How I Planned Retirement Decades Before It Arrived

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After wartime Navy service and bouncing around in half-dozen jobs for almost 20 years, I realized at age 39 that I had no retirement plan. Neither did I have a savings account nor investments, and was living from paycheck to paycheck. I had a bachelor’s degree, but my career was going nowhere. I applied for graduate school, and was accepted, majoring in communications.

From my experience, if you dig hard enough, you’ll find opportunities to improve any situation. With my Navy and other writing experience, I qualified for free tuition and stipend as classroom and lab assistant. This was the equivalent of $20,000 per year. In 1964 and 1965, that was a significant benefit.

As a grad student two decades older than classmates, I had to plan seriously for my career. Instead of the usual campus distractions, I spent free time putting together a portfolio of student work, as well as solid samples from previous jobs.

I also wrote freelance articles on my portable typewriter (long before Macs and SmartPhones). Some assignments required Speed Graphic and Nikon 35mm cameras (before digital) to create quality photos, ads and publication designs.

From early in my final semester, I sent out resumés and samples to potential employers. At age 40 and competing with younger job seekers, I realized I had to work harder to sell myself.

I scanned newspaper want ads (before the internet) and consulted with others in my field. Suddenly, I received a job offer from a major insurance company. Fortunately for me, it was opening a new branch in my city, and seeking a public relations manager. I got the job.

In addition to good income, the company retirement plan was very attractive. My retirement was just 25 years away, and so far I had done nothing to prepare for the inevitable.

One incentive was that employees qualified at two percent of salary per year for up to 50 percent of salary as pension. It required completing at least 20 years, similar to retirement plans for police and the military.

The other benefit was a voluntary payroll savings plan where employees could set aside up to ten percent of salary in company fixed-interest investments. The company matched the first seven percent, adding up to a 17 percent of salary investment every weekly payday.

Summing up, I worked for the company for 25 years and retired at 65. With my pension, Social Security and income from the company investment account, my so-far 25 sunset years have been financially secure.

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