How do you save for retirement in midlife?
Hey there Beautiful,
How do you feel about your plan for retirement?
Maybe the better question that I should really ask is, do you have a plan for retirement?
When we were in our 20s, or even 30s, retirement was so far away. But now that we are getting closer to it, we really need to start planning.
What are you doing now that will help create the life you want to live during retirement?
It all comes down to money, right?
How much money you have, how much you have saved, and how much you owe.
I want you to feel empowered by money and not intimidated by money. I want you to ask all of your questions about money that you THINK are dumb because guess what, your questions are NOT dumb.
We tend to avoid things that we don’t understand until we are forced to look at them due to circumstances. You don’t want to find yourself in the position of sorting through your assets when a tragedy strikes.
I got better at understanding retirement accounts, assets, 401Ks, investing, etc. because I had a job that required me to understand how all of it works together.
Now, Stephanie Sammons, my guest on my podcast today is not going to solve all of your problems and answer all of your questions.
But I do hope that our discussion gets you thinking and then taking some actions to get better at understanding your money especially when it comes to retirement.
You will learn in this episode:
- What is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ or CFP™, and why having those three initials after a financial advisor's name is important.
- Why finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be intimidating and is not hard to do.
- Why it’s tougher for women to save up a nest egg for retirement.
- How our money stories we inherited growing up impact us as adults.
- Tips on how to start planning now for the future that you want to have in retirement.
So who is Stephanie Sammons?
Stephanie is the host of the Retirement Money Gal Podcast and founder of Sammons Wealth Management. She's a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, investment advisor, and has also been named as a Top 100 Investopedia Financial Advisor in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Stephanie's mission is to teach women professionals in their 40s, 50s, and 60s how to retire smart, secure, and happy.
Now the following podcast content is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any such information or other material as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.
And if you want to know more about Stephanie, all the ways you can contact her are below.
I’ll talk to you later, Beautiful!
Links mentioned in this episode and to contact Stephanie:
Alice Agnello: Hey, Stephanie, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast today.
Stephanie Sammons: Glad to be here, Alice. Thanks for having me.
Alice Agnello: So tell my listeners who you are and what you do.
Stephanie Sammons: Sure. So I am Stephanie Sammons and I'm a certified financial planner. I have my own financial advisory firm, it's called Salmons Wealth Management. And I'm also a podcaster like you and I have a show that's called the Retirement Money Gal, where I talk about finances and money and all things related when we are in a midlife. So in your forties, fifties, and sixties, and it's geared toward women professionals.
Alice Agnello: Because I feel like at this time in midlife, our kids are starting to slowly, finally get out of the house and all the money that we've been spending towards them, now a lot of us are like," well, what do we need to do with this extra money?" If we have extra money or if we don't, what can we do now to start really concentrating on our own retirement as we go towards that magic age of if it's 65 or if it's 60 whatever, it is for that woman who's thinking about retirement at some point. So I know you're a certified financial planner, so that's you'll see those acronyms after financial planners name, CFP. So what exactly is that? And what does it mean?
Stephanie Sammons: Yeah, so Certified Financial Planner is a professional designation that a financial advisor can pursue. There is an education requirements, so for example I did my education requirement at a local university and it took me, I don't remember exactly. I got my designation in 2005. So I've had it a long time, but maybe a year's worth of college level, graduate level type educational courses.
There's a work experience requirement and when you become a certified financial planner, you have a knowledge base that is very well-rounded regarding everything financial from investment management to tax planning, estate planning, insurance planning. And there's also an exam that you sit for, and my exam when I took it was two days long, so it's a very rigorous curriculum and tough to get through. And I'm not sure how many certified financial planners there are now, but I do know that there are only about 20% who are women. So that's kind of an interesting statistic, but it's definitely been an awesome designation to have because you do approach financial management with a much more holistic view when you're working with people.
