Moving money concerns

What are the ways Member Benefits interacts with account holders?

While we generally don’t call every member on a regular basis, we do have customer service representatives, investment consultants, and financial planning staff available. Contact us any time to discuss or review your account. If you utilize our advisor-managed model portfolio, we will regularly reach out to you to update your risk tolerance preferences. We also provide educational seminars, this magazine, an informational website, and monthly email options, just to name a few additional ways we keep in touch with you and share helpful financial information.

Why doesn’t Member Benefits offer more investment choices?

When it comes to investment lineups, quality is more important than quantity. Our investment committees regularly monitor the performance of the funds in our investment lineup and make changes when needed. We maintain a shorter list because the funds we offer are heavily vetted on the front end for cost, performance, volatility, and other factors. The investment choices span the major asset classes and enable participants to build a well-diversified portfolio. For example, as of March 31, 2023, the moderate Model Portfolio offered in our Personal Investment Accounts consisted of 10,640 individual stock holdings with 1,274 bond issues. The average net expense ratio is 0.21%.

Member Benefits won’t give investment advice, but my financial advisor would like to monitor everything I have.

Did you know that Member Benefits DOES give advice and offer financial planning? Our 403(b) program provides you with a private financial planning portal called eMoney—and you don’t pay extra for this service. You get a consolidated view of all of your accounts, and our financial planners can help you with income strategy during retirement, an analysis of your income vs expenses, tax planning, legacy planning, and more. We can also create “what if” scenarios for you to consider to enhance your financial wellness and that of your family.

When you have a 403(b) with WEA Member Benefits, you enjoy many benefits, including:

None of this changes if you’ve retired or changed school districts. So why move to another company where you lose these benefits? Perhaps consider consolidating any outside accounts to your Member Benefits account as well.

This is the third and final article in our series. Read more:

Moving money matters

Let’s assume you’ve been saving for retirement for years in a 403(b) and/or IRA savings account. Your account balance is looking pretty healthy. And it’s feeling good to know your efforts over the years are paying off for your future.

But now you’ve started receiving mail from financial advisors/brokers offering a free meal along with the opportunity to learn how you can earn more on your investment. Or maybe the local agent who has been dropping by your classroom is sharing how he’s helped several of your colleagues around your age manage their investments. It gets you wondering—are you with the best provider for your retirement needs? Should you stay, or should you go?

Before you do anything, stop and ask yourself—why are you suddenly on their radar? Because you’re a real catch. People who have been saving for a while or are already retired tend to receive a lot of attention from investment brokers and agents because they’ve already done the hard work of building their nest egg. That can mean opportunity for someone who makes their living selling investment products and services. It’s simply a fact that the financial industry is huge and profitable, and there are strong incentives for someone who sells investment products to start a relationship with you—especially if you have accumulated some net worth.

Proceed with caution

Occasionally Member Benefits staff receive a request to transfer a retirement account from or to another financial institution for consolidation purposes. Housing all of your investment accounts with one financial advisor can simplify your financial life—but determining the value proposition of a transfer isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

Before moving your money you need to understand—really understand—the implications of your decision. That means knowing what you are buying, exactly how much it will cost, and what you stand to gain (or lose) from the move. This requires you to dedicate some time to gathering the necessary information and doing your due diligence.

“Rolling money over into an IRA annuity or another investment vehicle can be very lucrative for a broker,” says Brenda Echeverria, Financial Planning Supervisor for WEA Member Benefits. “It’s not uncommon for a broker to earn 5% or 6% right off the top. Bringing in an account worth $100,000 would mean a commission of $5,000 or $6,000.”

Guide your decisions

Is that a fair and reasonable price for you to pay? How do you know? It depends on what you are getting and whether you think the benefits justify the cost.

Here are some things to consider, questions to ask, and actions to take to help ensure you make the very best decision for you.

Keep your emotions in check

When it comes to your savings—the money you will rely on in retirement—the stakes are high, so it’s important not to jeopardize your financial well-being by letting emotions influence your decisions. “Fear is a major factor,” says Brenda. “People are afraid they won’t have enough money, then they hear about what others are doing and wonder if they should be doing it, too. Emotions can be useful in driving people to take action, but they can also lead to disastrous results if those emotions drive the decision. It’s why people chase the market or get out when the market drops.”

