Retiring Your Way: Start Saving Now!


We sit down with Marcia VanderWoude, founder of Savvy Women, to talk about her experiences in trying to teach the value of retirement planning.



0:00:06.9 Lynne Jarman-Johnson: Money, I’m Home, welcome in. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union, and we have everything from finance to fitness on this podcast. And today, it’s a little bit of everything but mainly finance. Marcia VanderWoude is with us today. She’s a financial advisor. She’s also a wonderful member of Consumers and the owner of Savvy Women Enterprises, LLC. Marcia, thanks for being with us today.

0:00:31.9 Speaker 2: Thank you for having me.

0:00:33.2 LJJ: Well, I am so excited because a while back, you shared with me a financial education kit called SAV that’s based from Savvy Women, and it is an amazing kit to really help everybody get on the right track to get their finances in order. I don’t think there’s a better time than now. Marcia, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

0:00:57.1 Speaker 2: I started at Merrill Lynch in 1980, and I was one of two women there. It was a rather difficult environment for women. [chuckle]

0:01:07.3 LJJ: Wow.

0:01:08.6 S2: But I formed a great partnership, about five years after I joined the firm. I formed a great partnership with a man named Dick Norton. He was fabulous. We had a great business together. We developed a very large institutional business where we had pension funds and foundations, and so on, and then we also had individual clients. As a result of having institutional clients, I traveled all over the country, meeting money managers that we brought in to our clients. And that was a great experience. After many years in the business, I decided to retire when I was 60 years old, and that’s 17 years ago.

0:01:50.5 LJJ: You literally retired, but decided, I’m going to stick to helping people learn.

0:01:56.8 S2: So, I first wrote my book, Savvy Women Smart Choices in 2004 and published it myself in 2005. Then after that, I got a little bit bored, so I went to Grand Valley and I said I would like to teach for you. So, I brought in my book and I brought in this kit that I now have, and so they called me the next winter (I still go to California every winter). So, they called me the next winter and said, “Can you start next fall?” So that was 2007. So, I’ve been teaching there ever since. Now my class is going online, so I’m doing videos and that kind of thing now to make part of my class.

0:02:44.3 LJJ: So, Marcia, this is really interesting. Here you are. Do you mind if I ask your age?

0:02:49.2 S2: 77.

0:02:49.8 LJJ: So, you’re 77 years old. You’ve already had a wonderful career. You’ve retired. You now really have a passion for teaching others how to get really focused on making their financial life the best it can be.

0:03:04.5 S2: Right.

0:03:05.5 LJJ: All of a sudden COVID hits. You’re a professor, and do you… Are you comfortable with technology, enough?

0:03:14.5 S2: No. [chuckle]

0:03:15.5 LJJ: It is such a fascinating story. So, what are you doing? How are you learning? And who’s helping you?

0:03:22.6 S2: Well, I went through the certification training at Grand Valley in June, and I had an IT person with me the whole time. So, we have developed my whole course online. It’s all there.

0:03:35.5 LJJ: Wow.

0:03:36.9 S2: Except I need to make about 10 more videos. So, we started out, my course starts out with cash management, moves into all the different kinds of investments: mutual funds, stocks, ETFs, insurance, property casualty…

0:03:52.1 LJJ: You literally go from what everybody really needs to know for their everyday life.

0:03:58.3 S2: Yes, every single thing that I teach is necessary at some point in your life. So like for long-term care insurance, the ideal age to buy that is about 55, but I teach it to them anyway because their grandparents may need it right now, and so on and so forth, and I also, I end my course with estate planning. So, we go through all the four documents that are needed, in fact, I make them do their own estate plan as well, [chuckle] using Legal Zoom documents. And it’s great; it’s the most practical class that they’ve ever taken in their lives, and I believe it should be required in all high schools, in all colleges, and so… That’s my battle. It’s so hard. And then there’s a couple of other things that prevent people from learning things. One is procrastination, and the other is they don’t think they’re going to die. So…

0:05:00.6 LJJ: Yeah, that’s a great question. Do you think that’s changed because of COVID, where all of a sudden it feels like this is a potential life-threatening disease, or do you think still people are just putting up the blinders?

0:05:13.5 S2: Exactly, they still are. So I’ve been giving retreats for a few years at my home on Lake Michigan, because it’s a great environment for people to just relax and listen to the waves and learn all this stuff in which I go through the whole binder. What we do first is we take a personal financial profile. So, we record everything that they own and everything that they owe. Then we do a written budget looking back six months to a year to see what they actually spend. I teach about getting a good credit score by using credit cards, and now my new card with you, my new debit card with you, which I love. So, you saw that video, I believe.

0:06:00.3 LJJ: It’s absolutely, yeah, wonderful, Marcia. You really have a wonderful way of explaining in everyday language, and you’re also very… And I don’t mean this in a negative, I mean it in a very positive. You’re very strategic in how… Your pace, your pace, it’s easy to listen to versus being fast and not understanding, and… It’s really well done.

