Enjoy Travel

HerMoney Podcast: Travel Savings Secrets From An Instagram Influencer (Episode 170)

Kelly Hultgren  |  July 17, 2019

You know those people on Instagram who are always traveling to fabulous places, making you question a number of things like: How do they make it work? How do they afford it? And why aren’t you doing the SAME thing?!

Or is that just us? This week we’re getting all of the answers — and travel savings secrets — from Rachel Rudwall, an Emmy-nominated on-camera host and producer, who has traveled to all seven continents, lived in three countries and journeyed through nearly 70 nations — all on a limited budget. She’s got millions of airline miles and she knows how to use them. In Mailbag, we answer your questions on pensions and other retirement savings strategies. And, in Thrive, how to make the most of your travel rewards credit card.

This podcast is proudly supported by Fidelity Investments. You work too hard for what you earn to let it sit on the sidelines. Let Fidelity show you how to demand more from your money. Learn more at Fidelity.com/HerMoney. Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC Member NYSE, SIPC.

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. Posts may contain references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

Transcript

Jean Chatzky: (00:07)
HerMoney is supported by Fidelity Investments. We want you to demand more from your money. So start by knowing what you own and what you ow. We’ll help you take the next step at fidelity.com/demand morenow. HerMoney comes to you through PRX. Hey everybody, it’s Jean Chatzky. Welcome to HerMoney. So we’re heading into vacation season, which means we’re seeing more and more of those people on Instagram who always seem to be traveling to fabulous places, making you question a number of things. Like, how do they make it work? How do they afford it? Why aren’t you doing just the same thing? Or if you aren’t thinking those things, well you will be after you meet my next guest. I was giving a talk at Miami University of Ohio and I met Rachel Rudwall. She is an Emmy-nominated host and producer. She has traveled to all seven continents, lived in three countries, journeyed through 70 nations, all on a limited budget. She loves dropping herself into far away places to share their stories. So if you’ve ever been wondering what it’s like to climb Kilimanjaro, to paraglide with a hawk, which I’m told is called parahawking, to ice climb while simultaneously shooting a PBS show, or to scuba dive cage free with bull sharks, Rachel is the woman to ask. We love this. She likes the stuff that makes palms sweaty and brains explode with inspiration. Rachel, welcome to HerMoney. It’s nice to see you again.

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Rachel Rudwall: (01:58)
Thanks. It’s great to connect. Also, if you’ve never wondered what it’s like to climb Kilimanjaro or scuba dive with sharks, that’s fine too. We’re all invited to the conversation.

Jean Chatzky: (02:08)
Absolutely. Mostly I wonder what it’s like to be on a beach with a margarita. Does that make me an outlier?

Rachel Rudwall: (02:14)
I from time to time wonder the same thing. So.

Jean Chatzky: (02:19)
So you were jet-setting way before Instagram, you were jet setting way before Twitter. You made it work, as I said, on limited money. How’d you get into this?

Rachel Rudwall: (02:29)
It’s interesting because I grew up in small town Ohio and anybody who grows up in a small town or in what’s considered a flyover state probably does not have a ton of access to the world beyond their community or even their state. But I knew I wanted to see things as soon as I found out about publications like national geographic magazine. My mom is a world history teacher. My dad did some kind of on the cheap Vagabonding when he was young. So I always had a sense that there was a world. But when I went to college, I knew I was going to be paying for my own school through loans and scholarships and I figured I wanted to make those dollars stretch as far as I could. So I studied international studies and foreign languages and that was a really good excuse to study abroad a couple of times.

Jean Chatzky: (03:23)
Gotcha. So you started when you were just a student, when you were an undergrad student seeing the world.

Rachel Rudwall: (03:31)
I did. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s a really great way if you go to university to start to participate in the greater world, because a lot of the time, if you’re studying abroad, it’s going to cost the exact same thing as if you’re studying in the US, sometimes it’s even cheaper.

