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A Couple Wants Enough for Retirement—and to Keep Helping Their Sons. Can They?

As James and Katherine Rogers hit their 60s, they want to be sure that they are set up for retirement—and can continue to help out their two sons.

Like many parents, the Rogers, who live in the metro Atlanta area, want to be there for their children in the future, whatever happens. “What keeps me awake is not being able to help out if they need help,” Mr. Rogers says. One son has already started on a professional career, the other is working on a Ph.D.

Mr. Rogers works at a bank, financing construction equipment. Ms. Rogers works in education. They make about $200,000 a year combined and save 10% of their salaries in 401(k) and IRA accounts. They have about $500,000 saved for retirement and $300,000 in equity in their home, which they estimate is worth about $550,000. They recently refinanced to a 15-year mortgage. They also have $25,000 in cash and $70,000 worth of cars, including a paid-for 2007 Porsche.

The Rogers make monthly mortgage payments of $2,700. For the next year and a half, they’ll also be paying $500 a month for a 2018 Ford F-150 they bought for their younger son. Other monthly expenses include $700 for groceries, $750 for utilities, $500 for insurance and maintenance on their cars, and $800 to $1,000 supporting their son in school.

Mr. Rogers says he and his wife would like to retire around age 65 or 67, and to then have $5,000 to $6,000 of disposable income each month into their 80s.

Mr. Rogers recently switched jobs and took a $90,000 pay cut. The new pay, he says, is acceptable, but he worries that if his employment status changes, it won’t be as easy to find a new job in his 60s.

“Most of my life, I’ve been extremely fortunate that when my existing job is a problem, I’ve never not gotten a job within a day or two of deciding that I wanted to go get a job,” he says. “I don’t know how much longer I can do that.”

Advice from a pro: Gerald Loftin, a principal and certified financial planner at Proficient Wealth Counselors in Norwood, Mass., says the Rogers are in good shape and on track to achieve their goals. With just a few steps, they should be able to retire when they want to, and be able to financially assist their sons when things come up.

Mr. Loftin believes that the couple has the disposable income to be able to put more away for retirement. Relatively speaking, they aren’t carrying lots of fixed debt, which will allow them to save more aggressively than many people, Mr. Loftin says. Maximizing their retirement contributions also will help if Mr. Rogers needs a new job and has trouble finding one.

Mr. Loftin recommends beefing up their cash reserves to at least $50,000. Money currently going to their Ph.D. student and the car payment should help them achieve that within a few years, he says.

For extra security, Mr. Loftin says Mr. and Mrs. Rogers each should have at least $250,000 in term life insurance—to at least cover what’s left on their mortgage—and ideally as much as $500,000 each. He also would like the Rogers to explore long-term-care insurance and disability insurance options—both short term and long term—that are available to them, through work and otherwise.

The planner also urges the Rogers to devise a solid estate plan in consultation with an estate attorney, and to explore setting up a trust that would further protect their assets and their ability to pass them on to their sons. Trusts can help in terms of protection against creditors or in case of a divorce, he says.

Mr. Kornelis is a writer in Seattle. He can be reached at [email protected]

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