0:06:25.3 S2: Thank you, I really appreciate that. And I enjoy it so much, I just love when I see the lightbulb go on about understanding something. So, I do have six YouTube videos as well now, and two of them are on options. And I love that subject; it’s so much fun. I have one with Shelly Irwin, and I’m selling naked puts. And she said… [chuckle] She laughed about that. And I have another one with a professor from Cornerstone, because he was really interested in using this technique for his own portfolio. So, I love teaching those kinds of things. Bonds surprisingly are the hardest things for people to understand. Bond prices. How bond prices fluctuate, but that the coupon, which is the interest, stays the same. So…

0:07:24.4 LJJ: Yeah. It is. I can see then how where you start to teach, and you can see when the lightbulb goes on. Do you think that it isn’t because people don’t want to learn, it’s because of what you just said. There’s confusion. And so people don’t want to act like they don’t know.

0:07:40.8 S2: Well, I recently sold one of these kits to a friend of mine. And she looked at it, she took it out, she paged through it. She said, “This is daunting.”

0:07:50.0 LJJ: Daunting, yes.

0:07:52.7 S2: She’s even in the financial business.

0:07:55.4 LJJ: And yet your kit is a step-by-step-by-step-by-step guide.

0:08:00.4 S2: Correct.

0:08:00.6 LJJ: So, let’s start with someone who is just starting out, and give me a… What is it that you think are the top two things that they should automatically… If they don’t have, they should look into, and also, where should their savings be at this juncture?

0:08:20.8 S2: Okay. First of all, I tell them they need three to six months liquid cash in their Consumers Credit Union account for emergencies.

0:08:27.3 LJJ: Love it.

0:08:31.0 S2: Secondly, to my students who are in their 20s, usually 20, 21, 22, I have a lot of juniors and seniors, they… I recommend that they immediately start looking at life insurance, both term and permanent, because it’s never going to get cheaper. And it also guarantees that they will not ever be uninsurable. So, some disease could come along and then they wouldn’t be able to get insurance. So, I recommend that. And then I also recommend that they buy a house as soon as possible.

0:09:04.0 LJJ: So, there are mixed emotions on that with buying a house when you’re young. But you’re saying absolutely, jump into the waters.

0:09:13.0 S2: Well, not necessarily. Only if they’re going to live some place for five years or longer.

0:09:18.3 LJJ: Okay, okay.

0:09:19.5 S2: In other words, if they’re going to get a job in California next year, I’d say wait till you get to California, then buy a house.

0:09:27.0 LJJ: Our son is 22, and he has a great job and went over to the east side of the state. And the first thing he did was purchase a house, and he’s thrilled. So, it’s been a journey. And it’s funny, 22. I’m so proud of the fact that that was something that he felt was really important to him. And it’s just such a young age right now, you think, but really it’s a smart move.

0:09:55.1 S2: Absolutely, absolutely.

0:09:57.3 LJJ: Well, Marcia, what other tips can you give especially … let’s now look at people who are at the end of the spectrum, they’re older. You mentioned long-term care insurance, you think about 55. Obviously, we are not giving recommendations for anybody today. That’s not our role.

0:10:15.2 S2: No.

0:10:15.8 LJJ: It’s just to listen from an expert just to hear what you’re saying.

0:10:20.6 S2: Just guidelines, general guidelines about various ages, what you should be doing at various ages. I also believe that they should start a Roth IRA right away as well, and participate in a 401(k) or 403(b), whatever their employer offers, to do all those things together—to put some into this and some into this and some into that bucket.

0:10:44.8 LJJ: And really learn about what each dollar is doing.

0:10:48.0 S2: Absolutely. And know the risks of what you’re buying. For example, Warren Buffet said this morning that the market is really overvalued right now, and it’s very risky. And he knows. [chuckle]

0:11:02.3 LJJ: Yeah. Yup.

0:11:04.9 S2: But dollar-cost averaging is the best technique for accumulating wealth. So, it would be you put in $50 a month into your 401(k). And then so as the market fluctuates, as the mutual fund goes down that you’re buying, you buy more shares. So [with] dollar-cost averaging, you end up with a higher amount at the end, because you’re getting the highs and the lows and nobody can really time the market to begin with. So…

0:11:29.9 LJJ: And it’s a long-term play. You’re not…

0:11:32.5 S2: It absolutely is. It absolutely is.

0:11:35.4 LJJ: That’s so neat, Marcia. You are such an interesting, lovely person. And the fact that you now share your information back with others is great. How can people get your book and get in touch with you?

0:11:50.2 S2: Savvywomen@gmail.com is my email address. And they can email me and order some. If they’re out of town, I can ship it to them.

0:12:01.2 LJJ: Well, thank you so much, and you just have a…

0:12:03.7 S2: Thank you.

0:12:04.0 LJJ: You have a wonderful time in California. I know you’re getting ready to head there.

0:12:08.4 S2: Thank you so much. I sure appreciate being here.

0:12:11.2 LJJ: Money, I’m Home, from finance to fitness. Thank you, Jake Esselink, for your production skills today, and we hope that you have a wonderful week. If you have any topics you’d like to share, just send them our way. We would love to hear from you. And I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union.


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