Jean Chatzky: (03:46)
And you said you didn’t grow up traveling because traveling costs money. Explain.

Rachel Rudwall: (03:52)
Yeah. Well, anybody who has tried to save up for a vacation will understand how challenging that can be because you’ve got to really prioritize differently. And there might be times where it’s just not available to you. And when I was growing up, my family had debt. So debt makes it even harder, of course, to amass the resources that you need. And I grew up with brothers, so there were three kids, and to buy plane tickets for five people, especially if you have debt, that was just not a possibility. What I came to realize is as I hustled to build my own path and to earn my own money, I really valued being able to use those funds to take the adventures that I had always wanted to take. So for me, that kind of origin story, that money story, has translated directly into the ways that I really value spending what I save or what I earn.

Jean Chatzky: (04:50)
How did you turn traveling as a pastime into traveling as a career?

Rachel Rudwall: (04:56)
Great question. I did not realize growing up that this notion of storytelling could be a professional path. When I was in college, I thought maybe I would work for a nongovernmental organization doing charity work overseas or I would work for the UN because those, for me, that was as far as my imagination could take me for the possibilities of, “okay, what can I do to get paid and live overseas and do some good along the way?” However, I had an internship for a travel company between my junior and senior years of college that instructed me to go around the world to 15 countries and create media with the goal of inspiring other people to travel. I was blogging, I was creating videos before YouTube was around. These videos actually lived on iTunes and they were called video podcasts.

Jean Chatzky: (05:54)
Interesting. Yeah.

Rachel Rudwall: (05:56)
Which is funny because now we just call them videos. So the job that I had then made it abundantly clear to me that there was this whole realm of possibilities that I’d never considered. And what I ended up doing is going back to college for that final year of school and deciding I want to work in media with an emphasis on travel content or international content. And I really had to hustle from there to learn as much as I could online and to reach out to people on platforms like LinkedIn and say, “your work as a documentarian inspires me” or “I love what you’re doing as a travel show host. I would love to offer support or help if ever you need it.”

Jean Chatzky: (06:38)
And were they, those people that you’ve reached out to, were they, were they receptive. For those of us who haven’t seen you on air? I mean, how far did it take you?

Rachel Rudwall: (06:48)
Those people were incredibly receptive. What amazed me is I thought, “okay, if I send, I don’t know a hundred emails over the course of this senior year of college and I hear from five people, that will be a major success because that’s five more people who can teach me or share their wisdom, their experiences with me than before.” And what really amazed me is how many people reached out and said, “yes, I’m willing to take the time.” Whether it was 15 minutes on a phone call or an hour over coffee if I happened to be passing through their city. And all of these people distilled their wisdom in such a way that they really granted me access to a path that I had not studied for, which was working in media. And those same people ended up becoming major allies. They became, eventually, colleagues, mentors. So when I was asking to share a conversation, the beauty of that became I could learn if someone were willing to share and I’m eternally grateful to those people who shared. But also I wasn’t asking for a job. I wasn’t saying, “are you hiring?” Because when you do that, it creates the opportunity for just a one word answer, Essentially yes or no and it can really close that off.

Jean Chatzky: (08:06)
Can you dig into that a little bit more? ‘Cause we are just past college graduation season. There is a huge cohort of people who are looking for jobs who maybe didn’t send the letters during senior year but are sending them now. What exactly did you say that got you so many yeses and how did you say it?

Rachel Rudwall: (08:26)
The most important thing that you can possibly say in an email like this is that you’ve done your homework. You are aware that this person is busy or even much coveted and you would be grateful to share in a specific conversation with them. What I mean by that is, “Hey Jean, I absolutely love what you do to make finances accessible to women of all ages. Thank you for empowering us to take charge of our own financial futures. I am looking at getting into the world of podcasting and specifically developing a podcast that speaks to younger women about their finances. Do you have 15 minutes available for a call?” Make it specific. Show you’ve done your homework. Show that you value this person’s time because they really are doing you a massive favor if they reply. And be aware that the worst that could possibly happen is you don’t hear back. Or it’s a “no” directly or indirectly. So you really have nothing to lose. But what you want to do is not only show up for yourself, but show up for that person that you’re saying could be a value on your path. Show them that you value them and that’s a really great way to start a potential conversation, and beyond that, a relationship.

