High Hopes

Gena Jefferson wants to pursue her dreams of property ownership in a very expensive housing market

Brackens lauds Jefferson for putting away more than 15% of her income, a healthy savings habit. “She’s doing an admirable job in taking the right steps for personal financial freedom,” says Brackens.

And with the right planning, Brackens believes, Jefferson can have both the children’s services facility and a home for herself. “Gena’s passion and what she’s trying to accomplish is to have a wonderful place to live and to eventually raise a family, but more so to have her resources concentrated around establishing this multiplex of community service/social service system,” says Brackens. “Because of that, the recommendation was to think outside of the box a little and to incorporate both of those goals into one.”

One solution for Jefferson, says Brackens, is incorporating her living quarters into her business structure. This could be accomplished by purchasing a commercial space that has a residential area or capabilities within the deed restrictions.

Fortunately, Jefferson has a relatively long time horizon to get things done. And in order to get there, she’ll need time. “She has set a time line for accomplishing this in five years, so it’s not as if it’s something we’re trying to take care of in a very short time,” says Brackens, who outlined four steps to put Jefferson on the right track:

Reduce debt. To eliminate her $30,000 student loan debt, Jefferson will have to aggressively pay it off over the next two to four years or find ways to repay the debt through service to her community. Brackens suggests she consider the National Health Services Corps because it offers two-year loan repayment contracts to clinicians dedicated to working with the nation’s underserved. The current maximum loan repayment is $25,000 per year. Brackens found that there are 14 social workers currently listed with the National Health Services Corps in Region II (New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands), 10 of whom are in the Bronx. However, “In making this decision, Gena would need to weigh the benefits of loan repayment versus ending her credited service time” with the New York City Board of Education, Brackens points out.

To accomplish her goals, Jefferson will need to become savvy about money management. She should commit to working with an adviser who can help her learn investing basics and review her portfolio to ensure that her asset allocation matches her goals and her risk tolerance.

Fortunately, Jefferson has a good amount in her 403(b) plan and some personal savings. “The 403(b) plan is not my No. 1 area for accomplishing liquidity for purchasing things,” says Brackens. “But because there are loan capabilities in the 403(b) program, Gena would have an avenue for tapping additional resources in the future.”

Think outside the Big Apple. Real estate prices are sky-high in New York City, so Jefferson might want to expand her location options. “She’s not going to make $200,000 in the next five years as far as her income level, that’s just not in the demographics of what her profession is,” says Brackens. “So we

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