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Balancing short-term expenses with long-term goals

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Caroline T., age 35
San Mateo, Calif.
Married, two kids
"Managing retirement comes up in conversation with my inlaws; I find that helpful."

Caroline's Tips

  • "You won't miss the 401(k) deduction in your check if you contribute from the start."
  • "Save your 401(k) for retirement. Don't tap it to buy a house."
  • "Seek out the financial advice and experience of family and people you trust."


  • With a job and two kids, retirement planning is limited to 401(k) contributions.
  • At present, saving for retirement takes priority over saving for the kids' education

Caroline and her husband are balancing short-term expenses with long-term goals.

"Before we had kids, my husband and I maxed out on our 401(k)s. But daycare is expensive. Once they are in public school, we'll max out again. We don't dwell on our retirement accounts, but we do keep saving. In fact, when we bought our house, we chose one we could afford without borrowing from our 401(k)s.

She's interested in hearing older people talk about how they manage in retirement.

"There are good reasons to start early with a 401(k). Besides gaining more opportunity for growth, if you begin contributions when you start a job, it's money you'll never miss from your paycheck."

"I understand the importance of saving early. I listen when my in-laws, who are retired, talk about their various investments--and how they opened an IRA for my husband when he got his first job as a teenager. We discuss how to be savvy in terms of taxes, and to plan as if you are going to live a long time. Not everyone likes to talk about money, but my in-laws are pretty forthcoming. I'm grateful to have people to learn from."

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