What I’m Asking My Financial Planner

I’ve been reading about early retirement for 3 years now, and I finally feel like I understand enough about it to ask my financial planner some specific questions. My main goal is to have the option of retiring at age 54, which is about 10 years from now.  I know it’s a ways off, but I’m not a terribly high earner, so it’ll take some time to save what I need to supplement my pension.

I wrote my financial planner the following email prepping her for our appointment. I’ve changed or shortened names and identifying info since I’m still anonymous. The changes are italicized.

The email:

Hi N,

I have some information and questions I wanted to share before our appointment. I don’t necessarily need you to email me the responses, though. I am just wanting to show you what I’m thinking so that you can let me know what materials I should bring to our meeting.

My primary goal is to have the option to retire or move into a new career in about 10 years, when I’ll have 30 years into the Retirement system. I talked with a customer service rep at Retirement System and I’d have to work for 36 years to receive the full benefit of 80% of my salary (I think it’s 80% of the average of my last few years’ pay). I don’t know what % of my pay I’d receive at 30 years. The calculator says 73%, or $3,650 per month.

As I understand it, when I am 4 years away from being eligible for retirement (6 years from now), I can meet with a Retirement System rep in person and we see what formula (out of a few options) would work best for me. I won’t know for sure, then, what % I could receive until my meeting in 2024.

One note to add is that I could retire at 29 years instead of 30 if I accumulate 1 year’s worth of sick leave. I just about have that much now, so in 10 years, unless something major happens, I should have that year of sick leave. The only rule I’d have to follow is that I’d have to retire within 60 days of my last day of work. From what I understand, I couldn’t get another job that used SURS or some reciprocal something-or-other and wait to later to pull my pension.

My main questions here then are: do you see any problems with me pulling a pension at that time (at age 53 or 54)? Would there be any down sides to starting to pull a pension so early? Also, will I pay income tax on my pension? Yes, right?

I also asked if there were health care options upon my retirement, and they said it would depend on the college. So it’s not Retirement System that provides the health care, it’d be My College. The person said I’d probably be eligible for health care from My College after retirement. I’d have to ask them.

I currently have 115K in my Retirement System retirement account. I’m not sure what that number means. I know I’d get less than that if I took the money out early because of a penalty. I think that maybe that’s the amount I would get if I didn’t retire from My College or left My College before I was eligible to retire. I should also receive a 3% cost of living increase each January after I retire.

That’s all the info about Retirement System, I believe. Now, my 403B… I put in 250 per pay check, so 500 a month into the pre-tax 403B, and 20 per pay check, 40 per month in an after tax 403B (I think it’s like a Roth). I just wanted to see how the after tax would work, so I decided to put a little money into it. My 403B currently has 69,429 in it. I have “American Funds 2040.” I’m not sure if I can change this, but if I can, should I since I hope to retire in 2028? Also, I wonder what your thoughts are about how much I’m putting into my 403B. I’m guessing I should up the amount as much as I can, and I will get a raise soon, so I’ll do that soon, but I wonder how much is enough?

I have 21,500 in my “old” 403B. My College changed vendors or something, so that money is still there. I just don’t contribute to it anymore. It still accumulates interest.

I have no idea how to calculate what my 403B money will be in 10 years, but I need to leave it until I am 59 ½ anyway right? Is there an amount of money I should shoot for in terms of my 403B?

I think my current plan, then, is to live off of my pension only, or my pension plus a part time job, or a different job from the time I’m either 53 (If I use that year of sick time to take retirement a year early) or 54 until 59 ½. Then at 59 ½, I can pull from my 403B.

One of my main questions is should I continue to contribute as much as I can to my 403B or should I try to save up some money to possibly supplement my pension from age 54 to 59 ½? I read a bunch of early retirement blogs and people seem to invest in low-fee index funds and plan to live off of those (along with traditional savings accounts, I think) until they are able to pull from their 401Ks.

My overarching question is: is this a solid plan? And/or what do I need to do, and/or how much do I need to put aside in order to be able to fulfill this plan of being able to retire at 53/54?

Should I try to figure out what health care will cost? I have no idea if I’ll need to cover Mr. POAI in retirement or if I will be allowed to via the health care I could purchase from My College.

Mr POAI’s and my current shared budget is 3264 a month. I contribute 1764, and about 100/150 more for Mr. POAI’s health insurance. I am writing this because at my most minimum, I think I could live off of 24,000 a year, health care insurance not included at least at this point.

Here are the documents I put aside so far:

  • Our 2017 taxes
  • My last 403B statements

I can bring my tablet to be able to have access to:

  • My Personal Capitol account; it wouldn’t tell you a whole lot more than I said here except for Mr. POAI’s and my cash reserves which are pretty small.
  • Retirement System
  • Income Taxes

Oh yeah, another note… We have 65K left to pay on our house, which is valued at between 140 and 150K. I plan to have that paid off in 10 years so I wouldn’t have a mortgage when I retired.

