calculators
Member Education
forms and publications
news
about etf
frequently asked questions
contact etf
site map
related links
home
top of page
Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds
Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds
members retirees employers governing boards careers at etf
Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds

Our Blog

Empower

Schedule Of Events

About EMPOWER

Resources

Agency Toolkit

Follow us on Twitter

A Joint Project of: ETF  and WDC WDC Logo ETF logo

Follow us as we update our stories throughout the year.

Sherri

December 1 – Sherri
I was catching up on my reading the other day and saw that Madison made the list of U.S. News & World Report’s “10 Best Places (U.S.) to Retire on $100 a Day” I’ve been thinking about my future retirement and where I might want to live when winter sets in. According to the article, a U.S. News review of U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data revealed “where a retiree could cover basic expenses, including typical costs for housing, food, transportation, health care and utilities, with less than $100 per day, or $36,500 per year, in retirement income.” Madison made the list, along with Minneapolis, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Dallas and a few other cities. How cool is that?


Angela

November 23 – Angela
I love Thanksgiving – it’s my favorite family holiday! We always go to my grandparents' place, where my whole family gathers for a delicious meal and a fun day of just hanging out. It is a great day of visiting with aunts, uncles, cousins and eating turkey and pumpkin pie. This year, my grandmother asked me to bring something -- a first! Maybe this means I won't be at the "kids" table anymore. Realizing that I’m a grown-up now with a career keeps reminding me that I should really continue to plan for my future. I found this article online the other day about things to do in your 30s for retirement, and it made sense. It talked about how time and compound interest are on my side, if I can just get in the habit of saving for retirement. I'm going to try hard. If I can establish that habit now, if all goes well, in the future I can have the retirement I want, when I want it. 


Sophia

November 18 – Sophia
It really has been good to have Justin around. Since his dad (my husband, Ken) passed away, Justin has been suggesting that I update my will. I’m finally getting to it. I just haven’t wanted to think about it, as it seems like we just finished all the will and estate stuff from Ken’s death last fall. Justin and I were able to figure out a lot of what I needed to update, and then I double-checked a few questions at work with our life insurance company, Minnesota Life. They offer several helpful services via “Lifesuite,” including legal services, travel assistance and beneficiary financial counseling. I am also going to check out their legacy planning services, which I didn’t know about until I asked about it. I’m glad I did, though, as it’ll be great to get some additional information from experts in this area.


Tamika

November 15 – Tamika
I watched the EMPOWER Bob Schulz webinar last week and it was really good! He really knows his stuff, yet put it in language that I can understand and relate to AND wasn’t trying to sell me something. I really appreciated that.

I also signed up for his free newsletters, so that I’ll get a weekly email with retirement articles on a variety of different retirement topics. The first came this week and I was pleased with the information. Granted, I’m not likely to have to worry about what country I want to live in during retirement, but it is fun to think about. And articles like the one he shared from U.S. News & World Report, “9 Questions to Ask When Choosing an Independent Living Facility” are thought provoking, with some good pointers on things to consider.


Sherri

November 10 – Sherri
We have been talking a lot about the upcoming holidays and it made me realize that I have to do a better job of handling my money and avoiding adding to credit card debt. Yes, I admit splurging the last few holiday seasons and quickly came to regret that. I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed by the debt level on the credit cards I have now, but after spending time on this site, Reducing Credit Card Debt, I realized that maybe I'm doing o.k. Sure, there are things I can do to get a better handle on my credit cards, but if I keep in mind that the longer I take to pay something off, the more it will cost I will be able to keep my spending impulses in check. Making just the minimum payments on my credit cards is not going to get me where I want to be.


Sophia

November 10 – Sophia
I received an email at work for something called the Financial Fitness Checkup. It sounded easy, so I did it. Then I forwarded the link and challenged my kids to try it out, too, before we all get together for Thanksgiving. They were sort of hesitant, but I’m sure it’ll be worth 10 minutes of their time. It’s like a physical checkup, only faster, and just asks questions on your knowledge and understanding of financial topics. I’m planning to ask everyone about their results after our Thanksgiving feast. My results said I’m only “moderately” stressed about money, and then directed me to some good online resources to learn more. I like that!


Tamika

November 9 – Tamika
I saw a poster at work for the Financial Fitness Checkup and used my “newish” smartphone to go to the URL. The phone worked great and the checkup was actually pretty easy and sort of fun. My results were quickly emailed to me and I was surprised to discover that I really know more about things like budgeting and saving than I thought.