Brenda says it is also common for educators to feel compelled to use the services of someone they know from the community. “It might be the spouse of a friend or neighbor. They don’t want to hurt their feelings or tarnish the relationship by saying no to their offers or suggestions.” Remember—this is a business transaction, not a social event. They are not doing this as a favor. This is how they make a living. The point is, whoever you decide to work with, make sure you do it for the right reasons.

Don’t believe everything you hear

We often hear from our participants that they were told from other brokers they need to move their retirement money from Member Benefits because they can’t stay in our plan, or that they can’t roll over into a new employer’s plan, even though that may not be entirely true. Brenda says, “Members call and say, ‘the broker I talked to said I have to move my money out of my 403(b) now that I’m retired or have changed careers.’ This is inaccurate information that could result in a poor financial decision for that member.” Information such as this should always be validated by your provider before you take any action. The fact is, your Member Benefits’ 403(b) and IRA accounts can remain with us whether you retire, change districts, or change professions. Don’t take someone else’s word for it.

Uncover the costs

You wouldn’t walk onto a car lot and ask the salesman to pick out the best car for you without asking how much it costs. But people do this all the time with investment products.

When you are talking fees with the advisor/broker, ask for a list of all the costs and identify which are one-time fees and which are ongoing. “Many times the fees are not obvious or easy to understand,” says Brenda “There are often layers of costs beyond what the person you are talking to has explained.” For example, you may be charged other fees associated with the product that the agent doesn’t receive which go to the company. And if you are adding premium services such as ongoing investment advice, you’ll typically pay a percentage of your assets on top of fund fees.

Is it worth it? Maybe, but adding layers of fees can cut the chances that your money will last. “It helps to convert any percentages to actual dollars. I often hear, ‘it’s just 1%,’ but when I convert that into a dollar amount for them, it’s an eye-opener,” says Brenda.

Fees to watch for and quantify include:

Every dollar you pay in fees is not earning interest in your account. So consider the potential earnings you’re losing out on as well.

Identify restrictions

As a general rule, the more guarantees or promises you are getting with a product, the more restrictive the withdrawal options. Most annuities have surrender periods of 5 to 7 years. This means you are basically locked into the contract for that period of time and can’t withdraw your money without paying surrender fees, which can run as high as 7% of your account balance depending on the longevity of the account.

It can be difficult and costly to undo certain money moves. However, for some investments such as annuities and insurance products, there is a 30-day free-look period during which you can cancel. “I have talked with people who didn’t realize that the move limited what they could do or that they are locked in to a surrender period,” says Brenda. While participants in our IRA and 403(b) can keep their accounts with us for as long as they want and continue to take advantage of our low fees, if an account is closed out, there may not be an opportunity to come back. Brenda explains, “When you retire, you are no longer eligible to open a 403(b) account because you are not working. Once the account is closed, there’s no coming back. I can’t tell you how many retired people I have talked to who want to come back because they moved their money and were not happy. Unfortunately, I have to tell them they can’t.” Before you close your account, give us a call to learn about what this means for your eligibility to return.

Get help

Member Benefits recognizes there are times when participants need some face time with an expert regarding their investments and plans for the future. What really sets our services apart from other investment advisors or brokers is that Member Benefits retirement consultants and financial advisors do not receive commissions, so you receive unbiased information. Our staff can answer questions you have about our program or other products you might be considering. We can help guide you through the evaluation process so you can make the best decision for you.

Another question to ask someone you are considering working with is, “are you a fiduciary?” “I am,” says Brenda. This means the financial advisor has made a commitment to work in the client’s best interests at all times and puts YOUR needs before THEIR needs.

Before you decide whether you should stay or go ask yourself: Is it worth it? Only you can determine if what you receive in return justifies the cost. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s the best decision for you and your situation.

This is the first article in our series. Read more:

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Marketplace update

 

Here’s an example from earlier this year of the type of information you can expect if you sign up for our monthly enews.

What is a bull market, and more importantly, who determines if we’re in one?

Technically speaking, a bull market is defined as a 20% gain in a stock market index, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500, from a closing low.

So are we in one? As of May, technically, no. The S&P 500 hit a low of 3,583 on October 10, 2022. So a 20% gain would put the S&P 500 at right about 4,300. In May, the S&P 500 was still below that level.

