• Last modified 2274 days ago (April 4, 2018)


Planning helps smooth retirement

Staff writer

Most dream of the day they can hang their hats up at the end of a career.

At age 65, Myrna Wood is reaping the fruits of her labor after 37 years of service at McDonald Tinker law firm in Wichita.

Wood began her journey as a legal secretary, eventually moving up to billing manager.

While in the past, workers relied heavily on Social Security for retirement benefits, Wood knew early in the game to explore other avenues.

Her firm offered a 401(k) plan that would match up to 3 percent of her earnings, but financial instability prevented her from taking advantage of the program right away.

A 401(k) plan allows an employee to set aside a portion of his or her pay, often matched by the employer, and defer taxes on that money and its earnings until retirement.

Similar plans called 403(b) and 457(k) allow tax deferral for workers employed by non-profit groups and government agencies. For individuals, traditional IRAs provide a similar benefit, albeit often with lower cap on the maximum that can be set aside and no matching contribution.

Self-employed workers can create their own SEP IRAs with higher caps. Roth IRAs allow deferral of taxes on earnings but not contributions.

After Wood’s brother-in-law told her she needed to contribute as least as much as her company would match, she enrolled.

“When I first started I didn’t enroll because I was the poor kid coming in off the street,” she said. “I struggled at first but eventually enrolled and put more money in as time went on.”

As her time at the firm went on, her decision how to manage her retirement money evolved. She started investing in slightly higher risk stocks, then made a fortunate decision.

“I got lucky,” she said. “Three months before the stock market fell several years ago, I moved my money over to a secure, slow- earning account.”

She also followed the advice of her 401k representative.

“When our firm moved to a different company, we started getting more personalized attention,” she said. “The guy that worked with my account suggested taking about a third of my money and buying an annuity, so I did.”

Now, as she heads into retirement, her monthly budgeting won’t change as much as many might expect.

“I had the expenses of driving back and forth,” she said of her daily commute from Peabody to Wichita. “This is the first time since I can remember I’ve went two weeks without putting gas in my truck. Plus you have regular oil changes and tire maintenance.”

After years of clocking in at the law office, Wood is enjoying spending time at home, but it won’t stay that way for long.

She used to volunteer more but let volunteer work take a backburner as she worked. Now that people know she’s retiring, more have been asking her to get involved.

She is a volunteer on the Fall Fest committee, got a membership to a health club in Hesston, and is an active member of the women’s American Legion auxiliary.

“Everybody is like, ‘Oh, she’s retired; you can be more involved again,’” she said.

Last modified April 4, 2018