Jean Chatzky: (09:51)
Yeah, I would answer that email. Absolutely. As you took advantage of all of these wonderful conversations, you built a career. Where did it take you and where are you right now?

Rachel Rudwall: (10:04)
It has taken me many places, places that I could not have imagined. I have a pretty vivid imagination. What I hoped for, starting out on this path, storytelling, was that I would see places connect with people and cultures that were unfamiliar to me and be able to translate those things back to an audience at home to make people feel a. excited about our world and b. less afraid of the people or the places that they’re not familiar with. And that, for me, has taken many forms. It’s been exploring Antarctica surrounded by penguins, or being in the Arctic surrounded by manly men for months at a time, working on shows for History Channel and Discovery Channel, really getting to know people doing the challenging labor that makes up remote infrastructures and economies. The greatest gifts have been those human connections of being invited in to share someone’s story, to share someone’s life, and also, honestly, being reminded that I don’t matter that much. It is so great to be humbled by things that are bigger than you, whether it’s a sense of community, it’s a landscape. It is beautifully humbling to travel outside of the familiar and go, “wow, it’s so cool that I’m this tiny speck and I get to be a part of it.”

Jean Chatzky: (11:30)
Before we transition into your travel tips, which I absolutely want to get to, what advice do you have for any of our listeners who want to get paid to travel?

Rachel Rudwall: (11:42)
I think you have to know that you’re willing to sacrifice for the love of this greater path. Because I’ve reached a point where I have spent so many 18-hour days, so many sleepless nights on planes, away from loved ones. I’ve had so many times where a paycheck was uncertain as I was building the path, and that’s true of any freelancer, any entrepreneur’s path. You have to know that you love this so much that you’re willing to sacrifice creature comforts in order to build the path. And you’re a little bit crazy if that’s sounding true to you, which I can relate to because it’s true for me. I’ve been so challenged and so rewarded by this path and it’s what I’ve wanted to do deeply so that even the challenging times away from birthdays or anniversaries, I’m like, “yeah, this is the path I want to be on.”

Jean Chatzky: (12:42)
How old are you now?

Rachel Rudwall: (12:44)
33

Jean Chatzky: (12:45)
And as you’ve been on this, sometimes crazy, but always freelance or often freelance path, how have you thought about financial security? What place have you put that in?

Rachel Rudwall: (12:58)
Financial security for any freelancer or entrepreneur is tricky because it seems elusive sometimes. The media landscape in particular is pretty feast or famine. You might get five emails in one day for shows that are staffing up, as we’d call it, and then you might not get any emails for five months. So it’s one of those weird employment structures that ebbs and flows and you really have to learn to save for a rainy day. One thing that was instilled in me was how important saving for my retirement is because I knew that my parents hadn’t been able to set money aside for themselves and my mom was like, whatever you do, no matter how little you’re making and trying to make it out in LA, you should be maxing out your Roth IRA contribution every year. And so somewhere in my early to mid twenties I started maxing out my Roth IRA contributions and then once I formed my own business, I started doing SEP IRA contributions. I max them out every year. Even if I don’t know for sure that a client is going to pay on time or whatever the financial worry is for that moment, I know that I should always live within my means and stash money away, kind of squirrel it into an account that I don’t look at, so that I can consistently save and consistently plan for a better path for myself ahead.

