Kathy put in the work to change her mindset about money as a whole, and reach for abundance instead of just survival. Now, Kathy teaches others how they can reach their retirement goals (even if they’re behind where they want to be) on her Baby Boomer Super Saver blog.
Whether you’re just starting your career, or are a few years away from retirement, Kathy has some incredible tips on money management, maxing out retirement contributions, and being intentional with your money and your journey.
Mindy: Welcome to the BiggerPockets money podcast show number 152, where we interview Kathy Lee from Baby Boomer Super Saver and hear her story of starting late on retirement savings. Making just about every possible financial mistakes she could make and still reaching financial independence to be able to retire early.
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Kathy: Discovering all these. Other people, even though they were younger who had retired early because they saved 40 to 60% of their income. That was really something that. Like a light bulb moment that it opened my eyes that, wow. There’s another way to live.
Mindy: Hello? Hello? Hello. My name is Mindy Jensen and with me as always is my spending less than he earns.
Co-host Scott Trench.
Scott: Thank you for saving the day with get another original, uh, introduction, Mindy. Save him the day.
Mindy: Scott and I are here to make financial independence, less scary, less. Just for somebody else and show you that by following the proven steps, you can put yourself on the road to early financial freedom and get money out of the way. So you can lead your best life.
Scott: That’s right. Whether you want to retire early and travel the world, go on to make big time investments in assets like real estate. Start your own business, or simply catch up. If you’re a little bit feeling a little behind on the road to retirement. We’ll help you build a position capable of launching yourself towards those dreams.
Mindy: Kathy Lee and her husband always made good money, but life got in the way and they saved almost nothing. A freak accident put her husband in the hospital and left him permanently disabled. That was the wake up call that they needed to stop spending, start saving and get themselves financially healthy.
So that retirement. Could even be an option. Scott, I am super excited to have Kathy today because she is so inspirational. If I was in a position of not being able to retire. If I was in a position of, Oh, I haven’t saved enough for retirement, everything she says today would absolutely encourage me to continue on the path and to realize that it is possible almost no matter what point you’re starting from.
Scott: Absolutely. I mean, you’re going to listen to this story, I think, and be amazed. She, her life was a financial mess, uh, 10 years ago, frankly. And she completely turned it around and starting late in life has built herself a really big position. You’ll find out just how big, uh, as we get a little good going on the show here, but should we let her come in and tell us about that hot mess and how she turned around?
Mindy: Happy leave from baby boomer. Super saver. Welcome to the BiggerPockets money podcast. I’m so excited to interview you today. How are you?
Kathy: I’m doing great. I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
Mindy: I want to hear your journey of money because, uh, spoiler alert to those of you who are listening.
Kathy started later in her early retirement and her retirement journey and her retirement savings at all. And this is a story that we have covered one other time. But it really needs to be told, because like you say on your blog, if I can do it, you can do it too. And you did it from a position. Well, I shouldn’t tell your story.
I’ll let you tell your story, Kathy, where does your journey with money begin?
Kathy: Thank you, Mindy. As you mentioned earlier, my husband and I didn’t pay a lot of attention to retirement. When we were younger, we knew it was something that we were supposed to do, but life always got in the way. And so we spent our money as we made it.
We never really. Committed to saving for retirement. We just spent our money on all the things and they had a lot of fun and we always thought there would be time later to catch up our savings or to save for retirement. And life doesn’t really work that way because things happen as you alluded. My husband had a medical emergency.
He had a ruptured brain aneurysm in 2013. And he tried to go back to work, but he has, he has short-term memory problems as a result, and he was not able to do his work. So he was out of the job market and we had already been in bad financial shape. Most of our married lives, we’ve been married about 32 years now.
And at the time we had. Gone through some financial courses with Dave Ramsey, financial peace university, to try to figure out how to turn our money situation around. We did end up completely changing our mindset about money before my husband had his brain aneurysm. So we were working our way out of debt.
And then after he had his brain aneurysm, it was also, well, 2013 was like when you’re trying to recover from the economic downturn in 2008, but there was just so many things. Our debt, the downturn, my husband didn’t work for a long time. And then he went back to work and then immediately had the brain in here to some, so there were a lot of things decked against us.
And you don’t really think that you’re ever going to have something like this happened to you. You don’t expect to. Have a disability or, you know, you don’t expect a pandemic, like in today’s world, we don’t expect something like that to happen. So being able to save for retirement or have enough cash on hand to be able to survive something, that’s an emergency, we discovered firsthand how important that was.
And so when we were getting out of debt, we. Used all of Dave Ramsey strategies, such as cutting back our lifestyle and not going out to eat, making rice and beans, cooking all dollar meals at home and cutting up all our credit cards. And to this day, we still do not use credit cards, but after we were out of debt, we realized we’re really behind in our retirement savings.
And they Ramsey had mentioned that. You need to say 15% for retirement. We were already in our early fifties. So if we were going to start saving 15% for retirement, we would have to work for 43 more years and that just wasn’t going to cut it. So I decided to start looking for ways to sort of supercharge our retirement and catch up for our retirement savings.
And I thought. Maybe we can take the strategies from Dave Ramsey of really having that gazelle intensity to pay down debt. Now that we had no debt, maybe we could use that gazelle intensity to supercharge our retirement savings. So I started looking online and trying to figure out, does anybody else do this?
What are some good ways to do it? What are some other strategies? And I discovered the fire blogs, which are the financial independence retire early. And I started reading these blogs. Many of them were written by millennials, but I was amazed in story. After story of people who had worked for 10 years saved 40 to 60% of their income and were able to retire in 10 years, they had enough money to retire and I thought 10 years we could do that.
So. We started applying those strategies too. And we continued to save and take advantage of catch up retirement savings in order to really supercharge our retirement savings.
Scott: So when let’s going back to the beginning of this, how much debt did you have when you first started working through your financial situation?
What did that picture look like of what triggered, maybe you learning about Dave Ramsey and, and generally getting better with your money.
Kathy: When we first heard about Dave Ramsey, we had the amount of debt that was just the debt that you’re drowning in. We had multiple credit cards, probably eight to 10 credit cards we had.
A mortgage, a second mortgage on our house and we’re just drowning in debt. And there were many times in my husband’s profession that he was out of work. He was a union carpenter, commercial cabinetry, and they don’t work all the time. And his employer in that field, they don’t even get paid on time by the contractors.
