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Saturday, April 22, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mini makeover: Can I retire early?

Michael Harrell, 50, single, supervisor for King County Metro Transit. He makes $80,000 per year and owns two homes, three cars.

Lots of folks dream of retiring early. Michael Harrell's story shows it's often not as easy as it seems.

His goal: Retire at age 60, with an income of $54,500 per year after taxes.

What he'd have: Profits from selling a Central District home first, possibly $70,000; and maybe $430,000 when he sells Seattle home after he turns 70 and retires to cheaper hometown New Orleans; a pension from Sound Transit; $98,000 in retirement accounts.

Verdict: It's not enough.

The problem: Julie Back of Lakeview Financial Corp. in Seattle points out he'd face a six-year wait to begin collecting Social Security, five years of paying his own health care and a pension only 85 percent vested at 60.

Alternative: Spend the next 12 years aggressively saving then retire at 62. Even at 62 he'll take in about $1,000 less per month in pension and Social Security.

Steps to take: (1) Ramp up savings from $1,800 per year to $16,500, through his company retirement fund. (2) Move his $35,000 IRA funds, now invested in low-yielding government bonds, to a diversified portfolio of 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds. This mix would carry more risk, Back notes, but offer a higher average return.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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