Jean Chatzky: (14:26)
You are speaking our language. I want to take a short break just to remind everybody that conversations like these are sponsored by Fidelity Investments. Fidelity is all about helping you demand more from your money so that you can explore the life, the career, the path you want. It’s all about making your savings work as hard as you do so that you can reach your financial goals faster. That starts with a financial checkup and understanding of what you own and what you owe. And from there, Fidelity can work with you to evaluate your investment options and different ways to grow those savings. You can get started today at fidelity.com/demandmorenow. We are happily talking with travel expert Rachel Rudwall. So, our audience, as I said, is really travel happy. Let’s talk a little bit about your best money saving secrets for seeing the world for less.

Rachel Rudwall: (15:31)
Number one, if you trust yourself with a credit card, get a good rewards card and then pay it off on time every month. I mean, that’s one of my major money saving hacks in life. If you can pay off your credit card every month, do that because you’re not accruing interest, but you are gathering points. So my favorite credit card over the last number of years has always been from Chase. Currently I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, which has an extraordinary bundle of benefits for anybody who loves travel. You’re getting three points per dollar spent on travel and restaurants. You get an immediate $300 travel credit that they apply to your expenses, so you don’t have to think about it. So say you spend $3 on the metro, you spend $5 on a Lyft, and $275 on a plane ticket. All of those things are automatically reimbursed in your account. You get a credit toward global entry, which is expedited passport and customs control back into the States. You get priority pass, which is a lounge pass to over a thousand lounges in airports around the world and we all know airport food costs a lot of money. So all of those things which are included make that a card that’s really well worth it. I will say the annual fee is the highest that I’ve ever been game to pay. It’s 450 bucks a year. The only thing that got me as like a frugal saver to invest was that I knew I was immediately getting that $300 back.

Jean Chatzky: (17:03)
Yeah, that that did it for me. I have that card as well, although I do really like the fact that the American Express Platinum Card, if we’re comparing those those top notch travel cards gives you the 10 Gogo sessions for on plane wifi, which can add up to $300 each as well. But I I think the important thing is to figure out in the landscape of benefits cards, which one makes sense for you and then you’re right use it and pay it off every single month in full. How many airline miles do you have?

Rachel Rudwall: (17:40)
I have in the millions, which is, I didn’t realize that I was going to revert to the voice from Austin Powers, one million miles. They’re spread out all over different airline alliances. I was looking at an American Airlines account the other day and going, “Oh my gosh, I was on my way to a million miler status,” which is just a schmancy way of saying they give you extra benefits because you fly with them a lot.

Jean Chatzky: (18:07)
I have that.

Rachel Rudwall: (18:07)
Yeah. American Airlines was never on time. There was a period of time a few years ago, they were only on time 33% of the time, so I jumped ship and now I’m on my way to million miler status with Delta and I’m a die hard fan of what they do. But yeah, I fly a lot and I’ve now realized that that’s another way to save money is to, if you’re going to be traveling frequently for work or for play, if you consistently fly with the same airline or airline family, you gather perks that save you money, whether it’s for upgrades and you get them complimentary or you can use your miles toward lounge access. They’re all really great ways of feeling like you’re taken care of while you travel.

Jean Chatzky: (18:52)
What’s the best way to use our miles?

Rachel Rudwall: (18:55)
Well because I was showing a little love, #notsponsored though, to Chase, I realized only after a couple of years of having various Chase credit cards that if you’re booking award travel on their ultimate rewards platform, you automatically get 20% off of things like airfare. So I was having a conversation with my little brother a few years ago. He really wanted to go to Romania because that’s where his girlfriend, now wife, had grown up. She was going back for a family reunion to hang with her granny who’s a million years old and climbs trees barefoot and gets the fruit and ferments her own alcohol. And Johnny, my little brother said, I don’t have the money for a plane ticket to go to Romania. And I was like, well, hang on, I think I have 80,000 points on Chase. Let me just check out the rewards platform and see. And I went online and I realized, okay, his ticket would be 1000 bucks if I were paying cash or he were paying cash. But for whatever reason, I don’t even know how they finagle this, I could apply those 80,000 points, instead of the normal commensurate 100,000 to 1000 ticket. So I applied 80,000 points. I got a $1,000 ticket and it was like, here you go. I cleaned out my stash of points, Johnny got his ticket, nobody had to spend money on it. So I think that using points, either for a cash back option, if you’re really strapped for cash that particular month, or for travel, those are two really good ways of taking care of yourself. ‘Cause sometimes it’s hard to logically argue for taking that time away and taking that trip when you know you have other costs in life. But if you can use points to buy the plane ticket or to book the hotel, it’s a good way to take care of yourself.

