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Taking Care of Mom and Dad: Social Security Conclusion

A comfortable retirement is everyone's dream. Because people are living longer, healthier lives, you can expect your parents to spend more time in retirement than your grandparents did.

Among the various resources that older Americans use to finance their retirement years, Social Security is the foundation on which most build their plans.

Most financial advisors say people need about 70 percent of their pre-retirement earnings to comfortably maintain their pre-retirement standard of living. For most retirees, Social Security currently provides about 40 percent of their preretirement earnings.

That foundation is likely to shrink in the coming years...and certainly by the critical period between the years 2017 and 2020. But for now, your parents can benefit from the program and add more to their income. Social Security benefits go farther than you might think because they usually either fully or partly tax-free and come with automatic cost of living adjustments (COLAs). The COLA feature is very valuable -- and rarely found in private pension plans.

The actuarial reckoning will more likely be your problem.

In the meantime, it's a good idea to check out the Social Security's Web site (www.ssa.gov) for complete and updated benefits information. You can download needed forms and publications as well as use the benefit planner for on-line financial planning. (You can also call the Social Security Administration toll-free at 1.800.772.1213.)

If you compare what your parents had to pay for their Social Security benefits to what you're paying, it becomes clear that you are paying for your parents' Social Security. Make sure that they get what you're paying for.

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