So. That’s just crazy that you don’t get paid upfront, but with all of the debt that we had it, you know, it became very depressing. We were trying to figure out how we’re going to get out of it. And I found his radio show by accident. And I thought at first, and this guy is crazy. He’s yelling at people he’s mean, but then I started the life, the show, and I loved hearing people do their debt-free story and scream that they were debt free and they were getting out of debt in two or three years.
So we started, you know, along that path and eventually took the financial peace class at a local church. I don’t remember how much that we had. It was something I wanted to just put in the back of my mind and forget about it, but we did have a mortgage. So there was, you know, three or $400,000 for the mortgage.
We had multiple credit cards that were, they might’ve added up to maybe $70,000. So I’m not a hundred percent sure how much debt we had. Uh, we did use all of the strategies that we learned from Dave Ramsey and we were, we paid off a lot of debt. Uh, we use the debt snowball and did smallest to largest.
Scott: What was that change like? Like, was it a hard, fast change that you made kind of overnight? Did it take you a couple of months to ease into the baby steps and begin making serious progress? What was that transition to? You know, kind of accumulating more and more of this debt drowning in debt to beginning to seriously pay it off.
Kathy: It was an overnight situation because in 2008, my husband wasn’t working and I had a family daycare at the time and my business dwindled down to almost nothing. And so I closed that business. I sold off all my supplies. I had an in-depth early childcare program in my home, so I had a lot of good supplies.
I sold them all off. We sold all kinds of other stuff, everything that we could. I took little part-time jobs. My husband tried to do that too. And I went back to social work, which was what I have a degree in. And so that provided some relief right away. And. We stopped using credit cards and it wasn’t easy, but, um, we really didn’t have any other choice.
Scott: Okay. And what year? What around, what year was this? Was this big change? Probably
Kathy: around 2008, 2009. Got it.
Scott: Okay. And it sounds like you’d been, you made a good amount of progress by the time your husband had the health issue in 2013. Is that right?
Kathy: We did, we, we paid off a lot of debt, but we ended up, even though we paid off so much that we, we couldn’t do it all ourselves.
My husband had been out of work for a long time and then had the brain aneurysm. And even though we paid off a lot of debt, we ended up having a bankruptcy. And, uh, we just, you know, had to use that to really start over and we ended up losing our home to bankruptcy. Isn’t something that you want to go through and we did everything we could to avoid it.
But sometimes you might have to resort to something like that, which is what we had to resort to. And we ended up losing a family home, which is, you know, that’s got a lot of emotional baggage.
Mindy: Okay. So what I’m hearing is you kind of hit the jackpot and made every single financial mistake that you could.
Your husband had a medical emergency. You had $70,000 in debt in credit card debt about which is not insignificant. You had a mortgage and yet, despite all of those things, you were still able to right the ship and turn everything around. That’s
Kathy: huge. Yeah, we definitely had to change our mindset about money and it’s changing our mindset.
That was key.
Mindy: That is really important. I want to focus on that for a minute. How do you change your mindset and did you and your husband do this together? Did one of you lead the, the conversation.
Kathy: I was definitely the leader in this because I stumbled upon the Dave Ramsey radio show. First I read his books.
I wanted to go to the class. My husband was completely against that idea. He didn’t want to go to a class. He just thought we could do things on our own, but we had proven that we cannot do things on our own completely that we needed some help. And. So I had to find some way to convince him to go to the class.
And if he didn’t like the first one, we wouldn’t go back, but my husband is really outgoing and social. And I knew once he got to the class and met people that he’d be fine because he loves meeting people. He loves talking. And so we went to the class together and I was right and we did the whole class and.
Once we got in the class, we were both on the same page. We quit using credit cards and we’re able to, you know, look at money in a different way and look at what was important to us. We had to really look at how are we spending our money compared to what our values were. And we had to be more conscious about what’s important to us and.
What we’re going to spend our money on, because why just fritter it all away, which is what we had been doing.
Scott: Uh, kind of, kind of fast forwarding a little bit to that, to the bankruptcy here. What year did that?
Scott: 2012. Okay. And so it sounds like coming out of that bankruptcy is when you then began to, or following that was when your husband had the aneurysm.
Is that right?
Kathy: Yeah, the aneurysm right after the bankruptcy
Scott: right after the bankruptcy. Okay. And so how did you, how did you proceed from there given that, you know, those two devastating items that are happening to you at all at
Kathy: once when you face something like a death or disability, it really puts everything in perspective at the time.
My husband, he was working out of state when this happened. And so he was far away from me when this happened and he was in a hospital. I did take a couple of trips out to be with him. And luckily it was close to where my parents live. So they were able to help out, but a life or death situations puts everything in perspective.
At the time I was working at a social work job and my employer. Told me that they were going to cut back everybody’s hours. So not only was I, the only one, you know, my husband’s here. I don’t know if he’s going to live or die. And my employer is now saying, Oh, we’re going to cut back your income. So I figured this is not the worst thing that can happen to me.
The worst thing is that my husband would die. And so it’s just an attitude of, you’ve got to you just do what you have to do. You just move on. Yeah,
Scott: that, that, that’s an amazing outlook and really impressive and inspiring with that. Um, thank you for sharing all of that. How did you manage, what did you do following that?
And, you know, you know, we, we kind of know the end state that you’re really making some incredible progress financially or have made some incredible progress financially, but how did that happen and, and how, how are things gone in your life since then?
Kathy: I think the way that it happened is just that accumulation of life experience.
We’ve had a lot of other disappointments in life and you just can’t let these things raw inside. You know, you can’t let it make you bitter. And I just always have the attitude that well, things have happened for a reason. And it’s, you know, there’s a reason why this didn’t work out. And so it’s going to be better.
Something’s going to be better. That’s waiting for me. I don’t know what it is. And so with our money situation, I think being able to change our mindset and realize that the things that we’re doing and the actions that we’re taking are going to make our life better is what helped us to move forward.
And my husband having this life or death experience helped us, especially me to realize what’s more important in life and. Even today, you know, it’s, it’s a struggle sometimes with my husband’s memory and I just feel like I have to do what I, I just do what I have to do and just move on. And that’s what we do as humans, you know?