Alice Agnello: And I noticed that if women are trying to find a financial planner, that's one indicator to try and narrow that field down just a little bit, is if you see the CFP designation that might be someone that you really want to go and interview. And I really highly suggest going in and interviewing. And I know for women, this topic can be very intimidating because someone else in their family might've been the one who has controlled the purse strings and what is done with it.
And then if something changes, whether they go through a divorce or their spouse passes away, it's difficult for them then to get a hold of the finances and figure out what's going on. And if you've got a financial planner in your life, through your spouse or someone else in your family, it's great. But if you have to start at like rock bottom zero, and I also think women have a different perspective on talking to clients, if that makes sense because I used to work at a financial services firm and I know a lot more women who were comfortable talking to other women in our firm than they were talking to the men in our firm. And do you find that too true with your clients as well?
Stephanie Sammons: I do, I've seen many women who prefer working with a male financial advisor and they're completely fine with that or may even feel more secure. And then other women, I find women who really want to take charge of their finances or have more of an active role, if you're in a relationship or you're married or have a partner and you're the breadwinner or you just, you may not be the breadwinner, but you're, you're paying the bills. You're more in touch with what's happening with the family finances that those women, in many cases like to work with other women. So that's, that's just anecdotal.
I don't have any statistical reference for that or any proof, but that's been my experience. I'll also say that it's a relationship working with a financial planner or a financial advisor, and it should be someone you're very comfortable with, not only talking about money questions and being comfortable enough to ask any question, but also comfortable enough to talk about your biggest fears in life and what your goals are. And just talking about life matters because it is, that's an integral part of this, right? Money is just a tool, life is a journey and the two really go hand in hand. So I think those are good points that you bring up.
Alice Agnello: Because a lot of women will stick their head in the sand and ignore it. I know my grandmother, one grandmother was like that and then I had another grandmother who had shared everything with my father and knew where all the important documents were. And so because of that, my parents had done the same thing with me. They've shared all that information with me so that they it's just will be easier transition. And I know a lot of people don't like to either talk about money or the ramifications of what could possibly happen in the future. If someone gets sick or if someone passes away. But those are the things that if you prepare for and have a trusted financial planner in your life to do that, then it just makes you feel so much better. I've seen clients they'll just kind of, "Oh my God, this makes sense to me." And they're happy that they've actually got a plan in place.
Stephanie Sammons: Absolutely. It's so cool that you've had that experience yourself, working in the industry, but it is true that many women have kind of, and not all women. I want to be clear about that, but many women have apathy a little bit when it comes to their finances, when it comes to building wealth and also ambiguity. So it's like, we don't really know how we're doing, we're not sure if we're doing enough, we think we might be, but do we really want to know the truth? And it just gets pushed off, put on the back burner as, and then it takes something like you mentioned earlier, a catalyst to really propel us to think, "gosh, we really need to take charge here." So it could be a career change, sometime in midlife it could be a divorce, it could be receiving an inheritance, but some life changing event that makes you say, you really don't have a choice. You got to deal with it, you got to handle it and I see that a lot.
Alice Agnello: What do you find with midlife women, where are their mistakes that they're making with their money or the challenges that you see that they're confronting and they just don't know what to do?
Stephanie Sammons: Yeah, that's a great question, it's primarily in saving enough or not saving enough I should say. And when we are saving, we are not necessarily investing we're too conservative. Women tended to err on the conservative side of things and what we have to remember is, we still are paid less than our male counterparts in most industries, which means we have less money to save and put away for retirement, which means that affects our nest egg at the end of the day when we do retire and that money needs to last us the rest of our lives.
We live longer than men, so the money has to last longer. And then it also impacts our social security, which is based on the income you've earned throughout your lifetime. So the truth is we really need to be saving more money and we need to be investing our money for growth and not keep it all under the mattress because we're going to have to make up for these deficits in these things that we are facing in the future.
Alice Agnello: Because everyone's retirement plan is different. I remember one client who knew she wouldn't live to see 70, so she was spending her money faster than other women were. And I had one who barely would take money out and she had millions of dollars. It was just an interesting dichotomy to see how different women would look at their nest eggs and behave differently towards that. And so how do you encourage women to either save more or what kind of decisions should they be making now, let's say if they're in their late forties, mid fifties towards that goal of retirement that's later.
