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Q: I am scared for my adult children. I am 61 years old, retired for two years. I calculated the value of my defined-benefit pension (just over $8,100 a month), using a life expectancy of 25 more years and an interest rate of 4 percent a year.

Assuming correct computations, my pension is worth about $2.5 million. (Yes, I understand that lots of “ifs” are involved.)

My children work and save with defined-contribution plans. Even considering an employer contribution of 6 percent and pretty decent salaries, how can they ever hope to save enough in future dollars to have a comfortable retirement?

A: I share your concern. The reality is that those who retired over the last 20 years are citizens of the Golden Age of Retirement. Their children don’t have the same future.

For the Golden Age of Retirement members, Social Security benefits have been generous — and a healthy proportion of workers enjoyed the kind of defined-benefit pension that you have. Those two, combined with homeownership and equity buildup, reduced the need for personal saving.

Our adult children are looking at something completely different: Few have defined- benefit pensions, and Washington is looking for some way to either increase contributions for Social Security or reduce future payments.

Either way, Social Security won’t be as good a deal for younger workers as it has been for recent retirees.

For better or worse, the likely answer is that younger workers will have to plan their futures differently than those recently retired. Here are some active steps that will help:

• Work longer.

• Delay taking Social Security benefits.

• Radically reduce home size and value expectations.

• Squeeze any and all unnecessary expenses out of your 401(k) plan and other savings.

Will that be enough? I really don’t know.

Q: How can my wife and I calculate our effective Social Security wealth?

A: The calculation to arrive at this figure is pretty involved, but however it is done, having Social Security is like having a lot in savings.

Also, the figure would differ for people who are single and people who are married.

The highest value would be for a higher-earning spouse in a couple because his or her benefit would go to the surviving spouse.

As a result, the benefit would be paid out for the joint life expectancy of the couple. A joint life expectancy is quite a bit longer than the life expectancy of a single person. Someone would be getting the benefit for about 24 years rather than about 17 years.

For a married couple, you can get a rough approximation by adding 40 to 50 percent to the cost of a joint and 100 percent survivor life annuity.

You can get a fixed-payout life annuity estimate from the website

For a monthly income of $1,200 — close to the average Social Security monthly benefit that would continue with 100 percent to the surviving spouse — you’d have to pay about $232,000 for the fixed payment.


Copyright 2013, Universal Press Syndicate