Angela

November 5 – Angela
ETF has a neat new tool out that I’m going to try. It’s called a Financial Fitness Checkup and will provide me with information on my financial knowledge in only 10 minutes. I’m going to use these results to help focus my goals for next year – including the student loan payments that will come due. I’m going to challenge my roommate to take the checkup, too, and then we can compare our results. :)


Angela

November 3 – Angela
10 Money Questions You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask was the subject line of an email I received recently. With all this emphasis on money lately, that was enough of a “hook” to get me to open the email -- I’m glad I did! It seems I’m not the only one who is shy about talking about money or finances. It’s a brief and easy-to- read slideshow explaining different terms that I keep hearing including credit score, good vs. bad debt, APR. It also has links to further resources which I intend to check out later this winter.


Sonia

November 2 – Sonia
In preparation for the upcoming holiday season, I am going to take the Holiday Savings Challenge. I read about this on the America Saves website. It’s a challenge to be smart in the way I budget, and to try to save one dollar ($1) for every dollar I spend. It isn’t as crazy as it sounds – the site had great tips:

  • First, I’ll make a list and check it twice. I’m going to make a list and be honest about the dollar amount I plan to spend. America Saves suggested including costs for gift-giving to family and friends, and to not forget food and entertainment. So, those Nutcracker Ballet tickets – I go every year with my friend – maybe they can be a joint gift between us this year, instead of a separate gift.
  • Next, I am going to prioritize and figure out what I need to have a happy holiday. I’ll divide the list between “needs” and “wants”. 
  • Third, I’ll add it up and then set a savings goal. America Saves says those who make a commitment to themselves and their family to save usually save more than those who don’t. 
  • Finally, I’m going to try to make this part of my routine. Whenever I reach the amount needed for one of my savings goals, I’m going to transfer that amount from my checking account into a savings account. This will help keep the money for the item on the list and mean that it is less likely to be spent on an impulse item.

Wish me luck!


Angela

October 29 – Angela
I ran across another fun retirement-related video on YouTube, this one featuring chipmunks explaining how compound interest works with savings. “Go Nuts and Save Early” reminds me of those Disney “Chip and Dale” animated cartoons I’ve seen on TV. It is a visual explanation of this chart that experts say every 25-year-old should see about the power of compound interest and making it work for you.

Although Nutley and Chester probably won’t ever have as big a following as Disney’s pair of chipmunks, they do share an important message about saving for retirement. As a younger woman, compound interest is on my side. Starting my retirement savings now and positive returns over time will provide more growth and a healthy retirement account balance later. The longer I wait to start saving, the more I miss out. Thanks, Nutley!


Sophia

October 26 – Sophia
Along with the information and reminders I’m getting at work regarding changes to insurance benefits next year, I hear a lot about National Retirement Security Week (which used to be called “National Save for Retirement Week”). No matter what it’s called, the news is a good reminder to think about my future. And timely for my son, Justin, as he finally has a job with benefits. With his new job he has choices about how he saves for his retirement, including traditional or Roth contributions. “To Roth or Not to Roth…that is the question” we like to say. Justin has asked for my help in making his retirement savings decision. He is a young man and should have a long career ahead of him, with (hopefully) steadily increasing wages. That means he might benefit from using the Roth contribution option now. I think to be safe, though, he’s going to put some of his savings in both pre-tax (traditional) and Roth. Whatever he decides to do, I’m proud of him for taking the time to figure it out and start now, while he has time on his side.


Tamika

October 22 – Tamika
The emails from my agency’s Affirmative Action Committee keep mentioning retirement and being prepared. I decided they are right: There’s no time like the present to figure out if I am still on track to retire early. Can I retire at age 63 and have enough money to do the things I dream about? I’ve been using some online resources to help me determine if I can. One calculator that I found useful is on the AARP site. The Wisconsin Women’s Council also has a checklist that I like. This one has some good links to resources sprinkled in with the questions. I printed my results and will keep them near my financial records as inspiration. If I stay on track, retirement at 63 could work for me.


Sophia

October 19 – Sophia
What a weekend! My daughter, Sarah, came home from Washington, D.C. and we went out to dinner at a really nice place with Justin. It was terrific to have two of my three kids together in one place.  Sarah told us that she is thinking about applying for a different job. She loves Washington, D.C. and the pay at her current place. However, she wants a position with benefits that include an employer match on her 401(k) savings -- as it turns out her 401(k) plan isn’t very good.