Market news chart

The chart also shows how challenging the stock market has been since October 2022. When stock prices rally higher, those gains are often met by selling pressure. So it’s easy to understand that it has been a difficult period to remain focused as an investor.

It also reminds us how important it is to “tune out the noise” and focus on what you can control, like your time horizon, risk tolerance, and goals.

Let us help

If you need help turning down the bear volume you might be hearing, reach out to one of our financial advisors for a complimentary financial review or call 1-800-279-4030.

Source: FMG Suite, LLC. All financial advisory services are offered through WEA Financial Advisors, Inc., an SEC registered investment advisor. Some consultations may be free, call us for details. However, if you choose to invest in the WEA 403(b) Tax Sheltered Annuity, WEA Member Benefits IRA, or WEA Member Benefits Personal Investment Account programs, fees will apply. Consider all expenses before investing. Must meet eligibility rules to participate.

To move or not to move: Medicare premiums and Roth conversions

Why convert funds to a Roth account?

There are many potential reasons to convert funds from a traditional to a Roth retirement account. A common reason is that converting those funds can provide an opportunity for future tax savings.

Financial planners are currently seeing an influx of Roth conversions. One reason is that tax brackets (resulting from 2018 tax cuts) are sitting 3% lower until 2026, when they will likely revert to prior tax bracket levels (taxpolicycenter.org). Depending on circumstances, individuals are preferring to pay the lower taxes on their income now versus paying taxes on that income in retirement.

Paying less taxes sounds great, right?

Yes—but it’s not quite that simple. Individuals 63 years and older should be aware of the potential effect this has on Medicare premiums. Converting traditional to Roth funds requires account holders to report that money as income on their taxes. If you complete a Roth conversion and that raises your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) past a certain level, you could be increasing the premiums you pay for Medicare B and D and reducing the intended tax savings. This increase is called an income-related monthly adjustment amount.

Income-related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA)

IRMAA brackets are released each year (see table on next page) and your bracket is determined based on your MAGI from two years prior. With the two-year look back period, if you are going to enroll in Medicare at age 65, you will want to take this into consideration at age 63.

However, it’s important to note that MAGI for IRMAA is calculated slightly differently than MAGI not related to healthcare. Your MAGI for the 2023 IRMAA can be calculated by taking your 2021 federal tax return adjusted gross income (AGI) and adding any tax-exempt interest earned from bonds, etc. and/or other income sources not included in your AGI. So your 2021 MAGI for Medicare determines your 2023 IRMAA bracket.

Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI)Part B monthly premium amountPrescription drug coverage monthly premium amount
Individuals with a MAGI of less than or equal to $97,000
Married couples with a MAGI of $194,000 or less
2023 standard premium = $164.90Your plan premium
Individuals with a MAGI above $97,000 up to $123,000
Married couples with a MAGI above $194,000 up to $228,000
Standard premium + $65.90Your plan premium
Individuals with a MAGI above $123,000 up to $153,000
Married couples with a MAGI above $246,000 up to $306,000
Standard premium + $164.90Your plan premium + $31.50
Individuals with a MAGI above $153,000 up to $183,000
Married couples with a MAGI above $306,000 up to $366,000
Standard premium + $263.70Your plan premium + $50.70
Individuals with a MAGI above $183,000 and less than $500,000
Married couples with a MAGI above $366,000 and less than $750,000
Standard premium + $362.60Your plan premium + $70.00
Individuals with a MAGI equal to or above $500,000
Married couples with a MAGI equal to or above $750,000
Standard premium + $395.60Your plan premium + $76.40

For more information check out Premiums: Rules for Higher-Income Beneficiaries from the Social Security Administration.

Can I complete a Roth account conversion without triggering a premium increase?

Yes! It is possible but requires pre-planning and strategy, as everyone’s situation is different. It’s important to find a financial advisor you trust, like Member Benefits, or tax advisor to help navigate these decisions and figure out a suitable strategy for you. They can work with you to calculate the amount of funds you’d be able to covert from a pre-tax to Roth account but still keep you within the same IRMAA bracket, not increasing your Medicare premiums.

