Five Tips from Duke Financial Fitness Week

Seminars encourage employees to plan and save for retirement

TIAA-CREF financial consultant Shanna Crumpler shares tips during
TIAA-CREF financial consultant Shanna Crumpler shares tips during "Charting Your Course: A Financial Guide for Women," which was one of 17 free seminars offered during Duke Financial Fitness Week. By April Dudash

A few days after attending a financial planning seminar offered by Duke Human Resources, Charles Adair met one-on-one with a financial consultant from one of the university's investment carriers.

Adair, program manager of the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative, and his wife met for free with the TIAA-CREF consultant and discussed their savings options. Adair will soon hit his one-year anniversary as a Duke employee and will start receiving employer contributions to his retirement plan.

"It reinforced things that I've been taught my whole life," Adair said of Duke Financial Fitness Week, which ran May 12 to 15. "They went over good debt and bad debt, so it was really good to see what they were saying lined up with things I was already trying to do."

Adair was among more than 500 Duke staff and faculty who registered for Financial Fitness Week, which presented 17 free seminars for Duke staff, faculty and their spouses or partners.

Here are five takeaways from the week:

Review your retirement plan.

No financial situation is the same, especially when children, marriage, debt and salary come into play. To determine if you're on the right path with your retirement savings and to receive personalized advice, Financial Fitness Week presenters strongly encouraged participants to set up a one-on-one session with a representative from one of Duke's investment carriers.

Want to enroll in a plan, check your retirement balance or review your contributions to see if you're on the right track? Log into "Retirement Manager." If you're new to the website, create a security profile and password using your Duke Unique ID.

Don't wait to start saving.

It's never too late to start contributing to a retirement plan, according to the "Preparing Your Savings for Retirement" seminar. If you're 45 and haven't saved for retirement, you can start contributing to Duke's 403(b) Retirement Plan today and triple your dollar by the time you retire.

Faculty and staff can enroll at any time and change the 403(b) contribution amount or change how a contribution is allocated among investment carriers once per pay period.

Create and stick to a sensible budget.

Take time to craft your personal budget. During "Saving for Retirement: An Important Part of Your Budget," Aker Bey, a TIAA-CREF financial consultant, provided participants with a budget worksheet and breakdown of recommended budgeting percentages.

Figure out your cash flow, Bey said. Determine your non-negotiable expenses and where you can cut spending during the month. Individuals also should work to pay off bad debt, or compounding credit card interest.

"You can work hard now, or you can work a lot harder later," Bey said.

Check on your plan annually.

No matter one's age, organize your financial records and check to see if you're on track with saving for retirement once a year, said Shanna Crumpler, TIAA-CREF financial consultant, during "Charting Your Course: A Financial Guide for Women." She suggested picking a favorite holiday and using that as a calendar reminder to review your retirement plan every year. 

Crumpler said her holiday pick is Valentine's Day.

"While everyone else is going out on dinner dates and movies and dancing, I'm counting my coins," she said.

Remember the replacement ratio.

Christopher Yoest, a financial adviser with TIAA-CREF, recommends planning to live off at least 70 percent of current income in retirement, although that percentage can easily go up to 80 or 90 percent, depending on how active a lifestyle you may want to have in retirement.

"When we transition into retirement, we'll see we may not need the full amount of salary we made when we were working," he said. "Some expenses will go away, like paying into your retirement program and Social Security and hopefully a bulk of your debt will be paid down."