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You can prepare for looming big financial problems

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By Reid Kanaley
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Big financial problems -- everything from the fiscal cliff to the fallout of your decision to buy that car you can't afford -- are looming. Here are suggestions for dealing with them.
In a letter to the re-elected president, MarketWatch's Retirement Weekly editor, Robert Powell, outlines the "retirement problems Obama must solve." These focus on the heavily burdened federal programs of Social Security and Medicare. Powell says it's time for policy makers and politicians to quit kicking the can down the road and get some solutions into play. Another of the many problems facing the nation is the withering away of traditional retirement plans, making it imperative for younger workers to save more than their parents did.
Individuals need to fix their acts, too, and a post on the "biggest money problems most people have" by Jeremy Vohwinkle at points to common mistakes that can cripple an individual or family. Those include, of course, buying more house than you can afford -- an epidemic of which helped sink the economy. In addition, there's the frequent problem of "having a vehicle fetish" that, Vohwinkle says, causes lots of people to spend more on cars than they've put away for retirement by age 65.
Big problems
Solving big problems is the subject of a package of articles at the MIT Technology Review. The package, published last month, starts with an essay, "Why we can't solve big problems," and uses the example of NASA's Apollo moon mission to say that perhaps we can. Problems detailed include the issues of traffic, climate change, dementia, cancer and manufacturing.
Fortune magazine's Geoff Colvin and Allan Sloan got together in September to propose solutions to some of the nation's biggest financial problems. Little has changed since then, given the outcome of the election. They suggest "supplemental end-of-life" insurance for people who want "heroic measures" to be kept alive, Medicare surcharges for smokers and the "ultra-fat" and eliminating the accounting gimmick called the Social Security trust fund, among many other things.



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