When A Man Stands Alone

Like many single parents, Kenneth O’Mard, 28, is trying to make ends meet. The Maryland police investigator is raising his two children–Rayshawn, 8, and Rayvin, 4–with a $43,000 salary. His children’s mother, whom O’Mard never married, lives in New York and doesn’t provide him with any financial support. In fact, until recently, O’Mard was sending money to assist her as she looked for a job after having been a stay-at-home mother for two years.

O’Mard’s situation is tricky because, as a man, he doesn’t feel comfortable asking his children’s mother to help with the bills. “It’s kind of a macho thing, I guess,” he explains. “If push comes to shove, I’ll work overtime before asking her for money.”

Rayshawn and Rayvin lived in New York with their mother until a year ago. O’Mard would send about $400 to New York each month and traveled back and forth from Maryland to visit them. He had initially moved from New York to Virginia in search of a better career, and he’d hoped his children and their mother would follow. But the couple split and they both decided that the children should live with O’Mard in Washington, D.C., where he had settled, as he could provide a more stable environment for them with help from his parents, who also live in the Washington, D.C., area.

O’Mard has two investment properties in Richmond, Virginia, that should be making him money. Instead they’re depleting his cash due to high interest mortgages and his lack of knowledge about, and inexperience at, being a landlord. The first house, worth $109,000, has an outstanding loan balance of $30,000 at an 11% interest rate. The second house is valued at $130,000, with $58,000 left to pay on it at a 10.5% interest rate. He bought the first property in 1997 and lived there for a year before he refinanced and used the $60,000 proceeds to buy the second property. He also refinanced the second home and intended to use $15,000 of that money to buy a house in Maryland. However, he gave the money to his children’s mother for safekeeping and has yet to get it back.

Although he should be earning extra money because he rents out both properties, one of his tenants is $3,700 in arrears. He has taken the tenant to court and is in the process of collecting the money.

O’Mard typically has little money left after covering his monthly expenses, but he has still managed to put several things in place to ensure a comfortable financial future. He has $2,000 in his checking account and $1,000 in a savings account. He places $75 per month into a growth mutual fund–he’s already accumulated $3,000–and 8% of his paycheck goes into his 401(k). O’Mard also puts $100 each month ($50 for each child) into a 4% interest-bearing savings account through his credit union.

Other than the mortgages on his investment properties, a $7,500 car note, and a $3,000 personal loan through his credit union, O’Mard carries little debt. He would like