Powerful Women Plan for Retirement: Take Ownership of Your Financial Future by Debra K. Menke can be purchased here.
A very special thank you to Debbie Menke. Working with you was not just a joy; it was the pleasure of a lifetime. You helped me to become both a better editor and a better human. Plus, you lit a fire under me to get my retirement plans in order. If I’m your editor ninja, then you’re for sure my author ninja.
Included in this editing sample, you will find the following:
- A summary of a portion of the high-level edits that were completed before the line editing stage.
- An excerpt of the line edits I returned to the author.
- The final version of the excerpt.
1. Summary of the First Two Rounds of High-Level Edits
Let’s be honest, finance can be boring. When I heard I had a book on planning for retirement, I kinda groaned a bit. Thankfully, the author of the book was Debbie Menke, an extraordinary human with exceptional charisma. She brought this incredible energy to the table—the kind of energy editors wet the bed over. Not only was her personal energy enough to float the project into a dream project, but the process she teaches is so incredibly unique and exhilarating. It’s a process that everyone needs to learn. Thus, my primary goal with Powerful Women Plan for Retirement was to make sure that it never became one of those boring finance books.
When people discuss information they know a lot about, it can be easy for them to start speaking in another language. They use jargon and speak in an elevated way that would be enough to confuse any novice. Debbie did an excellent job of holding the reader’s hand to explain the content in this book clearly and concisely, but after years of being a financial advisor, an outside eye was needed to help her toe the line. I found it to be an exciting challenge to push Debbie past her comfort level, to speak in a way that was kind to her reader, someone who most likely knows very little about finance, and certainly someone who cringes anytime they have to do any financial planning (hence why she needs help planning for retirement). It forced me to play the role of actor, to step into her reader’s shoes and quite literally predict the exact moments the reader would be confused.
Debbie is a talented storyteller. She’s the daughter of baseball icon Denis Menke, so she certainly has stories from her life that captivate and intrigue. I knew it would be more important than ever to find a balance between the classic “show, don’t tell,” since this story teaches lessons, while sharing real-life experiences. (In my professional opinion, that’s one of the reasons this book is pure magic.) Analyzing the text and predicting the reader’s reactions forced me to become one with the reader and essentially grow my editor skills. It was on this book that I realized that being an editor is one part fixing errors, one part predicting what reader’s will think. With Debbie’s input, we were able to craft a captivating narrative that shared the lessons Debbie taught, while allowing those lessons to breath by grounding them in reality with stories.
On top of this, Debbie is experienced beyond her years. She has worked for major corporations, run her own small business, and everything in between. The expertise she brought to the table was unmatched. Although this is everything an editor could ask for, it certainly created an interesting challenge of crafting her delivery. We wanted to avoid intimidating the reader (learning finance can already be daunting), yet also signify to the reader that Debbie is the expert in this field and that the reader should trust her completely. It was a delicate dance that pushed me to truly truly serve the reader as best as I could, and to allow Debbie’s brilliance to truly shine.
Books that present unique challenges are the books I strive to work on as an editor. They allow me to grow and push past my comfort zone. Working with Debbie on Powerful Women Plan for Retirement broadened horizons that I didn’t even know needed broadened. Debbie welcomed my expertise, and was open to the experimenting that we conducted. The result is a book that will truly make a difference in this world.
2. Excerpt from the Line Edits
3. Final Version of the Excerpt
Chapter 10: What to Do When Life Happens
You’ve figured out where you want to go and what it’s going to take to get to your dream destination, so now we need to discuss the importance of having a backup plan in place – a plan to fall back on when life happens. We are going to have the emergency fund discussion. Likely, this has been on your to-do list for about twenty years. If you already have an emergency fund in place – fantastic. However, I want you to read this chapter anyway because we’re also going to discuss the one thing I never want you to do to your future self.
It is essential to have an emergency fund in place, yet there are many excuses you can come up with for not having one. I will add in an element of fun to make it easier for you. Before this chapter is over, you will create your own emergency fund account. You are going to understand why you need one. You will have fun naming your account. And we will discuss the definition of a true emergency.
