Stop Feeling Guilty About Not Knowing Your Retirement Plan

Money Files

In this episode of Money Files, I am starting the conversation about retirement. There is so much embarrassment around learning how to save for the future. Many of my clients think 401(k)s and IRAs are something they should just magically understand, despite never learning about saving for retirement from their parents or teachers. They are embarrassed to ask questions and admit they don’t know if they are doing the right things to prepare. 

I am here to give you permission to stop feeling guilty or embarrassed about where you are right now with saving for retirement. 401(k)s and IRAs are relatively new entities and they aren’t something we were educated on. Saving for retirement is not done in the same way as when our parents were working. Their jobs provided pension plans or company stock options. Saving  for retirement wasn’t a common practice.

I want to erase the stigma or shame around retirement knowledge. I encourage you to find a financial advisor or certified financial planner and ask questions. It is okay to not know the ins and outs of 401(k)s and IRAS. Write down a list of questions and allow yourself to be honest with your feelings about retirement. It is important that you feel comfortable with your financial plan for the future. I assure you that wherever you are now is a buildable starting point to reach your goals.

If you are someone who feels guilty or embarrassed about saving for retirement I want you to listen to this podcast and remember…

[00:09:34] The 401(k) is a relatively new tool

[00:18:58] Enlist financial support from someone who is willing to educate you as you ask questions

[00:19:52] You don’t know what you don’t know when it comes to thinking about 401(k)s or 403Bs

Tune in to this episode of Money Files as I start a conversation on retirement and invite you to give yourself  permission to stop feeling guilty or embarrassed about where you are right now with saving for retirement and start educating yourself so that you can establish the desired financial plan for your future. 

Ready to dive deeper into planning for your retirement? Apply to work with me, and let’s start working towards your financial goals.


Transcript for “Stop Feeling Guilty About Not Knowing Your Retirement Plan”

Hi and welcome to Money Files. I’m Keina Newell from Wealth Over Now. I work every day with professional women and solopreneurs to help them get out of financial overwhelm and shame so they can experience more flexibility and ease with their finances. Are you ready to gain confidence and learn to manage your finances intentionally? Tune in and grab financial tips that will help you master the way you think about and manage your finances.

Hello and welcome back to another episode of Money Files. So today I want to invite you to sign up for my next Money class, three keys to drama free spending. That money class is going to happen on February 15th at 12:30 PM Eastern Standard Time. If you go to the link in the show notes, you can register. I highly suggest that you also invite your friend, like this is the year that we learn how to manage our finances with ease and like without shame, without judgment and really just being able to experience more freedom when it comes to thinking about money, our thoughts about our finances, like all of the things. 

And with that, we’re going to get into today’s episode. So if you don’t know this already, I talk about money to my friends a lot and I was having a conversation and this podcast episode kind of just came up out of a conversation. It’s also one that I’ve had with clients, especially as I’ve read about different financial topics and I actually want to talk about retirement and specifically I want to talk about retirement as it relates to how you might judge yourself for where you are or where you are not when it comes to understanding what you’ll need in order to retire. So when I think about retirement, and I can just tell you my own personal story, I think about my parents and my parents were born in the fifties and by way of being born in the fifties and their life experiences, both of my parents were in the military and my dad actually retired from the military, which guaranteed him a retirement paycheck. 

And I never remember hearing anything about 401K or retirement except for the fact that like I knew he was going to get a check from the military and then I knew he could get another check with the other job that he had after he retired from 26 years being in the military. So I knew those things about him and about retirement. My mom, for most of her life, my mom was a stay-at-home mom after she had my oldest brother, she was also in the military but then decided to leave the military and stay at home until about the time I was in third grade. And then she ended up going back to work in the school system. But for the most part, like my parents have always financially planned just under the conditions that they’re like a one income household. 

Like that’s always how I kind of heard my parents talk about money and they always taught me like you know, we’re focused on a one income household in case like one of us wasn’t working, like we’d still be able to pay all the bills. And so that was their focus. When I think about my grandmother, she didn’t graduate from high school but she ended up getting a really good job at a company called Lucent Technology. And I remember when I was little, like hearing that she made good money and that she had like this good job and a good opportunity. And so whenever people talked about my grandmother and when we talked about retirement, it was really about the fact that like she was going to have stock to draw down from. In addition to stock she was also going to have the opportunity to be paid from a pension because that was a type of company that she worked for. 

