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Hitting 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 ha 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 morn, but she's not tempted to replace it with anything flashy. "I'm brand loyal," she says, "so I'll probably buy another Subaru." Of course, she quickly adds that first she'll do her homework, see what Consumer Reports has to say, and test-drive a model or two. She's on course to reach her retirement destination and plans to do so by continuing to adhere to DOFE Principle No. 4: to engage in sound budget, credit, and tax management practices.

In the end, her financial adviser, Loftin, sums it up, "You don't want to spend your golden years working at the Golden Arches."


To commit to a program of retirement planning and investing

Declaration Of Financial & Empowerment

From this day forward, I declare my vigilant and lifelong commitment to financial empowerment. I pledge the following:

1] To use homeownership to build wealth

2] To save and invest 10% to 15% of my after-tax income

3] To commit to a program of retirement planning and investing

4] To engage in sound budget, credit, and tax management practices

5] To measure my personal wealth by net worth, not income

6] To be proactive and knowledgeable about investing, money management, and consumer issues

7] To provide access to programs that will educate my children about business and finance

8] To support the creation and growth of profitable, competitive black-owned enterprises

9] To use a portion of my wealth to strengthen my community

10] To ensure that my wealth is passed on to future generations

Keep several rules in mind when committing to a program of retirement planning and investing. We spoke with W.M. Nzambi, president of Mariner financial Group in Pittsburgh, who made the following suggestions:

Forget the Joneses. Don't get caught up in the race to make prestige purchases. These often depreciating assets don't help to build wealth. If you've reached some level of success, resist the temptation to show it overtly.

Make savings automatic. Setting up automatic payments to savings vehicles can make the process painless and keep you from diverting funds to other, more immediate needs. Also, investigate savings arrangements such as the Keep the Change program at Bank of America: Each time enrolled customers use their bank check card, the purchase is rounded to the nearest dollar amount and the difference is moved to the person's savings account. See

Choose your adviser wisely. It's important to have an adviser who has experience helping people who are similar to you, e.g., if you own a small-business, make sure your adviser is knowledgeable about those issues.

Catch up if you're behind. If you're over 50 and not on target to meet your expected financial needs, be aware that you can contribute $1,000 more to your IRA and $5,000 more to your 401(k) in 2007 than younger individuals.

Be mindful of fees. Take note of the expenses surrounding your investment decisions, but don't let them exclusively determine whether you'll make the investment. Some expensive funds outperform their categories and may pay off in the long run.
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Author:Delaney, Trevor
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Mar 1, 2007
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