And that’s, what’s important. So today that’s our mindset is that we, we spend money on what we value. We don’t spend money on things that don’t matter. So we don’t have like cable TV, or we don’t go to fancy restaurants all the time. We go to restaurants once in a while we go on nice vacations because travel is what is important to us experiences and people.
And so we’ve just learned to be happy and content with the things that we have. And. Spend our money on the stuff that’s really important.
Scott: Wonderful. Following this situation, how did you kind of manage the family’s finances and in terms of how did you generate income? How did you begin budgeting and, and begin accumulating wealth for retirement following?
Kathy: In order to be able to catch up retirement savings or to get out of debt, either one, you have, you really have to do two things, cut your expenses and make more money. And the making more money is the most important aspect of it because you can’t really nickel and dime your way to retirement and catching up retirement.
You really have to super boost it with a bigger income. So I got a job at a County government as a social worker. And I, you know, I am so grateful for that because my entire life as a social worker, it’s been a low-paying job. And finally, at a County job in a job, I really love, um, working with elderly people.
I am making it good money and I’m making it right. I have great benefits, great retirement benefits. And I took advantage of the catch-up savings that the government allows to help boost our retirement savings. So with the government job, my pay is better. My benefits are better and they ha there’s a pension.
Not very many people have access to pensions anymore. So in addition to my saving for retirement, I also have a pension and then. The catch-up contributions that I took advantage of because I’m over 50. Um, I can contribute more to my four. It’s like a 401k, but it’s a four 57 plan. And my husband and I can contribute a little bit more to our IRAs.
So we max those out every year. And then I found out about the four 57 B, which is, uh, um, the four 57 B is what I have for retirement, but there’s a special option if you’re behind in retirement savings that allows you to, to really supercharge that. And it’s the catch-up provision for the four 57 B. You have to make a commitment for three years to do this and work with the HR department.
They figure out how behind you are and what you’re going to have. How much you can contribute. And this year it’s up to 39,000 a year for three years. So when I started, I think it was at 36 or 37, and I wasn’t sure I could do that when I first started putting money in my retirement at work, I wasn’t even sure I could do that.
Our savings rate was zero when I started this job six years ago and I knew I needed to save. So I started out putting in $5 a paycheck. And then just worked up and finally decided, okay, I’ve got to bite the bullet and max it out. And so that was working fine. And I thought, okay, I’m going to try this four 57 B catch-up plan.
I’m going to put in $37,000 a year. I don’t know if we could live off of that, of that big of a deduction of our income, but I figured, well, I’m going to try it. And if it doesn’t work, I can always stop it. So I did try it. It was fine. Um, mainly because I have a second job, I got a second degree online during, right before the time that my husband had his brain aneurysm, I was thinking of changing careers to speech therapy, which is a very high paying profession.
And it was very similar to what I’d already been doing in my family. Childcare is if you work with young children, toddlers who are language delayed, it’s really like play. And so I ended up getting a. Uh, licensed to be a speech therapy assistant. And I’ve continued to do that all this time because it pays very well.
And it helps me to boost our retirement savings. So when at my social work job, I am cutting my income down to contribute all this money to the four 57 B catch-up provision. My paychecks ended up being like $500 every two weeks. But at this point I had extra income coming in from speech therapy. And although initially my husband had no income for several years after his disability.
Um, he eventually was approved after fighting for it. He was finally approved for social security, disability income, and once he was approved for that, he was able to retire early from his union and get his pension early. So we had like three other income streams coming in. That allowed me to cut back my, my income at my job to divert all that money into the four 57 B catch-up.
So I did that for three years, which really helped. And we continued to max out all of the retirement accounts as much as we could. And then we just put all the extra money that we could into a brokerage account. So we’re invested pretty much a hundred percent in stocks because we want to really catch up.
Scott: This is an amazing, amazing, aggressive and creative and, um, inspiring, uh, a plan of action here. When did, when did you really begin that serious commitment? Was that in kind of like 2014? You know, you said you started with $5 per paycheck and then you boost it to 30, 37 39. How long have you been kind of.
Kathy: I didn’t get that social work job until 2014. So, and I didn’t start doing this right away. So I would say it was probably 2015 that we really got serious about saving more money. Awesome.
Scott: And so you, I mean, you’ve been able to accumulate a significant amount of wealth in a very short period of time.
How many hours a week are going into generating income? Um, at this point in order to sustain this.
Kathy: It’s all coming from me in terms of the hours per week, because my husband doesn’t work. He does have an income from SSD and his pension, but for me, I work 40 hours a week at my social work job. And I have a flexible schedule.
It’s four, 10 hour days. Then I have three days off. And on one of those days I do speech therapy. And so before the pandemic. I was going to my social work job four days a week. And then one day a week, I was going to children’s homes and doing early intervention for children under three, who are language delayed and would be doing speech therapy one day a week.
Now it’s all on teletherapy because of the pandemic I’m doing both of my jobs from home.
Mindy: Does it seem like you’re working all the time?
Kathy: Um, no, I don’t feel like I’m working all the time because, um, my social work job is four days a week and the other speech therapy is like a half a day on Saturdays. And then I still have two days off.
Mindy: Kathy. I just love your story. I mean, I don’t want to harp on this. I hope I’m not making you feel bad because you have come so far in such a short time. This is amazing, but like, you were just so committed to making this change. And what did you say a few minutes ago? We sold everything we could. We took part-time jobs.
I went back to CA I went back to a job using the degree that I have from college. We stopped using credit cards. We didn’t really have any other choice. You do have another choice. You could’ve just kept on going and then just worked forever. You didn’t have to start saving. You didn’t have to be focused on this.
You could have just been like, well, too late for me. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and. I want to, I’m trying to commend you, but I’m just really tripping over my mouth right now. This you’re fabulous and I love you.
Kathy: Oh, thank you so much. I realized you’re right. That, um, I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t have some openness and flexibility.
When I came, I never would have thought this was possible, but because we use that gazelle intensity with our debt. I thought, well, this was a new skill. Maybe I can apply it to something else. And so we tried to use it for saving up for retirement, but discovering all these other people, even though they were younger, who had retired early because they saved 40 to 60% of their income.
