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Tips for the new retirement

A recent study conducted by the Bankers Life and Casualty Company Center for a Secure Retirement found that 67 percent of middle-income baby boomers are expecting a retirement that is different from the one their parents enjoyed.

For one thing, the study found that roughly three-quarters of the generation born between 1946 and 1964 believe that financial factors, not their age, will determine when they retire.

Despite these new uncertainties, more than half are looking forward to retirement. If you're trying to navigate plans for the new retirement landscape, the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants offers four key pieces of advice.

• Be prepared to be the decision maker:

In the past, workers were asked few questions about their retirement or health care choices. Employers provided specific benefits, and employees could generally count on well-defined, reliable pension and health care coverage.

However, all that's changed now. Today, workers have more options, greater responsibility and higher costs. You may find yourself faced with choices about how much to set aside in a health savings or medical spending account or which Medicare supplement plan to select.

Also, 401(k) plans and other tax-advantaged retirement options provide an array of sometimes confusing choices.

• Planning is more important: All of the choices and responsibilities you face make it more critical than ever to have a realistic sense of your financial situation and whether you're ready for retirement.

According to the study, about half of middle-income boomers aren't certain they will have enough in savings to guarantee a comfortable retirement.

If you're not sure where you stand, you can begin to find out by using the tools on the 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website, a public service provided by the CPA profession.

The site's retirement pension planner, for example, helps you to estimate your savings needs based on factors such as current age, income, savings rate and expected retirement age.

Articles on the site also walk you through retirement and estate planning basics. You may learn that you're running a bit behind in your savings if you want to reach your retirement goal.

But finding this out now allows you to consider your options and take the steps to get back on track.

• Get ready to work longer: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was a 101 percent jump in the number of people 65 and over in the workforce between 1977 and 2007.

Numerous reasons factor into the escalation in the percentage of people 65 and over staying in the job market. These include losses in retirement savings due to the recession, recent stock market crashes and changing attitudes about work among those of retirement age.

Given the changing climate, you may have to adjust not only your savings plans, but also your career expectations, as your professional life is likely to extend longer than anticipated.

•  Make the most of your opportunities: Given the new retirement realities, it's especially important to take advantage of any options that will maximize your financial assets.

That means, among other things, that you should make full contributions to company retirement plans that include a matching employer contribution.

If you don't contribute, you're missing out on free money from your employer to further feather your nest egg.

On the other side of the coin, avoid dipping into your retirement account, particularly if doing so entails a penalty for early withdrawal. The longer the money stays in the account, the more time it will have to earn interest or dividends.