We can help

Meet with one of Member Benefits’ financial advisors for a retirement plan review to start building a strategy that’s right for you.

1-800-279-4030, Ext. 6730
weafa@weabenefits.com
Schedule a financial coaching option.

Converting from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA is a taxable event.
*If you choose to invest in the WEA Tax Sheltered Annuity or WEA Member Benefits IRA program, fees will apply. Consider all expenses before investing.

yourFINANCIAL Checklist

If you feel daunted by the idea of starting a financial plan, or need to update a current one, open yourself up to learning and doing. Having a solid financial plan could make a big difference to your current and future financial security. Member Benefits can make the task easier by providing guidance and answering questions you may have. 

Take a look at some items to consider adding to your checklist to get yourself and your family on the right financial track. And remember—no one ever regretted saving more instead of less. 

If you haven’t started saving for retirement yet

Why start saving

Don’t think you have enough money to save for retirement? Then you might be surprised to learn that saving a small amount can make a big difference later on due to compound interest.

Compounding is when earnings on your investments are reinvested in your account. The reinvested earnings may also have earnings, and then those earnings are reinvested, and so on.

Optimize the impact of compounding by saving as soon as you can to lengthen your timeline. Making regular contributions through payroll deduction or monthly automatic withdrawals from a checking or savings account makes it easy to do. And with Member Benefits, no large amount is required like with many other providers.

Open a 403(b) account

Your 403(b) is an employer-sponsored plan. If you haven’t opened an account yet, contact us. Member Benefits is an approved vendor at 98% of the school districts in Wisconsin, so chances are we are an option at your school.

Enroll online or give us a call. Once enrolled, you’ll need to fill out a Salary Reduction Agreement (SRA) and submit it to your district’s benefits manager or payroll coordinator authorizing them to withhold and forward money from your paycheck to your 403(b). Some districts have their own SRA, or we can provide you with one if not.

Increase your retirement contributions

Already saving for retirement in a 403(b) account? Great! Consider how much you can afford to save in your 403(b), then check on contribution limits. Give yourself a raise this year by completing a new SRA.

Review your retirement savings plan

Your current investment allocations

When was the last time you reviewed the investment allocations in your retirement savings account? You may want to change your level of risk.

If you’re worried that your investment allocations are not appropriate for your goals or retirement timeline, make a date with one of our financial advisors for guidance.

Review pre-tax vs Roth deferral options to the 403(b)

Some districts offer the Roth option in their 403(b) plan. Consider whether Roth contributions make sense for your situation. Contributions to a Roth 403(b) can help diversify tax liability in retirement, as most other sources of income will likely be taxed as regular income.

However, be aware that when you make changes from pre-tax contributions to Roth deferrals, it could impact your tax return.

Review beneficiaries

If you’ve experienced any life events (marriage, divorce, birth of a child, etc.) it’s time to update your beneficiaries.

Without careful consideration, your decision may have unexpected tax and estate planning implications. Beneficiaries named on your retirement account supersede your will. Be sure to review your designations annually to ensure they are current and in line with your intentions.

Use our online resource

Update your address, review your portfolio, or change your investment allocations online on your time. Visit yourMONEY to make changes to your account, or make an appointment to meet with one of our financial advisors for assistance.

Create or update your budget

Many people don’t have a budget, but having one is a key component of any financial plan. You can’t have a plan without having a clear understanding of what money is coming in, what is going out, and where it’s going to. It requires an investment of time up front and requires you to face the good and the bad of your financial situation. But the pay off and benefits are long lasting.

The basics of making a budget are relatively simple. The process includes:

Developing a budget can be an empowering experience that can help you take control of your finances. Use our budget worksheet and financial calculators as a guide.

Are you within five years of retirement?

It’s even more critical to have a budget if retirement is on your horizon. This is a perfect time to look at your current expenses to see how much your pension will cover in retirement.

Make an appointment with one of our financial advisors to review your accounts, pension, Social Security, budget, and future financial needs. We have several options to choose from. Book early for Christmas break and spring breaks.

Utilize your district’s benefits

Go automatic

Make saving for retirement easy with automatic payments. Automatic payments such as payroll deducted contributions and scheduled electronic transfers from a checking or savings account not only help build your savings, but make it more affordable because you are budgeting for smaller regular amounts.