And so that was my knowledge of retirement from my own perspective. Like that’s what I knew. Either you could get like a retirement check from a company or you could get a retirement check from the military. Like that was how you were going to sustain yourself when you retired. And when I think back to first going like getting my first job, I was a teacher and we had, I can’t remember if St. Louis public schools, because that’s who I worked for at the time, I don’t believe they had a pension. That doesn’t stand out to me very much. But I do know that I could contribute to retirement and I remember hearing, you should put in the match like make sure that you’re matching. That was my retirement education, that’s what I knew. 

And then you hear people talk about okay, you should have a million dollars if you want to retire by 65. But what I knew about retirement was really just word-of-mouth education. And the reason I’m telling you this is because you are probably somewhere in the middle of this and you may have family members where when you think about retirement, their retirement has already been sorted out for them because maybe they had access to a pension or maybe they retired from the military. So some of those things were set in stone where they were like guaranteed money. Or if you’re thinking about your grandparents, maybe retirement really wasn’t even a conversation because when you think about family units, family units have changed, where family and community used to dwell really close together. 

So like grandma came to live with a daughter or a son and so the retirement conversation, that wasn’t really a conversation because family just knew that they were going to be taking care of elders in their family. Like that’s how people got along because there was community. And so here comes this new entity called the 401k and you’re magically supposed to know something about it. And I feel like when it comes to talking about 401K or it comes to talking about retirement, we have a lot of shame about it and there’s a lot of internalized shame because people feel bad for not knowing how to manage or think about retirement.

But I want you to know like you haven’t really been taught about it and in addition to, it’s a new tool that you have, like your parents probably had access to a different tool when it came to retirement, when you think about like where they started in their career and so maybe they weren’t positioned to really support you in even thinking about how to thoughtfully plan for retirement because things have shifted and things have changed. When I was talking to my friend about this and I was thinking about how I’ve kind of thought about retirement, I said, I feel like it’s like this thing that we’re supposed to know about but we’re scared to ask questions about because we’re supposed to know. And I said, I remember in school I told you guys I grew up in a military family so we moved a little bit, most of my moving occurred like in elementary school.

So I went to three different elementary schools. And so my education was different in each place, but what I remember very vividly is in sixth grade sitting in English class and I remember my teacher asking me to read, she’s like, Keina, can you read the next paragraph. And you guys are going to laugh at this. I’m like, what does she mean? She keeps telling all these kids to read the next paragraph. And I remember that my brain was attached to the fact that a paragraph is four to six sentences because somewhere in my elementary school career when we were writing paragraphs, your teacher would tell you, okay, a paragraph is four to six sentences so make sure you have four to six sentences. Like you have your topic sentence, your commentary, concrete detail, like that’s this formulaic way that I remember learning to write a paragraph.

And so she was asking students in sixth grade to read a paragraph and I felt really embarrassed that I had no idea. I’m like how do these people know where this paragraph starts and stops? I didn’t know at the time that the indention, like in your book, the indention signaled the next paragraph. Also know I feel like I still had like a typewriter and maybe we were getting ready to get a compact desktop computer at some point in middle school. So it wasn’t like, yes I guess I would’ve been indenting things on my own, but I wasn’t practicing typing in that way. And so I remember having so much shame or embarrassment around that, but literally just nobody had taught me. So I didn’t know that the indention signaled where I was supposed to start reading or like that was the next paragraph. It wasn’t that I wasn’t smart, it was none of those things.

It was like that just had never explicitly been said to me. And so I feel the same way when I start to think about navigating 401ks, 403B, a Roth IRA, a 529, like we’re all just kind of grasping information that we’ve heard from somewhere and we’re doing the best that we can. And I just want to say if you have shame around that or you’re embarrassed about knowing, know that you’re doing the best that you can. The 401K is a relatively new tool if you really want to go back to the history of the 401k. So I looked up a couple things to share with you because I thought this would be really interesting. But the 401K was started because of the revenue act of 1978. So that’s when the 401k that entity started. And then in the eighties is when employers started to use that to defer income for their employees.

