Budgeting Retirement Time and Money

May 14, 2009  
Filed under Money

By Janet Groene

For years you’ve planned to retire, sell the snow shovel and move to a houseboat, or take off in an RV, or buy a carefree little condo in a golfing community.

How can you handle retirement, downsizing, and moving into a new lifestyle all in the same year?

“One of the biggest mistakes is attempting too many changes too quickly,” finds Greg Daugherty, “Retirement Guy” columnist for the Consumer Reports Money Adviser newsletter. “Only a few generations ago Dad retired and went home, where Mom had always been. Today the husband often retires first and eagerly awaits his wife’s retirement so they can do things together. The period before both partners retire can put a lot of stress on a marriage,” he warns.

Togetherness in smaller spaces?
“A lot depends on temperament,” observes Daugherty. “Some couples could get along in a mini-submarine at the bottom of the sea and others would be at each other’s throats in a mansion. Most couples have a good idea where they fall on that continuum but even they may be in for surprises, especially if they move into much smaller quarters.”

Money too can be a stress point. “Don’t assume that expenses automatically decline in retirement,” warns money expert Daugherty. “Especially in the initial years, when you’re traveling more and doing all those things you wanted to do but never had time for, your expenses could actually be higher than when you were still working.”

If your spouse never worked outside the home but wants to “retire” from kitchen and housekeeping duties, it means higher costs for eating out and hiring household help.

Anne Hart is the author of “Cutting Expenses and Getting More for Less , 41+ Ways to Earn an Income from Opportune Living” (800-AUTHORS or 800-228-4677). Before moving out of their big house, the Harts got rid of everything that had not been used for two years — and sold it for more than $2,000 on eBay. Anne then made a monthly budget not just for money, but for her time.

Could budgeting your hours be the key to overcoming some retirement problems?
Begin by taking Daugherty’s advice about not tackling too many changes all at once. Then take Hart to heart and think about budgeting by the hour, day or week as you ease gradually into a new and more fulfilling routine.

Steel yourself first, though. Retirees are usually pelted from all sides. If your spouse is still working and you’re home now, some or all of the housekeeping load shifts. Charities expect more of your time because you’re “retired with time on your hands.” Golf or bridge buddies think you should be available more often and at more convenient times. Your kids expect free babysitting anywhere, any time and your elderly parents have been saving to-do lists that are now a mile long.

Lastly, you have your own list of dreams, not to mention downright necessities you’ve been putting off until retirement, ranging from long-delayed dental work to re-upholstering the couch.

It’s your life. Budget it at your own pace.

Janet Groene is a professional travel/writer, columnist, author and host of recipe blogs including http://www.CreateAGorp.blogspot and http://www.ChurchSupper.blogspot.com.

Local Festival Offers Affordable Opera

May 14, 2009  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

local-operaNow in its fourth year as Vermont’s premier professional opera festival, the Green Mountain Opera Festival introduces international opera performers, world renowned directors, and emerging opera artists to music enthusiasts May 28 – June 21.

Under the direction of internationally acclaimed artistic director Taras Kulish, this three week operatic sojourn explores the art and beauty of opera with concerts, open air events, free open rehearsals, and free master classes culminating with two fully staged and costumed performances of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro),” accompanied by the Green Mountain Opera Orchestra at the beautifully restored Barre Opera House.

The festival’s Emerging Artist Program will present an abridged version of Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love (L’Elisir D’Amore)” at the Round Barn Farm’s historic Joslyn Round Barn in Waitsfield.

Opera enthusiasts and those just beginning to learn about opera are invited to join the Emerging Artists at a series of free master classes taught by bass-baritone Sanford Sylvan, festival maestro Jacques Lacombe, festival stage director Ellen Schlaefer, and the festival’s artistic director Taras Kulish, also an international career bass. Master classes are an excellent no cost opportunity for Vermont performers and directors to gain professional training and will be taught at the Joslyn Round Barn. A complete schedule is available at www.greenmountainoperafestival.com.

Opera lovers are encouraged to sample opera at the low cost Broadway Picnic taking place on June 10 on the grounds of the Lareau Farm Inn, home to American Flatbread, in Waitsfield. This casual, open-air event begins at 6 p.m. with a carry-in picnic option followed by the concert at 7 p.m. The cast of “The Marriage of Figaro” perform favorite Broadways standards to the delight of people of all ages. Tickets are $10 per person and are available at the event.

