Financial Regrets: Saving for Retirement

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You may have picked up on something about me by now: I love Pottery Barn. This was also true of me back in my wedding season, when I registered for their farmhouse bedroom set including a dresser and two night stands. I used one of those registries where you could mix a bunch of different stores on the same site and have a donation fund for certain things. At the time, neither of us had a dresser. We received enough to pay for the set, so we ordered it while on our honeymoon and our empty bedroom became furnished within a week of returning. What does this have to do with retirement, you ask? I’m getting there…

Since this time, I’ve toyed with the idea of whether or not to complete the set with a matching bed frame. The main thing holding me back had been not knowing if we would ever upgrade to a king size bed from a queen. After a series of stays in places that had a king size, we discussed how it felt too big and we might never get one. I translated this as, “go ahead and buy the Pottery Barn bed frame”. I started my hunt where I always start, my dear friend Craigslist. Here’s a tip: I usually do two searches when I’m desperate for a certain piece. I type the exact name and see if what I want pops up and then I type the name of the store alone. Way more appears with the second search, so you’ll have to weed through that; but sometimes it catches things the first search didn’t. I did this for weeks before the one I was looking for came up. Correction: a variation of the one I was looking for came up. It had canopy attachments. Not something we’d use, but higher in value if I wanted to resell at some point. I looked into it and learned the canopy parts were removable and able to be concealed, so you could use your bed both ways. That was my green light, so I pursued the seller the way I always do, offering less than she was asking. Mind you, this was already a great deal. The lady was selling a $1499 piece of furniture for $400. She was a slow responder and informed me someone else was looking at it and willing to pay $400. This combination made me nervous. I took a day to think it over, and wrote back saying I would pay the full $400 and could pick it up right away. Sold! I got the piece for 25% of its retail value. Pottery Barn has a delivery surcharge of $150 and they charge 10% of the price for shipping over sized items; both of which we didn’t have to pay. And no tax! But we did have to rent a U-haul because the parts were too long to fit in our car. That added about $90 to the cost (“In town moves from $19.95”, my foot!). Still a great deal if you add that to the total, which would have been $1933 at full price and we only paid $490. A $1443 savings.

Remember that Wells Fargo savings account I mentioned? Guess where we got the $400 to pay for the bed frame? Not our checking, not our long-term savings, not our emergency fund! Our “free” money–the Way2Save amount that is transferred over in small increments had accumulated enough to afford us this lovely piece for what felt like nothing.

And now to how the retirement ties in… when I wrote the article about the W2S account, I was giving advice that I had not taken myself. I suggested linking the account to your retirement to make automatic contributions that would feel thoughtless. After I realized that this was something I could be doing but instead bought a fancy bed frame… well, I regretted it a little. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy with the price I scored. And I waited for over a year to act! And I know that if we ever do upgrade to a king, I can resell this puppy for more than I bought it. But what about my retirement account? That’s $500 more I wouldn’t have to worry about scraping together before April 15th had I thought of it sooner.

It was only last year that I really started to feel the pressure to open a retirement account because I kept reading about how important it is. I sure wish I had known that in college. Not that I had the money then, but man it would have been cool to open something small and have those ten years of compound interest behind me. But alas, this is my situation and all I can do is move forward. I contribute to my Roth IRA whenever I can. I have no system in place, no set amount that goes in. My husband’s current job (and the two before) has an employer matched 401K (free money!), which gives me some assurance that we haven’t been total fools. But I constantly read that even people with those should open an IRA too. It never ends!

So now I find myself in March, nearing the end of tax season, with a retirement account begging for my attention. Last week, I decided to start throwing all the money I could at it until the 2013 deadline to contribute. I plan to max it out and then get started on this year’s. Hopefully my saving season will eventually shift from April-April to a normal calendar year. I should point out that this could be a one click transfer if I wanted to just pull from savings. But while retirement trumps home ownership goals, I am trying to minimize the hit we take, as that fund is primarily meant for the latter. I highly recommend you try to do the same. What corners can you cut in the next month to put the maximum amount away for your future? I’ll keep you updated on my progress and feel free to tell me yours!

I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit stressing about retirement, but based off my calculations, I think we will still do very well. Twenty-nine is not THAT late to start saving, many start much later. Please don’t panic if that’s you. Just do something about it. In my city, most are pursuing a creative career and that makes us a community of late bloomers to begin with. Make the change today: do some research, open an account and sell some stuff to get the money in there. This is a perfect use for your tax return if you have one.

I learned a lesson from writing this blog and took my own advice. I linked my retirement account to my Way2Save so that automatic contributions will take place at the end of every month starting in April. That way, the extra cash that has been our “sweet spot” will be put to better use. Than shopping for furniture? Hard to imagine, I know. I’m excited for the painless saving it will generate, but I still have to contribute on the side as well. It shouldn’t look much different from how it does now, except hopefully I won’t be rushing to the finish line next April. I pray it is an encouragement to note that even those of us who put financial fitness above all else can make choices that don’t reflect this fact. There is always a way to recover and I hope that I can be a small part of that process for you.

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5 thoughts on “Financial Regrets: Saving for Retirement

  1. Pingback: Getting Organized = $ | Knuckles & Twine

  2. Hi Sara,

    I am so inspired by your blog. I wish it had been available when I was younger. But, here we are!

    Our ASKO (Swedish) dryer stopped working about three years ago. I called the repair company and they said, “Oh, they break after ten years. You’re lucky it lasted twelve. No, we can’t repair it. You’ll have to buy a new one.” Well, darn! I’m from the generation where refrigerators, washers, dryers, cars…those big ticket items…lasted twenty years. So, it just went against my grain to just go buy a new dryer. Also, i had purposely spent a little extra money for a European washer and dryer set for two reasons: 1) Longer lasting and 2) the washer had its own water-heating element which both saved money and didn’t run down the hot water tank, so we could take showers while the washer was on.

    Anyway, I’ve been hanging my clothes out on a line for three years. BIG SAVINGS on the electric bill! And I’ve been taking the towels to the laundromat, so that they get fluffed. My bill for electricity went down. And, except for when it rained, it’s kind of pleasant to be outdoors doing that chore.

    In the mean time, we took the dryer back off and found that it was just belt that rotated the tumbler that had worn out…a fairly inexpensive part, compared to the cost of a new dryer and/or the cost of a repairman to come out and tell you that it can’t be fixed. We ordered the belt, hemmed and hawed another couple of months and FINALLY my husband and I tacked the dryer project this weekend.

    It was a bit tricky to get the belt on. There is something called “the special tool” which holds the tumbler cylinder upright. Well, we didn’t have the special tool and it’s not for sale on the Internet. To keep the tumbler cylinder in place, we tilted the dryer forward and let gravity hold it in place. So, we really didn’t need the mysterious “special tool.” And, other than that, there was NOTHING WRONG with the rest of the dryer.

    So, the dryer works now. But, I’m keeping the clothes line up for some things. The smell of air-dried sheets can’t be replaced by dryers.

    Sally

  3. Pingback: Tax Day Update | Knuckles & Twine

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