This is the 6th in a series of posts about money that have been inspired by Genworth Financial. In previous posts I shared a bit about life insurance, how to budget for it, why it’s so important to us as a family, and why women need life insurance.
The first paragraph of Geraldine Sealey’s story, Women and Money – Why You Need to Take Control Now, posted on Time.com, could have been written by me. As a new employee of the local telephone company in 1979, I was living well. I lived alone in a two bedroom apartment, had a brand new car (a 1979 Datsun 210 ), and was making more money than I ever thought possible – $174.50 a week.
With the exception of my car loan, I owed nothing. I lived below my means by eating tuna fish and green beans covered in Italian dressing for dinner and a cup of yogurt for breakfast. I never ate out, brought my lunch to work, and worked as much overtime as I could get. I owned no designer labels and my biggest splurge was a burgundy leather jacket. I bought Savings Bonds and had a small savings account for emergencies. I thought I was doing everything I needed for that thing called “retirement” that seems so impossibly far away.
But like Sealey, a very well-meaning co-worker or two kept nudging me to sign up for the company’s 401K with its fabulous matching funds. But it wasn’t until the company itself sat me down with a group of other people who also weren’t participating to ask us why. It was then that we shared as a group that we just didn’t understand what we were getting ourselves into because after all, hadn’t we always been taught that if it seems too good to be true it is?
My 401K Investment Was the Start of Looking Out for Me
Thankfully, unlike Sealey I took on the challenge to learn more. I spent some time learning about the compounding of interest and how it could work in my favor along with the beauty of matching funds and I signed up to the maximum matching amount. It was singlehandedly the smartest investment I made in my teens. I was 19 and I worked for the telephone company for 14 more years, choosing to take an early out rather than retire, because by that time I had a family and young kids. When I left I rolled that 401K into an IRA. That IRA 30+ years later is a very nice nest egg for our family.
Don’t Let Lack of Confidence Stop You from Securing Your Finances
Perhaps I was ahead of my time. I didn’t wait for someone to take care of me and I’ve always bucked the traditional roles. Or maybe it was my desire never to be a divorced and single mom who was strapped for cash. Whatever the reason, I’m so very thankful to both those busybody coworkers and the company for making clear what I was missing out on. It helped me to be more confident as new opportunities for investing and saving for retirement were offered to me at subsequent employers. I’ve always found a way to do with less so that I could save for that day that I thought would never come and yet as I just turned 52, it’s closer than ever.
Focus on the Numbers – Long-term Security or Instant Gratification?
Was it hard? Of course. We struggled. A lot. There were many times thought about stopping our deductions so that living would be easier. We let our credit card spending mount – the stupidest thing ever – but we learned that was self-sabotage and worked to correct it. Thankfully we never stopped those deductions. Like our life insurance it always comes out first thanks to payroll deductions.
We saved money every way we could. We borrowed books from the library, rented videos, and didn’t have the newest electronics. Our furniture was hand-me-downs and the house we purchased was well below what the bank said we qualified for (the same house we live in today). Our cars are 32, 20, and 15 years old and well maintained. I still don’t have designer labels and I’m a vegetarian now. My how priorities change!
I’m glad we chose to do with less and live more. I don’t care that we don’t have the best of everything. For me knowing that we’ve done all that we can to be secure let’s me sleep peacefully and that’s priceless.
Removing the Barriers to Retirement and Financial Security
Take a look at Sealey’s story. I think you’ll find a lot of useful information on how to take charge of your finances so that you can be secure in your golden years because quite frankly, they’ll be here before you know it!