Money Makeover – How Thomas and Emily Funded Their Retirement Sooner Than They Thought Possible.

Posted on: June 19, 2019

By Money Coaches Canada


Meet Emily and Thomas

Irish born Thomas and American Emily, have worked in three different countries throughout their careers. They currently live in Alberta, where Thomas, age 56, is

employed with a large non-profit organization and Emily, age 58, works as an administrative professional. The couple is debt and mortgage free. They travel at least once a year to the U.S. and Ireland to see family.

With retirement funds tied to three countries, and unclear about how much they would need to maintain their desired lifestyle, the couple felt uncertain about their retirement readiness. Frustrated by the generic nature of online tools, and unimpressed by the investment management focus and impersonal advice they received from traditional financial advisors, they were drawn to the idea of working with a Money Coach. The couple’s story is real, but we’ve changed their names to protect their identity.

Money Challenge

Thomas and Emily hoped that with the guidance of a Money Coach, they would find some clarity about how soon they could retire. They contacted Money Coach Barbara Knoblach because they resonated with the values they read in her bio and were inspired by the fact that she has worked in four countries throughout her own career.

Emily says, “We knew Barbara would understand our cross-border considerations.”

Thomas agreed, “We really didn’t know what we were up against, and I personally didn’t know how well we did in terms of our retirement savings. I knew the amount we had, but was that enough?”

“We were human beings to Barbara,” says Emily. “Right away we could see that she was really truly interested in helping us. She asked questions that made us think more about what our needs really are. What lifestyle would we be comfortable with? What is our risk tolerance? She also explained things that we may have thought about, such as the differences in taxes, and health care in different countries, but she explained more fully how they could impact our retirement.”

Money Challenge Twist: Originally the couple’s goal was to retire within 10 years to the United States, to live near Emily’s family and continue their visits to Ireland. But during their work with Barbara, Thomas’s elderly mother’s situation changed. She was going to need daily assistance as time progressed, and there were no other family members living nearby. (Though Emily’s parents are also quite elderly, other family members are available to assist them).

What, they asked Barbara, would it take to retire sooner, and to Ireland instead of the U.S.? Was that option even on the table?

Financial Facts

  • They are mortgage and debt free
  • They have accumulated retirement savings in two different countries due to previous jobs
  • They have entitlements to government benefits and pensions from three different countries
  • Although “Savers” by nature, they had never had a formal assessment of their retirement readiness
  • They lacked a strategy for systematic retirement savings contributions
  • No developed investment plan

Money Makeover

After taking time to get to know the couple and their goals and values, Barbara analyzed the couple’s spending, income streams and savings habits.

“Any accountant could look at your numbers and give you your net worth,” says Emily. “The assessment Barbara gave us went way beyond that, it was so personalized. It gave us a sigh of relief that we were on the right track. It was a wonderful feeling”

Thomas agrees, “We had an entire session where Barbara just asked questions, and that foundation was what her analysis was built on, she fully understood where we were coming from. She really listened.”

Initially Barbara developed an ambitious but realistic goal of monthly retirement savings for the couple to implement. But when the couple’s goal pivoted from a retirement in nine years to the U.S., to the desire to help Thomas’s mother in Ireland as soon as possible, Barbara laid out different scenarios based on different retirement dates, to make that achievable.

Barbara explained that the couple could retire several years earlier than anticipated, and though there would be a significantly lower pension for Thomas relative to the normal retirement date, the couple could move to live close by Thomas’ mother to help her and still have the lifestyle they desire. She also provided the couple an initial look at possible financial scenarios involved in moving.

“Choosing an early retirement comes with big reductions in pension payments,” says Thomas, “but it was a choice that I could make.”

Emily agrees, “That was a huge weight lifted.”


Thomas and Emily realize that they have done very well with the retirement savings they accumulated throughout their careers. This fact had not been known to them because of their international work history, and having investments scattered over different countries.

Based on Barbara’s analysis, they have adjusted their current investments to match their level of risk tolerance and their imminent departure from work life, which has greatly improved their feelings of financial security.

Anxiety around not being able to help Thomas’s elderly mother decreased substantially, as they are now planning for early retirement and the move to her country. Thomas says that he can now see them being with his mother to help with doctor appointments, meals, walking the dog, and other daily activities.

Both Thomas and Emily are impressed and grateful for all the research Barbara did on their behalf.

“It has been a very positive experience,” says Thomas. “We have retirement savings in multiple countries, which makes things very complicated. It’s hard to find someone who can help you. As soon as it gets international it gets complicated in a hurry with taxes. We are still working with Barbara because our situation continues to be complex.”

The couple agrees that working with Barbara has been life changing.

“I guess for many people,” says Thomas, “finding a financial advisor to get you out of debt, or to maximize your investments, can be life changing. But we really feel fortunate that in our case, working with a Money Coach has really made a fundamental difference to how we live our lives.  Moving near my mother wasn’t even on our radar before we met Barbara, because I thought I had to work many, many more years. Once she explained how it could be possible, then all of a sudden it became a reality and that was a big change.”

Category(s): Money Coaching

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