I finally completed the form for making catch-up contributions to my WDC account and that will start coming out of my paychecks next month. The amount I’m eligible to contribute sounds like a lot of money to put away, but I’m just going to do it. Saving for my retirement is my biggest financial priority now. Nobody else is going to do it for me (and while my kids could take out loans for expenses related to their college educations, nobody gives out loans for retirement!).


Sherri

October 10 – Sherri
I found out that ETF has an online calculator that I can use to help estimate my WRS benefits. That calculator, along with the Social Security Retirement Estimator, gave me a good idea of where I might be financially when I retire in 30 years. Frankly speaking: It doesn’t look good. If I want to live the retirement of my dreams, I need to find ways to save for retirement now. We’re also trying to save for a down payment on a house – and there just doesn’t seem to be any leftover for either at the end of the month. I need help getting started saving but I’m determined to start now. My future depends on it.


Angela

October 3 – Angela
My dad is well-intentioned – he often sends me links to news and information he feels should be important to me. He really seems to like Money magazine – a lot. I enjoyed reading “How to Reach $1 Million” (in the August 2015 edition) and it inspired me to increase my WDC account contribution by $10 per paycheck. Yes, I ought to be able to handle that now, especially since I started making coffee at home (instead of frequent visits to my neighborhood coffee shop). It’s not the whole $30 per month available from my new and improved coffee habit, but it is a start.


Sherri

September 30 – Sherri
Now that my mom is finally truly settled in her new place, I have time to look at my own situation. Specifically, finances. I’d like to think about retirement, but am concerned with just getting a handle on where my money goes now. I know I should have between 3-6 months of savings for emergency expenses, but don’t really know where to begin. I am trying out this “Budgeting 101” site from Duke University, and hoping it will help.


Angela

September 27 – Angela
I saw this funny little comic strip recently which made me think – I’ve been indulging in a delicious cup of coffee that I get in the morning before work from the local roaster at least twice a week. At $3.75 a cup, that’s $7.50 a week and $30 a month…which equals $360 over a whole year. (And probably more, as some weeks I have three…or more… cups of coffee.) I found an online calculator that calculates how much I could save called “Stop Buying Expensive Coffee and Save Money Calculator” and realized that over the long term (think decades) my coffee shop habit really is costly.

I’m going to try to brew and bring my own coffee for the rest of the year and save that $100 in the WDC retirement account I finally started last month. Hopefully compound interest will be on my side and the contributions I put into my WDC account now will add up to a good nest egg by the time I’m ready to retire.


Sophia

September 25 – Sophia
I really appreciated the webinar on Social Security that was held on September 10.  I had no idea that the age at which you apply for Social Security impacts the amount of the benefit so much, or that I might be better off applying as a widow under Ken’s account than mine, because he earned more than me.  A married woman can collect Social Security retirement benefits based on her own earnings from work, or an amount equal to 50% of her husband’s retirement benefit, whichever is higher. And If I can hold off until I am age 70, it looks like I may receive the maximum amount possible under current Social Security rule. I was curious enough that I went back online the next evening to login and review my Social Security account again and see what the Social Security Retirement Estimator would show for me.  


Naava

September 24 – Naava
Busy, busy, busy -- that’s my life. With fall and cold weather here, I have been spending a lot of time outside, raking the never-ending leaves. I need to spend some time inside too, bring my winter wardrobe back into my closet.

My son is doing well these days, too. It’s interesting how we seem to get into these unexpected financial discussions. He is seeing how, through my financial decisions and life style changes, I am happier. He has started his own emergency fund and is also saving to move out on his own.

National Retirement Security Week is less than a month away. It might be bragging but I feel like I already have a good start on preparing myself for retirement. I still have several years to improve my situation, but I am on track and that feels good. Here’s a fun little reality check/energy booster that keeps me on track to continue saving and making the right spending choices.


Tamika

September 21 – Tamika
I went to a local Society for Human Resource Management meeting the other day, and heard one of my private sector counterparts talk about a recent downsizing – 165 people were let go! She said that she’s been working with her staff to help their (now former) employees cope. One of the resources she mentioned seemed really useful. It is a publication called Cutting Back and Keeping Up When Money Is Tight and was created by the UW-Extension. It prompted me to go look at what else is on the UW- Extension website and think about what I could share from it with my colleagues. There is a brief article on the UW Extension site about how to bring up the conversation about financial difficulties with family. I think I’ll print a copy to share with our EAP coordinator and keep in my “just in case” file at work.


