One day while visiting my mother, she excitedly showed me a sheet of paper. Printed on the paper was just a simple spreadsheet, but it was much more. It was her retirement plan. Down the left-hand side were her funding sources (pension, personal savings, compensation plan, etc.) and across the top were columns representing the number of months left until she retires. This was a momentous occasion because, I was raised to never ask anyone how much they made or had because it was rude. Money was taboo, a hidden secret that was never discussed. The last time I attempted to talk about money with my mother was 2005. It was a disaster. These “conversations” would end abruptly with her grumbling the words “going to tell me that I don’t know anything about money.”
Fast forward six years to 2011 and things are very different. Nothing is off limits. My mom is happy to talk in great detail about money and is excited that I want to actually blog about it and share it with the world. Part of me wanted to ask “who are you and what did you do with my Mom?” but instead I grabbed my iPad and got to typing. We spent the entire afternoon talking about her financial lessons learned. My mom proudly shared the facts and the figures of her retirement plan. That simple piece of paper became the first retirement plan I’d ever seen outside of a book or a magazine article. Of course, it was a poignant moment because it was my mom, but it was also inspiring because it is a symbol of what’s possible.
In 1965 my mom couldn’t get $150 to cover her second semester at Penn State so college had to wait. In truth, her true desire was to be a wife – which happened months after leaving college and a few months after her 19th birthday- and a mother- which happened at age 22. Two decades later, when it became clear that her marriage wasn’t going down the “happily ever after” route, she became a 30+ year old college freshman. Only this time it would be at the University of Pittsburgh while working full-time, as a single mother.
She relocated with my grandmother to a new city and raided her savings to pay for my grandmothers medical expenses. Later, at 50, she purchased a home as a single woman and repeated this milestone two more times in a decade. Not only did she graduate from college with highest honors back in the 1990′s but she also earned her MBA online while in her late 50s. Turns out that she did pretty well at the “career stuff” as she calls it and earned promotions which completely shattered her former salary predictions.
I now understood the pride behind this folded piece of paper. But what really struck me is how simple the sheet was, in that it only mapped out her last 24 months of working. My mom’s road to retirement wasn’t a story of perfection. Instead it was a story of perseverance. Her mentors (on money or otherwise) were few and far between yet she managed to find her way. Her journey has now inspired me to not focus on the obstacles. I am so proud of her and all she has done. Next year she will retire as a human resource director with a college degree, MBA, and with a lifestyle she can afford. Her confidence is contagious. I’m inspired to look past my obstacles and to just take one step at a time, starting with my own retirement plan.
Has anyone in your family inspired you to take action towards planning for your retirement?