Thank you for agreeing to speak with us today. Can you describe your retirement and how it differs from your life before retirement?
Of course. Before retiring, I was very social and constantly busy. I never really had a moment to breathe. However, after retiring, the social aspect changed drastically. I now live alone, and it's harder to meet new people and maintain the same level of social interaction. That being said, I always knew where I wanted to stay and where I wanted to live. So that made me able to dig in and get grounded and make a routine for myself. So that every day it wasn't “What do I do now?” I have time to exercise where I did not before – I really enjoy that.
Did you have any financial preparations for retirement, and what was the best thing you did to ensure your financial security?
Financially, you can never prepare enough for retirement. I had to retire earlier than planned due to health issues. My doctor was actually screaming at me because I wanted to keep going and he said I just couldn’t work anymore. So, I had to rely on disability and Social Security earlier than expected.
One of the best things I did was having a 401(k) and contributing to it diligently throughout my working years. Every paycheck, I put a percentage in and Dillards matched it.
What advice would you give others preparing for retirement? What do you wish you would have done?
Probably save more. But it would be hard, you know, because I was a one-person household. You're still responsible for your mortgage, utilities, car, all that insurance, and medical.
Did you face any surprises, financially or otherwise, after retiring?
Yes, there was one financial surprise for me. When I applied for Social Security, I only received a percentage of it, and I wasn't aware that I wouldn't get the full amount. That caught me off guard and caused some financial strain. And now, for extra income, I do the things I have energy for – I babysit, I’m a patient advocate for people with psoriasis. It’s not 9-5, but I have my little avenues for extra cash.
Did you have any assistance or guidance when planning for retirement, like from an employer or a financial advisor?
I sought the help of a financial advisor to navigate my 401(k) and investments. I wanted to know if I should diversify since I had my stock 100% in Dillards, since they offered us an Employee Stock Purchase Plan. It was actually doing really well, and he didn’t believe me! He looked into it and was flabbergasted. I made a lot of money in a short amount of time, but I don’t think that’s necessarily normal. It was a good thing having him there, because we did discuss a lot of strategies I didn’t know about.
How would you describe your financial security during retirement? Did you find any challenges or unexpected expenses?
It’s about what I expected, but inflation is really killing things right now. Not just me, but for a lot of seniors. I'm doing okay, but I have to keep my hand in the pot, always trying to find ways to make money. Social Security covers less than I thought it would.
I’d say prepare. Prepare your finances and prepare your health as much as you can. It’s natural for people not to think of this when they're younger and healthy. If they run into a money problem, they can work overtime, find a second job, but you just can’t when you’re a senior. Exercise every day – the biggest thing you can do for your finances is staying healthy.
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