Naava

September 14 – Naava
I sure do love all the information I am receiving from the EMPOWER campaign. Even though I don’t need all of it NOW, I will retire someday and the better prepared I am for it, the happier I will be in the long run. I am still ecstatic over having an emergency fund that covered my car repair two weeks ago.
The Social Security lunch and learn was great. I am 20 years from retirement, but I found out that because I was married more than 10 years (even though I am divorced), I might be eligible for a higher Social Security benefit, based on my ex-husband’s work history instead of my own. I might consider watching the Social Security webinar again, it had that much good information in it. I heard several of my friends talking about the webinar on Caregiving. Who knows what other good tidbit I might pick up?
EMPOWER is offering another “Investments 101” for Women lunch and learn/webinar on September 23. You should check it out for yourself; it’s good!


Naava

September 1 – Naava
Life sure has it is ups and downs, including the weather. With extreme highs of 91 degrees to lows of 52, I don’t know if I should wear a jacket or tank top.
I forgot how much paperwork a bank/credit union needs to refinance a home, but I am excited about not having a mortgage payment for a month. I will use that extra money to replenish my emergency fund. My car died…alternator and a belt…but it wasn’t as bad as I originally thought. First of all, just having an emergency fund took my original panic away and made the situation just irritating. Then, my neighbor offered to fix the car for me -- fantastic! I only needed to buy the parts. Plus, by having an emergency fund, I paid CASH and didn’t have to use my credit card. My life is good, and having control over my finances makes the speed bumps on my road seem smoother. I am planning to attend the free Social Security lunch and learn on September 10. Hope to see you there – but if you can’t make it in-person, maybe you can watch the live webcast.


Sophia

August 27 – Sophia
My daughter, Jessica, and my grandchildren made a quick visit to my home last weekend and somehow the conversation turned to life insurance. Jessica and I were both looking at life insurance and figuring out what we need. It seems that I don’t need as much coverage anymore, as my kids are all grown up and I have a good group policy available through my employer. Jessica, however, should probably have more coverage and promised she’d look into that when she gets home. I’m going to take the money I was putting toward insurance and put it towards my retirement instead. I learned about 457 “catch-up” contributions permitted under the IRS code at my one-on-one meeting with the WDC last month and now I can take advantage of it!


Naava

August 26 – Naava
The Investments 101 for Women workshop was very good. I hear they are going to run another one September 23 – I may either go again (or watch the webcast) just to reinforce what I learned! Having help understanding the vocabulary alone was worth going. The three or four legged stool analogy really makes sense, too. Yes, I may need to work in retirement. But, if I can put as much as possible into my retirement savings now, I may not have to work after I am “retired”.

My son is starting to ask financial questions about how he should budget his money. It’s nice to see how my positive decisions are influencing his decisions.

As for my next step… I have been talking with Summit Credit Union about refinancing my home mortgage. Interest rates are still low and I can refinance my house with a lower interest rate, plus change my mortgage from a 30-year to a 12-year timeframe – wow! For a little extra money each month, I can have my house paid in full by the time I retire. If I don’t have a mortgage payment in retirement, I won’t need as much money for my monthly expenses.


Sonia

August 24 – Sonia
As I have started planning for my own retirement, I am realizing more and more that i have responsibilities as a daughter as well. My parents are getting older and I am not sure what we are going to do once they are unable to care for themselves.  I am caring for my own children every day.  I am working full time, making meals, packing lunches, and taking kids to their activities.  I am not sure I will be able to handle one more thing on my plate. My husband and I are definitely part of the sandwich generation. If I hadn’t watched that Caregiving presentation on August 12, I would not have known how to even start approaching this situation -- which is sure to become a reality sooner than I expect.


Angela

August 21 – Angela
So a co-worker talked me into attending an EMPOWER campaign lunch and learn workshop, this one on caregiving. I’m not quite the target audience for this one (they said the average caregiver is 49), but I was interested because I see my mom doing more and more for my Grandma. Lately, every time I call my mom she is picking up groceries for Grandma or taking time off work to get her to and from various doctor appointments.

The information at the caregiving workshop was very eye-opening – it made me realize that the things my mom is doing now for my Grandma will begin to add up, physically, emotionally and maybe even financially. They said the lifetime cost impact of caregiving on an individual female caregiver in terms of lost wages and Social Security benefits equals $324,044. That’s a serious chunk of change!

I also learned about some resources here in Wisconsin that my mom could take advantage of if she reaches the point that she needs some help. The first place to go is Wisconsin's Family Caregiver Support Programs.


Sophia

August 20 – Sophia
I decided after going to that “Investments 101” for Women presentation last month that I really ought to take the time to meet with someone to talk about my WDC investment options. I called and found out that the WDC will come to me so I don’t have to drive to go meet with them. There is a presentation schedule online that shows where they will be and when.

