Do you have a question about your financial affairs? Financial planning consultant, Robert S. Pennartz, CFP takes calls at 1-302-654-5556, extension 138 or 1-800-366-0632, extension 138. A selection of these questions and Pennartz's responses are published in this column. Anonymity is assured.Q. I'm going to retire in a few years. I've gotten my projected monthly pension amount from my employer, and my projected monthly social security income. This should be fine for my first couple of years of retirement, but I'm concerned about inflation. With gas, and food, and who knows what else going up in price, it keeps getting more and more expensive just to live. What can I do about inflation?

A. It seems that there's always some inflation built into our economy. Whether it's a lot (like now) or a little (like 4 years ago), there's always some level of price increases.

It's reasonable to expect inflation to continue throughout our lifetimes. When you are working, you can get pay raises that can help keep up with inflation. When you are retired, you might get a slight increase in your social security benefit, but for the most part, you need to provide yourself with your retirement income "raises".

Historically, a way to keep up with inflation is by investing a portion of your portfolio in stocks. There are certainly risks involved with stock ownership, but there are also potential rewards. And if you invest for the long term, then time can have the effect of mitigating some of the risk. A stock portfolio can potentially provide that extra "raise" you need to give you additional income to help you keep up with inflation and continue your lifestyle.

I would recommend that you talk with your financial planner about the risks and costs associated with stocks to design a portfolio of investments that would be appropriate for you and your needs.

o Robert S. Pennartz is a certified financial planner practitioner at the Financial House, a registered investment advisor, in Centreville, Del. He lives in Pocopson Township with his wife and children. He is a registered representative offering securities through Jefferson Pilot Securities Corporation, Member SIPC. Jefferson Pilot Securities Corporation and its representatives do not offer tax or legal advice. You should consult your individual tax or legal professional regarding your individual circumstances.

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