Hirtting Her Target

Diane Fenderson is on track to maintain her lifestyle when she retires

Diane Fenderson is certain about one thing: She won’t be joining the legions of retirees who close the door on one career only to open the door to another in their senior years. “Once I retire, I am retiring,” she says. “That’s the idea isn’t it?”

So with a clear goal in mind, Fenderson committed herself to Declaration of Financial Empowerment Principle No. 3: to commit to a program of retirement planning and investing. Because of advances in healthcare, many retirees will enjoy long and healthy retirements. As a result, it’s imperative that individuals begin their retirement planning as soon as possible.

At age 51, Fenderson still plans to work for more than a decade, but she’s already laid substantial groundwork so she’ll be able to retire fully from the workforce and be free of financial worries. A maintenance technician for Exelon Power in Medway, Massachusetts, for 23 years, Fenderson currently earns a salary in the $60,000 range. Describing herself as “thrifty” and not prone to impulse spending, she’s amassed a savings of approximately $500,000 in her company 401(k) and a traditional IRA account, according to her financial adviser, Gerald Loftin, principal of Renaissance Financial Group in Norwood, Massachusetts.

It’s a developing nest egg that Loftin projects can grow to more than $1.7 million by the time Fenderson reaches age 65. What does that mean in real terms? Assuming that she withdraws just 5% of her savings each year during her retirement, thereby leaving her principal intact, she will have $85,000 for expenses. Sure, it could be more, says Loftin, but it’s a great accomplishment for a single woman who got a relatively late start in her retirement planning. And it should suit her needs well.

Fenderson’s relationship with Loftin has been important to getting her financial ducks in a row. She began working with him 11 years ago, when she was a newly divorced mother of two elementary school-aged children. Since that time, Fenderson’s son, Damien, 24, has graduated from Howard University and is now an accountant in Washington, D.C. Her daughter, Elan, 21, is currently a student at Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

In terms of her investing strategy, Fenderson says she’s not particularly aggressive and, in fact, even had the fortitude not to panic as the tech market collapsed in 2000. Her response may stem, in part, from discussions with Loftin, who says that investors must assess their risk tolerance given their particular circumstances. “I meet a lot of people with large positions in fixed-income investments and cash,” he says, noting that they may be better served by well-chosen investments in the stock market.

As a foundation for building her personal wealth, in 1993, Fenderson purchased a four-bedroom colonial, for $160,000 that she now estimates is worth $450,000.

Fenderson sees that there’s one big-ticket purchase on the horizon, but she’s not concerned. She says she’ll soon have to retire her 13-year-old Subaru Legacy Wagon, which has close to 300,000 miles on it. It dates back to her days as a soccer mom,

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