your story

yourSTORY: Members helping members

These financial mentors are dedicated to helping their colleagues by sharing their financial advice and lessons learned.

array(5) { [0]=> array(5) { ["file"]=> string(28) "your-story-header-150x95.jpg" ["width"]=> int(150) ["height"]=> int(95) ["mime-type"]=> string(10) "image/jpeg" ["url"]=> string(83) "" } [1]=> array(5) { ["file"]=> string(29) "your-story-header-300x190.jpg" ["width"]=> int(300) ["height"]=> int(190) ["mime-type"]=> string(10) "image/jpeg" ["url"]=> string(84) "" } [2]=> array(5) { ["file"]=> string(29) "your-story-header-480x304.jpg" ["width"]=> int(480) ["height"]=> int(304) ["mime-type"]=> string(10) "image/jpeg" ["url"]=> string(84) "" } [3]=> array(5) { ["file"]=> string(29) "your-story-header-768x486.jpg" ["width"]=> int(768) ["height"]=> int(486) ["mime-type"]=> string(10) "image/jpeg" ["url"]=> string(84) "" } [4]=> array(3) { ["width"]=> int(900) ["height"]=> int(570) ["url"]=> string(76) "" } } ===========array(5) { [0]=> array(10) { ["media_query"]=> int(0) ["url"]=> string(83) "" ["width"]=> int(150) ["next_break"]=> int(150) ["ratio"]=> bool(false) ["acceptable_h"]=> int(0) ["acceptable_w"]=> int(0) ["max_image_width"]=> int(1400) ["image_full_width"]=> int(900) ["percent_width"]=> int(1) } [1]=> array(10) { ["media_query"]=> int(150) ["url"]=> string(84) "" ["width"]=> int(300) ["next_break"]=> int(300) ["ratio"]=> bool(false) ["acceptable_h"]=> int(0) ["acceptable_w"]=> float(150) ["max_image_width"]=> int(1400) ["image_full_width"]=> int(900) ["percent_width"]=> int(1) } [2]=> array(10) { ["media_query"]=> int(300) ["url"]=> string(84) "" ["width"]=> int(480) ["next_break"]=> int(480) ["ratio"]=> bool(false) ["acceptable_h"]=> int(0) ["acceptable_w"]=> float(300) ["max_image_width"]=> int(1400) ["image_full_width"]=> int(900) ["percent_width"]=> int(1) } [3]=> array(10) { ["media_query"]=> int(480) ["url"]=> string(84) "" ["width"]=> int(768) ["next_break"]=> int(768) ["ratio"]=> bool(false) ["acceptable_h"]=> int(0) ["acceptable_w"]=> float(480) ["max_image_width"]=> int(1400) ["image_full_width"]=> int(900) ["percent_width"]=> int(1) } [4]=> array(10) { ["media_query"]=> int(768) ["url"]=> string(76) "" ["width"]=> int(900) ["next_break"]=> int(900) ["ratio"]=> bool(false) ["acceptable_h"]=> int(0) ["acceptable_w"]=> float(768) ["max_image_width"]=> int(1400) ["image_full_width"]=> int(900) ["percent_width"]=> int(1) } }

A look back with yourSTORY: Members helping members

In 2022, Member Benefits is celebrating its 50th anniversary. As part of the celebration, we contacted some of the members we’ve highlighted in past your$ magazines. Read on to learn what they’ve been up to, financial lessons they’ve learned over the years, and helpful advice they still have to share with you to help you make your own best financial decisions.

Member stories

Cody Endres          |          Emily Piehl Portillo         |          Ken Seeman          |          Tim McCarthy and Michael Theine

Member stories featured in your$ magazine

Leatrice’s Legacy         |          Sarah’s Garden of Financial Knowledge         |          Nick’s Strategy for Cultivating Financial Independence 

The Fire and the Fund         |          Q&A with Joanna Rizzotto

Cody Endres

In 2018 when he was just 27, Cody told us he was running a marathon…toward financial freedom. Financial freedom, he said, means you are in control of your finances instead of being controlled by them. And it means that you get to make life decisions without being overly stressed about the financial impact—because you are prepared.

Decisions like when to retire. Learn where Cody is today in his quest for financial freedom.

Cody’s story

Emily Piehl Portillo

We met up with Emily in 2017 after she had met with one of our financial planners. For a 20-something in her third year of teaching, she was very self-aware financially and was taking advantage of her young age. At the time, she shared nine financial “to-dos” before turning 30.

Revisit Emily’s advice and find out how her life has changed and how well her approach to personal finances has served her.

