Search & Replace S04E06: Dalene Higgins

What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money for retirement? Meet Dalene Higgins, a former government employee who turned her meticulous budgeting into a retirement plan so successful, it enabled her to retire early and pursue a new passion as a financial coach. Dalene shares her journey of transforming her relationship with money and mastering the art of living well—both before and after retirement. Tune in to Search and Replace and discover how you can also craft a life that transcends the typical financial worries and truly enjoy your golden years. 

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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialists at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode.  

[00:00:09] Joe Taylor Jr.: What if you no longer had to worry about the money you’d need to retire? You just have to think about what you’re going to do with your time.  

[00:00:17] I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search & Replace.  

[00:00:23] Dalene Higgins: Dailene Higgins likes to plan ahead. I worked in the government sector, changed agencies. And I was like, okay, I did 17 years there I can do, and the light bulb went off. I only had to do 13 more years to be able to access my pension. And I realized if I wanted to retire in that, quote, 13 years, I had to be prepared. 

[00:00:48] Joe Taylor Jr.: So, I’m the kind of person who’s not sure what I’m going to be doing in 13 weeks, let alone 13 years. Maybe you’re the same way. But Daylene’s got the kind of brain that’s optimized to think about long term planning. And the folks over at Motley Fool reviewed some consumer surveys among Americans who are already notorious for not saving very much money very well. Most studies and surveys show that most of us don’t get serious about saving for retirement until we’re in our thirties and forties. So when did Dalene get this burst of inspiration?  

[00:01:23] Dalene Higgins: I was about 35. That was my aha moment of I better get my butt in gear if I wanted to retire that early. So, I really got focused on budgeting. And I know everybody hates spend budgeting, but it was the driving force of my entire 15-year journey. I really started focusing and really getting into the meat and bones of all my numbers. So, making sure we’re spending correctly that we’re saving in all the accounts we need, and to support us also supporting what we were doing in the moment. 

[00:01:56] So, enjoying life. We were both working full-time. We had our daughter things she wanted to do. I just got really focused on different areas. How can I be better? Like on my groceries, I’m always been a meal planner, but you know, was there anything more I could learn, anything more I could do. And explore all of the different things. And it might have given me, you know, 5, 10 a month or a paycheck, but that slowly added up as I continued the journey.  

[00:02:22] I think the hardest thing was us really pausing on a lot of our expenses. It was really, do we need it or can we pause for another month? So that was probably the bumpiest where we were second guessing some of those expenses that were never second guess before. You know going that extra layer deep.  

[00:02:42] Joe Taylor Jr.: And for Dalene and her family, a lot of that second layer Involved the ways they spent their leisure time.  

[00:02:48] Dalene Higgins: Even though I know a lot of people are like you probably did absolutely nothing and I like to share what we did as a family. We had this piece of property. We enjoyed it. We had You Vehicles, we had a camp trailer, as my daughter got busier, we sold the camp trailer, sold the motorcycles.  

[00:03:03] So with the selling of that, we were able to put quite a bit down on our home. So as we’re approaching this, this timeline, like our home was paid off. So that also helped. Being able to come into retirement without a mortgage.  

[00:03:20] Now, we do have an investment property that my daughter lives in up for school, and so we do have still a little bit. But we were able to get everything paid off, really just stay the course. Build up her emergency funds be able to support I was like, okay, this is real. 

[00:03:37] Joe Taylor Jr.: So, Dalene perfectly executed her plan, which meant she could officially retire from her government job at her target age. And then what? What do you do with your time when most folks in your age group are still grinding away?  

[00:03:53] Dalene Higgins: As I was retiring, I thought, well, I’m still too young to just, you know, sit around, do nothing. 

[00:03:59] So I was trying to find something to fill part of my day and I came across financial coaching and I’m like, oh my heck, I could help others using this momentum I have. And this excitement to be able to help fuel them in understanding of all the little steps it took me to get there as well as figuring out what life on the other side looks like.  

[00:04:22] Because I think a lot of people only worry about the money, but yet they don’t realize that the lifestyle and pairing those two together is so important. 

[00:04:31] You know, it’s really just that scarce mentality and just thinking about, well, how can you be more abundant? How can you take those steps to help yourself enjoy the quality of life you want without worrying so much about money. I found it. It just connected. I love working with numbers. I love helping bring those numbers to the people and let them believe in what they see and most clients of mine that I work with and after one session, they’re like, Oh, gosh, it’s not that bad. 

[00:05:01] Bringing that excitement to people and rather with than them being scared or even just hiding from their numbers and the reality of it. To help them embrace what they thought was a closed door is an open door and that there’s multiple open doors and just to be able to pursue whatever it is they feel that they truly want. 

[00:05:22] Joe Taylor Jr.: So we asked a Dalene if you’re still working, is it really retirement?  

[00:05:27] Dalene Higgins: So, I have become an entrepreneur after retirement. And my husband, he actually goes to part time work. You can still be retired and still working in a certain form and just realizing that can be an option. And that can be part of your retirement plan as well. 

[00:05:44] Look at savings and paying off debt. Because the closer you are to retirement, if you can, get rid of as much debt as possible, that’s less income you’re going to have to come in from your savings. Also knowing that, even if you are doing an equivalency of your debt payoff and your saving, the day you are able to retire that savings will still grow. You’re not going to take the entire lump sum with you. It’s still going to have a portion to grow, you can let it continue to do its thing. So really, I would just focus on maybe managing the debt if you’ve got a lot, and if not, then just save what you can and start building your lifestyle that will be similar to retirement. 

[00:06:26] Joe Taylor Jr.: That’s financial coach Dalene Higgins. We’ve got links to her work in our show notes and on our website at  

[00:06:34] Also on our show notes for this episode, Rachel Hartman’s got a list of 10 costs you should include in your retirement plan. Most of them might sound obvious, but don’t forget unexpected home modifications and a surprise battle or two with inflation. 

[00:06:49] Plus, Jenna from the blog Tidymalism has an overview of intentional spending. That’s the art of getting more mindful about your money without denying yourself the fun stuff in life.  

[00:07:00] All that and more over on our website at  

[00:07:05] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production.  

[00:07:09] Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialists serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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