So I made an appointment and had a really good meeting with the WDC. They answered my questions about the different types of investments and gave me an investment planning guide that was very helpful. Together, we went online and I updated my deferral allocations. I feel like I’m on track to take control of my retirement savings. Yay me!


Sophia

July 27 – Sophia
I talked with both girls on the phone this weekend, which was nice. Jessica and her family are busy, juggling full time jobs and their kids’ activities. Seems that’s the same story line I hear whenever I talk to her, just insert different activities depending on what time of year it is. I offered to have Jessica’s kids stay with me if Jessica needed it, both to help her out with juggling childcare and work, and so that I get “Camp Grandma” time with them.

And even though you’d think her sister, Sarah, would be less busy (no kids yet), she is always on the go doing something. She really likes working in Washington, D.C. and even when she was young told Ken and I that she was going to move there and make a difference in the world. She works long hours at her job, and fortunately seems to get paid well, too. When we talk about her job and how busy she is, she just laughs and says she’s so busy working that even though the city is an expensive place to live, she doesn’t have time to spend all her income, so she’s saving most of it. I don’t know if she’s ever used a calculator to figure out what she needs to save, but she said compound interest is on her side. I sure hope she is right.


Tamika

July 20 – Tamika
In addition to having enough savings for retirement, I need to have a plan for what I’ll be doing with my time during retirement. I have grandnieces and grandnephews that I know I want to spend time with. And I’m looking forward to doing more ballroom dancing and taking long bike trips. Yet I still feel like something is missing. I’ve often considered starting my own business. If I meet my retirement goals, I should be in a stable financial position. I don’t have a high risk tolerance but I am willing to take a few chances. Recently I heard about an organization called the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC). They help women business entrepreneurs by providing assistance with loans, writing business plans, accounting, marketing and using social media. I will be visiting them soon to see if there are classes that might help me pursue my small business dream.


Sonia

July 14 – Sonia
Once I finally consolidated my retirement account from a previous employer into one account with WDC – which felt great to do, by the way -- I then decided to take a look on the EMPOWER website to see what it had to offer. I found the schedule of events and was excited to find a “lunch and learn” workshop called “Investments 101 for Women” which is being offered on two dates: July 14 and July 21. I should be able to make it to a session and learn more about my tolerance for investment risk and the different types of WDC investment options.


Naava

July 14 – Naava
It sure is hot. This type of weather makes me slow down and want to relax. Because I have cut back on shopping only for the necessities, I actually do have time to sit and think. I have come a long way in the last three months. The stress level of worrying about finances has come down a fair amount. I am seeing my little pots of money growing. I actually have an “emergency fund” with a small, but growing balance in it. I hope I won’t need to use it, but it’s a comfort to know that it’s there – just in case. EMPOWER is offering “Investments 101” for Women during lunch on July 21, I think I am going to ask some of my friends from work to grab some lunch and come with me. Maybe we all can become a little more investment savvy


Naava

July 9 – Naava
I’ve been able to handle the small (or maybe not so small) challenge of budgeting, but I feel like I should start looking at my retirement savings. How much will I need in retirement? I am so happy I am part of the WRS and the pension benefits it offers. With so many states’ retirement systems in financial distress, it is great to know that the WRS is strong and I can count on my pension as a substantial part of my retirement income. I am not sure I can say the same for my Social Security benefit. I also have my Wisconsin Deferred Compensation account which will supplement my retirement. But I am still unsure about how much money I should have for retirement. I called the WDC toll free at 1-877-457-9327 and increased my bi-weekly contribution another $25.00. It was easy, a simple phone call, and I feel good about taking another small step forward


Angela

July 8 – Angela
Wow time flies by! The entire month of June went by while I was working, it seemed. Good thing I have some vacation time to use in July --- I’m really liking the “paid time off and benefits” parts of the “real job” thing. And I’m learning so much from the Employee Assistance Program people and that EMPOWER website. And I had a good meeting with the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation representative who came to do a “lunch and learn” where I work. I am going to start small for now, just $20 a paycheck.

Oh and this is fun: I even found myself “surfing” for more information on retirement and stumbled across this short “Tale of Two Kitties” video on YouTube. It is actually a funny and good video and shows the value of planning ahead (from a cat’s point of view). Mr. Mittens reminds me of one of our cats, but I’m determined to be more like Gus, and take control of my future!