To purchase tickets to the Barre Opera House performances, call 802-476-8188 or visit www.barreoperahouse.org.
To purchase tickets for other performances, call 802-496-7722 or email tickets@greenmountainoperafestival.com.

Baby Boomers Keep Their Jobs During the Recession

May 14, 2009  
Filed under Business

The share of older Americans over 55 years of age who have jobs has risen during the recession, while the share of younger Americans with jobs has plunged, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The difference may reflect the fact that many older adults want jobs. Today, with their 401(k) plan assets down sharply, the decline in traditional employer-sponsored pension and retiree health plans, the increase in Social Security’s retirement age, and housing values not worth what they once were, many baby boomers are either delaying retirement or seeking a return to the workforce,” according to Joan Strewler-Carter and Stephen Carter, co-founders of the Life Options Institute, an organization dedicated to helping people plan for life after age 50.

“When you’re in your 50s and 60s, you’re still in your prime,” according to Mr. Carter. “In this environment, many employers are now seeking older workers for the experience and wisdom they bring to the workplace.  Still others look at mature employees as mentors who may be involved with knowledge-transfer.”

More baby boomers realize there are valuable increases in Social Security check amounts for each year a worker delays claiming benefits. According to T. Rowe Price, a 62-year-old with a salary of $100,000 and a $500,000 nest egg will see his annual retirement income rise 6 percent for every additional year he remains in the workforce.

The current workplace presents many alternatives for baby boomers, according to the Carters, co-authors of “What’s Next in Your Life?”  Some of these options might be new territory for many, but the key is to maintain an open mind:
• Continuation — keeping your current job or seeking identical or similar work, environment and employment terms.
• New terms — changing compensation terms through contract, part-time and/or flexible schedule work, perhaps with your current employer.
• New environment — changing industries, work cultures, size or type of organization, but continuing in a similar function.
•  New work — significantly changing the nature of your work, perhaps using different skills or expertise.
• Volunteerism — giving back or having an impact through meaningful work without compensation.
• Sequencing — strategically moving from one option to another over time, building bridges to the next step while engaged in the current role.
• Cycling — alternating work with leisure through project work, sabbaticals or the like.
• New venture — starting a franchise or consultancy, or buying or starting a new business.

“For the over 50 crowd, exploring work options requires some brainstorming, networking and lots of research. Spend the time working through the alternatives,” notes Mr. Carter.  Some steps you should take in this process include asking yourself these questions:
• What can I afford to do?
• What do I want to do?
• What fits for me?
• How do I find the possibilities?
• How do I determine the best fit options?

“Continuation of employment with the same job and employer may be easier than negotiating new terms. If you pursue new terms, a more flexible work schedule will likely result in a change in compensation. Remember that negotiating the work arrangement that best meets your needs also has to provide a convincing value proposition for your employer as well,” says Mr. Carter.

For additional information on baby boomer workplace options,visit www.WhatsNextInYourLife.com .

Happy Trails Are Here Again

May 14, 2009  
Filed under Health & Wellness

Exploring Some of Vermont’s Best Hiking Spots

By Richard Daybell

Mud’s mostly gone. Everything’s green. And Vermont’s hiking trails call us to outdoor adventure. With more than 1,000 miles of trails, Vermont has a fantastic network of hiking and walking possibilities – strolling through meadows, walking along lake and river shorelines, and skittering up mountainsides in search of breathtaking views. Perhaps it’s more than our fair share, but after a Vermont winter we deserve it.

Hiking requires no skills beyond those we acquired at toddlerhood. You don’t have to throw, catch or hit anything; you don’t have to know how to pedal or paddle. Just walk — sometimes uphill, sometimes downhill, sometimes just straight ahead. Most trails are obvious (pavement or gravel), well signed (“turn here now”), or blazed (those little color chips tacked to trees). Many hiking locales areas have trail maps available, and The Green Mountain Club (802.244.7037, www.greenmountainclub.org), Green Mountain National Forest (802.747.6700, www.fs.fed.us\59\gmfl) and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (802.241.3655) are good source for maps and hiking information.

Hiking boots laced, walking sticks at attention. Herewith, in no particular order, a list of eight walks and hikes to get you started.