Utilize your flexible spending account

Reduce your taxes by utilizing your district’s flexible spending account (FSA). If your employer offers an FSA (and/or health savings account), you can elect to put pretax dollars aside to cover the cost of eligible healthcare and dependent care expenses.

Review your post-employment benefits

Health insurance is the key determining factor when someone retires. Knowing this information ahead of time will help you plan while you are still employed.

If you’re allowed to bank your sick leave for the future, this benefit may make it easier to retire before you are eligible for Medicare. Compensation from unused time could be used as a cash payment, additional 403(b) contributions, or payment toward health insurance coverage in retirement.

Your kids can save, too

Children with jobs

If your teen is working, they can open up an IRA. Low tax brackets are perfect for Roth IRA contributions.

College age children

Give them a head start on good financial habits by setting them up with a budget. An easy way to do it could be save a third, spend a third, give a third.
Many college students have part-time jobs and can continue saving in an IRA.


Personal insurance: Part of your financial plan

Many people don’t consider insurance as part of their budget, but insurance is key to your financial well-being and an important part of your financial plan. Protect yourself appropriately with auto insurance, renters/home/condo insurance, liability (umbrella) insurance, and more.

Liability insurance protects you when the unexpected happens by providing protection above and beyond your existing home and auto insurance policies. A liability policy can help protect your retirement assets.

Life insurance coverage helps those who are dependent on your income should the worst happen, and is an important part of your family’s financial stability and well-being.

If you ever need long-term care, you will pay the costs from your personal savings and assets unless you have long-term care insurance. Eileen Dunn from Associates of Clifton Park provides free one-hour webinars discussing options for elder care, the role state and Federal programs play in long-term care, and types of long-term care insurance available. Visit our long-term care insurance page for dates.

Learn more about all of our insurance options.


It’s a family thing

Don’t forget that your family members may also be eligible to participate in many of Member Benefits’ great programs!

This includes our IRA program*, financial planning services, and many of our insurance options.

Family members can contact us directly at 1-800-279-4030.

Restrictions may apply. Certain state residency required. Call us for details. Family members, including your spouse or domestic partner, children and their spouses, parents, and parents-in-law, may also be eligible to participate in many of our programs. Restrictions may apply. Certain state residency required.
*To be eligible for this program, you must meet the IRS eligibility requirements for contributing to an IRA.

Facing Financial Fears

Maybe your heart skips a beat when bills and bank statements arrive. Perhaps you fear your identity will be stolen or you’ll lose your job. Or it’s facing the looming questions: Have I saved enough? How do I create a budget and make it work? Here are several common fears and how to face them this Halloween.

I fear I may never get out of debt.

How to face your fear: The scariest part is identifying exactly how much debt you have and why. Once you’ve assessed your debt, devise a plan to pay off the smallest debt first. If you need some help contact our financial advisor. We’ll help you come up with a plan to get you back on track.

I fear bills and bank statements.

How to face your fear: Bills and bank statements are unavoidable, but don’t live in denial if you’ve gotten to the point of fearing bills and bank statements you’re probably overspending. Cut back don’t spend more than you make. Then build a budget and stick to it. We have tools and calculators to help you.

I fear my identity will be stolen.

How to face your fear: Be diligent. Monitor your credit reports, bank statements and transactions Sign up to receive text or email alerts from your bank or credit union if your financial institution offers this service.

I fear I haven’t saved enough for my future.

How to face your fear: It’s never too late to start! Open up a 403(b) or IRA. Contribute more. Pay yourself first and stick to your budget.

I fear I will lose my job someday.

How to face your fear: Prepare in advance. Establish an emergency fund and stash away at least six months of living expenses.

Remember, facing your financial fears doesn’t have to be scary. The key is to identify the cause of your fears and face them by taking action, making a plan, and being realistic about your situation.

Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)

Did you know you can choose to give up to $100,000 to a qualified charity from your IRA (other than an ongoing SEP or SIMPLE IRA) without counting it as taxable income when you are over 70½ years old? This type of gift is called a qualified charitable distribution (QCD).

A QCD will count towards your required minimum distribution (RMD). However, you can’t claim a charitable contribution deduction for any QCD not included in your income.

