But it wasnâ€™t a smooth ride all the way. When the financial markets began to collapse, the Bembrysâ€™ own negotiations started to waiver. There were some hesitations on the developerâ€™s part. The couple got a 30-year fixed mortgage at a very decent 5%. As for the down payment, they shelled out $20,000 instead of the $10,000 they had initially planned, nearly depleting Jessicaâ€™s 401(k) from a previous employer.
The Bembrys realize they have to work even harder now to rebuild their retirement savings. In addition to the money put into the house, the couple withdrew $30,000 from their 401(k) accounts to finance their nuptials. Currently, they have about $15,500 combined in retirement accounts.
A plus is that the couple has worked hard to improve their credit. At the time of their home purchase, Jessicaâ€™s credit score was 621 and Josephâ€™s was 759. They have about $12,800 in credit card and personal debt, and there will be another $25,000 in student loan debt due in about five years for Jessicaâ€™s undergraduate education at Trinity University, where she is just 12 credits from her degree.
Since buying their home, the couple has become a bit more frugal, curtailing entertainment and utility expenditures, and adding energy-saving thermostats. Their $2,500 mortgage payment constitutes the biggest chunk of their $3,500 to $4,000 monthly household expenses. Fortunately their household income got a bump up to $98,000 when Jessica started her current job at the DDOT in December.
Like most Americans, the couple is worried about the economy. â€śWe read the headlines and watch the news. We know people around us are losing their jobs. Itâ€™s frightening,â€ť Jessica says. But since both work in the public sector, they feel relatively secure about their jobs. And the recent transplantsâ€”she relocated from Boston in 2006 and he from New York in 2003â€”say the local economy has been picking up. â€śPermits are getting issued for new construction and there are licenses for new businesses,â€ť says Joseph. â€śAnd PresidentÂ Obama gives people hope. Thatâ€™s a positive.â€ť
This story originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.