Jean Chatzky: (20:45)
Do you have any travel sites are favorites for like the best deals ever?

Rachel Rudwall: (20:51)
I subscribe to this incredible email blast called Scott’s Cheap Flights. To be honest, I don’t even know who Scott is. To me, he’s this demigod. He is the best. He has no affiliation with any airlines. So what he does, though, is he just aggregates everything from the best flight deals of the day to what are called mistake fares, where an airline accidentally publishes that a fair $100 instead of $1000 ’cause they left a zero off, and he’ll email and he’ll say, “JFK to Marrakesh, Morocco, 300 bucks. We think this fare will last two days. This is the airline. Here are the dates, there are no blackouts. Here’s where to book.” And to be honest, it gives me tremendous wanderlust. I’m often like, “Oh no, why can’t I buy this?” Every day there are amazing deals, but all it takes is that one deal for you to see the thing you’ve been waiting to hop onto and you can have a trip to Japan for 300 bucks instead of $1000. It’s brilliant.

Jean Chatzky: (21:55)
That’s a really, really great tip. While we’re talking about those places that we’re all dying to go, are there places that are sort of under the radar, places that are lurking in your consciousness that we should all be thinking about for our next vacations before they blow up and get ultra expensive?

Rachel Rudwall: (22:15)
Yeah. This might surprise you because it seems the opposite of under the radar but Mexico. But different Mexico. People go to the coast, they go to all inclusive resorts. We’re familiar with Mexico as a vacation destination where we don’t have to think about a thing. We just get that suntan or that sunburn and we go home with you know, a new puka shell necklace. But what I have loved discovering, ’cause I live in Southern California, is all of the different regions and oases that Mexico offers. It’s so close to where I am. One of them is Mexico City. I find it to be the most fascinating city in the world. It is colorful, vibrant. There’s always something going on. The food and drink are excellent. It has more museums than any other city in the world and is incredibly affordable. There’s also Mexican wine country.

Jean Chatzky: (23:12)
Oh! Kelly and I are listening.

Rachel Rudwall: (23:13)
Girl, you should fly into Tijuana, and you drive 30 minutes. You pick up a rental car or whatever. Or you can fly into San Diego as well. And the Via de Guadalupe is beautiful. It’s got all of these really cool new hotels cropping up, but it also has some of the best food and drink I’ve ever had anywhere in the world at a price point that you will find to be mind blowing, especially if you’re in a city like New York. You will be astounded by the multi-course meals you can get for really affordable prices. You’ll be eating in the middle of a vineyard or under the shade of a big luscious tree. Having a wine that you didn’t know existed and it will be a brilliant way for you to spend time on that getaway that you didn’t know could exist

Jean Chatzky: (24:03)
Via de Guadalupe.

Rachel Rudwall: (24:05)
That’s the one.

Jean Chatzky: (24:06)
All right. I’m going.

Rachel Rudwall: (24:07)
It is just, it’s dreamy. I keep going back. I’m like, I should probably return just to see if anything’s new.

Jean Chatzky: (24:15)
Rachel Rudwall, how do we find more of you? This has been so much fun.

Rachel Rudwall: (24:20)
This has been fun. I’d love to continue the conversation with any of you listening. I’m @RachelRoams. That’s on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and it’s even the handle from my website. So stop by and say hi. I have tons of recommendations for wherever you hope to go.