• Mount Philo became Vermont’s first state park for good reason. A half hour south of Burlington, a few miles from the shoreline of Lake Champlain, this rather small mountain juts upward to a mere 968 feet. But it’s all relative; from the cliffs at the summit, you might well be at the top of the world. The lake stretches out to the Adirondacks and the rest of North America beyond, raptors soar above. It’s all quite idyllic — a perfect spot for reading a good book, sharing a picnic lunch or just stretching back and watching the raptors soar above you. There is a picnic area, and tables tucked here and there atop the cliffs. You can hike up from the lower parking lot but parts of the trail are quite steep and challenging (and slippery when wet). Drive to the parking lot at the summit, and enjoy a much easier quarter-mile hike or a one-mile walk on the road around the summit.

• Farther south, Snake Mountain juts up from the Champlain Valley in much the same way as Mount Philo, to a similar elevation of just under a thousand feet. (Both Mount Philo and Snake Mountain were islands in a vast Champlain Sea, 10,000 years ago.) The 3.5-mile hike here is moderately strenuous on the way up, but a piece of cake coming back down. Good hiking boots and walking sticks will help. Plan on half a day. You’ll start off easily through an old pasture, then work your way up a serpentine ridge for which the mountain was named. Old roads crisscross the trail, part of a carriage trail that carried visitors to Grand View House, a posh hotel, at the summit a hundred years ago. At the top, you’ll find a large concrete slab, intended to be the foundation of a house that was never built. If you brought a lunch, this is the place to enjoy it while contemplating the world around you. The views of the Champlain Valley from this perch are magnificent.

• We think of Stowe as a winter playland, a quintessential Vermont ski town, but more people actually visit Stowe during the summer. Many find their way to the 5.3-mile Stowe Recreation Path, where a leisurely walk is downright therapeutic. No special gear needed here; the eight-foot wide path is paved. It’s the town’s pride, built through a grassroots effort with a portion of the path made possible by easements donated by local residents. The path follows the Mountain Road (at a much gentler climb), through cornfields and into woodlands, abundant with wildflowers, and in later summer, ferns. No need to bring along a lunch for this walk – you can take a break anywhere along the path for a bite to eat at one of Stowe’s many restaurants.

• In Williston, right in the middle of one of the most developed areas in the state, sits an oasis of tranquility. The Catamount Outdoor Family Center offers 20 miles of trails on 500 acres of gently rolling terrain of both woodland and pasture. Stretching across two hills, the center offers great views of both the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains, as well as the Winooski River Valley and Lake Champlain. The center offers year-round recreation, and a highlight is October’s Haunted Forest, a scary walk through the woods at night, guided by hundreds of carved pumpkins.

• When you were atop Snake Mountain, looking down at the Champlain Valley, much of what you saw was a part of the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area, an aquatic habitat for waterfowl maintained by the state of Vermont. A bird book and binoculars are a must here. Raptors fly overhead, shorebirds wade through the swamps, red-winged blackbirds dart from shrubs to cattails, and, in October, tens of thousands of Canada and snow geese rest and feed during their migratory trip south. Two easy walks (though wet in places), each less than a mile, take you from forests of oak and hickory through marshlands and meadows. Off to the east, you’ll see the quartzite cliffs of Snake Mountain.

• Kingsland Bay State Park near Vergennes offers one of the few lakeside walks in northern Vermont. The 264-acre park was previously a summer camp. The 0.6-mile trail begins just beyond Hawley House, an impressive stone house built in 1790, and follows the Lake Champlain shoreline along a small peninsula through woodlands of white and red pine and hemlock. To your left the twisted trunks of white cedar cling tenaciously to cliffs, which, at times, soar to 50 feet above the water. During May, Trillium are everywhere. You’ll see signs of and may hear or catch sight of a huge pileated woodpecker, having its way with the base of a tree. At the halfway point, the trail reverses itself, heading along the other side of the peninsula on gentler terrain back to Hawley House. Although not a strenuous trail, the footing can be iffy at times, so good footwear is helpful.

• Five miles of trails meander through the Green Mountain Audubon Nature Center in the Huntington River Valley just south of Richmond. The trails pass through open fields, forests, swamps and marshes, passing streams and ponds with peepers and an active beaver community. The diversity of habitats within the center’s 230 acres are as amazing as trail and attraction names suggest: Brook Trail, Fern Trail, Hemlock Swamp, Beaver Pond, Peeper Pond, and the Sensory Trail (designed for the blind and visually impaired with a rope strung between posts as a guide). Most of the trails are easy, with one or two pushing the moderate range.