That was really something that. Like a light bulb moment that it opened my eyes that, wow, there’s another way to live. Most, most of us feel like we go through our life and we do all the things we’re supposed to. It’s like a map that’s laid out. You go to college, you get a job, you have kids, you retire, but there’s other ways to follow that map.
And, um, I feel very fortunate that I, you know, found these blogs and was able to. Open my mind to those possibilities.
Mindy: That was the other point that I was going to make is you said you read fire blogs and they were mostly written by millennials, but they were saving 40 to 60% of their income. And they retired in 10 years.
They’re not saving 40 to 60% of their income and then retiring because they’re 23 or four. 30 or whatever ridiculous age people are retiring at, they’re retiring because they have enough money. Did you, did you do anything, any reading with the 4% rule?
Kathy: Um, yes. And I think that probably. The things that really cemented it for us is, um, you know, we’re not super technical or really into math.
Uh, I don't even like to really do a monthly budget. We never tracked our net worth, so I'm not really nerdy, but, um, we, we discovered that, you know, the message was consistent. Save this much money and, um, have enough money that you have 25 times your expenses. And, and that's it, you'll be able to live off 4% of your income.
So that’s pretty easy to figure out 25 times what you need to, you know, what you need to live off of. So if you want, if you want to live off $40,000 a year, you need, um, a million dollars. If you want more, you just do the math. It’s very, very simple.
Scott: What is your goal here in terms of retiring now and thinking about that?
Like, do you maybe not those specific numbers, but do you have like a, a, a timeframe or what’s the kind of, uh, end game
Kathy: here? Well, since my husband’s retired, he bugs me every day that I need to retire, but I’m not quite ready to do that. We can’t even go anywhere right now. And, um, I want to keep working my job a little bit longer so that I can boost my pension to make it a little bit bigger.
And of course pay for healthcare right now, because once I quit, we’ll have to pay for healthcare. I just want to have a bigger cash cushion than what we have. I could really retire right now. We have a net worth that’s over. Over a million dollars counting our house. Our house has paid off, but I, I just don’t really feel a hundred percent comfortable doing that yet.
I want to have a little bit more of a cash cushion, maybe three to five years of cash.
Scott: But hold on, hold on. Built a net worth of over a million dollars in less than seven years as the sole breadwinner for your household after your husband's brain aneurysm. And you're now a millionaire ready, ready to seriously consider retiring.
Is that what we just heard?
Kathy: Um, not exactly because I’m not the sole breadwinner. I do have two jobs bringing in income, but my husband has two streams of income. He has a pension and he has disability on top of that. We had to get a lawyer in order for him to get his disability claim approved. It took several times, but.
On top of that, he got injured while he was working at a job site. And at the time we didn’t think about workers’ comp. We didn’t even realize that was something that was on the table, but, um, that was brought to our attention that it was a potential, you know, another potential source of support. And my husband did end up getting a lawyer and filing a workers’ comp claim and it took five years, but he did, um, He did have a successful claim.
And so we used that money to buy her house. So we, you know, one of the things in helping to make sure that you can like boost your savings is reducing your expenses. One big way to reduce your expenses is to cut the main things like transportation, food, and housing. Those are the big three. We live in a very expensive area.
I’m in California. Our rent is super expensive where we live and I was getting really tired of our landlords increasing the rent. And so I, I was not planning to buy a house. I just wanted us to put all our money in the stock market. But after the landlords continued to increase the rent year after year, I thought this is crazy.
And we ended up buying a house and it’s paid off. And so our expenses are a lot lower, but, you know, initially I wanted to just find a cheaper place to live. Um, but there was nothing here. So that’s why we ended up doing this. So. Not everything we can, that we have done is necessarily replicable for every listener.
And you wouldn’t want it to be because who wants to have a brain aneurysm. But a lot of the things that we did are replicable of cutting back our senses, finding ways to make more money. I’m looking for a job that might have, um, four 57 plan where you could do a catch-up or a pension that would be like a government job or possibly a teaching job.
Um, doing extra jobs, you know, those things are things that other people can do.
Scott: Got it. I mean, yeah. I think again, I think your story is just amazingly inspiring and those types of things. I’m very glad that you were able to get, uh, our worker’s compensation. Um, Settlement there to help out with that. I I’m sure if you hadn’t had that, that there would have been a hard decision about moving somewhere else or, or, or creating a, uh, uh, uh, because you’re you say you’re not good at math or you’re not, you’re not mathematically minded or nerdy, uh, but you have a really great framework around expenses.
That’s the key is the housing, transportation and food categories. And so your intentionality with that I think would have led you to make us a similar decision or find a work around I’m sure. To that point. Um, even if you hadn’t had that, that settlement. So it’s, although that certainly I would imagine helped you along a little bit with that.
Kathy: definitely helped. And being able to buy a house, but you're right. We would have found some other creative way, whether it would have been house hacking or whatever. I I'm pretty determined.
Scott: No. W we, we can tell, so, so that’s awesome. So AF you know, It sounds like you’re, you’re, you’re kind of sitting here in November, December, 2020 with the pandemic when the pandemic ends, you know, hopefully next sometime next year.
Is that, is that a time when you think you might, uh, cut back on some of your hours at work and begin traveling more? Is that kind of the plan?
Kathy: Uh, well, my husband, as I mentioned is always bugging me to retire and so we have a compromise that, um, we take several nice vacations a year. And so after the pandemic’s over, I, you know, I want to still work for a couple more years, but once the pandemic’s over and we can travel again, then we’ll continue traveling.
Um, in the past three years we’ve been to Greece, Portugal, Brazil. So we do, we do a couple of trips each year and some of them are just local trips, you know, but it’s my way of placating him. Love
Scott: it. Well, it’s at, dad’s like a really good compromise there. And, um, you know, uh, hopefully he continues to pester you, uh, to retire as you continue to build that stockpile.
Kathy: Right. I’m sure he won’t let up.
Mindy: Are you still contributing to the four 57 B plan, the extra ketchup, $39,000 a year part
Kathy: catch up contribution is over. I’ve already caught it all up as much as you’re allowed to as much as I’m allowed to. So now I’m just maxing out my four 57. It’s the equivalent of a 401k.
So I’m maxing it out. And it’s I think 26,000 a year.
Mindy: Okay. And that’s the 19,000 plus
Kathy: 15. Catch-up
Mindy: right. Yeah. Okay. So, okay. So that’s interesting. The four 57 B, which is really only for college or, uh,
Mindy: workers. Yeah. So you can catch up up to $39,000 until you reach a certain threshold.