First and foremost, I believe the main reason you haven’t set money aside in an emergency fund already is that you think the task is too daunting. And, most likely, you never feel you have enough extra money available to put toward such a noble cause.
I give you permission to start small, but I ask you to start now.
Think about this for a minute. How did you accumulate money in your 401K or other employer plan at work? You put a small amount aside out of every paycheck, didn’t you?
Remember a couple chapters ago when we discussed paying yourself first? This is where the rubber meets the road.
Today – yes, that’s right, I said today – I want you to open a separate account, either at your bank or with your financial advisor. This cannot be combined with any current checking or savings account. It must be kept separate.
Now, I want you to decide on an amount that you will be able to set aside each month, or out of each paycheck. Can you afford to put away 10% of your paycheck? How much does that equate to? For Whatever it is, I want you to sit and think about what else you are spending that $200 on each month that you may be able to eliminate or go without until you’ve shown up for yourself and taken care of yourself in this way.
It bears repeating once more – if you have outstanding credit card debt, please work on eliminating that first. Once you eliminated your debt, you can add up all of the monthly minimum payments you pay on your credit cards and pay yourself in this new emergency fund account instead. Think how wonderful it will feel to pay yourself instead of your creditors.
You can set up an automatic transfer from your checking account into your new emergency account. It can be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. You decide.
In order to keep you accountable, it’s time to write down your commitment.
How much will you contribute weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, and on what date?
Now that you’ve made the incredible and monumental decision to show up for yourself in a beautiful new way, I want you to have a little fun with this. Remember, it’s all about the experience.
You get to name your new emergency fund account.
I named mine my F.R.E.E.D.O.M. Account.
How will you feel when you’ve accumulated six months of living expenses? My guess is that you’ll feel free, safe, secure, expansive, and overall proud of yourself.
Go ahead and give the fund a name.
Bam. You did it. That’s the most difficult part of starting an emergency fund. Just starting it.
Now what? Forget you have you the fund. Do not touch it. Pretend that there is a 100% penalty for touching that money. Because there is. Once you touch it, 100% of what you take out will be gone. And so will your safety net.
Let me define what an emergency may look like.
A major medical issue or crisis. The loss of your job or loss of income. A time where you cannot pay your bills for months at a time. Those are the only instances that constitute an emergency.
Here are a few tips to help you grow your new F.R.E.E.D.O.M. fund (doesn’t that sound good?).
- Consider depositing your annual tax refund into this account until you have it built up.
- Anytime you receive a bonus or some extra money flows into your experience, pop it into that account.
As always, you need a goal. Let’s create yours now. What is your net monthly (after tax) income?
Now, take your monthly income and multiply it by six months.
$_______ x 6 = (your F.R.E.E.D.O.M. fund goal)
Note: Ideally, I’d like for you to have eight months of living expenses saved up. You’re going to begin with six months as your initial goal.
Remember, you are now selfish, and you must put your own oxygen make on first. This money should never be used to give to a child, relative, or friend in need of bailing out. You are to pretend this money does not exist.
Still not convinced that you need this?
One of the most frustrating and heartbreaking things I have witnessed is people who take large sums of money from their 401K or IRA plan before they’ve reached the age of fifty-nine-and-a-half. Not only do they have to pay taxes on the money they withdraw, they also have to pay a 10% penalty for doing so before the age of fifty-nine-and-a-half.
In the past year, I’ve had three friends who have taken early withdrawals of money from their retirement accounts in order to pay off credit card debt after getting themselves into a bind.
Note: The following story is fictional in order to illustrate what happens when taking early withdrawals from retirement accounts.
Elizabeth had never been married. She lived on her own in downtown Chicago. She had a fantastic job as the head of HR at a local hospital (let’s call her Lizzy – she prefers that). Lizzy loved to go out with her girlfriends on the weekends and did a lot of damage shopping on Michigan Avenue. She allowed her spending to get out of control and ended up with approximately $40,000 in credit card debt. She then made the noble decision to turn over a new leaf and get herself out of debt. Great! Her decision to get out of debt was commendable. However, she decided to take from money she had accumulated in her retirement accounts in order to pay off her creditors. Lizzy stole from her future self. And I’m going to use her example to illustrate my point.
