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on-golden-pondWhen I imagine retirement for Frank and me, I envisage Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn doddering companionably on the edge of the lake, lingering with the loons, or entwined upon the hammock in their romantic retirement idyll, On Golden Pond (see link below).

It is a reverie that once belonged to my “let’s grow old and wrinkly together” archives and was thus always somewhere dimly in the distance. Just like the great hallmark of turning 50, I never thought retirement day would come.

Well, my anniversaire doré is due this year and now I can sure smell retirement barreling down the road on the winds of age. Who threw the switch? Where did the last decade go?

In 2000, I was forty and, for the ensuing four years, I was nearly drowning in a thrall of panic over whether my biological clock had finally gone cuckoo. All I could think was: “Baby…now!” I must get pregnant with that Baby Now. When I woke up in the morning, I’d crack open a jar of Folic Acid and it would taunt me as if I were Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Rosemary%27s_Baby_%28film%29) with the sinister whisper…”Baby…Now!”

My forties were streaking by like greased lightning. I just had to have that Baby NOW!

No one (meaning not even Frank or me) was thinking about what we’d do with the baby later, when their need to go to university would have a Titan-esque clash with our potential retirement in our 60s. And, believe me, if the next decade is anything like the last, try hard not to blink for the next ten years.

Linda Carlson (http://www NULL.lindacarlson NULL.com/), a 58-year-old marketing consultant and author in Seattle, Washington, had her second child at the age of 40 and knows just what it’s like to be facing retirement and laying out fat tuition fees for her now 23 and 18 year old children.

“One huge issue” she says, “is that those of us who have babies at 40 (or later) will have major financial commitments just when we’d like to (or are being forced to) retire.”

Carlson, who refers to meeting other over-40 moms as “like being a member of mommy freemasons”, believes that one day midlife moms will be identified as the “best kept secret on the mommy market”.

Despite the fact that she and her husband did plan ahead, her daughter is now a freshman at one of the most expensive colleges in the US, they are still “intimidated by the $27,000 bill each semester.”

Fortunately, her son spent a year at the University of Washington before being accepted at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated in May 2009, although up-front fees (for his computer, uniforms and equipment) were paid for from his savings and then from his monthly stipend from the Navy.

Cathy Curtis (http://www NULL.curtisfinancialplanning NULL.com/)—a 51-year-old Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Advisor who writes on personal finance for The Bay Area Women’s Journal (San Francisco) (http://www NULL.bayareawj NULL.com/10-simple-truths-about-money/)—says that midlife moms need to save for both retirement and tuition from the outset.

Curtis, who advises “women who take the lead in financial matters in the family”, warns that options can be limited when it comes to funding for retirement and you don’t want to “start from zero” or find it’s too late to catch up financially when your children hit university age. She also suggests that there are more funding options for higher education and you need to start looking into them by the time your children are in their junior year of high school.

To keep your out-of-pocket costs down, “children can earn scholarships or grants, take out student loans, work part-time through school, attend a junior college for two years and then transfer to a university, attend an in-state university instead of out-of-state, or enroll in public university instead of private.”

What she’s against is “raiding retirement accounts” or going into debt to pay for college and feels that parents should look at more affordable options instead. She says: “encourage your children from an early age to study, work towards good grades, participate in school and community activities, and develop a skill (i.e. athletic, musical, theatrical)”, in order to be eligible for funding.

“If they have not achieved success in these areas by junior year” she continues, “it will be too late to qualify for grants and scholarships.”

A final word from the wise: Curtis warns that the cost of higher education has been increasing more than inflation at a rate of 6% annually. So start planning early—or you may be drowning financially in your golden retirement pond, rather than resting on it!

Note to Readers:

On Golden Pond: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000JBALO?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0000JBALO (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/B0000JBALO?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0000JBALO)

Linda Carlson, marketing consultant and author: http://www.lindacarlson.com (http://www NULL.lindacarlson NULL.com/).

Cathy Curtis is the owner of Curtis Financial Planning an independent, fee-only financial planning and investment advisory firm that specializes in the finances of women, their families, and their businesses.  Her website is http://www.curtisfinancialplanning.com (http://www NULL.curtisfinancialplanning NULL.com/).  Her blog called “Of Independent Means”   http://blog.curtisfinancialplanning.com (http://blog NULL.curtisfinancialplanning NULL.com/).

Resources (Courtesy of Cathy Curtis):

Private Counseling Services – These counselors  help your child figure out where to apply and give advice on completing applications. Prices vary.

The Independent Educational Consultants Association www.educationalconsulting.org (http://www NULL.educationalconsulting NULL.org/)

The Higher Education Consultants Association www.hecaonline.org (http://www NULL.hecaonline NULL.org/)

National Association for College Admission Counseling www.nacacnet.org (http://www NULL.nacacnet NULL.org/)

Tutoring services – college entrance-test preparation services.

Kaplan Test Prep

Princeton Review

Scholarship search services

Sallie Mae:  www.collegeanswer.com (http://www NULL.collegeanswer NULL.com/)

FastWeb:  www.fastweb.com (http://www NULL.fastweb NULL.com/)

Scholarship Resource Network Express www.srnexpress.com (http://www NULL.srnexpress NULL.com/)

Funding for College:  www.fundingforcollege.us (http://www NULL.fundingforcollege NULL.us/)

Reference book: The Scholarship Handbook (College Board)

For help in choosing colleges:

Best 361 Colleges (Princeton Review) www.princtonreview.com

The Insider’s Guide to Colleges (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Financial Aid Advice

www.finaid.com (http://www NULL.finaid NULL.com/)

Web site of the Department of Education, at www.studentaid.ed.gov (http://www NULL.studentaid NULL.ed NULL.gov/).

For help filling out the FAFSA, go to www.studentaid.ed.gov/completefafsa (http://www NULL.studentaid NULL.ed NULL.gov/completefafsa)

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