Our financial advisors can help you calculate how much you may want to rollover to a Traditional IRA that will generate a QCD equal to the amount you intend to gift each year. You will still have an RMD from your 403(b), but it will be a smaller amount. Give us a call at 1-800-279-4030, Extension 6730 or visit our Financial Planning pages to learn more about QCDs.

P.S. Would you consider using all or part of your QCD to give to WEA Member Benefits Foundation? Visit the website to learn about our new initiatives that support our public school teachers and students.

Planning for the effects of inflation in your retirement plan

In 2021, inflation increased by 7%—its highest point since 1982 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). So $1 at the beginning of last year was worth around $0.93 at the end.

While inflation is an important consideration, it’s just one of several risks you need to manage in retirement. Protecting yourself in retirement consists of:

While it’s not time to panic, you shouldn’t ignore it, either.

Here are a few steps to consider to help protect your savings.

Save where you can. Even modest steps can add up. Being flexible about your travel or where you live can also help.

Continue investing. Consider keeping some of your savings in stocks for long-term growth.

Pay off debt. Eliminating debt should be a top priority in retirement.

Consider working. Every dollar you earn in retirement is a dollar you don’t have to withdraw. Go part-time or explore a second career as a buffer. It may be an interesting opportunity you hadn’t considered.

If this has you feeling a bit anxious, keep this in mind: Having WRS as a public school employee is a great advantage for you, along with Social Security’s built-in cost of living increases and your personal retirement savings.

Need some guidance?

Explore our financial planning options. Our expanded services give you even more choices to meet your individual needs. We’re here to help.

The above content is not a recommendation to invest. Please consult your financial planner to determine the path best for your financial well-being.
Sources: Kiplinger, Forbes Advisor.

Fresh financial planning services

Recent research has found that Americans who have a financial plan enjoy increased savings, better asset allocation, more confidence in financial decision-making, and more balanced portfolios. And written plans may be especially important for those with low- and moderate-income levels.* Have you taken advantage of Member Benefits’ financial planning services? Now is a great time, because we have even more options to meet your needs!

Member Benefits is very pleased to offer you a more flexible set of financial planning options to help you meet your financial goals. Our Financial Planning Advice options remain the same, but we’ve added an online do-it-yourself option as well as a new variety of assisted options. Our updated financial planning program goes beyond retirement planning and is designed to help you explore the financial goals that best meet where you are in your career. Here is an overview.

Do It Yourself Financial Planning

For those who have a 403(b) account with Member Benefits, we offer a free interactive wealth management tool called eMoney. It provides holistic planning with a personal website and 24-hour access. You can monitor your budget, get investment updates, store important documents, receive strategic advice from our financial advisors via the portal, and much more.

Financial Coaching

If you’re new to investing and retirement saving or need guidance on a different financial topic, we have three new options available based on what you want to explore. Topics range from investment allocation to debt reduction to the Wisconsin Retirement System to college savings to initial estate planning—and more.

Financial Planning Advice

Our traditional financial planning options to explore your retirement readiness are still available. These are fee-based options that can help you evaluate your current investment portfolio or explore if you’re on track for retirement. Discounts may be available for some participants.

Get started

These services offer more in-depth assistance than our individual financial consultations. For more information or to schedule a financial planning service, please contact us or visit the web page of the service you’re interested in. We look forward to serving you now and in the years to come.

Financial Planning Services
1-800-279-4030, Ext. 6730
weafa@weabenefits.com

 

*Source: PLANSPONSOR, “Having a Written Financial Plan Improves Savings and Asset Allocation.”

Considering a financial advisor? Ask questions first

The financial advisors at Member Benefits can help you anticipate your future tax liability, get a real picture of your assets and challenges, and help you make necessary changes now before you retire.

However, it’s important to ask questions before trusting someone to advise you on your financial future, such as:

Start your financial advisor search with BrokerCheck, a free tool to research the background and experience of financial brokers, advisors, and firms. Get a snapshot of a broker’s regulatory actions, investment-related licensing information, complaints, and more.

Visit brokercheck.finra.org or call their helpline at 1-800-289-9999.

To schedule an appointment or learn more about Member Benefits’ financial planning services, call 1-800-279-4030, ext. 6730 or weafa@weabenefits.com.

Learn more by reading our article, A recipe for retirement.