Emily’s story

Ken Seeman

Ken Seeman retired about 10 years ago. He was just 55. When we talked with him in 2013, he had two years of retirement under his belt and was contentedly building furniture in his workshop, planting seeds in preparation for the spring gardening season, spending time with his wife and daughter, and traveling.

How did he do it? By years of “saving like mad,” he says. Today, Ken graciously gives us an update on where he’s at and how his early retirement has worked out for him and his family.

Ken’s story

Tim McCarthy and Michael Theine

Tim is a band teacher at Glendale with 36 years of career wisdom. He was among the unsung heroes in a 2012 your$ article featuring educators who serve as financial mentors to their colleagues, sharing knowledge and information about how one can do good as an education professional and do well financially.

Michael is a third grade in Cedar Grove-Belgium Elementary school. He was one of Tim’s mentees who gave him and his wife “…such great guidance that has helped us live comfortably and have what we need.”

Learn what Tim and Michael are up to today and the advice both of them have to share with others.

Tim and Michael’s stories

Leatrice’s Legacy

Leatrice Jorgensen’s story has been a favorite. It’s a story rich with a passion for learning and teaching, tradition, and connection to the early days of Member Benefits.

It was 2010 when we sat with Leatrice at her kitchen table flanked by her daughter and granddaughters. The table, she said, was a gathering place for family fun and making memories. It was also a place for learning, counseling, and legacy building.

Eleven years later in 2021, we pick up Leatrice’s story at the same kitchen table where Amanda, Lea, and Patti are gathered. The kitchen is unchanged, but there is an empty chair. Leatrice passed away in 2016. She was a breast cancer survivor, her daughter Patti says, but succumbed to ovarian cancer in 2016.

For Amanda, Lea, and Patti, life has marched on, but the memory of Leatrice and what she taught them is ever present in their lives.

Leatrice’s family story

Sarah’s Garden of Financial Knowledge

Sarah Campbell has been sowing seeds since 2009. She has watched those seeds sprout, grow, and in some cases, produce. The seeds Sarah sows are the seeds of financial literacy.

Her passion for financial literacy sprouted in her second year of teaching when she made discoveries about how to cultivate enthusiasm for this important topic in her students. She struggled her first year, teaching content straight out of the textbook. “The kids didn’t care,” she told us.

But after taking courses at the National Institute for Financial and Economic Literacy during summer break, everything changed. The experience showed her how to engage students by making the information personal and real.

Over the last 13 years her methods have changed—going deeper and broader—to reflect the needs of students and to keep up with advancements in technology and the financial world. But she is still teaching Personal Finance at Wisconsin Dells High School (WDHS) with great determination, and her responsibilities have grown, giving her more opportunities to promote financial literacy. But what does financial literacy mean?

Sarah’s story

Nick’s strategy for cultivating financial independence

In 2010, Nick Havlik was 24 and an extreme saver, putting as much as 40% of his income into retirement savings. (No, that’s not a typo!) He was focused on the retirement long-game and committed to saving upfront to maximize the impact of compound interest and increase his chances of an early retirement. As he said then, “I’m saving now so I have more freedom later. I don’t want to have to work part-time in retirement to supplement my income.”

Twelve years have passed since we last talked with Nick. One has to wonder how long a 24-year-old can continue such a rigorous regiment of saving—a regiment, Nick said at the time, that others considered a little crazy, unreasonable, or impossible to maintain with all the temptations dangled in front of fresh-faced 20 somethings with so much life to live.

So, the big question now is: Was Nick’s approach sustainable? How committed has he been to his plan? To feed our curiosity, we checked in with Nick to see what his life looks like 12 years later.

Nick’s story

The fire and the fund

It can happen to anyone. This is what Amy and Spence Wagner learned on April 15, 2020, as they watched their home go up in flames.

For two hours they stood outside in the cold with nothing but the clothes on their back, watching as 27 years of memories were destroyed.

The Wagners knew their lives would never be the same and felt they couldn’t just move back into their home and let things end there. Amy explains, “We both really believe in paying it forward. We learned so much from our experience that we really believed we were in a good position to help others who go through the same thing. “

The idea of paying it forward materialized into the creation of the Wagner Family Fire Fund.

Amy and Spence’s story

Q&A with Joanna Rizzotto

The first thing you notice about Joanna Rizzotto is her smile. You can’t help but be drawn in. She is shrouded in an aura of positive energy.

It’s been five years since Joanna shared why she chose to have a 403(b) with us and why she appreciated the access to financial information that we provide, but her hug and cheery greeting are familiar—it’s like meeting up with an old friend.

In our final member story for Member Benefits’ 50th anniversary, we catch up with Joanna as she reflects on her passion for teaching, love for her students, concerns about her profession, and hope for the future.

Joanna’s story