Sophia

July 7 – Sophia
I saw a flyer at work for a lunchtime presentation in July that I ought to attend. It’s called “Investments 101 for Women” and looks like a good way to spend a lunch hour. It’s just down the street from my work. I hope it’ll be sort of a crash course in basic investment terms.  Investing and investment terms have always been a foreign language to me. Because I let Ken take the lead on our financial investments, I don’t know as much as I should. Now that I am solely responsible for all my financial actions, I had better get a move on. This will be one of my first steps in getting up to speed, or at least learning the lingo and basic terms.


Naava

June 26 – Naava
My son has finally noticed my shopping habit changes – that’s what I call progress! He now understands that if he would like something specific, it must go on the list. I am only buying items written on the list. He likes that I post my weekly meal plan on the refrigerator. I can check to see what I already have in the pantry and add the remaining items to my grocery list. I am feeling really good about the changes I have made so far. Through work, Summit Credit Union offered free one-on-one credit report counseling, which was very interesting. They said my credit score “wasn’t bad,” and l offered suggestions on what I could do to improve my score. I shared this video with my son about how to build credit from scratch. If I have a great credit score when it comes time to purchase a new/used car, I was told I could get the best rate offered. This is exciting – maybe I’ll reach one of my goals soon!


Sonia

June 21 – Sonia
Summer is moving right along and life continues to be so busy, between taking care of my parents, working, and trying to spend quality time with my family. I feel really good that I consolidated my retirement funds successfully into one account with the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program. Hhhm…What to do next? I think it would be a good idea to actually start contributing a small amount to the account. This is the tightest time of the year (outside of Christmas), but I’m hoping it won’t strain us too much before finances get better this fall, once the kids go back to school . Well, I need to go for now, my dad is calling. I wonder what happened now.


Sophia

June 19 – Sophia
Happy Friday! I went to a retirement party for my friend, Bob, after work a few days ago and it was really fun. Bob is a planner and always thinking about the future. So as you might guess, he’s retiring at 61, like he planned, and will be spending the rest of his summer biking across part of the U.S.  I also got to visit with some already-retired colleagues from my agency and hear about how much they are enjoying their retirement. One friend is planning to go on a river cruise in Germany this fall and invited me to come along. It sure sounds like fun, but I think I’ll have to pass this time around. Maybe when I’m retired I’ll go. Talking to everyone got me thinking about my own retirement again. I watched an ETF online video called “Are you ready to retire”. The video helped me start thinking about all the aspects of retirement – not only finances, but what I might want to do with my time, where I might want to live, etc. Good food for thought!


Naava

June 12 – Naava
Before I heard about the EMPOWER campaign at work, I would have said, “Yes, I have a budget.” Now I know better -- I really didn’t have a budget in the true sense of the word. Tracking my spending and savings was eye opening – it seems I do waste a lot of money and could be putting it to better use! Actually writing down my budget has shown me where I am currently spending my money and where I could adjust my budget and reallocate some monies. I’m now trying out a different Budgeting Worksheet and it seems pretty easy. My friends think I have gone overboard with this budgeting thing, but I know better. I can buy groceries and pay my mortgage, but I don’t have an “emergency fund” -- if my car breaks down or something happens with the house I could be in financial trouble quickly. I watched a short five-minute video that helped me figure out how to set a budget and stick to it.


Sophia

June 10 – Sophia
Today at lunch, my co-worker, Jane, told me the latest about her aging mother. Jane has been making frequent out-of-state visits the last few years to take care of her mother’s affairs and two months ago decided the time had come to move her from a senior apartment complex to a facility with a “memory care” unit. This was a hard decision, but her mother’s dementia had quickly escalated to the point she was needed a higher level of care. Jane has three siblings, but none of them help with these matters. So Jane’s vacation the last two years has consisted of making monthly trips to assist/supervise the care plan. Last Monday, the director called Jane and abruptly said she had to find a new place for her mom: She has become too combative to stay in their care.  Jane was a wreck. With little to no time to find her mother a new home – and one that her mom can afford -- was too much to deal with.
I suggested that Jane call LifeMatters, our employee assistance provider, which offers counseling and referral services for eldercare. She took my suggestion and was thrilled that LifeMatters found several options in nearby towns that were highly rated for their Alzheimer/dementia care. In fact, the place Jane chose costs less than her mom’s former facility.
As for me, I’m going to pay my long-term care insurance premium tonight. Ken and I bought a policy years ago, but I’ve been considering canceling it because we never used it – not even during Ken’s illness. I don’t want my children to have to deal with all of these issues if I can help it. And, long-term care coverage should help make it easier to find care that I can afford should I need it.


