Karen Achterberg '66 - Sterling CollegeKaren Achterberg ’66 felt the need to come to Sterling College after she had started her collegiate career. It turned out to be just the right fit. In her working career, Karen worked in the energy sector and has seen the benefits to long-term planning and investing. Now retired, she enjoys being “home” in Houston but travels often, including to Alaska (twice) on cruises to enjoy time with friends and the beautiful scenery.

SM: How did you hear about Sterling and what brought you to Sterling College?

My mother was born in Raymond, Kan., and raised in Sterling. She had nine other siblings in her family. Not everyone lived in Sterling but several of my aunts and uncles did. I started my college career at the University of Texas and found out that was not the best fit for me. After some time searching I decided I just wanted to go to Sterling. We had spent summers there and it was where I felt I needed to be. Sterling was very friendly. I hardly knew anyone there when I first arrived but I made friends quickly. It was a small school but it was the right place for me at the right time in my life.

My father was adamant that I finish college and get my degree because he knew I would be so much better off and successful in my job search having earned my degree. He was there for me in attendance when I graduated from Sterling in 1966.

SM: What fond memories do you have from here?

Chapel was required when I was at Sterling. Four days out of the week it was a traditional chapel service but Fridays were more interactive - there might be a pep rally or a scene from the upcoming play. This was totally different for me, but it was one of the best parts of being at Sterling: starting out your mornings with chapel. It just made me feel good for the rest of the day.

SM: You’ve worked in the oil and gas industry; what would you like to share about your career?

I have always done some type of accounting, financial reporting and analysis in my career. The whole oil and gas industry is dependent on the price of crude oil. When I started out, putting together income statements and balance sheets was all done on paper. Once we finally got computers and spreadsheets that was a huge difference. I can remember one time the president of our company visited and asked me to prepare an income statement. So, while he was at my desk and I plugged those numbers in and produced the report. He couldn’t believe how fast we could now do that.

I have worked for different companies and lived in New Orleans, St. Louis and even New York on work assignments but I’m back home now (Houston), and that’s where I like to be.

SM: For young alumni starting out, what advice would you give regarding personal and retirement investing?

In order to build up a fairly decent financial portfolio, it’s important to have a career that you like. Now, I know sometimes you have to take a job, just to get a job, but when you have the option to do something in your field that you’re truly interested in, take a serious look at it. The benefits offered to you can be a huge differentiating factor as well. Finally, if they offer an employer match for a retirement fund, do it! You can start out with nothing and when it gets matched each month, it can become significant.