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W.Va. author offers retirement advice

September 05, 2000

W.Va. author offers retirement advice



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photo: JOE CROCETTA/ staff photographer

Ellen HoffmanSHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Local financial writer Ellen Hoffman has released her second book to help people deal with the often intimidating task of managing their financial future.

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Hoffman, who gives advice on how to understand pension plans, 401(k) plans, the stock market, insurance and Social Security, has been crisscrossing the country promoting her latest book, "The Retirement Catch-Up Guide," since it arrived in bookstores two months ago.

Hoffman has been featured in newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and on television and radio shows from New York to Minnesota. On July 31, she was interviewed on the "Today Show.""The Retirement Catch-Up Guide" carries much the same message as her first one: That many people don't understand the financial ramifications of failing to plan for retirement.

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Despite a booming economy when 20-year-olds are becoming millionaires, 46 percent of Americans have saved less than $10,000 for retirement, according to Newmarket Press, the New York publishing firm that is printing Hoffman's book.

About 76 percent of pre-retirees do not feel confident they have enough money for retirement, according to the firm.

In her first book, "Bankroll Your Future: How to Get the Most From the Government for Your Retirement Years," Hoffman briefed readers on what they need to know about 401(k) plans, Medicare, insurance and other issues to formulate a retirement plan.

Hoffman said "The Retirement Catch-Up Guide" is a good follow-up to her first book because it details the life stories of 54 people who have taken matters into their own hands to improve their financial outlooks.

The stories offer everything from straight-forward advice, such as suggesting people move from cities to rural areas where property taxes are lower, to more obscure ways of finding new revenue sources.

One of the stories recounts the experience of a retired Wisconsin school teacher who did not realize she had put $600 into a pension fund early in her career. A friend of the teacher's noticed the woman's name in a list of unclaimed property that was in a newspaper.

When the teacher called state officials to find out what her unclaimed property was, she was told that her $600 pension investment had blossomed to $22,000, Hoffman said.

Another story is about a man who threw some old stock certificates in a drawer years ago, thinking they were useless because he was not sure if the business they came from still existed, Hoffman said.

The man later got a call from a stock broker who was trying to find all the shareholders of the company. The stockbroker told the man his shares were worth $10,000.

Hoffman said the message she is trying to send is that people need to keep track of all their financial investments.

The book tells readers how to free up more money by reducing credit card debt, how to reduce the number of expensive restaurant meals or how to cut back on luxury spending, such as buying a new car every other year.

"I call it downsizing your life," said Hoffman, a former Washington Post reporter who writes a retirement column for Business Week Online and has written articles for Business Week, Reader's Digest and other publications.

People who are nearing retirement age but who have realized they do not have enough money to retire can go into consulting work that draws on the knowledge they have acquired in their careers, Hoffman said.

"More and more people are not retiring cold-turkey," Hoffman said.

Hoffman's books can be found at Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown or through Amazon.com.

A book signing will be at the Entler Hotel in Shepherdstown Saturday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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