Norris and Reneau Curl are seeing the rewards of proper money management. One smart money move theyâ€™re proud of is faithfully squirreling away 20% of their income each paycheck. â€śWeâ€™re savers by nature,â€ť says Reneau, 50, who has been married to Norris for 12 years. â€śWe ask ourselves why weâ€™re making a purchase and whether itâ€™s something we need or want.â€ť
The Carson, California, couple has a household income of $137,000 in addition to $30,000 in rental income. Norris teaches seventh grade world history and Reneau is a credit union manager. The Curls bought a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a swimming pool in 1996 for $175,000 that today is worth approximately $530,000. The home is now used to generate rental income. Two years ago, they decided to downsize to a home that required less maintenance, so they purchased a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in a gated, resort-style community for $440,000. Norris, also 50, has $106,000 in his 403(b). Reneau has $72,000 in her 401(k) and a $155,000 pension. They also have an emergency fund of $30,000.
Whatâ€™s their secret? â€śWe live below our means. Itâ€™s given us an edge,â€ť says Norris, whose wardrobe is mostly khakis and white shirts. Reneau shares his spending sensibilities. â€śI donâ€™t buy anything thatâ€™s not on sale. We havenâ€™t ever paid full price for anything, be it a house, a car, or whatever. We have a set price that we will pay and we donâ€™t pay more than that.â€ť
They both had frugal mothers. â€śI watched my mother. She started as a classroom aide and eventually became a teacher, but she never changed her lifestyle,â€ť says Norris. For recreation, the Curls engage in low-cost activities such as bike riding, taking a walk on the beach, or visiting museums. They occasionally splurge on tickets to a concert or sporting event.
While the couple pays their credit card bills in full each month, they still have some debt. Thereâ€™s nearly $30,000 in car loans and a home equity line of credit with a balance of $136,000 that they used for the down payment on their condo. Then thereâ€™s Reneauâ€™s $28,000 personal loan that was used to consolidate credit card debt that she amassed before the couple was married.
The Curls realize their accomplishments. â€śWeâ€™ve been able to set savings goals and meet them,â€ť says Reneau, but they are far from satisfied. â€śWe have a financial vehicle, but not a financial engine. I want to build something that empowers us financially,â€ť says Norris.
â€śWe want our financial legacy to be that of an abundant life, one that we can leave to posterity.â€ť
Gwendolyn V. Kirkland, a certified financial planner and managing principal with Kirkland, Turnbo & Associates, reviewed the Curlsâ€™ finances.
Shore up risk management. Kirkland says the Curls have tremendous exposure on their rental property. â€śI suggest they consult with legal counsel and discuss the benefits of having the property placed in a limited liability company, since it will provide some protection from personal liability,â€ť says