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Sense & Sensibility

What's in Your Nest Egg?

June 18, 2010
By Kathleen Felong

Kathy Felong
Kathy Felong

My Dad worked most of his life at a steel plant, but he always dreamed of hitting it rich with the right prospect.

Real estate? He scraped together some savings and went in with some buddies on a pair of downtown flats that were more hassle than hallelujah.

Sales? He bought into a home party-cleaning products venture that was better suited to alienating friends than winning customers.

Luckily for us, my mother was the money manager in the house. She knew how far to let him wander. They were two sides of the same coin; he was “hope for the best”; she was “plan for the worst.”

My Dad had other ideas that failed to reach illumination, and in the end, he kept his day job in middle management with a solid, manufacturing behemoth.

Eventually, my parents retired to a modest, but comfortable life in Florida with health benefits and a good pension. Then, one day, their sure thing—the company he’d worked for all his life— declared bankruptcy. The pension was cut drastically, the health benefits were stripped. The $80,000 life policy? Gone.

When Dad died a few years ago, a small, separate life policy helped Mom, but managing expenses was a much scarier proposition than it was before the bankruptcy changed their lives.

The lesson for my generation is there are no sure bets. A year and a half ago, the nest egg for many Boomers looked, well, golden. Today, those retirement rewards have been diminished an average of 22 percent.

Recent reports suggest that the idea of retirement itself is changing. Social Security? Hmmm. Pensions. Maybe (but my contemporaries switch jobs frequently). 401(K)? As long as you’re not retiring in the decade or so before the market has a chance to rebound.

Instead, eight out of 10 Baby Boomers—like myself—plan to continue working, at least part time, into what were once regarded as the sunset years. This, undoubtedly, has as much to do with economics as with life goals.

And, many of them (me included) are considering life insurance and annuities more stable and important than before. These options offer reliable ways to keep the promise of a good, long life. Having a separate life insurance policy (beyond the workplace) affords you and those you love a sure promise of protection. And annuities are solid savings vehicles.

My husband and I have life insurance policies—some bigger than others—for every member of the family. My parents did the same when I and my four siblings were growing up.

When it comes to securing my nest egg, I don’t mind following in my folks’ footsteps—planning for the worst, but hoping for the best.

Kathy Felong is a former award-winning reporter and columnist and one of the editors of Eriesense. She lives in Erie, Pa., with her husband and college-age kids. E-mail her at

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