Stephanie Sammons: So you're right. Everyone's money story is different and it is quite amazing to see that the scenarios that you described, I see that a lot, someone who's really wealthy and hardly spends anything and has a very minimalist lifestyle. And then you see the people with the fancy cars and the big homes, and they spend a lot, but they don't necessarily have a lot saved up. They don't have a large nest egg, but we all have a money story. And it's based on our experiences growing up with money, how were your parents with money? Were they stressed all the time and did that bleed over into your psyche? Did you pick that up and does that affect you today, or was money something that was talked about a lot in your family and abundance when you were growing up?
So that's what impacts people that I find going back and trying to understand their story. But the thing about midlife and being in your early forties, that's really the beginning of what I would label as midlife, forties, fifties, sixties. It's a really critical time because you still have time to shape your financial future. And the more time you have to save, the longer you have to experience the growth and the compounding of your savings over time. And that's really important when someone comes to me and they're 64 and they're going to retire at 65 and they don't have a lot saved and they've got to rely on social security. That's a really tough thing because that's going to be a challenge
Alice Agnello: Because they limits their options.
Stephanie Sammons: It does.
Alice Agnello: They don't have the big pensions anymore, like our [inaudible 00:12:09].
Stephanie Sammons: That's right.
Alice Agnello: If we just don't have them, my parents have them. And I remember that we were amazed at how many pensions my mom and dad have put together. Whereas I know that there's just no, he don't hear about him like at all anymore. Like everyone's pretty much going to live off social security and then hope that they've got their 401(k) retirement accounts that then will hopefully last for them as well. Or I've had some people who will tell me, "Oh no, I'm just going to wait until my mom and dad die and that'll be my retirement too." I hear that, it just makes me scared too.
Stephanie Sammons: Yes.
Alice Agnello: Because one medical emergency, and that could use up all of what that's been saved for that parent, that child is relying on too.
Stephanie Sammons: It's so unpredictable, you really can't rely on anyone. I'm a big advocate for caring for yourself. And even if you're partnered or you're married either, you're very involved in the family finances and you have a role or you're the breadwinner, you're responsible for saving and investing in building and your partner or your spouse is also involved. But you've got to start thinking about when you're in your forties, who will I be in the future 20 years from now? And a good way to do that is to look at your parents, how are they living their lives now? What does their health look like? Or you can look at your grandparents if they're still living and kind of get an idea. When you can envision yourself in the future, you can start to care about yourself in the future.
It's hard to do, when you start caring about your future self, you put more money away for later versus instant gratification, spending it now going to target, whatever. So that's, really important is thinking about your future self. Let me tell you some other things you can do at this point in your life too. Number one is making sure you're maximizing your income and your earning power at this stage in the game. When you are in your forties and fifties and sixties, that's really important. Whether that means taking a new job, starting a business, what can you do to really increase your income potential now? Because if you can increase your income potential, then you can pay down high interest debt. So, that's one of the first things I recommend that you focus on. If you have any high interest debt, credit cards, things of this nature, focus on paying that down first and foremost.
I like to see my clients saving at least 20% of their income into some kind of retirement plan, a 401(k) , an IRA, something that allows your money to grow tax deferred over time is the best way to grow your wealth at that stage in the game. Then make sure the money that you are saving beyond a cash reserve, where you've got six months worth of living expenses or so everybody's different there above and beyond that, make sure you're investing. And I can't make investment recommendations that are specific on the show, but I can tell you that you want to be diversified. You don't want to put all your eggs in one basket and a one stock or something crazy like that. What a spread out your risk and invest for growth for long-term growth. And then lastly, once you start to build up your nest egg, and let's say you've accumulated a hundred thousand, 200,000, 250,000 you don't want to wait any longer to have a written plan at that point.