And that’s also, there was a shift in 1981 where the IRS issued rules where employees could start contributing to the 401k. So like think about that. It’s like 40 years ago where people really started to actually have an opportunity to contribute to a 401k. And so 40 years is not a lot of time. If you think about that in relation to your parents, you’re like, oh okay, that makes sense. Like how long had your parents been working? Did their job even offer them a 401k? Who informed them on their job about the 401k, who talked to them about the difference in between what they had before and what they had after. And so that education was probably missing. And then the article that I was reading, it was saying in 1999, it was when the 401K plan passed the number of pension plans.

So from what I could understand, it was talking about the number of people that had access to a 401K versus the number of people that had access to a pension plan. So not until just basically 24 years ago was there a shift in between like the 401K being the dominant tool versus the pension plan being the dominant tool. So I just want you to let that sink in that this is something that is relatively new. Some of you who are listening like you weren’t even out OF high school yet, right? And so you’re like, what? Huh? When did this start? And so just being able to take all of this into perspective as you think about judging yourself and yes I’m using the word judging yourself for not knowing about 401k and I want you to consider that maybe you’re like KeIna in sixth grade when she was trying to figure out where do I start reading when the teacher asked me to read the next paragraph?

You have some knowledge of it and you’ve been told certain things, but now you just need to give yourself permission to be curious, give yourself permission to ask. I don’t remember who told me about the indention and the paragraph, knowing myself, I probably said, where do you want me to read? And she told me and then it just fixed everything. But I just want you to consider that as you are thinking about like how much money should I have saved? I don’t know if I’m behind, I haven’t been contributing. Like all of those thoughts are really, really overwhelming. And I just want you to consider that you’re exactly where you need to be and you can ask more questions to get on track. 

Like literally people are learning more about retirement each and every day as they experience a new system. Think about the people that actually had access to the 401k. If we think about 1978, right? And so if you’re thinking about 1978, like I’m thinking about my brothers for instance, they would’ve had access to a 401K when they started working as did I. But if you think about that and you’re like, okay, well like some of these people maybe haven’t even fully retired yet and they don’t understand how much it’s going to take to actually live off of in retirement. Like people are still running projections, we’re understanding inflation. Like all those things are happening. So I just want to invite you, like I said, to be curious, each year you can do better and each year you can actually learn something new to help propel you forward. 

So that’s like the 401k and what I wanted to say in just terms of the history of the 401k. And another thing that I want to mention in terms of thinking about the 401k, I remember when I first was told that I should be contributing to retirement and one of the things I remember hearing is that I should make sure that I don’t leave money on the table and I should be contributing the match. And that’s all I contributed was the match, for years. Like when I worked within the school system, one of the schools that I worked at, I believe we had like a 4% match. And so I think I put in like 5% or maybe I put in 6% because I thought oh I can have a 10% contribution, but I remember only contributing up to the match. 

What I didn’t understand at the time is that the match wasn’t the only amount of money that I could contribute. I didn’t know at that time that the IRS actually had a limit and the IRS every single year based off of inflation, they changed the limit that you can contribute to your retirement vehicles, the Roth IRA being one of them. And so I don’t think I understood that until probably my late twenties and early thirties that I could be contributing more money, even thinking about that miseducation that I had.

I could judge myself for it. But instead what I chose to do was to really think about, okay, well how can I actually make plans to be able to contribute more than just the match, that became one of my goals. 

And I would offer to you that maybe you right now are like, oh my goodness Keina, I can contribute more than the 3% match at my employer for my 401k. And the answer is yes you can. In 2023, the maximum amount that you can contribute is $22,500. Last year the max was $20,500. And if you go back in time it’s been $19,000, $18,000. So there’s been different maximum contribution limits. But that’s something that changes every single year and it’s something that you should know about or you can learn about. And just now that you’re listening to this, if you’re like, oh, I didn’t know, now you know and you can put that away in your toolkit as something that you know about your retirement vehicle that you can be contributing more than the company match.

And I’ll tell you that, do your research if you will, check with your HR to see how much your company matches. Some companies match and some don’t, but see how much they match with your contributions and at least make sure that you are matching. And the reason that people recommend that is so that you aren’t leaving money on the table. If your employer is going to give you 3% for contributing 3%, then take the money, it’s free money and you can learn how to manage your paycheck after you contribute the 3%. But also know that you can increase the amount of money that you’re putting in to your 401k above that 3%. 

