Let me share my story with you. In 2010, I experienced a significant life change. We all have them from time to time. That moment when doors close and open, and you need to make sure you don’t miss the opportunity offered which is sometimes hard when you focus all your attention on the negative thing that happened. You forget it has to happen to make room for the positive one.
I was one of those people that got caught in a changing economy. The hospital I had worked at for years made a change in the way they did business, and my job, like many others, was gone. Having devoted more than half of my life to the aforementioned business, I didn’t know if there was anything else out there that I could be successful at. I was an expert at my job and wasn’t sure I could learn something new. I worried about having to spend the remainder of my days working at Wal-Mart (No offense to Wal-Mart – I just wanted something more challenging). Then the door opened and I was offered an opportunity at a new career in the financial advisory services industry.
It was a foreign world to me. I knew about UTIs not UITs. I knew about health insurance reimbursement, not annuities. Medtronic meant a pacemaker, not a stock option. But in taking on the challenge and entrenching myself in focused study I not only learned a new career, I learned a few things I wish I had known long before, so let me help you gain from my experience.
- Take advantage of a free initial consultation: If I’d had a clue I could have spoken with a Financial Advisor for an initial consultation at no cost, I would have jumped at that opportunity. But no one shared this secret with me. I just assumed that much like speaking to an attorney or a physician, one was expected to pay up front for the service, and in a struggling economy I never felt I had the luxury to spend money that way. So, lesson number one – Take the time to talk to a Financial Advisor, determine where you’re at and where you want to be at retirement and everywhere in between.
- Actively plan for your retirement: I was a smart girl when I started my first career. I knew I needed to take advantage of the company’s retirement plan. But I just assumed that the people taking care of my retirement plan would do what was best for me. When I first started my plan, I believed I was smart in putting a big chunk of my investment in guaranteed funds. After all, I’d always get that minimal return, no matter what happened. Nobody took the time to evaluate what was best for my situation, or what my true risk tolerance was, and I believed I was doing the right thing. Fortunately, I met a physician who gave me some good advice. This was not the way to accumulate wealth. I reallocated my funds and my retirement savings finally began to grow, but I’d missed out on several years of opportunity. Lesson number two – Actively plan for your retirement. Don’t assume that some fund manager or someone in the Social Security office will take care of you. Make a plan to have a comfortable retirement, not just to get by.
- Know what you can and cannot risk: As I mentioned, I just assumed the people taking care of my retirement plan knew what was best for me. It wasn’t until late in the game (for me) that a representative from the company actually took the time to meet with employees and do a risk assessment. I learned how much I was willing to risk, and how much I was comfortable with putting in a safe position. That was the one thing I was able to intelligently discuss the first week I worked in this industry. I knew what type of investor I was, even if I didn’t know anything about mutual funds, stocks, or bonds. Unfortunately, I should have known this when I started planning for retirement, and I should have known to re-evaluate my position at various life-changing moments. Lesson number three – Know what you are willing to invest in and how much risk you are comfortable with for the highest amount of return. Learn how to transition from accumulation to payout and assure an income stream beyond your paycheck. Re-evaluate this at each life change (children, graduation, marriage, divorce, retirement, etc.)
- Plan for emergencies: This one I get a gold star for. In addition to my retirement plan, I made sure I set aside money from every paycheck into savings. I used a portion of this money to pay property taxes, and home and auto insurance, and the remainder was there to cover any unexpected expenses (car repairs, home repairs, medical expense deductibles, etc.). It’s important to have an emergency fund. By having this in place, I was able to maintain our expenses when I was between jobs. The rule of thumb is six months, and that’s exactly what I had. Lesson number four – Plan for emergencies, don’t let an emergency bankrupt you or drag you down into debt you can’t afford. If I hadn’t had an established emergency fund, I could have easily found myself in this situation. It happens to the best of people. You and I are no different in this respect.
- Be an active participant: While I may not have been very good about knowing how to invest my retirement funds, I knew about my retirement fund and directed what changes were made. I didn’t just let my husband take care of things for me. I kept track of my retirement fund and I made sure I was informed about that of my husband. We also kept each other informed regarding the status of our budget and expenses. I’ve known many women over the years who allowed their husbands to take care of everything and they were poor- equipped to handle things when they suddenly found themselves divorced or widowed. Lesson number five – Actively participate. Be informed. It’s okay if your spouse “takes care of the money,” but make sure you’re an active partner. If you’re not, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Know about checking and savings accounts, retirement plans, insurance and annuities, and any other assets that will require handling at some point in time.
What else did I learn? Plenty and I love it. I’ve learned many valuable things and it’s now my pleasure to share what I know. It’s my job to take these things that can seem so intangible at times and put them together in a way that helps each client connect-the-dots and make a unique concrete plan for their own future.
Now it’s your turn. If you don’t know where to start, I refer you to lesson number one. I look forward to your call.
If you have questions or comments about this article, you may contact Melody Lowe at firstname.lastname@example.org
Securities offered through Sigma Financial Corporation. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Sigma Planning Corporation, a Registered Investment Advisor. Financial Partners, Inc. is an independent of SFC &SPC.