How I Rebooted My Retirement Savings After 40


In our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.

Today, Jenine Holmes, an ad writer and single mom, shares how she started getting serious about retirement late in the game.

With age comes wisdom about a host of things, including, hopefully, money.

In my twenties I was more focused on winning advertising awards than achieving financial stability. My life in New York City, a month-to-month rented affair, created a short-term focus. Therefore I contributed huge amounts of money to paying my rent, but modest amounts to my retirement account.

When I started work, fresh out of art school, like most recent grads I was trying to get into the working game, not sock money away for my future old self. Making my way in pricey New York City, my income fueled practical needs. I acquired a taste for vodka martinis simply because they mandated I sip and savor, stretching my entertainment budget further.

Retirement, on the other hand, was something my stay-at-home grandmother and 9-to-5 grandfather did at the end of their working road. As an artist, I would continue working until my body was slipped into a grave, an end I had hoped not to meet for a very, very, very long time. Meanwhile, I had work to do.

How My Family Saw Money

In the Holmes family, our sense of worth is derided from a personal, passionate connection to work. My dad owned a record shop on the east side of Detroit, an anachronistic business today, but a giddy entrepreneurial delight in 1970s Detroit, a city still basking in the glow of Motown and a thriving auto industry.

RELATED: Why Retirement is Harder For Women

My mom, a teacher by trade, made achievement her mantra by earning a BA, then a master’s, one class and one semester at a time, while caring for a family of five.

My parents taught my brothers and I to respect money, to respect the act of making money. To receive my weekly allowance, my dad required us to count out the funds, in front of him—five dollars in our childhood, ten dollars in our teen years—one single dollar bill at a time. I hated the act.

As I angrily counted the bills, he’d ask, “How do you know I haven’t cheated you?”

“Because you’re my dad,” I’d answer, annoyed at his insistence.

It wasn’t until I reached my thirties that I realized my Dad had given me my first consciousness-raising lesson about money. I had to be willing to see it, examine it and understand it to manage it well.