Eyes Wide Open

Baby carriages can be very expensive. That’s just one of the eyebrow-raising realities facing Terri and Jean Emmanuel Fleuriot, parents of 4-month-old Jean Pierre. Married for just two years, the New Britain, Connecticut, couple is still in the process of learning how to best manage their joint finances. Add to the mix the expenses of a new baby, and it’s time for them to take a step back and make sure they’re on the right financial path.
Fortunately, and to their credit, the couple has been disciplined about saving. Combined they have more than $30,000 in a cash cache. Terri says that she learned the financial facts of life from her mother, whose mantra included, “Keep your credit in order, don’t cosign for other people, and save and invest money to acquire things like a house versus a bunch of clothes.”

Two more big pluses for the Fleuriots: They don’t have any credit card debt, nor do they owe any money on their two cars. But often, with two steps forward people take at least one step back. In the Fleuriots’ case, both Terri, 29, and Jean Emmanuel, 31, are still paying for graduate school. Both hold M.B.A.s from Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland, where they first met. Together they have $50,000 outstanding in student loans.
Between them, the Fleuriots earn $111,000. Terri works as an accountant for the insurance provider CIGNA, and Jean Emmanuel is a manager with the U.S. Postal Service. But even with a healthy income, they realize that wealth is measured by net worth and not by net income. In the final tally, the Fleuriots have a net worth of $389,000.

The couple’s biggest assets are their two homes. Their primary residence is in Connecticut; the other house is in Maryland, where Terri lived as a bachelorette. As a result, their household income is bolstered by another $12,000 a year in rental income.
Looking ahead, there’s a possibility that within the next three years the couple will relocate to the South. The move could put Terri out of a job but would enable her to spend more time with Jean Pierre, as well as focus on managing what the couple hopes will be a growing real estate portfolio. “Our goal is to have four rental properties,” says Terri.

BLACK ENTERPRISE had the Fleuriots consult with Michael Smith, a certified financial planner and president of ProFocus Inc. in Phoenix. He commends the couple for being disciplined savers. “They are very particular about spending and keep a pretty tight budget,” he says. All told, Smith estimates that the Fleuriots have $27,000 in discretionary income–$15,000 from their salaries and $12,000 in rental income. “They can save about two grand a month,” says Smith, “or $1,400, taking into account that they have a new expense–baby Jean Pierre.” Their little guy is so young that the couple is still exploring their options for daycare.

The Advice
For the Fleuriots, Smith says it was important to tailor a financial plan that equips them to deal with major life