Economy Has Retirees More Cautious With Their Money - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

10/23/02

Economy Has Retirees More Cautious With Their Money

Bob Miner volunteers his time at a Harrison County Development Commission phone bank. He's is a hometown ambassador. Minor calls people interested in retiring on the coast, and tells people what makes the area a great place to live.

He said in recent months, convincing people to move south has been tough, because the economy has gone south. "I know some of them have delayed considerably as to when they're going to retire," said Miner.

In Miner's case, the military retiree lives off his 401 K and some IRA's. So with the stock market struggling, he's watching his pennies more carefully than ever.

These days, Miner and his wife make sure they have money to visit their newborn grandson. But other frills are on hold until the stock market rebounds. "I do have a fixed pension that I'm able to rely on," said Miner. "But the extras are things that we're having to adjust."

Investment banker John Portwood said the future "is fairly attractive."

Portwood believes the stock market is going to rebound. But to be safe, he said some people may want to hold off on their retirement plans. "I think the more money you can build up, the better off you are," the banker said. "And probably the better off you are mentally."

Portwood recommends that investors have 50-60% of their assets in stocks. He said everything else should be on bonds. That way, retirees like Bob Miner won't lose a bundle if the stock market struggles again.

Last week, a Wall Street Journal article focused on Mississippi's retirement community. The story said that in the current economy, Mississippi tax breaks are making the Magnolia State more attractive than Florida.

The Harrison County Development Commission is about to use the state's economic climate as a selling point in new retirement community ads. Brynn Joachim heads up the Hometown Ambassador program. "In light of what's happening with the stock market," Joachim said, "we're going to launch a specialized campaign that focuses in on Mississippi's affordability and tax structure and combines the amenities that the gulf coast has to offer."

The Harrison County Development Commission spends $50,000 a year trying to lure retirees to South Mississippi.

by Brad Kessie

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