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Retiring early: Right on schedule

In 2011, after 33 years as a Physical Education teacher in the Waukesha School District, Ken Seemann retired at age 55. Right on schedule. “I loved working with kids, but I have a lot of interests and hobbies, and I always wanted to be able retire at 55 so I could do some of the things I enjoy.”

your$ magazine Spring 2013Unlike many recently retired educators statewide, Ken did not retire early because of Act 10 and the pressures related to changing retiree benefits. The key, he says, is self-discipline and a commitment to save for the future.

Ken shares his best advice, lessons learned, and resources that helped him make it happen.

Childhood lessons

Ken’s discipline and attitudes about finances can be traced to his youth. He was one of five children raised by a single mom who struggled to support her family. “I grew up with an understanding of financial insecurity. I was very aware of how my mom struggled to support me and my four sisters.”

One of the biggest influences on his young life came from his mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. “My mom set me up with a Big Brother because of the lack of a male role model in my life. He was an entrepreneur and talked a lot about how you had to put something aside for yourself before you started buying houses and cars. He said sticking money into a savings account wasn’t enough. You had to invest in the American economy and be in for the long haul. That message stuck with me.” Having received this advice, Ken made a choice early on to make saving a priority.

“I’ve always been independent in a lot of ways,” Ken said. “My mom died shortly after I graduated from high school and I grew up knowing I had to be self-reliant.”

Ken in workshopPay yourself first…then choose to save more

Ken was a great saver. From his very first paycheck he started putting money into a 403(b) on the advice of an older friend and colleague who said, ‘no matter what you do, pay yourself first.’ “He gave me a little pamphlet to keep with me as a reminder. It really resonated with me because of my background. From the very beginning I started putting money away even though I was making only about $400 every two weeks.” He started contributing $25 of every paycheck into a 403(b) and faithfully increased his contributions until he was maxing out. “Payroll deduction made it easy. I didn't miss the money and every quarter I would get those satisfying statements to show my progress. It was good incentive to increase my contributions. Two years before I retired, I was maxing out at $22,000.”