You want to sit down with a financial planner, somebody in your local area, someone who is a CFP, as we talked about, and also someone who is what's called a fiduciary. And that simply means that those of us who are fiduciaries are required by law to put our client's best interest first. And that's a little bit different from the big brokerage firms out there and those financial advisors, so there's a difference. And that those are really simple, but those are the four or five things that I would say to get focused on at this stage.
Alice Agnello: And those are, they seem really big at first, but it's one of those things you just slowly start to do, and you slowly get into the habit of doing it, especially now that your expenses with, if your children are out of the house, you've got a little bit more money now staying in your pocket than it once did. And to not beat yourself up about it, maybe it takes a year or two to get to that point because you're still trying to figure out, how is this all going to work now? Or I'm trying to change jobs, or I'm trying to move, but give yourself some grace to start working on all those principles that you said.
But even the easiest one is to start contributing more to your 401(k). Even if it's just one or two more percentage points for that, that has a big impact as you said over time. When women come in to meet you for the first time, what are some good questions, when you're trying to find a certified financial planner? Because I know it's, as I said, it's intimidating when you go into for the first time for some women.
Stephanie Sammons: Absolutely, it is and there are a number of things, we've talked about being a certified financial planner I think that's very important. I know firsthand that certified financial planners have more holistic knowledge about someone's financial life than someone who is not a certified financial planner. I'm looking for someone who is a fiduciary, fee only advisor or planner. That means that they don't charge commissions, they don't sell products, they don't accept referral fees or third-party fees. It's total transparency, you understand exactly what you will be paying and exactly what you will be receiving. The value you will be receiving in return for whatever fee that you decide on.
Alice Agnello: And don't be afraid to ask what that is. You know what I mean?
Stephanie Sammons: Oh totally.
Alice Agnello: What is the fee, I don't understand if I give you my retirement accounts, what does it mean? How are you going to get paid? Ask those basic direct questions because you don't want to walk out of that kind of top meeting confused about I, he's, they said a whole bunch of stuff, but I still don't understand. If you walk out of that meeting and don't understand what was said, that is not the person for you, because then they didn't take the time to explain it. Or maybe you didn't ask, ask the questions that you need to have answered.
Stephanie Sammons: And even if you didn't ask it, they should be explaining to you what their fee schedule is, because the truth is all financial advisors charge for their services differently. Some will charge by the hour and if you're just getting started with all of this, that might be a great type of planner to work with where you can just get a financial plan put together and they simply charge you for their time. And you go and implement the steps that they want you to implement. When you start to get in the range of maybe $500,000 or more in your nest egg, with all of your investible assets combined, then your financial life would be considered to be a little more complex. And that's when you might need more of a full service advisor who starts to walk life with you and guide you along the way and help you manage all the pieces and parts of your financial life.
But another thing you should ask about is experience, and experience is really important because you learn over time and I've been doing this 25 years. I can tell you, I know a lot more than I knew and understand human behavior when it comes to money a lot more than I did when I was five years in to this profession. So I personally believe experiences is very important. And I'll give you an example, most of you probably know when the pandemic began back in March of 2020, the stock market crashed. We had a bear market, it was down over 30%. There were many, many people who sold all of their investments at that time. And there were many advisors who just let their clients do that.
Well then soon after the markets rebounded and came all the way back, which was totally unpredictable. And that's the truth is we can't predict the direction of these things in the short run and anyone who had sold out at the bottom, they did not get to participate in that rebound. And I personally believe that financial advisors with experience, who have been through these kinds of bear markets and downturns and recessions in the past, know how to keep their clients on track and how to keep them invested and help them stay the course. So I do feel that finding someone with at least 10 years of experience is important
Alice Agnello: Because as you said, you want that person to have that knowledge so that when the markets do start to tank and you feel a little uncomfortable, you feel comfortable reaching out to that person, your financial advisor, just asking questions and saying, what should I do? Am I doing okay? I just saw my accounts dip a huge amount, what do I do? And then that person will walk you through and reassure, you know, we've got you invested the way that you should be invested.