Jean Chatzky: (24:39)
We will absolutely do that. Thank you so much for being here.

Rachel Rudwall: (24:43)
Thank you. It’s such a pleasure.

Jean Chatzky: (24:45)
All right. And we will be back with Kelly and your mailbag. Kelly Hultgren, our producer has joined me in the studio. Via Guadalupe.

Kelly Hultgren: (24:56)
Via Guadalupe. We need to go.

Jean Chatzky: (24:59)
We do.

Kelly Hultgren: (24:59)
Both of us perked up when she’s like vineyards.

Jean Chatzky: (25:03)
And a drive from San Diego.

Kelly Hultgren: (25:05)
Yes. And we also liked luscious trees. Kathryn’s in the studio today and we both giggled at luscious trees.

Jean Chatzky: (25:11)
Luscious trees.

Kelly Hultgren: (25:12)
I’m good with that.

Jean Chatzky: (25:12)
Maybe they’re peach trees.

Kelly Hultgren: (25:14)
Oh, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Mexico. What about you?

Jean Chatzky: (25:19)
Yeah, it has absolutely been awhile.

Kelly Hultgren: (25:22)
Maybe we make that the next destination.

Jean Chatzky: (25:24)
We could, yeah, we could.

Kelly Hultgren: (25:26)
I shouldn’t be talking about taking a vacation.

Jean Chatzky: (25:28)
You just came back from one.

Kelly Hultgren: (25:29)
I just came back from one. Lots of luscious trees and wine and.

Jean Chatzky: (25:34)
You still have that vacation glow.

Kelly Hultgren: (25:38)
I do. And um, bloat. I was trying to think of the friendliest word for it. That was fantastic and I loved her tips too. I have that same credit card. It is a fantastic card that does reward you using it correctly. And I took advantage of that priority pass. I’ve used the points, I got a bunch of points from this trip. I need to remember to book flights through whatever credit cards you have that have these travel perks to get that extra discount. That’s a really good reminder.

Jean Chatzky: (26:14)
Or at least compare because I’ve done, I’ve booked flights through it, but I’ve also then looked outside of it just to make sure that the discount actually adds up.

Kelly Hultgren: (26:22)
And this is my one tip that my boyfriend and I talked about a lot on the trip that ended up saving us money we think is to try to act like you’re living there. So go beyond the touristy areas and spots and go try to immerse yourself in the more residential areas. The food’s going to be cheaper, you’re going have a more authentic experience. And I think as a result we spent less on food each place that we stopped.

Jean Chatzky: (26:50)
Well, you also, Airbnb-ed, right?

Kelly Hultgren: (26:52)
We did.

Jean Chatzky: (26:52)
So you had a kitchen in many cases. I mean we’ve done that too. Where you have a kitchen, you pick up a baguette. That’s breakfast, right? You compare a baguette to hotel breakfast and you’re already like so far ahead of the game.

Kelly Hultgren: (27:07)
I am a walking baguette right now.

Jean Chatzky: (27:10)
Did I ever tell you that I had a therapist who once said eat a bagel, be a bagel?

Kelly Hultgren: (27:14)
No, I vaguely remember you saying that to me once a long time ago about when we were talking about our relationships with gluten and that’s a really good one.

Jean Chatzky: (27:23)
Eat a bagel, be a bagel. I will never eat a bagel again.

Kelly Hultgren: (27:26)
I am a baguette.

Jean Chatzky: (27:29)
Baguettes are tall and thin, so there you go.

