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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

Did Oprah Plan Well Retire Well?

As the final days of the Oprah Winfrey Show quickly approach, I am reminded of being a high school senior and Editor-in-Chief of my high school newspaper. I was assigned the daunting task of going with one of my reporters to get the scoop on Oprah, then A.M Chicago host getting ready to go national. Needless to say, after jumping through hoops and convincing the ABC Channel 7 security guard to let us up to see her, we were pleased that we did get the interview in her then small office in the ABC news building in Chicago.

I had no idea that I was staring a living legend in the face. I had no idea that this now local Chicago TV talk show host would catapult into a talk show goddess. So, what did Oprah do that most of us hope that we could do to obtain a fraction of her success? If you plan to retire well, here are a few things that I noticed Oprah did that made the difference:

  1. Spend less than you make. Stedman mentioned that Oprah takes her lunch to work every day. With her income, she could have splurged every day and still not use up her income. However she chose not to. Living within your means, or even below your means, leaves room for increased savings, paying off debt, and planning for the future. If you are currently living above your means, track your expenses for a couple of weeks and see where you can cut back. A little savings can add up to a lot down the line.
  2. Make your health a priority. Oprah started a healthy lifestyle movement. Taking care of yourself by eating right, exercising and visiting your doctor on a regular basis now can potentially decrease health issues and health costs in your retirement years.
  3. Be charitable. Oprah's generosity not only helps others, but it also helps reduce her tax bill. For those of you that itemize, tracking your monetary and non-cash donations can equate to a sizable deduction a tax time.
  4. Do what you know and learn what you don't know. Oprah was a journalist by trade. Her career began reporting the evening news. She decided to learn all aspects of the business. From there, all of her efforts embraced her journalistic background from her show, O Magazine, Oprah radio, to Harpo Productions. Do you have hobby or job-related skills that can transfer into other areas of a particular industry? This can be an additional source of income in case of a layoff or after retirement.
  5. Surround yourself with advisors. Oprah familiarized herself with many topics, but she knew when to bring in the professionals. In this age of advanced technology, we often think we can "do-it-ourselves." There are many things we CAN do ourselves. However, when it comes to special matters such as complex tax, money management, or estate planning issues, leave it to the professionals. It might seem cheaper at the beginning to do it yourself, but could end up very costly if something is not handled correctly.
  6. Become an owner. Oprah saw that having ownership interest in her show paid the larger dividends. If you have an opportunity to own your own home, car, business, investment portfolio, etc., you will likely reap a larger benefit. Of course, with ownership comes more responsibility but you have greater control over the outcome as well.

Oprah is retiring with a net worth of about $3 billion. While you may not be able to retire in the financial position that Oprah did, there are steps that you can take to insure your retirement years are "golden" for you. In addition to the previous, you can:

  1. Contribute to your company's 401(k), 403(b) or pension plan at least up to the company's match.
  2. Establish a regular or Roth IRA to supplement your company retirement plan and social security, if applicable. Consult your tax professional to see which plan works best for you.
  3. Pay down/pay off your debt. Debt is one of the top deterrents to financial freedom.
  4. Establish an emergency fund. Accidents happen. Appliances need to be repaired or replaced. This fund is set up for the "what ifs" that take place in our lives. Emergency funds should always be accounts that can be quickly converted to cash such as savings or money market accounts.
  5. Protect your assets. Life, health, disability and property insurance protect you and your family against financial loss in case of death, sickness, or accidents. Establishing wills and trusts protect your heirs from expensive probate proceedings and ensures your assets are passed as you wish.

Obtaining financial freedom is a process. If you want to achieve it, it takes time and dedication. Your small steps today will make a big difference in the future. So, if you haven't started, or feel that you need to play catch-up, start making small changes today. No matter how small the change may seem, it will get you one step closer to your goal. Best wishes. Until we talk again...

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Thank you so much for such the wonderful information. I am certainly looking for to doing whatever it takes to have financial freedom and to prepare for my future. I appreciate this wealth of knowledge that you have shared; it inspires me to do better as an individual as well as a business owner. Excellent Blog! Thanks
by Kimberly Kelly on Tuesday 5/24/2011

Thank you Kimberly for your positive feedback. We love to hear from our readers!
by Kathy Sweedler on Tuesday 5/24/2011

This is terrific! I am so glad for Oprah! My husband and I have will meet soon with a financial advisor. My husband has 38 yrs. in investments that we need to sort out. Thank you, Pat Hawkins
by Pat Hawkins on Thursday 5/26/2011

Oprah takes her lunch to work everyday?! Really? I never would have guessed. Hmmm...this just might inspire me to bring my lunch more often (which would be a really good thing.) Thanks.
by Pam Splittstoesser on Thursday 5/26/2011

Glad you found the post inspirational! Sometimes we think wealthy people aren't careful with their money but research has shown that many understand that small amounts do add up! Try calculating how much you can save by taking your lunch three times a week over a year -- you may "find" the money you need for something you'd like to do or save for :)
by Kathy Sweedler on Wednesday 6/1/2011

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Meeting with a financial professional to plan your finances is often a great idea. If you'd like a free, printable interview guideline to take with you when you talk to a financial professional, visit U of I Extension's website, Choosing a Financial Professional, at
by Kathy Sweedler on Wednesday 6/1/2011