Stephanie Sammons: Absolutely.
Alice Agnello: Because there are more people who are conservative and I've seen more people who are much more, what's the word, not conservative, liberal, not liberal, but
Stephanie Sammons: Aggressive.
Alice Agnello: Aggressive, thank you that's the word. Aggressive with how they be, but it's also because that's the person and they can handle that volatility.
Stephanie Sammons: Yeah.
Alice Agnello: And also that they might have different buckets of money. Like this is going to be the one that's more aggressive. This one's going to be more conservative. And as the investments in those accounts, that then will give that overall holistic, as you say, passionate way with their money instead of just, "Oh, I'm not going to take that call because I don't want to listen her complain again about the markets and how they are, key or volatile at the moment.
Stephanie Sammons: Absolutely, yes. So a good advisor will help you pinpoint, what your comfort level is and what your pain point is. So I want to know with all my clients, when are they going to freak out? And as you say, more and more money and you build your nest egg, it becomes a scarier proposition to see it fluctuating every day. But we know over time that your investments will grow if you stay the course, but you bring up a great point that your advisor has to work with you to figure out what your comfort level is.
Alice Agnello: I know when I saw that dip happen, I refuse to log in to look at my accounts because I knew that they were fine and I knew it would just make me feel bad. And I knew if I waited a month or two, that they would probably be right back where they were, or even be above where they were. And sure enough, I did that. I'm like, yep, everything's fine.
Stephanie Sammons: That's smart.
Alice Agnello: Because I know there's some people who want to look at that information every day and more power to them, but that just gives me the hives to look at that. I don't need to do that to myself at all.
Stephanie Sammons: No.
Alice Agnello: And so I know that you worked at a big national financial firm and now have your own firms. So what made you change that way?
Stephanie Sammons: Gosh, so many things. I was with big firms like Merrill Lynch and UBS. Those were the two for the first 15 years of my career. And I had great training there and I had some great mentors and really learned a lot, but in the last decade or so, the trend has really moved toward this independent type of financial advisor. The reason being is that we can be totally objective when we're making recommendations. We're not pressured by our big firms to sell products or to use certain types of investments. So we have the ability to be completely independent of that. And along with that came companies like TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab and Fidelity who support independent advisors like me so that our clients still feel comfortable because their money is invested with these well-known very large firms, but they haven't an independent advisor or firm who actually helps the client manage their assets they're sitting with these firms.
And so I felt like, that's what I was waiting for, to become an independent, because I didn't think that someone would feel comfortable if I say," well, you're going to deposit your funds in the bank of Stephanie sammons." There has to be a separation and a reputable custodian, that's what we call Schwab Fidelity and TD Ameritrade. And so all the pieces kind of fell in place for me to feel comfortable enough to do that and set up my own firm, which I did several years ago but I've really never looked back. I mean, there's no politics like you have in the corporate environment. I really didn't have the freedom to work with who I wanted to work with specifically. You couldn't say no to anyone who was qualified to work with you. And so I'm loving it because I'm able to work with women who are my age, who have similar values and it's just a wonderful thing. So it's been a great decision for me personally.
Alice Agnello: Now I love getting to know clients on that personal level. And I think a financial advisor, who's a good one really will get to know their clients and understand them from how many grandkids they have, how their parents are doing, brothers and sisters. Do they have life insurance? When's Medicare? I mean, they just know so many facets of that person's life that when something hiccups, because you've established that trust ahead of time, the hiccups don't seem as bad as they could and you can get through anything together.
Stephanie Sammons: Yes.
Alice Agnello: So Stephanie, what's your best piece of advice for a midlife woman, who's just kind of getting started and trying to figure out, how do I go from here? I know you gave some great tips earlier, but [inaudible 00:28:42] know if there's any other pieces of advice that we didn't touch on today at all.
Stephanie Sammons: I would just say start, just take the first step. We're at the end of the year here, it's been a really tough year for everyone. It's a great time to start thinking about a fresh new year and what you will do differently. How has all of this changed you? And what can you do to start being accountable for your finances, taking charge of your financial life. Maybe it's finding a local fee only financial planner and setting up an appointment.
