Q: I was listening to you yesterday on WSB radio and your caller was asking about saving for retirement.

You commented that it was a good thing that he did not ask about saving for retirement at 51 instead of 31.

Well, I am 51 and have not saved for retirement. I am currently working for a muncipal government. I can retire in January 2008, but I am not sure that that would be a smart move, even though, mentally, I am ready to retire. What can I do to save for retirement now, especially since I may retire in the next few years?

A: I won’t lie to you: It’s a lot easier to start saving for retirement when you’re 31 and have maybe 30 or 40 years to save before quitting work forever.

As a municipal government worker, you may be entitled to a pension that would help fund your retirement. And, you may also get social security.

The real issue for you is going to be health care. You can get social security at 62, but you can’t qualify for medicare until you’re 65. Paying a health insurance bill from 55 to 65 could deplete your finances.

But at 51, you could work for another 15 to 20 years if you want, or at least stay at your job for another 5 to 10 years if you have to in order to save up for retirement. Then, you can find something else to do that would be invigorating and energizing but would actually pay something as well. A growing number of seniors are working in retirement — just not the job they did for the first 30 years of their working career.

When you say you’re “mentally” ready for retirement, it seems to me that you may be ready for a change. But perhaps seeing where you are with your retirement funds will help you figure out the next steps you’re going to take.

Start by figuring out exactly what you have today (in terms of assets) and what you will have in retirement. (Fidelity Investments has a great new retirement calculator on its website you can try at www.fidelity.com) Then, figure out how much more you have to save to live the kind of life you want in retirement. And, when you’ll get there.

If you’re earning $50,000 today, but believe you can live on $30,000 when you’re retired, then you should start living on that much (or less) and banking the rest. The only way to get to where you want to go is to save as much as possible now, and invest it wisely.

If you’ll remember, the caller said he was earning more money than he ever thought he would and had a lot of extra income. That also makes it easy to save. Time is your friend when you’re saving money.

But if you’re in good health today, you could live another 30 to 40 years or more. That’s what you have to plan for. And the best day to start is today.

hanks for listening to me on Newstalk 750 WSB.