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Mary Sterk

DAKOTA DUNES --  Mary Sterk's life story reads like a movie script.

At age 19, she was a divorced mother of two, both under of 2. 

Barely scraping by on food stamps and welfare, Sterk wanted more for herself and her kids.

Attending business classes, she became interested in investments and insurance. Working at Sioux City's former Grandy Pratt, she chose to go out on her own when the insurance agency was sold.

Since 2004, Sterk Financial Service has grown into a successful business and Sterk, herself, has become a well-known author.

Following the publication of 2008's "Buy It! A Practical Guide to Buying a Financial Service Book of Business," she became a sought-after expert and as a Certified Financial Planner, she continues to create strategic plans for clients of all ages and from all walks of life.

"I've gone from being a welfare mom to becoming a wealth manager," Sterk said inside her Dakota Dunes office. "I think my experience allows me to be empathetic to all of my client's needs."

This is especially true when she helps her clients plan for their retirement.

Talking to a client in his 20s, Sterk would recommend he contribute as much as possible in a 401(k) plan. By the time, he's in his 30s and 40s, the client should increase his 401(k) contribution by 10 percent.

When the client is in his 50s and 60s, Sterk said protecting retirement savings while letting it grow becomes increasingly important.

Sterk, the author of 2017's "Ready to Pull the Retirement Trigger? Your Strategic Guide to Retire in Confidence," said there are five key questions to test a person's retirement readiness.

How will I want to spend my time? 

"Retirement is different than it used to be. People aren't on their front porch in rocking chairs any longer. Retirement can mean reinventing oneself. Do you want to travel, pursue a passion, launch a small business? Understanding how you want to spend your time is critical in planning the financial aspect of a string retirement."

What are my health related risks during retirement?

"Expensive health insurance, personal medical issues and high nursing home costs are big issues for retirees. You must evaluate health insurance, Medicare and long term care insurance to see what's right for you."

How much monthly income will I need?

"There's no magic number but your monthly income should align with the lifestyle you want to lead."

How long will I need my money to last?

"While it's impossible to accurately predict, looking at the longevity of your family can be a good place to start."

How do I turn what I have into income?

"This is the hardest part of preparing for retirement. You've spent your entire life saving for retirement and it is a huge shift to actually begin using what you've saved. Certain types of investments are better suited for monthly income, while others are geared toward long-term growth. Talk to an adviser who specializes in retirement income strategies to learn more about the best options for your portfolio."

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