Exploring the journey through the eyes of a Trust Point client
Mary Kessens is spending her early days of retirement in a chrysalis. That’s how she refers to this temporary period of incubation following her departure from the workforce in January. It’s a time to get a feel for that second cup of coffee in the morning, the extra visits with friends, and the additional time spent with her husband. It’s also a time to plan all of the things she wants to do when she eventually spreads her wings.
“I’m giving myself time to rest and recuperate from, really, a very long career of challenging jobs,” says Mary, who lives in La Crosse with her husband of 25 years. “I just want to be OK with that for a while, and I am. It does feel great.”
Mary, 67, enjoyed a rewarding career in business and non-profits, filled with leadership accountabilities. It began in corrections, then management consulting and ended as the CEO of La Crosse-based Aptiv, a regional business that supports people with disabilities. Today, she’s finally easing into the retirement she long-planned for during decades of work. Throughout much of her career, she managed her own retirement money, through company 401(k) plans and her own savings.
“That was okay up to a point,” Mary says. “But as I got busier and there was more money in my account, I thought that I needed more expertise from someone like Trust Point who could manage that money more specifically and with more robust information than I had time to put together.”
Mary started working with Trust Point in 2010 to make sure she was well prepared for this phase of her life. She’s still with us today to ensure her retirement goals are met.
Regardless of what stage of life you are in, you probably have your own ideas of what retirement is or should be. But actually making the transition when you want and the way you want can present many challenges, even beyond finances. As a new retiree, Mary shares how she got here, her plans for the future and her advice for soon-to-be retirees.
Developing A Retirement Roadmap
It’s a common phrase among financial advisors that it’s never too early to start saving and unfortunately, numerous studies have found that many Americans aren’t saving nearly enough for retirement. Throughout her career, Mary has been committed to avoiding that problem.
“For the most part, I’ve always saved something,” she says. “I’ve tried to look ahead and understand what the best options were, to make sure that I collected full 401(k) matches from my employers and set aside as much money as I could pre-tax. I looked at all those options.”
After the first decade of her career, Mary went back to school to get a master’s in business administration from Drake University. Her finance and accounting classes there inspired her to become a “bit of a geek” about her savings and watching them grow, putting her in a good position before she started working with Trust Point.
When Mary first came to Trust Point, the Trust Point team worked with her to take a deep dive into all of her assets, her lifestyle and expenses, and her retirement goals (and their costs) to develop projections for how much she needed to retire — and the time it would take to get there. Establishing that retirement roadmap, which was adjusted periodically, was a motivator for Mary to increase her savings and stay on track.
In the last decade specifically, Mary and her husband, who is semi-retired, paid close attention to their income and their spending. Her husband runs an agricultural job placement business and the couple also has an incorporated family farm in Door County, both passive income sources that needed to be factored into Mary’s projections.
On the investment side, Trust Point worked to make sure Mary’s portfolio was diverse, we stayed on top of market trends, made adjustments when needed and guided her through common questions, such as how to build steady cash flow. As retirement neared, Mary says it became easier to look at income, expenses and revenue projections from investments. She set her retirement year as 2021, and by the time retirement arrived, she had exceeded her retirement savings goal by 25 percent.
Discovering What’s Important
For Mary, 2021 felt like the “sweet spot” in terms of her financial projection and what she had the energy to do both before and during retirement. She is someone who derived a great sense of purpose from her work. Before leaving, she had to think critically about how that void would be filled and what she needed to accomplish to feel good about stepping away.
“My company was in an excellent place,” she says. “I had built a great team around me. People who I knew — that if I left — would certainly be able to carry on. And we had a great board of directors who hired another experienced person to replace me.”
Mary says that being a longtime Rotary International member has shown her that there is no shortage of ways to make the world a better place outside of work. She intends to be involved in further good works in one way or another during retirement. She also has plans to travel, to take in more La Crosse Symphony Orchestra concerts and to enjoy more social time with friends and loved ones. She’s already spending more time on hobbies, too, such as quilting and “cooking creatively” at home.
One critical retirement decision — where to live — was already decided before Mary left her job. She and her husband moved, five years ago, into a condo in their current community, getting a jump start on a simpler lifestyle that they spent a lot of time discussing.
Mary suggests that understanding what’s important to you can be a big step toward enjoying a fulfilling retirement. The only thing that has surprised her so far, after the long road to get to where she is today, is how good it feels. She does plan to leave the chrysalis soon, but she’s not going to rush it.
“I think it’s good to give yourself a grace period to really think about what you want to do next or to experiment with new activities,” Mary says. “I worked so hard to get to this goal of retirement, but this isn’t the end. It’s really a new beginning, the start of the next phase of my life.”
Catching Up With Maggie
Checking in on last year’s featured client, Maggie Erickson Kilgannon
Previously, we included a feature about a supplemental needs trust established for Maggie Erickson Kilgannon.
The trust was established by Maggie’s mother, Cathy Erickson, who has since died from pancreatic cancer. Maggie, who has Down syndrome and depends on the trust for financial stability, was going through big changes at the time of the story, having just been united at a commitment ceremony to Aiden Kilgannon.
Today, Maggie and Aiden are happily navigating life together. Maggie works at Finley’s Barkery (maker of all-natural dog treats) in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Trust Point, as trustee, helps Maggie navigate the use of the supplemental needs trust. She also receives tremendous support from her professional guardian, Kim Opat, her best friend, Karisa, her family, and friends, including Cathy’s friends who know Maggie well.
To read the original story about Maggie and to learn more about supplemental needs trusts, click HERE.