Charting a Course To Save for Your Dreams

Leonardo Rasaki

No matter where you are in your career journey, you will find valuable information on managing your money and saving for retirement during Financial Fitness Week from September 12-15. 

After a pause due to the pandemic, the series of live virtual workshops on a range of personal finance topics will give staff and faculty an opportunity to get advice from financial experts from Fidelity Investments,  Duke Credit Union, and Lincoln Financial Group.

“There’s something for everybody, from the people who aren’t yet contributing to their retirement, to the people who are close to retiring, and the people who are contributing but may be a little nervous navigating a volatile market,” said Alan Collins, a financial consultant with Fidelity Investments, the primary record keeper for Duke’s faculty and staff retirement plan.

This year’s edition of Financial Fitness Week, which is organized by Duke Human Resources, features 16 live webinars on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, covering topics for people at any career stage. Registration for all sessions is open. Materials will be made available on the Financial Fitness Week website the week of September 19. 

For younger workers, Financial Fitness Week offers workshops on understanding Duke’s retirement plans, managing money, and building credit history. According to Fidelity’s 2022 State of Retirement Planning study, 55 percent of workers age 18-35 said they put their retirement savings on hold during the pandemic, something Collins said is a concern.

“If you’re in your 20s, retirement can seem far away, so you think you can push it off,” Collins said. “But the reality is that you’re going to be so much better off if you get started by contributing something now. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it has to be something to get you started, and then you can build on it every year.”

Mid-career employees can learn about navigating market volatility, reaching savings goals, and determining the appropriate amount of life insurance. 

David Poe, 53, a manager with the Patient Revenue Management Organization, began contributing to the Faculty and Staff Retirement Plan when he began working at Duke nine years ago. While the market has endured its ups and downs, he’s continued increasing his contribution amount and is always looking for insights on how to maximize his savings.

“Obviously there are kinks in the market over time and things can happen to impede your ability to save and even delay your retirement, but I think the main lesson I’ve taken from everything is that the earlier you get started, the better off you’re going to be,” Poe said.

Employees who are nearing retirement – 55-and-older – can learn how to turn their savings into retirement income, discover strategies for planning their retirement and hear about the Duke retiree benefits they’ll be able to use. 

Ann Yandian While she’s built her retirement savings over decades in the workforce, 58-year old Ann Yandian, a program manager with the Bolch Judicial Institute at the Duke University Law School, knows that it’s still vitally important to keep contributing as much as possible to her plan.

“At this point, I’m in no hurry to retire, but for me, it’s becoming more and more critical to give the most I can to my future retirement,” Yandian said. “And compared to other places I’ve worked, Duke just surpasses what other employers have done.”

Duke’s Faculty and Staff Retirement Plan, a 403(b) plan that involves voluntary employee contributions, as well as a contribution from Duke for monthly paid eligible employees, is an effective way to build retirement savings. Among eligible monthly employees, 73 percent contribute to their plan. That figure has ticked down slightly as 77 percent contributed in 2012 and 75 percent contributed in 2015.

Eligible bi-weekly employees are enrolled in Duke’s Employees’ Retirement Plan (ERP), which is a pension plan fully funded by Duke. These employees can voluntarily participate in the Faculty and Staff Retirement Plan to add their own money to their retirement savings. Currently, around 45 percent of eligible biweekly employees do that. That figure has improved over time as 31 percent contributed in 2012.

“Our employees are saving more than the industry benchmarks show, but we like to see as many employees as possible saving – even if it’s just a small amount,” said Duke Human Resources Associate Director of Benefits Johanna Zawada.

Beyond Financial Fitness Week, all Duke employees can arrange, at no additional cost, confidential consultations – virtual and in-person – with Fidelity local representatives to discuss budgeting, setting financial goals and saving for retirement.

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