Kathy: Um, in three years it’s a three-year limit.
Mindy: Oh, okay. Okay. Wow. So if you’re listening and you are in this, this, uh, situation, look into your four 57 B catch up plan, uh, that’s super awesome.
Kathy: I think it’s really worth having that in your mind. If you have to change jobs, looking for a job that offers either a pension or this four 57 catch up provision, not all employers offer it.
But if you are looking for a job anyway, that’s the job you want. If you’re trying to catch up retirement.
Mindy: Yeah. The government jobs are, uh, pretty amazing. Kathy, let’s move on to the financial scan, which is where we look at your investments. In terms of percentages, you had mentioned that you were a hundred percent in stocks.
Are you in any specific stocks? Are you in more than an index fund?
Kathy: Um, index funds. When I first started investing, um, I had asked my dad for advice and he invested in VF IAX Vanguard. Um, it’s the S and P top 500. And so that’s what I had started investing in. But then when we started reading the fire blogs and we realized that the favorite is VT, SAEX the total market index with Vanguard.
We started saving in that too. And that’s where the majority of our money is.
Scott: Wonderful. So it sounds like your, your portfolio consists mostly of your home. This the, the stock, the, the, uh, Vanguard index fund here, both in after tax and tax deferred retirement accounts. And then you said you have it, you’re building a cash cushion.
What does a good cash cushion look like for you?
Kathy: Um, well, in terms of what our investments are, like you said, most of it, including our retirement accounts are in index funds. And then my husband and I both have some old investments that we want to possibly roll over into our retirement funds. Like he has an annuity.
We want to get rid of that and put that into his IRA. There’s a few small things like that. My employer puts some extra money in an HRA for me, that’s used for retirement medical. And then in terms of cash, we just have a lot of it sitting in the bank and there’s some NCDs and, uh, it’s not the most.
Efficient way to grow money. Especially when I say the majority of our money is very aggressively invested in stocks, but you know, the stock market goes up and down. And if all of your money is in the stock market and you don’t have any cash to live off of, then you’re faced with the situation of, do I take money out to live off of when it’s not a loss and you really don’t want to lose any money when the stock market goes down, unless you take it out.
So I want to have this cash cushion to be able to live off of in case in case something happens. And the other thing is I have this plan that when I do retire, I’m hoping our income is low enough that if the ACA or affordable care act is still around, that we can qualify for lower income healthcare insurance, because I will not be able to.
Yeah. Be able to get Medicare. And my husband qualifies for part of Medicare, but it still costs money every month. And so right now through my job, all of our families, health insurance is completely paid for by my employer. So when I quit my job, I want to. Ideally not take my retirement for a few years.
Oh, there’s two reasons. One is for healthcare. But the main reason is because there’s a lot of money in traditional retirement accounts that are tax deferred. So if I can live off, if we can live off of my husband’s pension and disability and our cash. For a number of years, I can do that Roth conversion ladder, where I moved money from my traditional retirement accounts into a Roth, small amounts of year by year so that I don’t increase my taxes so much.
And then hopefully the majority of it’s moved into a tax deferred account and I really didn’t have to pay a lot of taxes on it. That’s something that is where
Scott: I thought you said earlier that you were a nerd.
That’s awesome. That’s amazing. So
Kathy: that’s a little nerdy.
Scott: So if you’re listening to this and you’re trying to follow what, what Kathleen just said, basically what’s going to happen is right now, she’s in a reasonably high income tax bracket, making some good money enough to enable her to catch up significant unit retirement.
When she quits, then she’ll be in a much lower income tax bracket because the household income will be very low. That means that she can backdoor Roth. That means she can take money out of her 401k, pay the taxes on that in a lower income tax bracket and move it into a Roth. IRA then it can grow their tax free.
So when she takes it out, eventually she’s not going to pay taxes on it. It’s a very, very sophisticated and effective tax advantage strategy for managing your money. So that’s, that’s a, that’s a, um, very cool that you’re doing that and I love her. She could sell effectively. Yeah. Yeah. Well, it was very cool.
Yeah. It’s very cool that you have the ability to do that or the planning and the foresight and potential to be able to do it.
Mindy: because she looked at her finances 10 years ago and said, we cannot continue this. You, despite all of the mistakes that you made and all of the successes you have had, you had all these successes because you started being intentional with your money.
You started looking at where it was going and what your values are, and you lined them up instead of having your money going here. But your values are over here. You have to get them lined up, right. I want to plug a future episode in January. I believe January 11th, we are going to have the mad scientist on to talk about the Roth conversion ladder, the backdoor Roth, the mega backdoor Roth, all of these things that are kind of confusing.
Brandon takes his admittedly very nerdy mind, brilliant mind and reviews. All of that.
Kathy: Translates it into very
Mindy: easily to understand English terms and shares with you exactly how to do all this stuff. So, uh, Kathy, I will send you a note when that episode comes out as well. Just so if you have any questions, you can listen and be like, Oh, that’s what he means.
Or that’s what they mean by this. Cause that’s us as nerdy as I am, all, this was kind of confusing. And you know, when Brandon explains it, he explains it in such an easy to understand way.
Kathy: Yes, random is awesome. That’d be a great show. The other thing I wanted to say is that you really have to educate yourself and I feel like that’s what we’ve done.
And the fact that we, that we read these books, we read these blogs, we’ve gone to some conferences, met people, talked about money. The reason listen to podcasts. All of these things have contributed to my money education and they are invaluable. And actually most of them are free because all of this information is on the internet.
Or at the library, but this was key because if you don’t educate yourself, your head really is in the sand. My head was in the sand for a long time. And even after catching up money or feeling like you contribute to your retirement and you’re doing all the right things. If you don’t educate yourself and you just depend on someone else to make sure things are okay, it’s not enough.
My brother was just telling me the other day that he wants to retire early. That’s always been his goal. And he has a financial advisor that he relies on and the financial advisor keeps telling him, well, you should work a few more years when I asked my brother simple questions like, well, what are you invested in?
He doesn’t know. How much do you need to be able to retire? He’s not a hundred percent sure. He’s just relying on what somebody else tells them. So these are not hard questions. You can figure them out for yourself. If you do a little bit of research and it’s vital because honestly, nobody else is going to care as much about your money as you are.
