Success Story: Zachary DeVine
After seeing firsthand the effect poor financial planning for retirement can have, Zachary DeVine is determined that his golden years will be different.
"My goal is to have a comfortable nest egg in the next 25 years," says Zachary, 29, a public information officer who lives in San Jose, Calif.
That wasn't always the case.
Four years ago, Zachary began contributing to his 457 plan -- a retirement plan similar to a 401(k) for U.S. government employees.
But "it was a minuscule amount back then" -- about $50 a month, he says.
"I thought I needed the money for something else, but really it just went to -- who knows what," notes Zachary, who jokes that he's a member of the "Olympic spending team" and can splurge with the best.
Actually, most of it likely went to his greatest weakness: spur-of-the-moment travel.
That's typically not the cheapest way to vacation, Zachary admits. And considering he and his wife, Rita, took a trip every other month or so, the costs added up quickly.
In addition, the couple enjoyed going out a lot with friends.
"I'm sure more than a fair share went to that as well," Zachary adds.
But two years ago, Zachary changed his ways -- and bumped his 457 contributions to 10%.
That's when his parents' business, a small video store that was once a community staple, started taking a major hit from video-on-demand systems and other new technologies.
And that's also when he started helping them out, including buying one of their rental properties.
"I try to convince them that they need to start saving right now," he says. "At 55, I'm not sure my mom is really listening to me."
Last March, Zachary pushed up his contribution again, to 20%.
Because the increase lowered his tax exposure, he hasn't noticed too much of a difference in his paycheck. He estimates that for $160 less each month, he's saving about $210 for future success.
To adjust, the DeVines have cut back on travel -- only one major trip in 2008 -- as well as impulse purchases.
"My lifestyle changed little," Zachary says. "We still travel, we still eat out, we still enjoy spending time with friends. It's just not as extravagant as it once was."
When Rita finishes her degree in commercial interior design this winter, the couple plans to start another retirement fund for her as well as a safety net savings account.
"Our situation will only get better," Zachary says.
He offers these tips for anyone starting to save for retirement:
- Start saving -- anywhere, anyhow. "That old saying that you need to pay yourself first really rings true. If you have it pulled right out of your paycheck, you'll never even know it was missing."
- Examine what you spend money on. Zachary and Rita now look for good deals when grocery shopping and fuel up at Costco -- "really minor things, but when added, it made this savings possible."
- You likely won't miss the extras. Zachary has found he can skimp with the best of them, too. "It was more of an attitude adjustment than anything."
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