A retirement planner retires — and lays out her strategy

By Janet Kidd Stewart Chicago Tribune

After 18 years with an investment firm and a banking career before that, Christine Fahlund is finally getting a chance to practice the preaching.

As senior financial planner for T. Rowe Price, Fahlund, 69, has been the company’s public face for retirement planning services. Now, she and her husband, who is retired, have bought a recreational vehicle, and she’ll retire in June.

After many years spent thinking about retirement for clients, Fahlund talked about planning her own career exit:

QUESTION: How did you know it was time to go?

ANSWER: I really had been practicing retirement throughout my 60s, both emotionally and financially. During that time I would say we were in pretty good shape financially, but emotionally, I was not ready to leave. My husband was fine with whatever I wanted to do and wasn’t nagging or pushing me to go, so I had the pleasure of deciding on my own terms. Then I lost several friends last year, one of them very suddenly at the age of 48. She never got the opportunity to retire, and I started to think that if it was within my grasp, I should take advantage.

Q: What about the nest egg? How did you know you have enough?

A: Knowing all that I know, I was concerned that I would be overanxious about that. I don’t know what snapped inside, but I’m much more calm about it now. We hit “our number” about seven years ago, where projected Social Security plus an initial 4 percent portfolio withdrawal rate would equal something in the neighborhood of 75 percent of current salary. And if you wait until age 70 to start withdrawals, you can withdraw 5 percent. So we’ve been able to play a bit (by suspending retirement contributions and using the money for travel and other luxuries) while continuing to work while the nest egg compounds.

Q: Have you begun collecting Social Security?

A: We began some spousal benefits at full retirement age. We both decided to wait until age 70 to collect our delayed retirement credits.

Q: Do you have long-term care insurance?

A: Yes. We bought it in our 50s. To afford the premium, we agreed to a 365-day elimination period, so we’ll take a hit for 12 months if we need it. And if we need to, we could stop the inflation increases to lower the premium more.