Kelly Hultgren: (27:29)
And fluffy sometimes. All right, well llet’s do some questions. Our first one is from Candace. My husband and I did massive renovations to our home and took out a home equity loan. We had a large down payment on our house and have a low mortgage rate at 2.67% with $200,000 left owing. Our loan has a balance of $75,000 with an interest rate of 4.5%. our home is now worth $650,000 according to a real estate agent. Currently we are aggressively paying down the loan with $2,500 per month. We have no other debts. Our mortgage is up for renewal next year and my husband wants to roll the loan into the mortgage to get a lower rate while freeing up cashflow to put more towards retirement savings. Currently we are only putting away 6% of our monthly take home pay and neither of us have a job with any sort of pension or matching program. My thought was to continue aggressively paying down the line of credit and be done within a few years and then play catch up with retirement savings. We are both 30 and only had $30,000 combined invested for retirement. Should we roll this into our mortgage and start saving more for retirement now or forego a couple of years of longterm savings in favor of paying less in interest overall.

Jean Chatzky: (28:41)
So there’s about five questions buried in this question. I want to just break it down cause she was really specific. So it’s clear she has an adjustable rate mortgage that was probably fixed at a low rate for 5, 7, or 10 years and is about to reset right when it resets. Rates are resetting now around 5%. the rate they have on that home equity loan at 4.5% Assuming that’s not variable is lower than that. If it’s a HELOC, if it’s a home equity line of credit, it could go up and down at that point. When your loan resets at 5% refinancing is not a bad idea because if you refi now, you probably could roll the whole thing together into a loan at about 4% if you get the best rates and you have good credit. Doing that is one move. I would do that. I would lower your interest rate as much as possible and then I would pay it off on the schedule that you’re given while maximizing retirement. I wouldn’t try to get ahead of this home equity loan at the expense of retirement. And the reason is that this is still fairly cheap money. I understand what it’s like to hate debt. I hate debt. You know, it doesn’t feel comfortable to have more payments every month than you are used to or you’re comfortable with. But this debt is inexpensive debt. It’s all tax deductible because you used the home equity loan for home improvements. So whether or not you decide to refinance it, and I probably would, I would just pay that off over time and I would funnel as much as you possibly can into retirement starting today.

Kelly Hultgren: (30:34)
Especially since it sounds like there aren’t any programs for them at work, though, she said no matching programs.

Jean Chatzky: (30:42)
There’s no matching programs, but that’s okay. You know, I mean matching dollars are great. We love them. It’s fantastic when you work for somebody who gives them to you, but if your employer doesn’t, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying to max out for retirement and you want to be trying to save a good 15% of whatever it is you’re earning.

Kelly Hultgren: (31:01)
Now, this is something we haven’t talked about before. We’ve talked about that 15%. When you have combined incomes, what does that percentage look like then?

Jean Chatzky: (31:10)
It’s your gross income, so save 15% of your gross income.

Kelly Hultgren: (31:13)
Great, thank you. Next one. From Addie, my partner and I are both public sector employees and are required to contribute to pension funds at a certain percentage. My question is, are we actually saving for retirement with these contributions? Should we also be contributing to voluntary retirement programs? And if so, at what rate?

Jean Chatzky: (31:32)
And another very good question, and you are among the lucky 16 or 17% of people in this country, people want pensions. They want to know that they have a guaranteed source of income in retirement other than Social Security that will last as long as they will and a pension will do that. Now you should be paying attention to the health of your pension plan. We’ve been reading a lot about some pension plans that are underfunded. The city of Chicago comes to mind. But assuming that your pension is in good shape, the question is, how much of your current income will that pension replace? And you need to, on the side, save enough to make up the difference in other vehicles. So once you understand, in terms of what your pension will replace, then you can figure out how much additionally you need to put aside using a savings or retirement calculator.

Kelly Hultgren: (32:31)
Okay. And we’ll do one more from Jennifer. I remarried and both of us came from previous long marriages, 18 years that included a lot of lies, drama and fights about money. We currently keep our finances totally separate. He pays for the house and bills like electricity and I pay for groceries and the lawn, etc. Mostly I am fine with this, but I worry because I don’t have a house to include in my retirement plan and I worry if that is a problem. Since the nasty divorce, I feel very behind. I’m 48 and only have about $87,000 in an IRA. I have contributed to a Roth IRA and fully fund it, but only for the last three years. I have been contributing to my company 401(k) plan since last July and get the company match. I’m completely out of debt. I just worry that I’m too late and not having real estate is going to hurt me in the end. I want to retire with dignity and not be a burden on my children.