• Established in 1942, Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge covers six thousand acres of the Missisquoi River Delta between Alburg and Swanton. Its creeks, marshes and swamps are home at various times during the year to ospreys, horned and barred owls, great blue heron, and 20,000 ducks. Muskrat, beaver and deer also inhabit the refuge. The 1.5-mile (2.7 miles, including access) trail follows the Black and Maquam creeks, along boardwalks, gravel paths and sometimes mud, never rising more than 25 feet in elevation. At the far end of the trail is Lookout Point, a great spot to observe the creeks and marshes. The walking is easy, but can be very wet. Sneakers might end up uncomfortable.

How to Get There
• Catamount Outdoor Family Center – Follow Route 2 east to the village of Williston. Turn north on North Williston Road. After 1 mile turn right to 592 Gov. Chittenden Road.
• Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area – On Route 17, west of Addison. The headquarters building is one mile on the right. Just beyond, on the left, is a viewing area. A little farther, after crossing Dead Creek, is a dirt road on the left. Follow it .8 mile to the parking area.
• Green Mountain Audubon Nature Center – On Huntington Road, 5 miles south of Richmond. The Sugarhouse parking lot is on the right. Or turn right on Sherman Hollow Road just beyond the lot and follow the signs to the Nature Center.
• Kingsland Bay State Park – Follow Route 7 to Ferrisburg, turn west on Little Chicago Road. At just under a mile, turn right on Hawkins Road and follow it 3.4 miles to the park entrance.
• Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge – On Route 78, 2.4 miles from Swanton. Entrance and parking are on the left.
• Mount Philo State Park – From Route 7, 2.5 miles south of Charlotte, turn east on State Park Road. The park entrance is .6 miles.
• Snake Mountain – From Route 22A, 3 miles south of Addison, turn east on Willmarth Road, one-half mile to Mountain Road. The trailhead is straight ahead. Turn left for parking, .1 mile on the left.
• Stowe Recreation Path – Take Route 100 to the village of Stowe. The path begins on Main Street behind the white church.

Happy Trails Are Here Again

Red Can be a Tasteful Color for Dining Room

May 13, 2009  
Filed under Home & Garden

home-decorBy Rose Bennett Gilbert, CNS

Q: My wife wants to paint our dining room red. She says red is good for the appetite. But what about our traditional furniture?

A: What about it? Red dining rooms are totally traditional, as a visit to almost any l8th-century English manor house would confirm. And, as color experts would confirm, red is indeed believed to stimulate the appetite. Put the two together, and you have a warm convivial backdrop for dining, discussing and delighting in the company of family and friends.

Red can stimulate other senses, too. It energizes and excites. Famed color “dude” Ken Charbonneau — formerly with Benjamin Moore and the forecast committee for the Color Association of the United States ­— once used a deep, rich red to paint the ceiling of his Greenwich Village dining room. People on the sidewalk below stopped and stared up, amazed and delighted

In its invigorating phase, red is right as the background for contemporary dining, too. Witness this room, designed by the award-winning team of Carl D’Aquino and Francine Monaco for a trendsetting boutique owner and her family. D’Aquino Monaco (www.daquinomonaco.com) combined claret-red walls and a table lacquered mustard-yellow, pulled up Biedermeier-style chairs and lit the scene with a contemporary take on traditional crystal chandeliers. Wrought from aluminum and dripping crystals, the chandeliers bridge any attitude gap between tradition and today.

Don’t overlook the view through the dining room’s arch: The hall walls are striped with some 27 different wallpaper patterns, mixed not matched — in the way, they say, their fashion-forward client would layer articles of clothing by different designers. Not for the faint-hearted, perhaps, but perfect in this setting for this family.

Q: The mantel in our living room is quite high, and I can’t find anything long and narrow enough to hang over it. A mirror would work, but I am still looking for the right size. Meanwhile, what could I put up there?

A: A set of decorative vases meant to be shown off together would dramatize the space. So would a collection of candlesticks, several made of different materials (use the same color candles for extra visual oomph).

