No time like the present – Retirement strategies with Seth Miller

Seth Miller is no stranger to retirement. In his eight years at DRS, he’s worked with customers as well as employers. His true passion is working with people, despite being a math and physics major in college.

Now he’s in a new role as Retirement Readiness Director. He’s been preparing for this his entire life.

A close up of a middle-aged man, with a beard and dressed in a tie.
Seth Miller, Retirement Readiness Director

After earning his degree from Central Washington University, he worked in the housing and new student orientation office. Three years later, he landed a job in Eastern Washington University’s college admissions program. He spent his time touring the state, giving 100 presentations per year to potential students about why they should go to college.

“I always knew I liked talking in front of people” Miller remembers, even though he considers himself to be an introvert.

The college grind

While presenting to college students, he started to develop an interest for talking to people about their finances.

It soon became clear that many of the prospective students he met didn’t know what they wanted to do for a career. And yet, they felt that a four-year college was the only option right out of high school.  

“You’d see students who would go to school for a year and then drop out. They’d end up with $10-$20 thousand in debt,” Miller says.

Several years later, he was pleased to start working in a job where he could help people save money and plan for retirement.

Retirement readiness

In his new position, Miller understands that personal finance is personal. “You can’t talk to someone about their finances until they’re ready to talk about their finances.”

One of the biggest challenges he believes that DRS faces is meeting people where they are. While there are a few customers that think about their retirement account every week, most don’t think about it until after they turn 55, while others may not even know what plan they’re in.  

“I think there’s a lot more we can do around helping people prepare for retirement,” says Miller. Recognizing that DRS has been primarily focused on helping people get their pension at the end of their career, he’s looking forward to helping more people at the beginning of their journey.

More recently, he and his team have been developing messages that can reach people at different life events. Presentations about topics like emergency savings, divorce and lifestyle after retirement are in the works.

In 2017, the state passed a bill that auto-enrolls new employees in the Deferred Compensation Program (DCP). Miller considers this a win.

“The earlier you’re saving for retirement, the better.”

Lessons in finance

As someone who works for a retirement agency, Miller is often asked to give financial advice. “Just being interested in personal finance helps,” he says.

Miller and his wife have regular discussions about their finances and are open about it with each other. He also reads articles about finance and listens to podcasts.

Ultimately, personal finance is personal. You can hear about what someone else is doing, but you still have to understand the tools. “The more you can read and learn about personal finance, the more you can consider how those things apply to your life,” says Miller.  

When it comes to thinking about saving money for the future, many people focus on the money mistakes they’ve made or what they should’ve done.

According to an old Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

This same approach can be applied to finances. There’s no point in over-analyzing what you’ve done in the past; just know that you can take action today.

That’s what Miller loves about his line of work. “It’s my job is to make it easy for people to take action on their retirement plan,” he says. “When people are ready, we’re here to help spark some of those actions.”

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