Reaching For Financial Success

Our 2002 financial fitness contest winners are achieving their goals with sound advice and a little moxie

to Carla’s tuition and $500 was put in a savings account. The rest was spent on dinner and gifts.

  • Each had an existing term life policy, but they haven’t purchased additional insurance.
  • JUNE WINNER:
    ALTON MOSS, MILWAUKEE
    For Alton Moss Jr., reaching one’s goal is a matter of planning and determination.

    He embodies that principle. When we last talked with him, he planned to get his M.B.A. and within the first year to change from his engineering career to a more lucrative position with a target salary of $73,000. The 24-year-old graduated as planned in May. By August, he had secured a new position, leaving Iowa City, Iowa, for a consumer products company in Milwaukee. Moss also moved up the ladder: he’s site leader in operations management, earning a base pay of $75,000. With bonuses, he will exceed his former salary of $63,000 by some 30%.

    In a little over a year, he was able to retire $5,500 in credit card debt and hasn’t accumulated any new credit card debt. What’s his secret? “I reprioritized things. I stopped spending so much on things like entertainment and food,” he says.

    Since he was already making the maximum contributions to his IRA, Moss used his $2,000 contest winnings to pay down $5,000 in school loans. He has also maxed out his 401(k) contributions–15% of his salary–following the advice of Mark A. Mitchell, a registered financial representative with AXA Advisors in San Juan Capistrano, California.

    One of his major concerns was the finances of his fiancée, Catherine Charles, 29. They plan to marry at the end of 2004 and he wanted them to be on the same financial page. These days, he’s not as concerned about her debt and money management skills. She received her master’s degree in school counseling in May. She now works full time and earns a salary of $37,000–a substantial boost from the $12,000 she made on a part- time basis. She’s cut her debt 50%–from $6,000 to $3,000–and seeks to eliminate the remainder in short order. She’s also committed to putting 15% of her annual income in her retirement plan when she’s eligible to join.

    With debt under control, Moss believes that they “don’t have any real financial issues anymore. With my promotion and her working full time now, we’re ready to focus on saving for retirement.”

    He walked away with $16,000 in profit from the sale of his home in Iowa, and used it for a down payment on a four-bedroom, $205,000 home in Milwaukee, even though he believes he’s on the fast track and in less than two years will likely be promoted and need to relocate. “The good thing is that Catherine’s jobs skills will be in demand anywhere, so it shouldn’t pose a problem,” says the optimistic Moss.

    In addition, after taking some courses with Maxxis, a Tucker, Georgia-based marketing company, the couple has started a home-based business, teaching others money management, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship.

    Change hasn’t been easy. But, Moss says, “You can’t let anyone or anything get in your way. Stay focused

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