BE Financial Fitness Contest

Winner #7 Theodore & Darlene Mathis

For many couples, the quest for their dream house is like Ulysses’ odyssey-a never-ending journey. Theodore Mathis Jr. and Darlene, ages 38 and 35, respectively, decided to have their ideal home built from the ground up. While it took just four months to build their humble split-level brick abode, it took over two years to buy the land and secure a loan.

“We went to over 20 different banks to get financing for the house,” says Theodore, a directory assistant with the Horizons division of Bell Atlantic, who took $7,000 out of his 401(k) plan over a year ago to put toward the home. “My father offered to pay our rent [$570] for a year so that we could save money to get a home.” It cost $15,000 to buy the land and $100,000 for the mortgage.

Married 12 years, the Mathises say one of their short-term goals was to build a house. Their long-term objective, however, is to build an investment portfolio so that they might both retire in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, a suburb outside of Pittsburgh.

With only $500 remaining in his 401(k) plan, Theodore needs to replenish his savings. Darlene, a reservation sales agent with US Airways, has about $20,000 saved up in her company plan. She contributes about 6% of her salary. She also has roughly $1,200 worth of employee stock options.

Another challenge the couple faces is creating an education fund for their nine-year-old son, Teddy III. Theodore believes his son, a running back on his football team, has the makings of the next Barry Sanders, the all-time NFL scorer for the Detroit Lions. In fact, he is banking on his son getting an athletic scholarship to attend college. Theodore does possess some insight into his son’s athletic prowess, given that he’s the coach of his son’s Little League football team, the Termites.

The Mathises are steadfast believers in DOFE principle No. 7: they are devoted to giving of their time and money to their community. In addition to their regular contributions to their church, Darlene, who attends services every Sunday, handles the announcements. “My wife grew up in this town,” says Theodore, who also coaches his son’s fourth-grade basketball team, “but it was important for me as an African American male, husband and father to set a positive example or role model in the community.”

THE ADVICE
Like many young couples starting out, the Mathises admit to spending excessively on food, entertainment and toys-namely, Theodore’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which has since been sold. They currently have about $560 in disposable income each month, which they need to save and invest in order to reach their long-term goals.

black enterprise arranged for the couple to consult with Lyndall C. Medearis Jr., a financial advisor with AXA Advisors L.L.C. in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. The following are the recommendations of Medearis, who served as our financial planner in Pennsylvania for this contest:

  • Build up their emergency fund. They should take $1,500 of the $2,000 winnings from this contest and put it in a money market mutual fund
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