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Opportunity Knocks for the Latest Sweeps Winner

Linda Tramel won big — and learned a bunch about retirement planning

John and Linda Tramel, September 2013 AARP Sweepstakes Winner (Linda Tramel)

John and Linda Tramel won $50,000 in AARP's spring Retirement Sweepstakes. — Linda Tramel

It was about time Linda Tramel got a lucky break.

The 54-year-old Missouri native had already had plenty of unlucky ones, including a broken back from a recent fall down her kitchen stairs. Without health insurance, she and her husband — who were already caring for aging parents and paying for two kids' college tuition — quickly found themselves in a debt hole.

So the $50,000 grand prize she won in July, by playing AARP's spring Retirement Sweepstakes, could not have come at a better time.

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"Honestly, we've lived hand-to-mouth for a long time," Tramel told AARP after she won the prize. "We save — and then something big comes up and there that goes. We're like a lot of other people; we don't know what we're going to do about retirement. But when the time comes, things usually work out."

In this case, things worked out nicely for a very nice couple. Opportunity knocked, and Tramel answered by entering our educational sweepstakes, even though the "game" wasn't exactly Candy Crush Saga or mah-jongg. Instead, it was a retirement-saving personality quiz, which graded you on how well you were planning and saving for your retirement.

See also: Singing the Retirement Planning Blues? Take a Walt Handelsman video laugh break!

Like the new fall sweeps, which launched Sept. 1, you could take the quizevery day. (The new sweeps is a more entertaining — but still educationally rich — retirement-smarts trivia quiz.)

"That contest made you face a few things you don't want to face," Tramel says. "But sometimes you need to be smacked in the face with this stuff. I'd rather see the truth right smack in front of my face than say later 'Why didn't you tell me?' "

Next page: The hard truth about retirement planning. »

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VIDEO EXTRA

RETIREMENT PLAN AHEAD: Kiplinger's David Muhlbaum shares the best ways to calculate how much you'll need for retirement. 

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