Lizzy took a $50,000 withdrawal from her IRA before age fifty-nine-and-a-half.
As a result, the following was withheld for taxes and penalties: Lizzy is in the 24% tax bracket – she may have paid 24% Federal tax, somewhere around 6% State tax, and a 10% penalty for early withdrawal.
Not only did Lizzy take $50,000 out of her retirement account – which will no longer be working for her and compounding over time – she took 40% off the top of that and handed it to Uncle Sam. In her case, $20,000 came right out of that money, leaving only $30,000 of her original $50,000 to use for paying off her credit card debt.
The other thing most people don’t think about when making the decision to take an early withdrawal is what happens to the potential future value of their money. In this case, we are illustrating the future value of $50,000.
Before Lizzy’s decision to liquidate her investments in order to pay off debt, she earned a 10% average rate of return in her 401K. In this example: $50,000 earning 10% for 10 years equals $129,704.
If you ever want to play around with this type of example, you can google Future Value of Money Calculators and plug in your own numbers.
Using Lizzy’s example, she withdrew $50,000 from her IRA, received $30,000 to pay off credit card debt, handed 40% of her hard-earned money to Uncle Sam (a whopping total of $20,000), and gave up the probability of having her money grow to almost $130,000 at the end of ten years.
Let’s take this one step further. How long did that $50,000 withdrawal set her back? Would she have been able to live an entire year on the future value of $130,000? How long did it take her to save up the $50,000 she used to pay off her debt? Is it possible that she may have to work a couple more years in retirement in order to make up for the loss of that money?
Of course, I wholeheartedly agree that paying off her credit card debt should have been her priority, but not at the expense of her future retirement. What would that have looked like? She would have had to cut back spending in other areas and create an aggressive plan to get herself out of debt instead of robbing from her future, happy, retired self in order to pay for the decision to spend outside her means. Unfortunately, it is likely that pulling money from her retirement savings was merely a short-term fix for her issue of overspending. Do you think she stopped spending? More than likely, her lifestyle hasn’t changed much, because she didn’t do the work required to make lasting changes.
Please make this promise to yourself right now. Repeat after me, “I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever take money out of my retirement accounts for anything other than living a comfortable retirement after I retire.”
If I stopped you from doing something you’ll regret for years to come, I’m a happy girl, and it was worth it.
Time for a five-minute visualization exercise.
I want you to go back to your sacred meditation space.
Take three deep breaths and close your eyes.
I’d like you to visualize your new emergency fund – the account that you gave a name to. I’m visualizing my F.R.E.E.D.O.M. fund. I also want you to visualize your retirement accounts as they look in the future.
What does it look like to have saved six months of living expenses? Visualize the dollar amount you’ve saved (whatever your goal for those accounts was). Visualize that you physically have that amount right now. Take a look at the numbers on your statement; it just arrived in the mail.
Pay attention to how it feels to have accumulated enough wealth to live a comfortable retirement. Do you feel free? Safe? Calm? Happy? Excited? Limitless? Powerful? Alive? Expansive? Whatever those feelings are, I want you to sit and relax in those feelings for five minutes.
Anything is possible in this space. Your life is limitless. You’re a powerful creator and a magnificent attractor. You have endless reserves available to you. You are free. You are alive. You are abundant. You are healthy. You are wealthy. You are wise. You are taken care of. The universe is abundant and expansive, and you have access to all that you’ve ever dreamed of.
In this chapter, you’ve learned the importance of having a backup plan for emergencies. You have a full understanding of what constitutes a true emergency and you’ve taken the crucial step of starting your emergency fund, which is key to owning your financial future and living a life of freedom. You’ve also learned the one thing you are neverto do to your future self. Remember to be easy with yourself as you begin.
Change is not always easy – but with the right mindset, you will be able to enjoy your new healthy financial decisions. Set the intention that you will enjoy the journey and have fun building up your account balance and watching it grow. Perhaps you can even make a game out of it. After all, don’t we play fun games to pass the time when we’re on a long road trip?
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