Read the Stories

Jerry

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I’m definitely a passive investor. I have a financial advisor that manages my investments for the most part. I just try to reach my maximum input per year allowed by the government.

“My name is Jerry and I have been saving for 40 years. I started saving when I was twenty years old. I still have an old 401(k) that I left behind when switching jobs. I didn’t want to move it because it’s still making me money. When I’m retired I think I’ll probably draw from that account first and leave my main one alone for a while.

I’m definitely a passive investor. I have a financial advisor that manages my investments for the most part. I just try to reach my maximum input per year allowed by the government. That’s my goal. So if I reach that, that’s good. But on the investment side, I’m a passive guy. I don’t know that stuff.

When I retire I’ll have to readjust my lifestyle so I don’t have to work. I have to project how long I’m going to live, and then I’ll have to average out what I want to take out every year from my investments. Some advice I would give young people that just started saving for retirement is to put the maximum amount you can every year, and find a company that will match it at least 50%. If you put in the maximum amount, and the company puts in the maximum amount, it’ll be great for your retirement.”

Photograph & interview by Carolyn Bouso

Hector

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Don’t look at your 401(k) as a piggy bank, but a long-term investment vehicle to fulfill your financial goals that will help you to be able to retire.

“My name is Hector, I’m 59 years old, and I’ve been saving for the past 35 years. I am a diligent saver and long-term investor, and I think that that approach has helped me over many years.

I am actually my own financial advisor. I am trained, and I believe I have the necessary understanding of the markets and how investments perform over a long period of time to feel confident in my ability to retire comfortably. I always pay attention to how the market is doing and buy and sell different funds based on how I feel the market is going to perform. I also put the maximum amount I can each year into my 401(k) plan. What gives me concern is times like now, when there is a lot of market volatility and how a market downturn can impact my 401(k).

My advice to anyone when it comes to retirement is to start early. Start the first day on the job and be committed to saving and to learning about markets. Take a long term view. Don’t look at your 401(k) as a piggy bank, but a long-term investment vehicle to fulfill your financial goals that will help you to be able to retire.”

Photograph & interview by Carolyn Bouso

Claire

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I am leaving my current job in July for grad school and anticipate that I will definitely have challenges with my 401(k). I will be taking a significant pay cut, so I won’t be able to contribute to my 401(k) anymore.

“When I was a kid, I thought the government just gave you a bunch of money when you got old and stopped working. Of course now I realize that planning for retirement is a life-long thing.

“I opened my 401(k) in August of 2018 when I started my job in San Francisco. When I started saving, I wish I’d had a better understanding of all the different places and ways you can invest your money. The main concern I had in the beginning was that I was putting a lot into my 401(k) and not enough towards bills. I wish there was a class in high school or college that gave you a more concrete understanding of retirement and how to save.

“I am leaving my current job in July for grad school and anticipate that I will definitely have challenges with my 401(k). I will be taking a significant pay cut, so I won’t be able to contribute to my 401(k) anymore. My current job matches all my contributions, but I have no idea what will happen to my 401(k) when I start school.”

Photograph & interview by Nikolai Ewert

Jimmy

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It’s about finding that balance between having fun versus being smart about where you’re going to be when you’re 65. That’s hard for us to do sometimes.

“I've been saving for probably 8 years now. First couple years I was saving the minimum. I was spending my money much more than saving my money. Then I lost my first job a year out of law school, and that was really difficult for about 8 months. It was more emotionally difficult than anything because my wife and I had just gotten married. We were okay, but I’ve definitely put more of a priority on saving since I got married.

“I think one of the hardest things about saving for retirement is finding the balance of when to spend your money versus when to save it. For us it’s like the hardest thing to do. I have maxed out my 401(k), but there’s always a part of me that wants to consider not investing as much and using the money now to, you know, buy a nicer house or a nicer car--that kind of stuff. You think about it, but ultimately that’s the balance. It’s about finding that balance between having fun versus being smart about where you’re going to be when you’re 65. That’s hard for us to do sometimes.”

Photograph & interview by Carolyn Bouso

Madeline

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I think the hardest about saving for retirement is the thought that I could always be doing more. I’m never sure if what I’m doing is enough.

“I’m super interested in personal finance. I remember I started learning about retirement in my 8th grade economics class. They taught us that if you start saving at 18 or 19 versus 20 or 25, your savings change exponentially. That always stuck in my head.

I was inspired to start my 401(k) plan because of my job. I made a budget so I could start putting the maximum amount monthly into my 401(k) and automatically invest with every paycheck so I don’t have to think about it. By now I’ve been saving consistently for 2 years, so I have a good nest egg for retirement. Even though I feel at ease about my savings, I think the hardest about saving for retirement is the thought that I could always be doing more. I’m never sure if what I’m doing is enough.”

Interview & photo by Nikolai Ewert

James

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His financial security helped make [my grandfather] a better man.

“Everybody wants to live a dignified life when they retire. This means so many different things for so many people.

My grandfather was able to retire at 55, and with his savings he was able to help support my family and I, including my undergraduate studies.

After he retired, my grandfather slowly became a more compassionate and understanding person. I think this was possible because his savings gave him the time to self reflect. He didn’t have to worry about money anymore. His financial security helped make him a better man.”

Interview & photo by Nikolai Ewert

Layla

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I really don’t know how to transfer my 401(k), and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.

"When I started my 401(k), I knew generally how it worked. I had a personal finance workshop in college, and I was also in the business school at University of Chicago where one of my professors really emphasized contributing early to a 401(k). However, I still got kind of confused about which portfolio I should pick, whether it should be a long term or short term portfolio, and other things like that. I did some research and made a decision, but I still didn’t clearly understand all my options.

I understand 401(k)s conceptually, but the practicalities of it are not clear to me. Things like who’s managing the fund, where can I go to look at it, what happens when I go to grad school or have a new job.... If you were to ask me where my 401(k) is right now, I would have to dig through my emails to find it.

In a few months I will have to transfer my 401(k) to my new job and I really worry about this. I really don’t know how to transfer my 401(k), and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way. I just want to know where to go to start this process."

Interview & photo by Nikolai Ewert

Chris

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I wish someone had told me that I should start saving since my first paycheck.

"I have been saving for my retirement for 8 years. I've never transferred a 401(k), but I do have an old account that I left behind when I switched jobs that I haven't cashed out. I wish someone had told me that I should start saving since my first paycheck. It's hard to part with that money, but putting something away early on, even if it’s a dollar or two, makes sure it’s ingrained in you. I feel that I'll be ready to live off my savings when I retire because I started saving at a young age, but I’m also concerned that I’m not aware about every little thing about a 401(k). It's been helpful to talk to my brother who’s an accountant as well as looking into investment opportunities to make some financial decisions about my retirement."

Interview & photo by Ella Frost

Sue

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It’s so very important to plan for your retirement even when it seems so far away

"I’ve been with the same company for 42 years and have a great 401(k). Some advice I would give to young professionals entering the workforce is to always contribute to a 401(k) or something similar for your future. It’s so very important to plan for your retirement even when it seems so far away, and it’s never too early to contribute. Put in as much money as you can even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck and think you need the extra money. It's also important to never take money out of your 401(k). Even though you can take a loan and pay it back, your 401(k) won’t grow the same way as if you had kept the money in your account. Always take the overtime when you can get it!

We should be able to live very comfortably with the money we have, but my concern today is that if things keep going the way they are going with the stock market, we might lose a lot of money."

Interview & photo by Ella Frost

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