And nobody else is really gonna, um, No, the answers as much as you do once you figure out here’s what I need to know. And I’ve gone to enrolled agents for our taxes most of our life, but I’ve been disappointed every time because they do not know as much money as much about the taxes as I feel like I know when I had a child daycare in my home, I found out all the things that I could deduct and I had to tell the tax person about it.
Scott: how could you hire a good tax person if you don’t know what you’re looking for? Right. I mean, this is, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s this thing like you cannot be, I just want to, it, you can cannot be helpless with your finances. You have to know what good looks like to be able to even know, hire a good accountant.
So just to just reinforcing your point there, sorry for interrupting. I, I just totally agree with that.
Kathy: Yeah. Even if you know, it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to get the person that’s looking out for your interests, because you’re just a number to them. Really. I always looked for enrolled agents because they have more training, but I have had to correct tax people, enrolled agents and tell them, you know, This is what I’m entitled to and they look it up and then they say, Oh, you’re right.
But they have so many clients, they can’t know everything. So you’re going to be the one that knows what’s right for you. You just have to educate yourself. And I think that’s really key because I wouldn’t have known about the Roth conversion ladder. If I relied on somebody else, nobody else is going to tell you this, a tax person is not going to tell you these things because.
They just have too much going on. You have to find these things out for yourself.
Scott: One of the things I’m sorry, I’m, I’m jumping around here a little bit, but going back to your asset allocation, we know real estate in your home is a, is a big part of your portfolio with this. Have you considered anything like, um, if you’re going to travel more, for example, finding a way to Airbnb your home, for example, while you’re traveling to subsidize those trips or, or anything like that, or is the house kind of really.
Uh, more, just prepare it off. And then we won’t have to worry about the living expense to accumulate wealth.
Kathy: The house is kind of like a side note because we wanted to stop having our rent go up, but we’re really set. If anything happened to our income, we could continue to live here and not have a huge expense.
My husband and I have both talked about the Airbnb situation about house hacking about renting, becoming landlords. I'm not really inclined to do that, even though I thought I was at first, because there's a lot of hassle factor. If you're going to be a landlord or Airbnb, I mean, you could put together a team and have everything taken care of and be more remote.
And I think that’s still a good option and a possibility. But I’m really scared of all the wildfires that we have, where I live and our town has had to evacuate three years in a row and it just scares me that the whole place could burn down while we’re gone. Fair
Scott: enough. Well, yeah, I love that. You’ve thought about it and, and, and kept it as a major part of your strategy and then decided against it for, I think, very good reasons and all that.
Um, a lot of people don’t don’t do that with the paid-off house. They don’t even consider those possibilities with the paid-off house. So I think it’s that it’s another, um, It’s just wonderful to see you’re thinking about the entire picture. And you’ve clearly got a big map, a great mastery over all of your income streams and expenses here to get to where you want to go.
Kathy: another thing we thought about is, you know, if we sold this house in California, we could afford to buy two or three rentals somewhere else in the less costly area. But I don't know if we'll do that or not because there is a hassle factor. I mean, once you're retired and you're traveling, you might not want to deal with.
Somebody had a plumbing issue in the middle of the night. Yeah.
Mindy: Kathy. It is now time for the famous, for these the same four questions we ask of all of our guests.
Kathy: Are you ready? I’m ready.
Mindy: Very excited. Kathy, what is your favorite finance
Kathy: book? My favorite finance book is probably a JL Collins book. The simple path to wealth. It lays everything out in very easy to understand language.
Um, you know, anybody can read this book and feel like, Oh, I understand what that means. It’s simple. Love
Mindy: that book.
Scott: Yep. The a must read in the personal finance space. I think if you’re listening to this show, all right. What was your biggest money mistake?
Kathy: Our biggest money. Mistake was just not saving money when we were young.
And we, we did attempt to a few different times. We’ve had a couple of IRAs that we ended up cashing out to help us pay off debt. But the biggest thing is just that we never saved money in the past. And if we would’ve, it would’ve, it would’ve made our lives so much easier. Uh,
Mindy: what is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?
And I’m going to tweak this question a little bit and say, what is your best piece of advice for people who are maybe older in their journey and just starting out?
Kathy: I think the, if you’re just starting out and you realize that you’re behind in retirement, the biggest thing you can do is start saving today.
And I literally mean do it today. Call your HR department and. Start having some money taken out of your paycheck because that is something we think, Oh, I’m going to do it. Oh, I need to do it. And then I never do it. So I started out with $5 out of my paycheck every week and I didn’t even feel it. And as I got raises or promotions, I put more into that retirement fund had more taken out of my check.
And once I got that practice of like $5 a week, It was a practice. It was something that, I mean, number one, it was easy because it was automated. I didn’t have to worry about it, but also it kept it in my mind that this is important to do, I’m doing it, but I need to do more. And so I could continue to increase that until the point that I decided, okay, I’m ready.
I’m going to max it out. How,
Scott: how long was it between you start putting the $5 in to maxing it out? Was that overnight that it changed within a few weeks or did it take you a six months? A year? Several.
Kathy: It probably took me a year to really wake up and get on it.
Scott: I love that start today and know that by starting today, you can have this incredible curve that you’re going to be climbing in terms of your, your contributions or, or wealth building.
But it does take, I think, a few months to a year to really get in that groove of max of getting into that kind of like maximum efficiency. At least once we hear from a lot of, a lot of folks in the show
Kathy: here, I think part of getting into the groove is also educating yourself because literally we never did this, our entire lives and it wasn’t until we read money blogs and read money books that we really put it into action and we’d read money books in the past, but we never put it into action.
So you have to do it today.
Mindy: You have to take action. Yes. I just love you so much. And I want to plant a little seed and tag off of what you just said right now is open enrollment season for health insurance. And this is a great time to talk to your HR rep about your company’s retirement plans and retirement options.
And if you have a four 57 B yes, yes, yes. Go get a second job someplace. So you can afford to fund that catch-up plan because. 39,000 times three is more than a hundred thousand dollars. I’m not going to do that math right away. Scott, you do that math right away, $117,000 over three years, which will really be a bite if you can’t afford that.