Q: My husband has inherited the family homestead, complete with a log house built in the mid-1800s. The main room is small, maybe 12 feet by 12 feet, with a stone fireplace and dark wood walls, floors and beams (low ceilings, less than 9 feet). I think we should paint everything white, except the floors. He hates the idea. But you always mention how white makes space look bigger.

A: True, it does. But you need to look upon that homestead as a collector would look upon a fine antique. No way would a paintbrush ever come near it.

I see no reason that you can’t get a light-colored rug, use white and light fabrics for furniture and curtains and hang a lot of mirrors on those dark wood walls. Together, they’ll brighten your interior without defacing its vintage charms.
Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of “Hampton Style” and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas.

Know Your Risk for Inherited Colon Cancer

May 13, 2009  
Filed under Health & Wellness

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., yet many patients and their families don’t realize that one in 10 colon cancer cases are inherited and genetic testing can help determine if there is risk to others in a family. The number of at-risk individuals who seek genetic counseling for colon cancer is much lower than in families where there is an incidence of breast cancer, even though the inherited forms of the two cancers occur with similar frequency.

“There are many signs that point to the possibility that a colon cancer is of the type that can be passed on to your kids — or inherited from your parents, depending on who has the cancer,” said Steve Keiles, president of the National Society for Genetic Counselors (NSGC).

Possible signs:
• A colon cancer occurring in a person younger than 50.
• More than 10 colorectal polyps, or precancerous growths in the colon, detected during a colonoscopy or other tests.
• Presence of a second cancer in addition to colon cancer (especially if ovarian, endometrial or stomach cancer).
• Having at least two close family members with colon cancer on the same side of the family, especially if one is diagnosed before the age of 50.
• Individual with a known family history of an inherited form of colon cancer called polyposis syndrome.

“Individuals who meet any of these criteria, or have close family members who do, should consider consulting a genetic counselor who can perform a risk assessment and determine if they or their families are candidates for genetic testing,” says Keiles. “The majority of individuals will not have an inherited form of colon cancer; however risk assessment by a trained genetic professional is essential before any further testing is performed.”

If the results of the genetic test show a person is at high risk for inherited colon cancer, he or she will want to take steps to lower the risk by making lifestyle changes, such as engaging in at least 30 minutes of daily exercise and avoiding foods high in fat and cholesterol. It is common for some individuals to be advised to have an annual colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, barium enema, or blood stool testing, all of which can catch colon cancer at its earliest most curable stage.
The most common hereditary colorectal cancers include Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer or HNPCC), familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and MYH-associated polyposis (MAP). Genetic tests are available to determine an individual’s inherited risk for all of these diseases.

The Gardens of Claude Monet

May 12, 2009  
Filed under Travel

travel-monet“My garden is slow work, pursued by love.”
— Claude Monet

by Karen Kenyon, CNS

Paris had been cold. Dark figures in coats and scarves filled the street. But the day we set off for Giverny to see the gardens and home of Claude Monet, magic, color, and spring arrived.

Even as I traveled by train the 40 miles from Paris to the village of Vernon, near Giverny, and talked with my two friends, tears began to fill my eyes. Something about this trip, this excursion into beauty was touching me in an unexpected way — as if my heart were about to open.

This can’t be real, I thought. A lifetime of seeing Monet’s images in high and low places — and a few actual Monet paintings in museums, like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. And while in Paris I’d viewed others at the Musee D’Orsay.
I had visited homes of famous writers, and found that exciting and rewarding — to step on the floorboards in Dickens’ house, and know he probably heard the same squeak — or to gaze out the upstairs nursery window in the Bronte parsonage, and see the moors as Charlotte, Emily, and Anne did. But the idea of visiting the great Claude Monet’s garden and home — actually seeing his inspiration and creation — seemed overwhelming.

Less than an hour from Paris we were in Vernon. Just outside the train station were buses to Giverny, as well as taxis and even bicycles.

It was April, so even though several others were heading to the village, I could only imagine the huge crowds that would make the trek in summer.

Only a short few minutes ride and we were at Giverny. Walking from the bus, we passed the American Museum, full of paintings by the expatriate American Impressionists who lived and painted in Giverny before the start of World War I. They wanted to be near their hero and model, Claude Monet, and to experience the shimmering light and misty landscapes of his paintings. (In truth, Monet was not always happy with this group of followers who painted his garden and neighborhood).
Though I hoped to see this museum at some point, my interest was with the master himself. First, his home and environs.
Walking through the gift shop (at one time his water lily studio)  I saw the door leading to the garden. I stepped through it like Dorothy entering the Emerald City.

