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Lump sum or pension?

Harry calculates the odds for a reader who's given a choice among a lump sum, defined pension at 65 or smaller pension now.

DEAR HARRY: I am 56, and I once worked for a company that provided us with a defined-benefit pension plan. They have just offered former employees a one-time buyout. My offer is $64,000.

They also offered a lifetime monthly benefit of $380 a month starting Dec. 1 as an alternative.

I can also stick with the original plan and retire at 65 with $780 a month. I'm tempted to take the money now and roll it into an IRA since I don't need additional money.

Which way, Harry?

WHAT HARRY SAYS: I had the help of my HP 12C calculator for this one.

The $64,000 at 5 percent interest (which is the rate they are using) will last 25 years. That will only take you to 81 years old. Will you live beyond that?

If you don't reach 81, your "net" will be lower. If you live beyond 81, you will have made the right choice to take the pension.

The figures for waiting until you're 65 come out virtually the same. If your family has a history of longevity, take one of the pension offers.

If you don't expect to live beyond 81, grab the lump sum. If you are unsure of which way to go, take the $64,000 bird in your hand.