Kathy: yeah, no, that’s, that’s really good Mindy because you know, Dave Ramsey tells people all the time on his radio show. When they’re getting out of debt, go get a job delivering pizzas two night, a week, two nights a week, you can make $15,000, $1,500. And if you add that up over a whole year, it’s $18,000.
So if you had a full-time job and you feel like, Oh, I can’t afford to put any more money into retirement and you deliver pizza two days a week, you’ll have $18,000 to put in retirement at the end of the year.
Mindy: Yeah, which is almost the, uh, the contribution limits for this year. Absolutely. Kathy did what she needed to do to get to where she is now.
And it didn’t even take 10 years. You said you’ve read all these fire blogs. And it was, Oh, I retired in 10 years. It didn’t even take Kathy 10 years. It took her seven years. And you said you weren’t the sole owner or sole income provider, but you were for five of those years, right? You said it took five years to get the disability.
Uh, claim and the, all of that approved. So don’t sell yourself short. I’m the president of Kathy’s fan club. And she’s audio.
Kathy: Thank you, Mindy.
Scott: No, it’s again. It’s. Absolutely outstanding. And, you know, look, I know that that, that sounds like a lot of work to get the second job or to do those different types of things.
But Kathy, when you, when you would describe your relationship with money prior to making these changes, was there kind of like a sinking feeling or a lack of comfort or how, how was your relationship with money before in your outlook with that before you’ve made these changes and what is it today?
Kathy: In the past when we were in debt and when we didn’t, you know, we just lived off our credit cards and our income and we spent more than we had.
The attitude was really just being unconscious. Like your head in the sand. I guess when we had financial problems, I was really depressed and I felt hopeless at one point. And so listening to, you know, people do their debt-free screams gave me hope and it helped me to turn around and I’d say my money mindset today is that I love talking about, and I love money.
You know, it’s kind of like the, when you see like the millionaire next door, uh, it’s not like I drive around in a flashy car or wear fancy clothes because I don’t. But I have a real sense of security and a real sense of, uh, peace that I know that we’re going to be okay. And it just, you know, I, I know that if something comes up, we can afford to pay for it.
So it’s just a real sense of, um, peace and calmness and. I don’t take it for granted because there’s, there’s lots of things. People who have lost their jobs in the pandemic, or who have their hours cut back, or they’ve become sick, or you get a disability, you don’t plan on these things. And for many people, they just feel like, Oh, you know, I can’t do anything different or I’m struggling.
Or if you’re a low paid wage earner, it’s really, really hard to save money. If you don’t even make minimum wage. So you really have to get creative. And I feel like the journey that we’ve been on has helped me to become more creative about how to save money. It’s helped me to be creative and learning. I don’t have to use credit and, um, it’s helped me just be creative to realize that, wow, there’s other ways to look at things and there’s other ways to solve problems.
Scott: I mean, th the, the new outlook that you have on money, I would argue is, you know, if you’re, if you’re feeling behind or those types of things, right. That grind that you have to put in, of delivering pizzas a little bit so that you can form, you can fund your 401k or whatever. To me, it was, it, it, it feels so worth it to get to that end state of having the outlook on life and money that you have now, you know, rather than the one you had previously, I mean that, that’s a, that’s a period of three years, which I’m sure were tough, but really you managed it and, and you adapted to it and it wasn’t that bad, but that sacrifice or that extra effort.
Really puts you into overt overdrive and into that next phase into that actually you’re here to get going.
Kathy: Yeah, definitely. And the other thing is that time is going to pass anyway and you can try something new and if it doesn’t work out, then quit doing it, but time’s going to pass anyway. So you may as well try it.
And when I was, um, when I was, you know, had my childcare business wet, you know, and I quit doing that and went back to social work. Um, it wasn’t my first choice because social work doesn’t pay very well. So I thought, you know what I’ve talked about becoming a speech therapist, I should look into online classes.
It’s less expensive that way I already had a bachelor’s degree, so I could get a second bachelor’s degree in speech therapy, very inexpensively by doing the classes online. And I thought, uh, in one year I could either be in the same place or I could be. That much closer to having a different career or a second career.
So time’s going to pass anyway, take advantage of it and do something different.
Scott: Awesome. Well, what is your favorite joke to tell at parties?
Kathy: Okay. I don’t have a lot of jokes, but, uh, one that I heard recently was what do you call the tiny way? Or what do you call the tiny waves that washed up on a tiny beach?
Scott: she’s bringing the heat. I love it.
Kathy: That’s awful. I can tell you another funny story. Um, our daughter who’s 23 has accused us of being in a call and that’s the fire code.
Scott: Oh, it’s a cult. It’s a religion.
Kathy: Right. But you know, it’s funny as much as she kind of puts it down, she has really good money values.
And part of that is because she grew up listening to the Dave Ramsey show on the radio, in the car where I had her trapped. And so this girl sees all her other friends complain about never having any money. And this girl always has money. She has a savings account. And, um, she’s putting herself through college.
She, you know, we offered to help her out with this and she didn’t want to take our help because she felt like I want to do it myself. So she’s going to community college. Part of that is because she didn’t really know at first what career she wanted to have. So she thought it’s dumb to spend all this money at a university.
If you don’t even know what to major in. So despite the fact that she calls fire a call, she actually has a lot of the same values and money principles herself.
Scott: Well, tell her to join the Colts. We’ll we’ll we’ll we’ll welcome. Open arms now that she sounds like she’s making some great decisions. And, uh, you’re the second person recently to come on, bigger pockets, money.
And who said that they’ve used the car to trap a family member into financial, uh, discussion. So remember that if you’re listening, that’s a very powerful tool to take, to achieve your financial goals or long car drives.
Mindy: I love it. So Kathy tell us where people can find out more about you.
Kathy: I have a blog called baby boomer, super saver, where I talk about creative ways to catch up retirement savings.
I also have an interview series on the blog of other late saving baby boomers who were behind in retirement savings and they share their story of how they caught up. If readers are listening and you are someone in that position or, you know, someone in that position have them get in touch with me so that we can feature their story on my blog.
I’m also on Instagram and Twitter and on Twitter it’s at baby boomer saves and on Instagram it’s baby boomer, super saver.
Scott: Maybe even more super favor. I’m following you right now.
Mindy: Sure. Your website named to baby boomer, rockstar saver.