Spring seemed to arrive the minute I stepped into Monet’s world. If life was in color before, I’d hardly noticed. Here it felt a veil had been lifted from my eyes.

A palette of moss green, new grass green and waxen dark green mixed with pink tulips, yellow daisies, purple irises and small lavender blossoms. It shone with intensity, fresh as a dream. Colors were scattered in the flowerbeds, like splashes of paint. And, as in Monet’s paintings, there seemed to be no horizon. The garden was all around and above us.

The willows and poplars laced above, and Monet’s pink and green house filled the space to our right. Bright yellow flowering forsythia bushes filled in the middle space, while pink Busy Lizzie flowers encircled a nearby tree.

There was nowhere to look that wasn’t full of color and a reflection of light.

Later I read that Monet chose the area because of the way the surrounding hills diffused the light. I felt also like Linnea in the children’s book “Linnea in Monet’s Garden” by Cristina Bjork and Lena Anderson. The surroundings felt healing — as if no matter the pain or sadness or problem a person brought with them, being in the garden would help.

The long archway directly in front of the house defined and divided the Clos Normand garden. The green of climbing roses, not yet in bloom, covered the archway.

Here he lived with Alice Raingo Hoschede, his second wife. During the 43 years Monet was in Giverny, he used the garden as inspiration. He also painted nearby scenes — the grain stacks, the poplars along the river.

We decided to visit the lily pond. We passed gardeners off to the side, digging and planting, their high rubber boots like the ones Monet appears to wear in some photos.

We passed two flat-bottomed, blue boats, the prows seeming to kiss. These are replicas of the boat used in Monet’s day — and they are used to clear the underwater weeds from the lily pond.

A branch of the River Epte streams through the garden. At one point I saw a little boy, sailing leaves downstream as if a filmmaker had cast him.

In 1893, Monet created the water garden, surrounded by poplars and Babylon willows, where he grew and painted exotic water lilies in white, yellow and mauve. The Japanese Bridge was built shortly after the pond. In summer, wisteria blossoms arch above the graceful bridge. Lilies, rhododendron and azaleas splash their color on the bank.

From 1895 on, Monet devoted much of his final years to painting the water lilies and pond in all hours of the day.

The great artist gave the gift of his paintings and his wonderful garden to the world. And now I realized we are all more artist than we were before a visit, by seeing briefly through his eyes, by being immersed and touched by the beauty Claude Monet created.

IF YOU GO
Claude Monet’s home in Giverny, France, is open 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., every day except Monday, from April 1 through Oct. 31. Visit online at www.fondation-monet.fr/fr

Protecting Your 401(k) and IRA

May 12, 2009  
Filed under Money

protecting-your-401Hundreds of millions of dollars are invested into retirement plans each year. Yet for many American workers, the joy of receiving quarterly statements for their investments is going to rank right up there with the delight of paying their income taxes. It’s not pretty—and just thinking about the damage done to retirement accounts since last year can be painful. So what—if anything—can be done to slow the loss of any more money out of 401(k), IRA, or other investment plans? And when the market finally starts trending upward, what’s the best way to maximize what’s in there to be better prepared for the future?

The Complete Idiot’s Guide® to Protecting Your 401(k) and IRAs, written by financial experts Jennifer and Bill Lane, provides the answer as well as all the information readers need to know including:
• What 401(k) and defined contribution plans are, and how they work
• How economic upswings and downturns affect investment plans—and what can be done to anticipate these changes
• Changes in investment rules and guidelines, and their impact on 401(k)s and IRAs
• Identifying the proper investment decisions

The Complete Idiot’s Guide® to Protecting Your 401(k) and IRA also includes all the pertinent questions that should be asked of investment agents and plan administrators, to allow readers to make the informed decisions best for them.

Jennifer Lane makes her living as a certified financial planner, and is the founder and principal of Compass Planning Associates in Boston. Since 2002, Lane has been the featured weekly personal finance expert on New England Cable News’ BusinessDay “Ask Jennifer” segment. Lane was named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women in Business Advocate for Massachusetts in 2003.

Bill Lane is an author, editor, and financial journalist. Lane has written thousands of articles and columns on elements of the economy ranging from personal finance and banking to real estate and corporate finance.