I don’t have all the ducks in a row, but it feels like I’ve put some good effort in and I have less fear, definitely, about what’s to come. I feel more like, ‘Okay, I’ve dealt with some of the particulars about retirement and stuff.’ I think there is less stress around it, for sure. [You have to] be open, say I need help with this stuff.

Ted participates in Prepare + Prosper’s Money Mentors financial coaching and free tax preparation programs. His financial coach, Jane, referred him to a certified financial planner (CFP) to discuss his retirement plan. For Ted, having a space to talk openly about money and finances is important to him. Getting the chance to sit down with a CFP and plan for retirement was key.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is complicated to retire and asking questions is very important…When I met with other people, [talking openly about money] was part of the group process. It was normal to be stressed about money or have challenges.

Learning from fellow Money Mentors participants

I remember the one group session, there was a woman that came in and said, ‘you do this for us.’ She brought in her bills and had a photo copied page for each one. She knew ‘this amount of money goes to this,’ ‘this amount of money goes to that.’ [I saw] how people dealt with the realities of paying bills. It was, for me, pushing against ‘just figure it out on your own, don’t talk about money.’ The group was a way to push back against that idea.

Talking with other Money Mentors participants helped Ted feel more comfortable sharing about his own finances and plan for retirement. Growing up, his family did not talk openly about money.

When I met with other people, [talking honestly] was part of the group process. It was normal to be stressed about money or have challenges. That was the other part about P+P that was nice to see, this is what other people are trying to do. I’m not that much different from other people that have goals or want to make goals or feel stress about money.

Making decisions and navigating the emotional aspects of money and finances is challenging. Like so many, Ted manages multiple things to make ends meet on a low wage. With the help of his coach, Ted was able to prepare a monthly budget and look to the future, which was no small feat.

Ted describes himself as living a simple lifestyle where his modest income provides what he needs when supplemented with health and food support. If Ted’s income increases, even just slightly, he experiences the “cliff effect,” like many people in his income range do. That is, he risks no longer qualifying for benefits that would cost more than he could afford out-of-pocket, even with an increase in earnings.

In working with Jane, his coach, Ted was able to map out his situation on paper. He created a monthly budget—including his sources of income and expenses, as well as the parameters he’s operating within for benefits. While creating the budget with Jane, Ted also wrote down his 35-year retirement plan and sorted through his social security benefits.

Passing down financial lessons

Growing up, Ted did not have conversations about money with his parents.

When [my mom] finally started working when we were growing up, she said ‘I just pay some bills because your dad won’t talk about it.’…I got the sense that she was getting by, it was more about ‘make it look good,’ don’t let anyone know if you’re stressing out about it. There was secrecy about money, basically.

Ted started working at an early age, first with a paper route and lawn mowing, to working throughout college. That said, he experienced a secrecy around money and finances that affected him well into adulthood.

I learned to work and make money and spend money. Later on, it was ‘pay the bills.’ I was kind of just pushed to work, but there was never an explanation about it. I was taught that money is a personal thing and don’t talk about it. Just take care of things, somehow.

Now, he wants to change this experience for his kids. It is important that they feel comfortable talking about money and set up for success.

I feel like with my 22-year-old, there’s things that I’d like to share with her and teach her some things about…even though I’m conscious of it, I carry on the feeling of not talking about it. There’s definitely some lessons about earning and saving I want to pass on to her… Be more straightforward about talking about money. That was not something I grew up with. Any chance to be out about your money situation is mostly a good thing.

On New Year’s Eve, Ted spent time researching the dos and don’ts of retirement and started seriously planning.

I can pass on ‘here are the things I regret not doing or things I would have done differently.’ You have to put a little energy toward [your finances] because it can affect a lot of things in your life… Not that money is the most important thing, but it can affect a lot of things in your life.