that retirees with young heirs, such as the Fosses, strategically draw down their assets in retirement, making sure to use annuities first which are not inheritable. He suggests they draft wills that minimize the tax burden of the estate they leave their grandson.


Get stock savvy:

Inexperienced investors uncomfortable with the risks of the stock market should consider joining an investment club to learn more about growth investments, Scott says. “Only if you’re very risk averse should you be out of the stock market, even at an older age.”