Getting Their Financial House In Order

Danny and Shante Quinzy have learned the hard way to separate their wants from their needs when it comes to spending. “We wasted thousands of dollars on stuff we can’t even name,” laments Shante. “We both were big shoppers, buying what we didn’t need. It was nothing for us to spend an $8,000 tax refund on big-ticket items instead of saving.”

Fortunately, the Farmington Hills, Michigan, couple is sobering up from their spending party. They are ready to get their financial house in order. After all, their boys, 5-year-old Dante, and 19-month-old Donovan, are depending on them. “I’m trying to stop shopping when I’m bored … I’m learning to walk away,” says Shante.

Over the past few years, the couple has used tax refunds to pay down some bills. They have also created and adhered to a family budget.

It’s not like the Quinzys aren’t financially equipped. Shante, 34, is a project manager at General Motors, earning $68,000, and Danny, 33, earns $71,000 as a warehouse supervisor for DaimlerChrysler. Yet, they have only about $5,000 in savings and checking accounts, $37,000 in their 401(k) plans, and $3,000 worth of Circuit City stock.

Meanwhile, they traded up their home last year, purchasing a $300,000, four-bedroom house. They recently refinanced, taking out a little more than $4,000 in cash to pay down some debt.

The couple has roughly $60,000 in student loans, $20,000 in credit card debt, and $30,000 owed on a 2004 GMC Yukon and 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix.

Doing better is not an option but a requirement if they hope to retire comfortably and save more money for their children’s college education. Their “debt attack plan” includes further revision of their household budget. “We know there is still a lot of excess,” says Shante. “We have to make hard choices and then use the money that’s not being spent wisely on paying down our debt.” The couple is disappointed but optimistic. As Shante sees it, “We’re young enough to make up for lost time and we have good salaries to get us where we’d like to go.”

The Advice
Larry Folmar of the Folmar Financial Group in Southfield, Michigan, talked with the Quinzys about their finances. “The Quinzys have made some sound financial decisions with regard to homeownership. But, there is still a lot to be done in order for them to meet their goals of liquidating credit card debt in five years, increasing contributions to their children’s college education fund, paying off student loans in 10 years, and retiring at 55 with 401(k) accounts valued at least at $500,000.

To help the Quinzys plug up the holes in their financial plan, Folmar offers the following suggestions:

Stop giving Uncle Sam a free ride. The Quinzys are losing precious cash flow by overwithholding. “This is tantamount to giving the government an interest-free loan,” says Folmar. The purchase of their new home last year resulted in higher interest costs but lowered their tax liability. Therefore, they can get the tax savings back into their paycheck by increasing their withholding allowances, says