Financial Fitness Contest Winner No. 80

Quency hawkins balances his own retirement plan with aiding his relatives

Quency Hawkins takes to heart the commandment “honor thy mother and father.” The only child of retired parents, he’s helping fill the financial gaps not only for them but also for his grandmother.

Hawkins’ 60-year-old mother, Brenda, a former teacher’s assistant, and father, 64-year-old Vernice, a former custodian, have a limited monthly income that includes his father’s Social Security benefit and funds from their respective pensions. Fortunately, it’s enough to meet their monthly expenses, but they have to call on Hawkins when they need extras or have emergencies. Simply put, there’s not a lot of cushion for the unexpected: “I see the train coming, and I’m trying to prepare for it,” says Hawkins.

It’s not as though his parents haven’t tried to make adjustments in retirement. They have become fastidious about watching utility bills, cutting costs by 30%. They also purchase food in bulk to save money. But his parents still come up short from time to time. Hawkins currently contributes $4,000 to $5,000 a year for things such as repairs for his mother’s aging car, maintenance and utilities for his 78-year-old grandmother’s home, and other bills — basically wherever his family needs help. Though other family members chip in to the extent they are able, it’s Hawkins and his mother who are primarily responsible for helping his grandmother, who receives Medicaid.

Hawkins, 34, earns $75,000 a year as a senior instructor for a software and database company in Raleigh, North Carolina. He moved into his new position in October 2004 and says he needs every bit of that salary and more. While right now he can manage to help his family without too much strain, there is potential for a real financial crunch ahead. Today, thankfully, everyone is relatively healthy, and his parents have major medical coverage. But if health concerns should become an issue, that could get expensive. The average annual cost of nursing home care is more than $74,000 according to Genworth Financial’s 2007 Cost of Care Survey.

Hawkins recognizes that his family members are likely to need more from him in the future. “It’s not a burden, I’m glad to do it,” he says. “Culturally, it’s what we do. My great-grandmother lived at home until she was 96 — my mother and grandmother helped out with her. It’s my turn.” Certainly his parents were there for him along the way. “They helped me in undergrad and graduate school,” says Hawkins, who received his bachelor’s degree in electronics from North Carolina A&T State University and a master’s in industrial technology from East Carolina University.

Hawkins is also thinking about his finances because he foresees marrying his girlfriend in the future. Much farther down the road Hawkins says that he would like to head his own IT consulting business.

Three years ago, Hawkins purchased a three-bedroom townhouse for $115,000 through a HUD first-time homebuyers program and got a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 5.75%. He wants to buy a bigger home when he gets married.

Hawkins credits his parents for making the most of their available

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