Generally speaking, the reason that you will hear people talk about the match is because people want you to also be working towards like an emergency fund savings goal and they want to make sure that you also have cash on hand and that you’re not just putting all of your money into retirement, that you also have money for emergencies. So I feel like that’s where that information can come into play or if you have some debt, they want you to focus on paying debt down like those pieces. But I know for myself, like I worked year after year to make sure that I can increase my contributions and I would just adjust my budget accordingly. When I got a big raise, I would make some bigger jumps in how much I was contributing so that that way I could actually max out my 401k. 

For me, my investment vehicle was a 403B but it still had the same limit. But that’s something when I’m working with clients in my five-month coaching partnership, I always check with them on like, hey, tell me about your retirement. Let’s make sure it’s invested and we at least look at those things so at a baseline, they feel good about what they’re doing and they have a plan to make sure that they are working towards contributing the max contribution to their 401k.

The other thing that I would say here is that the Roth IRA, that’s another vehicle that you’ve probably heard about and you’re like, oh, I’m supposed to have a Roth IRA and I’m supposed to be doing this with a Roth IRA. I want to let you know that the Roth IRA was created in 1998. I’m going to say that again. The Roth IRA was created in 1998. Also another completely new tool that the government created to help people save for retirement. But you probably missed all the lessons about the Roth IRA because there weren’t any real lessons. So just release yourself of not knowing and you can ask more questions. This is why I always encourage people, if they’re working with a financial advisor, I’m like, make sure you’re working with a financial advisor. I prefer a CFP to an advisor. 

Make sure that they have those credentials, but make sure that they’re someone who educates you and when you ask questions, they don’t shame you and they’re looking to teach you about new things that you can learn about your money, especially because I feel like a certified financial planner. They’re really there to help you focus on the future version of yourself. I have a podcast episode that I did with a CFP with Ellen. I’ll tag that in the show notes and you can listen to that podcast episode. But like you could have both a CFP and you could have a coach. I work on the emotional side of money. The CFP is going to help you figure out if you want to walk away from your job at 65 and make sure you can live off the funds that you’ve saved until you’re 95, what’s the strategy you need in place today? 

Like that’s what they help you think about and how they help you plan. But I just wanted to take the time to talk about these pieces today because I think that once again, there’s a lot of shame and you don’t know what you don’t know. And so when it comes to like thinking about 401ks 403Bs, how do I use a Roth IRA? We’re walking around with like this cloud of shame over our head, but not realizing like these are really new entities that we don’t have the most experience with. So you can give yourself permission to feel okay with the fact that you can learn about what’s going to happen in retirement. You can ask questions, you can be curious, you can work to make sure that you are going to feel comfortable with how much money you’re going to have at 65. I would say the worst thing you could do is put your head in the sand. Like I want you to pull it out and let’s start asking some of these questions. 

Look at your HR portal and see who’s managing the retirement funds at my job? Am I actually contributing to my retirement? Have I made sure that I’ve signed up to increase my contributions each year? Am I still maxing out my retirement in the way that I thought that I was? What’s my company match? If I’m switching companies, do I have a similar match or a different match? But ask yourself those questions and just like feel really comfortable with the numbers that you do know and the numbers that are in front of you and the answers that you don’t know you can write questions for that and you can ask CFP or you can ask that service provider, whoever manages your 401k like, hey, these are the questions I have, can you help me think through this? That is going to be you taking a step to move yourself forward. Alright, so like I said, I wanted to just talk about the history of the 401k.

I wanted to just give you my perspective on retirement, especially when we think about the emotional side of not knowing about whether or not we’re doing the right thing. And so when we start talking about how we don’t know something, immediately there are some emotions and feelings that start to be at play. And so I want to give you the permission to give yourself like grace and not judge yourself about what you don’t know. So thank you for listening to this episode of Money Files. And if there was something that resonated with you and you’re like, oh my goodness, Keina, I would love to do this work deeper and I would really love to get my finances under control and I want to feel empowered by what I’m doing with my money, I would invite you to apply to work with me one-to-one.

If you go to, you can grab a time on my calendar. We’ll have a 60 minute consult. So I’ll ask you a ton of questions. I’ll get to learn more about you and then help you create a three step plan for what goals you want to work towards in our five month partnership. So I look forward to talking to you and have a great week. 

Thank you so much for listening to Money Files. If you’re ready to take the next step to reach your financial goals, head to and let’s get started.

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