Maybe it's downloading your various benefits packages and your statements and whatever you have, your credit cards and take an inventory of everything that you have going on and see where you can start really making a difference, whether it's paying down debt, whether it's starting to save more into your retirement. It's these little steps and you called it habits, which I really like that word, you're not going to solve it all in one day. It's you make these things a habit and automate as much as you can. And that really helps it, it adds up over time and it makes a big difference.
Alice Agnello: I love that. Thank you, Stephanie.
Stephanie Sammons: Sure.
Alice Agnello: And so at the end of my interview, I always ask the same three questions. So tell me something that not a lot of people know about you.
Stephanie Sammons: I am a singer songwriter and that's what I do in my spare time, which I have very little, but I do make time for it. I'm a big believer in having balance in your life and finding your creative outlet, whatever that might be, could be cooking, gardening, painting, sports, whatever golf. And so I've been a guitar player for a long time, I've always had a desire to write songs. And several years ago, I got involved with a group in Nashville and I've been able to study with and learn from some really fantastic Hall of Famer singer songwriters there and have written some songs. I've got a couple of albums out there or CDs, whatever you call them now, digital, they're on Spotify and iTunes and all those places, but I really love writing and it's become a craft for me and a wonderful therapeutic outlet. I don't think many people know that I'm a singer songwriter. Now I perform from time to time as well. Obviously I haven't in the last year or so, but I just decided I'm 51 now, and you're never too old to follow your art that's what I say.
Alice Agnello: I absolutely love that because if you put the word financial planner and a singer songwriter together, you would definitely think those are on two opposite sides of the spectrum, but I absolutely love it because I feel like you can take pieces of those two different sides of the spectrum and inter mix them. And it just makes you an even better financial planner and an even better singer songwriter.
Stephanie Sammons: Music and math numbers and notes,
Alice Agnello: Marriage made in heaven, perfect. Name three things that you can't live without, other than your friends and family.
Stephanie Sammons: That's a tough one. I would say my guitar, my guitars, I should say plural. I've got about six of them. Yes, so I would have to have at least one guitar that I could pluck around on, that's nearby because I pick it up multiple times throughout the day. So a guitar, books where I can continue reading and learning and ingesting knowledge and stories. And then my third thing, I guess, would have to be something like music, just having music in my life and in the background is really important to me.
Alice Agnello: And if you could choose one song to play every time you entered a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Stephanie Sammons: That song would be. And I bet you don't know this song. Maybe you do. It's by Tanya Tucker and it's called Texas When I Die. So it's, when I die, I may not go to heaven. I don't know if they let cowboys in. And I say, cowgirls, I love that song.
Alice Agnello: I haven't heard that or I did maybe a long time ago because it sounds familiar.
Stephanie Sammons: It's old.
Alice Agnello: Yeah. I'm going to have to go back and listen to it. I love, that's why I love this question because I've been exposed to music that I've never heard of before. And I love adding those songs to my Spotify playlist as well. So
Stephanie Sammons: I love the question. And actually, Tanya Tucker just came out last year with a brand new album. It's been a long time and she's in her mid sixties I want to say, but she is awesome. It is such an awesome CD album, whatever you want to call it. She's so inspiring to know.
Alice Agnello: Now I'm definitely going to check her out, I love that. And I love it when singers and songwriters come out with things, they're fifties, sixties, and seventies, because I get up, you can see the maturity, you can see how it's changed over the years, their music. So no, I highly enjoy always listening to them, come out with a new albums.
Stephanie Sammons: Yeah.
Alice Agnello: Or I just said Spotify playlist, I don't know. Yeah, what do you call them anymore now?
Stephanie Sammons: I don't know what you call them, digital songs, I guess.
Alice Agnello: Yeah, thank you again, Stephanie so much for being on the podcast today. I really appreciate it.
Stephanie Sammons: Thanks so much for having me.
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