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Retiring Early: Our Plan

Ugh, finances. Am I right? I don't know anyone who is 100% secure that they're doing the right things with their money. Do I spend too much? Am I saving enough for retirement? Am I saving too much for retirement? Is that even a thing? I recently had a really a bad experience with a financial adviser, and after some thought, I've decided to share that story here. If you'd rather I just stick to recipes, I understand. Here they are. But, if you've ever felt a bit insecure about your financial standing, I'd encourage you to read on. 

I stayed at my first job out of college for five years, and left that company with a decent chunk of money in my retirement account. They had awesome retirement plans for their employees. Good matches, and even a plan where you got to purchase their stock at a discount! My brother always told me to "pay myself first," and encouraged me to put 10% of my paychecks into my 401k. So, I did that right out of college and learned to live on what was left. I felt like I left this first job in a very good place. I didn't mess with that account often, but the funds my money was in were growing at a good clip. 

About the time I left my first real job, my husband also switched jobs. My new employer was a very small business with no retirement benefits. So, we thought it was a great time to consolidate our accounts and hire a financial adviser, since we'd have to do most of our investing on our own. We turned to an adviser that came highly recommend. After the first meeting, we felt a little unsettled. He didn't listen to us. Like at all. Neither of us are professionals, but we know a few things. I was a finance major and Craig is a bit of an investments dork. We had questions that went unanswered, especially around how much we should be saving for retirement. You see, we have big dreams. We want to retire at 55. We wanted to talk about the big picture, and make sure we were doing enough to reach this goal. But, the message we heard was "trust me, I've been doing this a long time, for people that have loads of money and no investing know how." So, we dropped it, and went with his recommendations.

Nothing went horribly wrong with this adviser, but nothing went particularly well either. He invested our money in safe mutual funds. We met with him once a year to review our accounts. When we asked why our returns weren't much higher than the market on average, we got a lecture on patience. In particular, when I voiced an opinion, it was dismissed. I'm not one to jump to conclusions about being dismissed just because I'm a woman. I've largely been treated fairly in the workplace and my personal life. This was too pervasive to ignore. We allowed this to go on for about three years, until one day my husband looked at his account and realized that his account was growing LESS each year than it would if he just placed it in an index fund. If you don't know, an index fund is essentially a mutual fund that just invests your money in a standard set of stocks, like the S&P 500. And, my account was hardly growing past the money I had funneled out of my paychecks each month. Yikes! It was time for a change.Retirement

So, we fired the adviser. It wasn't pretty. It took us almost six months to get all of our accounts released, which was pretty scary. We're back to managing our own accounts now. I'm happy to report that it looks like we're trending to DOUBLE the return we see in 2016 versus the average yearly return we saw with him. We took a huge step forward, but we still felt a bit insecure about our money. Are we saving enough? We want to retire earlier than most, is it possible? That's why I consulted the folks at SUM180 for help. It took about an hour to fill out their evaluation on where we are financially. Our expenses, our mortgages, our income and our hopes for retirement. Their team then took a look at my answers and put together a full plan for us, including what we were doing right, and what we need to do a little better. Zero judgement, zero lectures, just the facts

SUM180 helped me feel confident that we could manage our finances on our own, without the help of a hired adviser. At their recommendation, we are both increasing our retirement contributions. We are also going to get extra life insurance for me, because I didn't have enough, and we definitely want to make sure our son is taken care of if the worst happens. Having an expert review our finances objectively and give us feedback has given me so much peace of mind!

If you feel a bit insecure about your finances, consider having SUM180 create an attack plan for you. Or, if you just have some questions that you could use an expert opinion on, consider posting it in their community forum! I'd love to hear from you in the comments. At what age would you like to retire? We'd like to retire by 55. We're dreaming big! stories

This post has been sponsored by SUM180. I was provided with product at no charge to sample in exchange for my review. The options expressed in this post are my own. I am in no way affiliated with SUM180 and do not earn a commission or percent of sales.


Lauren | The Ginger Bread Girl

Thursday 15th of December 2016

I'm dreaming big, too! We have a plan to retire by the time I'm 40...check out for some great advice :)