skip to Main Content

How to retire debt-free and enjoy the next stage

DUBUQUE, Iowa—Chuck Andracchio believes retirement is meant to be enjoyed. And, to him, the key to that enjoyment is creating and having the the ability to retire debt-free.

The native Dubuquer and longtime Dupaco Community Credit Union member retired in 2018, shortly before his 66th birthday. Since then, he’s spent his days working out with his 95-year-old mother, playing euchre, fishing and hiking with his good friend, and volunteering at the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens.

Andracchio is doing what he always planned to do–soaking-up retirement.

Learn how a heavy debt load can impact retirement >

Andracchio and his wife, Dawn, have been meeting with Suzan Martin-Hallahan, CFP®, a financial consultant at Dupaco Financial Services, for the past dozen years to, among other things, create and follow a financial game plan to retire debt-free.

“I had all these wonderful plans and hobbies lined up that I wanted to do when I retired. We built our home near the arboretum so I could volunteer there,” Andracchio said. “The one thing I didn’t want to have lined up was debt. If I had debt in the back of my mind, it would be a burden.”

How did the Andracchios manage to retire debt-free? Here are five steps they followed to retire happily with their debt paid in full:

|1| Think about a few tomorrows from now

Enjoy the present—make memories and take some trips—but don’t forget about tomorrow (or a few tomorrows from now), Andracchio said.

Think about ways you can save money today so you have funds available for the other stages of your life. An emergency savings fund is a great place to start.

In addition to investment products and services, Dupaco offers several ways to save, including You-Name-It Savings accounts, money market accounts and term-share certificates.

“Hindsight is always 20-20,” Andracchio said. “So many young people don’t take the time to think about the future. You really need to remember that there will be a day you’re going to be retired.”

|2| Take advantage of your employee benefits

At every job he worked along the way, Andracchio took advantage of his companies’ 401(k) retirement plans. His wife has done the same as she continues to work toward her own retirement. Even if the company doesn’t match your contributions, it’s an opportunity to save for your future—with a bonus of potential tax benefits.

“You have to take advantage of those company 401(k)s,” Andracchio said. “And if there’s any kind of a company match, that’s icing on the cake.”

As your pay increases over the years, challenge yourself to put away even more in your 401(k) or other savings avenues, Andracchio said. You’ll thank yourself later.

Don’t have an employee retirement plan? Dupaco can help >

|3| Find a trusted financial adviser

Don’t try to plan for your financial future alone. Find a trusted financial adviser, and make sure you’re comfortable with that person, Andracchio said.

Be up front and honest with your financial planner. Lay out your assets and debts, and be open about your retirement goals and timeframe.

“I hate to say, ‘Put all your eggs in one basket,’ but you really have to go against that adage. A trusted financial adviser has to know all of your assets and goals,” he said. “It’s a matter of opening up, because each plan is different for every individual and family. And you have to execute and stay on goal.”

The Andracchios meet with Martin-Hallahan about twice a year and touched base more frequently as Andracchio approached retirement. The couple continues to meet with Martin-Hallahan to plan for Dawn’s retirement down the road.

“We both think the world of Sue. We followed her plan, and we executed the plan,” Andracchio said. “Retirement is really nice, especially when you have everything lined up personally as well as financially.”

When Martin-Hallahan first reviewed their finances several years ago, she wanted them to scale back on paying off some of their debt so they could build an emergency fund to access in retirement. The couple continues to build that fund today—using it for emergencies, vacations and, most recently, new cabinetry in their home.

“Having that fund available is a very comforting feeling,” Andracchio said.

Try our free calculators to create a savings plan >

|4| Pay off your home loan biweekly

Over the years, the couple aggressively paid off their home loan, taking advantage of biweekly payments, in advance of Andracchio’s retirement.

Not only do frequent, automatic payments shorten the term of the loan by allowing you to hit the principal more often, it also reduces the amount of interest you pay your lender.

How does it work? With biweekly payments, you end up making one extra payment each year, compared to monthly installments. So when you make biweekly payments on a 15-year home loan, for instance, you’ll actually pay off your loan in about 13.5 years.

In addition to biweekly payments, the Andracchios put extra money toward their principal whenever their budget allowed.

Learn more about the benefits of biweekly payments >

|5| Plan for your physical security

Preparing for retirement requires more than just a financial plan.

Andracchio has been retired for about nine months. And he says it’s been critical to have some hobbies and a plan for your physical security during this new stage of life.

He stays busy by working out three times a week with his mom at Stonehill Franciscan Services, playing euchre every Tuesday, fishing and hiking as time allows, and spending a lot of time at the nearby arboretum.

“If you plan to retire, you better have something to do to occupy your time,” he said. “That’s why I joined the health club the week I retired. And now I see all these senior citizens staying in shape at Stonehill. They’re in great shape, because they go and do something.”

Your Dupaco Credit Union provides referrals to financial professionals of LPL Financial LLC (“LPL”) pursuant to an agreement that allows LPL to pay Dupaco Credit Union for these referrals. This creates an incentive for Dupaco Credit Union to make these referrals, resulting in a conflict of interest. Dupaco Credit Union is not a current client of LPL for brokerage or advisory services. Please read the LPL Financial Relationship Disclosure for more detailed information.

Dupaco Financial Services is a division of Dupaco Community Credit Union — the financial home you own — so you can rest assured that you're working with an organization that will act with your personal interest in mind. Dupaco Financial Services works with a national, full-service securities brokerage firm, LPL Financial, to make available top-of-the-line investment and insurance information and opportunities.

Securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial (LPL), a registered investment advisor and broker-dealer (member FINRA/SIPC). Insurance products are offered through LPL Financial or its licensed affiliates. Dupaco Community Credit Union and Dupaco Financial Services are not registered as a broker-dealer or investment advisor. Registered representatives of LPL offer products and services using Dupaco Financial Services, and may also be employees of Dupaco Community Credit Union. These products and services are being offered through LPL or its affiliates, which are separate entities from, and not affiliates of, Dupaco Community Credit Union or Dupaco Financial Services. Securities and insurance offered through LPL or its affiliates are:

Not Insured by NCUA or Any Other Government Agency | Not Credit Union Guaranteed | Not Credit Union Deposits or Obligations | May Lose Value

The LPL Financial Registered Representatives associated with this site may only discuss and/or transact securities business with residents of the following states: Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.

LPL Financial Form CRS

Click for Online Chat