Can you have your cake and retire too?
A young couple dream of getting away from the Seattle grind. "I get up at 6 a.m., make coffee, get ready for work, make my lunch, hit the...
Special to The Seattle Times
About this seriesDo you know how much money you'll need for retirement? What's the best way to invest? This is the latest in a series of monthly "financial makeovers" by The Seattle Times for readers who want to get real about their money. You'll read about their challenges and discover possible solutions from financial planners.
A young couple dream of getting away from the Seattle grind.
"I get up at 6 a.m., make coffee, get ready for work, make my lunch, hit the freeway," said Joe Linscheid, 30, a mechanic at a local Lexus dealership. "It's dirty, smelly work all day."
Then he's on the freeway again for a sluggish commute out of Lynnwood. The sound of saws and other construction noises greets him when he gets back to his Green Lake home. Neighbors on both sides of his house have been remodeling for almost three years.
He isn't complaining. He likes what he does and where he lives. The routine just gets a little tedious.
Lauren Linscheid, 29, enjoys her job, too. She's a client-services representative at Business Wire, an information-distribution network for companies worldwide.
Joe and Lauren earned bachelor's degrees in philosophy from Sonoma State University in California's wine country. What did they think they'd do with philosophy degrees? "Nothing," they answered in unison.
Since their college graduation four years ago, they've shared an interest in wine.
What they want
Joe and Lauren want to travel to South America — Buenos Aires and the wine-rich Mendoza province in Argentina — during the grape-harvest season in February 2008.
"Lauren likes to travel, and I like to do things that make her happy," Joe said.
Although that seems like a comment from a newlywed, they'll celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary this month.
The trip would cost about $11,000, and they wonder if they can afford it. Would it be wiser to invest that amount in a retirement plan, put the money toward home-renovation projects or save it in case they decide to have children?
What they have
With their home loan, car loan and recent financing of kitchen appliances, the Linscheids owe about $232,000. On the plus side, together they earn $93,000 and have been saving about 20 percent of their income.
"It almost gives me a stomachache when I have to buy something," said Joe. He attributes his "saving mentality" to his father.
Lauren added, "Joe's father washes out and dries Ziploc bags to use again. He runs every day and has his tennis shoes resoled. He's a lovely man who does not let anything go to waste."
They have $51,000 in nonqualified assets — the majority in checking and savings accounts — and $36,000 in their 401(k) plans. Their house is valued at $405,000, making their net worth close to $260,000.
Considering their ages and the number of years they have ahead to earn money, the Linscheids think they're "OK" financially.
What they need
Certified financial planner Matt McKellar analyzed what he called the Linscheid's "financial DNA."
McKellar, who is president and co-founder of ICON Consulting in Bellevue, said Joe and Lauren are underfunding their retirement savings. Assuming they maintain current spending and saving patterns and retire in the year 2037, their retirement assets would run out in 2052 when they'll be in their mid-70s.
"Planning is a process of trying to bring the future into the present so we can do something about it," McKellar said. "They are doing great with short and midrange financial goals. Now they need to focus on long-term investments."
The Linscheids have around $41,000 in separate checking and savings accounts. McKellar recommended setting aside $11,000 of that for their vacation to South America.
Next, they should put $5,000 toward retirement investments by opening two Roth IRAs with $2,500 each. That still leaves a comfortable cushion of cash.
Joe and Lauren also make an extra $100 principal payment on their mortgage loan every month. McKellar said that's "better than spending $100" but instead they should concentrate on fully funding Lauren's 401(k).
"I figured the extra principal would save us $40,000 at the end of the 30-year loan," Joe said. However, $100 per month put into a 401(k) with matching funds from Lauren's employer amounts to $500,000 upon retirement. "That makes more sense," he agreed.
It also makes sense to get disability insurance, which Lauren has through her work but Joe hasn't signed up for.
"The biggest asset they have right now is their ability to earn a paycheck," McKellar said. "If that goes away for an extended period of time, all their hard work saving money is undone and they might never recover."
What they think
The need for wills and disability insurance has made them "pretty emotional," Lauren said. Neither wants to think about losing the other or having something bad happen, but they plan to take care of the business that "young, invincible" people often don't consider.
Both were surprised McKellar was supportive of their Argentina plans.
"I really thought he'd say 'You could go on a trip, but it'd be better to move $10,000 ... ' " Joe started to say. "... into some account and earn something-something percent on it," Lauren said, finishing his sentence.
"He kept telling us life doesn't start at 55 or 60 and we've worked hard for our money so we should take a vacation and have fun," Joe added. "That was unexpected. I'm kind of getting excited about going."
We're looking for families who need help saving for college expenses or have other financial dilemmas. If you're interested in a free financial makeover in exchange for having your story and photo published in The Times, answer a few brief questions at seattletimes.com/ yourmoneysurvey.
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