Sonia

June 4 – Sonia
The weather finally comes close to what early spring should be like around here. Not only does that give me a lift, but also finding some options for affordable daycare really eases my stress. Daycare costs won’t break us, but will tighten up our budget for the summer. I think we should be able to handle it by staying disciplined. Either way, I did meet with an advisor from the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program (WDC) – and that was free of charge. She suggested that I consolidate the small retirement account that I still have from a previous employer into one account with the WDC. What a great idea! I will be able to keep track of my retirement savings in one place. And there’s this: The fees are lower. Under the WDC I’ll be paying less than what I was paying for separately maintaining my 401(k) account.


Naava

May 28 – Naava
The sun is shining and it has been a great couple of weeks. This 4-week Financial Fitness Challenge isn’t as difficult as I thought. In fact, it is sort of fun daydreaming about the goals for my future. Right now it feels like that is all it is: “a dream.” But, if this really works, and some of my dreams and goals really do come true, that would be AMAZING. Week two of the challenge was a little more difficult – tracking my spending and savings. I was really surprised how many things I purchase throughout the week that I wouldn’t even miss. The 54 Ways to Save Money was really helpful. I immediately decided to cut out my daily latte and not eat out every day for lunch. I even realized that I was spending way more on groceries than I would have guessed. If I only need one can of tuna, why was I buying three? I really want to go on that Caribbean cruise with my friends in February and get a newer car in the next couple of years.


Sophia

May 27 – Sophia
I didn’t expect it, but I really enjoyed this year’s Memorial Day observance. In the small town I live in, we have a parade each year. The high school band, the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts groups, and the surviving veterans make up the majority of the parade. This year, the veterans rode in cars, as many of them aren’t very mobile any more. It was heartening to see a few WWII veterans still around and able to participate as well as those from our more recent conflicts.

Afterward, I decided to tackle another of the paper piles at home. I found another folder labelled “Social Security” that we hadn’t gone through yet. It had a really good publication in it called “Social Security: What Every Woman Should Know” and a social security benefit statement from a few years ago. I remembered hearing that Social Security has created a new online account access for retirement, disability and survivors benefits, so I signed up for an account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. It was easy, and another step in getting my financial life in order.


Tamika

May 26 – Tamika
I am so excited. I had a face-to-face meeting with a financial planner at Summit Credit Union. It went really well and I have a good plan started. We looked at where I’m at now, financially, and where I want to be when I retire. Making additional contributions to my WRS account makes sense. I need to follow up with my employer to see if I can make the contributions through payroll deduction.


Angela

May 22 – Angela
I looked in to it at work and they told me I was contributing to my WRS pension account -- but nothing else. They suggested I open a Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program account. With a WDC account, I can have money taken out of my paycheck to build my retirement savings. The really nice thing is that there is no minimum amount – I can put in whatever amount I want. I asked my mom about it and she thinks I should take advantage of this opportunity. She has a similar program where she works. I’m going to call the WDC tomorrow at 1-877-457-9327 and find out how to enroll. Here’s to the future; wish me luck!


Naava

May 15 – Naava
Okay, I am ready to get refocused on my finances. I think I am in decent shape, but I signed up for a 4-week Feed the Pig Financial Fitness Challenge. I may not be able to fit into my swimsuit this summer, but there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to afford a sunny vacation occasionally (bikini optional). If I run into budgeting concerns that I cannot figure out for myself, I will just contact the state’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Life Matters, for one-on-one financial counseling. I need to go now because I need to start writing down my financial goals.


Sonia

May 15 – Sonia
I felt really inspired after the Well Wisconsin Expo. I learned about two easy and simple things that will help me improve my health and my retirement financial planning:

 

  1. Since I am a state employee I know I have deductions going to the Wisconsin Retirement System for my pension. However, I found out I have another option for building up retirement savings: the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program. I will make regular payroll deductions and I can contribute any amount, big or small – we can afford a small amount at first. 
  2. I’m also going to take charge of my health. The first step is to schedule a biometric screening through the Well Wisconsin Program (which was also at the expo) to get a baseline. I can receive a $150 incentive from my health plan to complete the screening – in fact I heard spouses and children over the age of 18 can get screenings and receive the incentive. I will have to look more into that.

Sophia

May 12 – Sophia
I miss Ken and can’t believe he’s been gone six months already. He was my husband and my best friend. Every day is a challenge, but some days are easier than others. Friends recommended that I start keeping a blog to help ease the pain of loss and feelings of loneliness, so this will be my attempt. We’ll see. I’m not much of a writer, but I need to do something.

