Learn How to Save for Retirement

Duke Financial Fitness Week offers financial planning seminars May 12 to 15 for employees

When Duke administrative assistant Mary Ellen Owens was raising three children as a single mom, saving for retirement wasn't a top priority.

Owens is turning 63 this year, and she's now contemplating what type of lifestyle she wants after she retires and whether she will have enough money saved to achieve her goals.

"I had three children I had to support so I needed all my money," said Owens, who's worked within Duke Transfusion Services for 24 years. "It's a little scarier for me. I didn't have the luxury of putting money away for retirement."

Owens, who is not currently contributing to a Duke retirement plan, said she hopes to learn more about contributing when she attends Financial Fitness Week at Duke, which presents 17 free seminars from May 12 to 15 for staff, faculty and their spouses or partners. Duke's retirement vendors will also be available to answer questions and schedule one-on-one appointments.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of Duke Financial Fitness Week:

If you're not saving for retirement, learn how to start

Only about 47 percent of Duke's eligible workforce is voluntarily contributing to a Duke retirement savings plan, according to Duke Human Resources.

Sylvester Hackney, associate director of Duke Benefits, suggests reviewing the schedule of workshops to find ones that focus on understanding retirement plans, starting contributions and developing a budget that includes saving for retirement. Even small but consistent contributions grow with compounded interest over the years, he said.

Come prepared with your personal benefits statement

Eligible Duke staff and faculty will receive a "Personal Benefits Statement" in the mail in early May detailing total compensation and any contributions to a retirement plan.

The statement projects how much money employees will have in their 60s through retirement contributions.

"This is an excellent chance to evaluate whether you need to increase your retirement contribution or make changes to other benefit programs," Hackney said.

He added that employees should be prepared to save a nest egg that can replace at least 75 percent of their annual income at retirement.

Under 30 years old or 50? There's something for you

Some workshops are aimed at employees five to 10 years from retirement, while others appeal to younger generations who are not contributing to a retirement plan yet. There will even be specialized seminars for women. 

Shanna Crumpler, a financial consultant with TIAA-CREF, one of Duke's retirement providers, will lead "Charting Your Course: A Financial Guide for Women" on May 14.

Participants will discuss financial tips that apply to both men and women, such as retirement saving skills and how to create a retirement plan, Crumpler said. But saving strategies for women begin to differ with varying earnings and longer life expectancy in women.

"I had one person in particular who had never paid any attention to her retirement account," Crumpler said. "She only took the employer contribution, and after taking my workshop, she felt empowered to make her own contribution to her account and start making some financial decisions on her own."

Listen in from your desk

For faculty and staff members who cannot attend in person, Duke Benefits is offering "Cyber Monday" to kick off the week.

Topics during the May 12 webinars range from "Estate Planning: Preserving Your Savings for Future Generations" to "How to Create a Solid Retirement Plan." Each "Cyber Monday" seminar allows viewers to ask questions, but registration is required.

Slideshows during "Cyber Monday" and other financial workshops will be available on the Duke Human Resources website after Financial Fitness Week.

Are you on track?

Aker Bey, a financial consultant with TIAA-CREF, is leading a seminar about saving for retirement on May 13. Bey said participants will complete budget worksheets and talk about investment options.

Bey said employees contributing to a plan should have early conversations with their retirement provider to determine if current financial investments are aligned with their retirement timeframe.

"Make sure you're invested properly," Bey said. "If you're thinking about retiring in five years and you haven't checked your account status, make sure you are on track to have what you need."