Jean Chatzky: (33:16)
I hear a couple of things here and I think there are two different issues and you need to solve for them separately. First is how to get yourself on track for your retirement. And you need to understand when it comes to your retirement, what are you going to pay for? What will your husband pay for? How are you situated as a couple, as well as situated individually? I would get yourself to a financial planner. Have them run some projections, have them run some models. If you continue to contribute to both your 401(k) and your Roth at your current rate, where will you be at the time that you’re ready to retire and what does that look like for you in terms of an income to live on married to your spouse, not married to your spouse and potentially widowed? I’m not sure exactly the age differences between you, but we know life can sadly just happen. The real estate is another issue. Having real estate doesn’t necessarily mean that you will or won’t be a burden on your children. We often have real estate that no longer fits us. We have to sell it. I look at having real estate as another pool of cash that we can use to support ourselves in retirement. It’s a supplemental savings account that could either keep a roof over your head or you could sell and use in some other way. If you think what you want is the ability to live in this house for as long as you like, even if your spouse predeceases you, the way to do that is with something called a life estate and it’s a legal document. It’s something an estate planner would draw up that allows you to just stay in that house and after you die it would pass to his children. You could also look at restructuring your financial life in general and maybe moving to a place you could co-own. Maybe moving to a place you could pay for together. It sounds like you might have too much baggage for that. Bottom line, I think getting in front of a financial planner who can help you set some goals and then plot your way toward them is going to make you feel better and sleep a little bit better at night.

Kelly Hultgren: (35:41)
Thank you Jean and thank you everyone for writing in. You can email us your questions mailbag@hermoney.com.

Jean Chatzky: (35:47)
And while you’re there you can also sign up for our newsletter. If you haven’t done it, it’s hermoney.com/signup. In this week’s Thrive, we are continuing our conversation on travel hacks because we love them with how to use your credit card to pay less for your next vacation. As we talked about with Rachel, your credit card, when used responsibly, which means whatever you’re using it for, you pay it off in full, can be an incredible asset for cutting travel costs. If you don’t have a travel rewards credit card yet and you’re looking to go on vacations, signing up for one might be your first and best move. The average introductory bonus on a travel rewards card in 2018 was more than 40,000 points. That’s more than double the average bonus in 2008 according to Magnify Money and there’s a value of about $400 in those points. Depending on where you’re going, that could cover around trip flight. A couple of important considerations with these cards though, watch the annual fees. Make sure that your rewards will trump them. Number two, when you’re using your points to pay for travel, make sure you’re getting the best value for them by using tools like the points guys, valuation chart that shows you what your miles and your points are really worth. And even if you already have one of these cards, make sure you’re not missing out on the following benefits. Baggage fees, co-branded airline cards often waive the charge for at least the first bag. Access to airport lounges, so that, as Rachel said, you don’t spend 10 bucks on a water bottle or $15 on a glass of wine. Global entry, that can have a value of $100 or more. And at the rental car counter many cards cover the cost of insurance on a rental car. As by the way, will your own auto insurance policy. Just check your card agreement before you agree to pay for coverage that you already have. And for more ways to use your credit card to save on your next vacation, you can read more tips on hermoney.com. Thanks so much for listening to me today. Thank you to Rachel Rudwall for a terrific conversation. We’ll be back for more of those travel tips. Thank you to our sponsor Fidelity. Our show is recorded at CDM Studios. Our music is provided by Track Tribe and our show comes to you through PRX. Join us next week when we’ll be back with a 30 Day Money cleanse and author Ashley Feinstein Gerstley. We’ll talk soon.


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