Working Together

Financial planning is key to protecting your family's assets

Lightning can strike the same place twice. Unfortunately, the Lessanu family knows this firsthand. In August 2002, Dawit, an IT professional at Booz-Allen Hamilton, was out of work. This August, his wife, Angel, a senior financial analyst for Pfizer, found herself in the same unpleasant predicament.

The Piscataway, New Jersey, couple, both in their early 30s, have two sons, ages 2 and 4, and are none too happy about walking down an uncertain path. The family was thriving with a household income of close to $200,000. The Lessanus own a home and one rental property and had already begun saving for retirement and the boys’ college education. They were on the road to financial prosperity.

Although Angel received a severance package worth about $55,000, she’s hoping she won’t have to spend it. She’s been searching for a job for several months and has had many interviews, but nothing has materialized. She’s hoping to land a managerial position, but, at this point, she’s showing signs of flexibility.

The family has refinanced its primary residence worth almost $400,000. Although they won’t pay less monthly, they rolled over a high interest rate home-improvement loan into a new loan, which will reduce their overall monthly expenses. They are also in contract to sell their investment property, which will provide cash for living expenses.

“Right now, we’re kind of hanging in the balance. The best case scenario is that I will find a job soon and not have to spend the severance for living expenses,” says an optimistic Angel. And if not, they’ll face what comes. “We have resources [such as property assets] that we can tap if necessary; they just aren’t very liquid,” says Angel, who lost her job due to a company merger. “Layoffs come with the territory. It’s what happens in corporate America; it’s not personal.”

TAKE TIME TO PLAN
Life’s surprises are just one of the financial challenges Angel and her family are facing. To combat them, the time-strapped two-income family has to plan to avoid financial fatalities.

“Women are really working two full-time jobs, outside and inside the home. They’re juggling a career, cooking, and shuttling [kids] to baseball games. There’s often not a whole lot of time and attention given to budgeting and long-term planning,” says Cheryl Creuzot, a certified financial planner and president/CEO of Wealth Development Strategies in Houston.

For women who find themselves in a situation similar to Angel’s, it’s time to get organized and figure out where your money is going. Do a budget. Your hectic lifestyle can be expensive. Dinners out, a housekeeper, buying expensive prepackaged foods from the grocery store, and not taking the time to comparison shop can quickly fritter away dollars.

Once you know where you’re spending, sit down with your husband to set goals and priorities. If drastic changes are needed, let your children know what actions will be necessary to meet goals that will benefit everyone.

“Families at this stage of life are usually trying to meet several goals at once: buy a home, build savings for emergencies, their

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