by Heligirl on May 3, 2012

in Beyond Mommyhood

I feel like I’ve been racing to keep up with life as it throws me curveballs and keeps me on my toes. In a down economy, where I was laid off, money concerns stay in the back of my mind. And I’ve been worried like mad about retirement for decades.

How lame is that, worry about retirement when you’re in your 20s, 30s and now 40s?

I have no head for investments. I bought books I couldn’t understand and talked to brokers who were in it for their own gains. But in the end I got the gist that I needed to diversify, meet my employers’ matches and max the IRA contributions whenever possible. I was at it from my mid-20s, even as I struggled to pay off college debt.

This past 15 months I’ve not given much attention to my retirement accounts. Way too much other stress going on.

Then while doing my taxes this year, I took a peek as I made my annual IRA contribution.

I’ll tell you now. There’s something to be said for buying when the market is low. I was laid off Jan. 1, 2011. There had been no contributing or matching for 15 months in the 401(k), but that year of contributions and matches while the market was down just before I was laid off was a shot in the arm. Now that the market is going up, bam! Growth.

I compared my totals with my husbands. Seriously, we have THAT much? Could it really be right?

I bought a little investment book and ran a few of the calculations it recommended to determine how to have enough money in retirement. I came up with this number that made me choke, but with compound interest and our current totals, it required no more than our current annual contributions to achieve.

That can’t be right, my negative mind told me.

I pulled up a CNN money retirement tool to see if my constant concerns over retirement were founded in any reality, because CNN and Money know what they’re talking about, right? According to it, if we did nothing more than continue to contribute as we do (full amount a year to IRA and our personal contributions to 401(k)), we’ll only need a 2.25% gain a year on the market to meet a very comfortable retirement goal. If the market keeps at its average 4%, hello annual cruise and beach house!

Really? Seriously? That’s so cool.

Suddenly all that worry about retirement evaporated. I’m actually doing something right.

Of course, I still have at least 20 years before I can think about retiring, and that’s plenty of time for the market to recover then crash like a meteor, or tax rules to change and me to owe 85% taxes on retirement income. (Yup, there’s the Jen you know and love, every cloud has a black lining.)

In the meantime, I guess I can be grateful for my worry. It made me be careful with money and pay myself first, into retirement accounts, especially in those early years when, I kid you not, I felt resentful I couldn’t have my money now.

{ 1 comment }

Candace E. Fulkerson May 15, 2012 at 8:55 pm

What an awesome post. I do appreciate your thoughtful and interesting feedback. I am very surprised that more people do not debate this topic more often.
Candace E. Fulkerson recently posted: Maxirex Review

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