I am wondering if there’s anything else I should bring to our meeting based on my questions. I always get to your office thinking I have everything and then you ask for something simple that I could have brought but didn’t.

Thank you so much, N!

I look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.


Now that you have read the whole email and thus my plan, what do you think? Am I on the right path? What questions would you have for me or what questions do you think I should ask my planner? 

Let me know in the comments below.

Peace Out (and In),































Hi Nancy,


I hope tax season went well for you. When I called you in February to make an appointment, you asked that I wait to call you until after tax season.


I am wondering what information you need and/or what materials I should bring to our meeting based on my following questions.



  1. What do I need to do to be able to retire on 12/1/2028?

(I have my SURS info)


Should I take money out right away?


Where should I be putting my money now if I want to retire early (at 54, not 59 ½)?


Right now am I on track to retire on time?


How should we save for Jon for retirement?

Are there special plans for small business owners?




  • Questions for SURS

SURS 217-378-8800

Called at 11:50 am on Monday 4-16-18

  1. I was listening to “From Here to Retirement” presentation.

One of the slides says, Tier 1 members reach 80% (of the average of their last years of their salary) at 36.364 years.  Is this only if not reach 30 years?

     If it is even if reaching 30 years, then what would my % be?


Under general formula, that’s what it is. Under the general formal, I’d get a full 80% if I stayed 36 years. What % you get depends on what formula you use. (I think that during your 4 year out meeting (4 years before eligible to retire), you meet with a SURS person and see what formula works best for you.


  1. Can you tell me how I got my certification Date of 1/20/1998? Was this my first day at Special Olympics? As a tutor at HCC?


My employer set this date. I’m guessing its special Olympics. If it was, though, do I get full credit for grad school? If not, then some time would have to have been taken away.


Could I call SOILL to see my dates of employment? If not, I’m sure I have record of it somewhere. I’m just not sure where.


I wonder if it’s Dining Services.

I emailed with ISU Human Services and it looks like my first day at Dining Services is Feb 2, 1998 and I was an Office Support Associate. They thought maybe I was extra help before that. I remember the term “extra help”. (2-2-98 to 8-13-99)


  1. I was working on saving up 1 year of sick days so that I could retire one year early, but I heard in the “From Here to Retirement” presentation that I have to work within 60 days of age 55 to get that 1 year of sick leave counted. Is that correct? Would there be any benefit long term, to staying until I’m 55 (and adding that year, if I already hit 30 years in SURS?


Have to retire within 60 days of my last day of work and then I can use the 1 year of sick leave. I think that she said I could have 29 years and as long as I started pulling benefits right away, I could count that year of sick leave.


Someone might delay retirement and not take it right away after leaving HCC if they had a reciprocal plan. I’m thinking if I went and worked somewhere else I wouldn’t draw retirement right away. Then I wouldn’t be able to get the year of sick time.


  1. Do I have the option of drawing on my retirement right away or waiting? What’s the difference? Ex: would I get more from waiting?


I think this is answered in number 3 above.



  1. Are there health care options upon retirement or will I be responsible for my own health care after retirement?


Depends on college, would probably be eligible for them. I would ask HCC:

Am I eligible as retiree, then I would look at benefits choices. It’d be for medical, dental and vision.


  1. What is the money that I currently see on the SURS web site? Is that if I took a “pay out” and didn’t retire from HCC?


I’m still unsure about what the money from the SURS web site is. I wouldn’t get that full amount if I took it out early. People usually use that money within 4 to 6 years of retirement, the woman said. But I’d still get money after that money ran out.


In traditional, I’d get it for monthly basis.


3% cost of living increase each January



Questions for Nancy Armstrong:


Now that I have my SURS questions answered, at least some of them in part, I can brainstorm questions for Nancy Armstrong. And eventually Diane.


  1. What do I need to do to be able to retire on 12/1/2028?


What money will I live off of?
55 to 59 ½ 59 ½
Use Roth 403B? Start using 403B?
Use Pension (which is SURS)

What % will I get if I retire at 55?

It looks like my max is 80%.

Today I found out that in the traditional plan 80% is after 36 years. I have notes that say at 30 years I’ll get 40-60% of my salary as a pension. If I put it in the calculator, it said I’d get 69%.


I don’t know what is taken off if I retire before 65. I’m sure I have it written down though. 80% of 55K is 44K. Divided by 12: 4583 for 55K, 3666 if 44K, that’s about 1K difference a month.





(What should I be doing to be able to retire early/transition to a lower-paying job?

If I have extra money, what should I be doing with it?)













Called SURS

Is my SURS a Money Purchase Pension ?

  • I’ll be able to retire at 30 years.
  • There is no age penalty


Depending on the year . . . (I’m not sure why it is depending on the year)

Under the general plan formula with 30 yrs of service, I could be between 40-60% of my salary.

If Money Purchase formula, it’d be 80% of my salary.


I’m eligible for a retirement counseling apt on 12-1-2024, which is about 8 years from now J.


Wow if I were only eligible to receive 40% of my salary at 30 years, that would suck.



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