TJ Houppert has been at the corporate headquarters at Paychex in Rochester, New York for over 12 years. TJ has trained over 800 benefits consultants throughout United States under retirement plan design and implementation. As an accredited retirement plan consultant, TJ enjoys educating business clients and their employees on saving for retirement and making retirement dreams come true. TJ, let's start. You talk with small business owners about saving for retirement and designing a plan that fits their needs.
Dennis Zink: TJ, let's start. You talk with small business owners about saving for retirement and designing a plan that fits their needs. What motivates you to do the job that you do?
TJ HOUPPERT: There's two sides to this answer. There's the very factual side of things and then there's the very personal side for me. Let's start with the factual. Saving rates for Americans really could use some work. Currently, they are at 5% and they hover right around there for the last year. When we were in that economic downturn, it was actually in the negative. Americans need help saving and I feel like it's my life's mission to help us figure out a way to make it easy and systematic. That's the factual side as we aren't saving enough, 5%, probably not get at your goals if you're saving it for retirement and there's the personal side.
I was a typical young girl and grown up with 2 parents and a brother. When I was very young, my father had a major illness. We thought we were going to lose him. Thankfully, we didn't. It really changed our family structure where my mom went from being a part-time nurse to being a full-time nurse, the leader of the family and a caregiver for my father. What I saw from afar is incredible strength of course, but then I also saw something over time that led me to where I am today. I saw their diligence in saving. What I learned was it wasn't so much about how much you save. It's how long you save it. Even in some of those really rough patches of their lives, they save something. What I'm happy to say today is that both my mom and my dad are enjoying a very comfortable retirement because they set something aside over many years. That motivates me to help spread that message to other people who should be doing something as well.
Dennis Zink: That's very admirable, TJ. I'm glad your parents are doing well. Many Americans aren't aware of how much money they actually need in retirement. You mentioned that 5% number, but how do you determine a realistic number for your retirement goal?
TJ HOUPPERT: There's lots of different ways to figure out what your number truly is. The first thing is take that step. Find something to help you. There's a lot of retirement calculators that I've tried over the years. Some of them are very simple and leave you wondering a little bit about what the rest of the picture is. Then, there are some that are so detailed that you could spend like a day trying to complete them. I have a great suggestion for someone right in the middle that gives you a good idea of what the picture looks like, but doesn't overwhelm you too much where you want to just give up.
If you go to www.paychex.com and you hover over employee benefits, there is a retirement calculator that will pop up. It's very easy to use and very user friendly. Enter some very basic information about yourself like age, your current wage, how many years until retirement, and it gives you a real-time answer for how much you would potentially have based on how much you want to save. You can change things. You can manipulate the data to make it better and maybe help you reach your goals and your family's goals. That's the first thing I recommend.
Once you know your number, the second thing I recommend is think about what your latte is. There is an author whose name is David Bach. He has a book called The Automatic Millionaire. There's lots of great things in this book, but one concept really stood out to me and it's called the latte factor. I will tell you just a quickly a little bit about it. What he is basically saying with the latte factor is that if you were to stop at your favorite coffee shop and get a latte every single day, it's about $4. If you were to take that $4 latte, skip it and put it in a 401(k) plan instead. Over time, you would become a millionaire. A small sacrifice for the long-term gain of your retirement goal is what he is encouraging people to do. Maybe a latte is really not your thing, but everybody has got something along those lines that they can make a small sacrifice for the long-term gain.