Although my grief is fresh and seems never-ending (not to mention unpredictable), the paperwork I’m left dealing with is finally letting up. Thanks to my son, Justin, I am starting to get a handle on all the finance-related stuff Ken always handled for us:

    1. I got the taxes filed and updated the names on the bank accounts.
    2. Justin discovered my WRS statement in the finance pile and pointed out that I should let the WRS know about Ken’s death, and get the form to update my beneficiary designation with them. I did that last week.

Justin and I worked together on the file cabinet, too. It was a mess. Ken and I already had our really important documents in the safe deposit box (marriage license, birth certificates, our wills, etc.) but I had a bunch of other paper receipts, insurance bills, and credit card statements that were thrown in in a pile over the last six months. I realize now that I don’t need to save all of them. Justin found some good suggestions online for managing household records that helped us quickly sort out what I need to save and what I don’t. I’m going to try hard not to wind up with a big pile of papers at the end of this year.

I also printed a copy of this handy “roadmap” that I’m filling out and keeping in the file cabinet so Justin and the girls will know where my important papers are in the future. Small steps, but I feel like I have a good start on getting a handle on the finance stuff. I can do this!


Tamika

May 11 – Tamika
I want to retire early and I know I need a plan. In the beginning of my career, my plan was simple: Get a job; work hard; help people. I feel like I’ve done quite well at that. I love my job and the people I serve. Now it’s time to start preparing for my future. My goal is to retire when I’m 63. That means I have 8 years to develop and carry out my plan. If the past 20 years have taught me anything, it’s that the next 8 will go by very quickly.

So, what’s my plan? I need to make sure that when I retire, I will be in a good financial position. I’m lucky to be covered under the WRS, so a logical place to start is by considering making additional contributions to my WRS account. I called the Department of Employee Trust Funds (1-877-533-5020). The Call Center agent I spoke with was very helpful. I learned that I can make additional after-tax contributions either through payroll deduction or as a lump sum payment. I think making additional contributions to my WRS account is a smart thing to do. But I’m also going to talk to a financial planner. I bank at Summit Credit Union and I know they offer financial planning assistance. I’m going to make an appointment to talk with someone and get the ball rolling.


Angela

May 11 – Angela
I called the Employee Assistance Program today and wow -- I finally feel like I just might be able to do this. They helped me design a budget and showed me when and where I could make little changes to cut costs. I will be able to put some money in my savings account this next paycheck. Woot Woot! They also told me to check with my employer to see if there is a long-term savings options (like a 401K or a Roth) that would come straight out of my paycheck. I definitely will do that – yay me!


Naava

May 8 – Naava
It’s finally spring! I’ve been busy cleaning up the flower beds, washing windows and switching from winter clothes to warmer-weather outfits, which is uplifting.

Although my children are old enough to take care of themselves, my youngest still lives with me. Financially, he is self-sufficient with a job and a car, but it would be nice if he would help a bit more around the house.

I heard that the state is offering a wellness event on Wednesday, May 13 at the Monona Terrace in Madison from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and sharing information on both physical health and financial health. A guest speaker will be discussing “Mindful Money - Tips for Spending and Saving” at 12:15 p.m. Hey, it can’t hurt me to stop by over my lunch hour. I bet there will be some fun giveaways, too.


Angela

May 7 – Angela
I love living on my own. My roommate and I get along really well and my job is going great. I just wish I could get ahead of all these financial obligations so I could try to save some money. My parents taught me how important it is to save for the future. Obviously, it was so much easier to save money when I was in school and living at home. Now it seems like every time I get close to having a little extra money, something happens and I need to use it for something else. I talked to some friends and a few of them have already met with a financial counselor. I might check to see if my credit union offers free financial coaching. I’ve seen flyers advertising the Employee Assistance Program at work, so I might look into that, too.


Sonia

May 6 – Sonia
Spring is finally here! You would think that I would be ecstatic that summer is around the corner, but the only thing I think of is daycare for the children. What am I going to do? The kids will be out of school and I need someone to watch them. Childcare has gotten so expensive!  My husband’s employment situation is sporadic, so I can’t count on him to be able to watch the kids. My parents are close by, but that is not an option. They are in no shape to take care of my kids.

I wish I had more time for myself. I just need a break. Hey, now that I think of it, I saw flyers posted for the Well Wisconsin Expo. The will be free workshops on financial wellness, nutrition and health awareness. I should check this out since the expo will be close to where I work and I can get there over lunch break. It will be nice to take a breather and maybe get some new ideas!