Kathy: Oh, that sounds awesome.
Mindy: Except that’s a lot of things to type. Okay. We will include all of those links in our show notes, which can be found at biggerpockets.com/money.
Show one, five to Kathy. You’re fabulous. I love you so much. I love your story. And this is truly a inspiration to anybody who is in that position and says, Oh, I didn’t start on time. I’m starting late. I can’t do it. Yes, you can. Kathy did it. You can do it too.
Kathy: I definitely think so.
Mindy: Well, you’re right. You have to think that because you are correct.
Scott: Yeah. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing the story and for being so open and transparent about really personal, um, life issues. I think that the fact that you are so open and so successful with what you’ve done in spite of some of the setbacks is really just going to be inspiring to a lot of people and really, really appreciate it.
I know it takes a lot of courage to come on and, and share all of those, those details that you did.
Kathy: Yeah, lots of dirty laundry, but thank you so much for having me. I think it’s important for people to talk about money and I appreciate the opportunity to do it.
Mindy: Oh, this is fabulous. Kathy, we’ll talk to you soon.
Thanks a lot.
Kathy: Thank you. Bye-bye
Mindy: that was Kathy Lee from baby boomer, super saver. Uh, what I learned from this episode is that I need to get a government job so I could take advantage of that four 57 B catch-up plan that lets me save up to $39,000 a year for three years.
Scott: that’s pretty incredible. Um, and what’s real.
What’s more incredible though. Is that okay? How many, how many people do you think have an option like that, that they’re unaware of? Because they’re not being incredibly intentional, intentional about their self-education with respect to money or aggressive overall in their financial planning. Right? How many, how many people in Kathy Lee’s position would have.
Overlooked an opportunity like that or not had the foresight to see, Oh, wow. That is going to jump start my, my savings by nearly $120,000 over three years in order to do that, I need to take a part-time job to cashflow my life while I’m taking advantage of that opportunity. That’s a rare mentality that enabled her to take advantage of that opportunity.
Mindy: and not only that, uh, go back to your first, the first part of your question. You said how many people are unaware of this? I want to send, I want to call out to everybody who’s listening right now. There’s, you know, you’ve got the Roth conversion letter talks about that. The mad scientist and that’s it.
And I’m super excited for him to come on and share that with us. But like, who talks about that? Who knows about that? You only know about it. If you do the research, who’s got time to research all of that stuff. So if you know of a cool retirement tweak or retirement, A savings account or like anything even the four 57 B, which isn’t available to everybody, if you know of something like this, please email me [email protected] and let me know about it so I can share it with other people because that’s why we’re here to share the stories and share the tips.
It’s gotta be legal. It’s gotta be, uh, you know, I don’t want to recommend anything that people are, are going to get in trouble for.
Scott: Yeah. And let me just say that it might take, it may seem overwhelming and these terms, Roth conversion ladder, and those types of things might seem really complex. And again, overwhelming, but honestly, Go, you have our permission, uh, because you know, that’s, that’s a clear for us, but you have our permission to go out and obsess over this a little bit, go out and dive in and learn as much as you can about these options to you.
If you don’t understand what a four 57 B plan is, and you’re in a government job or related job. You need to go in and educate yourself on that and get through whatever boring material is in there. Because once you master these concepts, they save you, you know, if you spend 10 or 20 or a hundred hours learning about all the details of your employer benefits or, or benefits available to you as a government worker, with those types of things, you might save five, 10, 20 years of work time making the equivalent amount of money.
Uh, and through less efficient means it, Kathy Lee is going to save herself hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes, potentially. If she goes about her plan, that would have been that would’ve cost her years and years of hard work to accumulate less in a less efficient manner.
Mindy: And, you know, you don’t have to read all of the documents.
You can read the blogs where they break it down. I keep talking about the mad scientist he’s going to come on and talk about the Roth conversion ladder and the accessing your retirement funds early. He’s done all of that reading for you, and he has translated it into more easily to understand language.
He was on our episode 18 to talk about legal. Ways to access your retirement funds early.
Scott: And, and how, how early was mad scientist, uh, Brandon able to retire.
Mindy: I as soon as the early thirties or mid thirties.
Scott: Yeah. He’s just, he’s just done in Scotland hanging out because he’s mastered all of this, these items, you know, and yes, he did dive in and do a lot of technicality, which is why he calls himself the mad scientist.
But, but by doing that, he’s able to save 30 years of work. I mean, it’s, it’s incredible. It’s, it’s worth that. Obsession over yourself, your, your self-education and finances for a period of time to get over the hump and master each component of your finances. So that is automatic. You never why behind everything you’re doing.
And you can make the progress that someone like a Kathy Lee or a Brandon from Adventist has made.
Mindy: And if you have a question about this stuff, ask posted in our Facebook group. Hey, I think I have a question about this. I know a lot of people in our Facebook groups are in other Facebook groups, too. We’ve got CPAs there that can help clear things up or go to their CPA groups and ask those questions.
Specifically, everybody in the group wants to help and we are so excited to have them. Help you with these, these sometimes really difficult to understand concepts
Scott: and that’s right. And it’s like, it’s very hard to sustain a grind like calculus or whatever, if you’re on your own. And so look, if you don’t know anybody who’s doing this, or you don’t have a partner or, or whatever, that’s on the same page with that.
If you’re single and you’re trying to work towards some of these things, Look, join the cult. We’ve got the bigger pockets, buddy. Facebook group. You can listen to podcasts like this or books on finance that you’re, you’re constantly surrounded by people who are talking about this because there’s no reason why early financial independence or a really strong relationship with money.
Can’t be normal for everyone. It’s an unhealthy part of society, I think. And some that we’re, we’re obsessed with changing Mindy and I,
Mindy: we are obsessed with changing your financial life.
Scott: That’s right.
Mindy: Yes we are. Okay. Uh, today’s show notes can be found at biggerpockets.com/money. Show one five two. And if you have somebody in your life who is maybe starting a little bit later, With their retirement savings, please do them a favor and share this episode with them.
You can find this episode on any place that you can find a podcast. Scott, should we get out of here
Mindy: episode 152 of the bigger pockets, money podcast? His name is Scott trench. My name is Mindy Jensen and we got to shake rattlesnake.
Scott: Your outros are always sterically by everybody. .