Financial teamwork has been a hallmark of the Gittens-Lawson marriage. Lawson is thankful that her husband shares her philosophy about money management and retirement planning. “We have managed to send our sons to great schools, live comfortably, and travel extensively,” she says.
The couple hasn’t done it alone. In 2007, Gittens and Lawson started working with Antwone Harris, a vice president and financial consultant with Charles Schwab & Co. Harris, a certified financial planner who specializes in high net worth clients, says Gittens’ and Lawson’s individual investment accounts were already well established when they came to him. However, he advised the couple to get rid of redundant investments, slash hidden fees that they were paying on their mutual funds, and generally protect their portfolio from stock market volatility.
“I persuaded them to strategize and pursue investment vehicles that would not only protect their current holdings but allow them to protect and multiply their existing assets,” says Harris. “They are an active and healthy couple,” Harris says, “and if they continue to live a healthy lifestyle, there is no reason why they couldn’t each live to be 100 and still have the financial resources they need to live comfortably.”
—Additional Reporting by LaToya M. Smith
Glittens and Lawson’s advice
Talk money. “You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable talking about money and future financial arrangements when the relationship is getting serious,” advises Gittens. “If it’s not clear in the beginning people have different points of view and philosophies, that will cause problems as the relationship gets more serious.”
Cherry-pick your financial planner. “We didn’t want to be a ‘standard package.’ Find someone who can give you individual attention and identify your goals and objectives and devise a plan that is tailored specifically for you,” says Lawson. Ask about their background, how long they have been with the firm, and their client load.
Get yearly financial check-ups. “In the same way you go for a medical and dental check-up, go for a financial check-up at least once a year,” recommends Lawson. Adds Gittens: “Your goals and situations change and you have to be ready for those changes. Check-ups help you see whether you’re prepared.”
Plan for a long life. “Early on, I heard the blues line, ‘If I had known I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself,’” Lawson says. “I started saving for retirement when I was in my 20s—small amounts that were painless and barely noticeable.”
Eliminate debt. Lawson says: “I envisioned the life I wanted for myself and my family and planned for it by eliminating any debt and increasing savings to buy big ticket items such as a house, car, international travel, and quality education for my children.”