Client Stories

Here are some stories my clients have agreed to share with you. The names and details have been changed to protect their privacy.

Unique Stories, Similar Goals

Our stories are unique, but we all want the same thing: to live the life WE want. Whether you are single or married, starting a new job, or about to retire, we can work together to find a plan that suits you.

Lisa's Story

"How can I move forward with my four terrific kids after my divorce?"

Lisa is a divorced mom of four young kids. The first two times she came to see me she cried because she was under so much financial stress. Her ex was paying child support, but they were barely making ends meet each month. She was feeling hopeless, stuck, and down on herself.

The first thing we did was get clear on her cash flow, and how that would change over time as her kids grew up and left home. The second thing we did was carve out a very small budget to just help her take care of herself. After her plan was complete, the tears stopped. She started to feel hope, empowerment, and even a bit more love for herself. She found a higher-paying job after a couple of years, but is still able to set aside some time for her kids and herself.

This is not a story with a perfect ending. Lisa is just starting to save for her retirement, now that her oldest son has left for college. But that’s OK; she will be OK even after a “late” start. It really wasn’t too late for her.

Emily's Story

"My dream job isn’t very lucrative. How will this affect my future?"

Emily is 34 and works for a nonprofit organization. She lives on her own in Seattle and loves her work. She knows she won’t get rich doing it, and she’s OK with that. She needed help to convert her IRA to a Roth IRA. She also didn’t feel as though she understood her organization’s 403(b) program very well, and wasn’t sure how to choose the investments.

First, I double-checked that it made financial sense for her to convert the IRA; that is not always the case. Second, we worked together to get clear on her tolerance for volatility in the markets. I educated her about what the 403(b) is and recommended an investment profile that was appropriate for her.

There is no magic bullet for Emily…except for time and discipline. She is so young that even if she wants to stay in the nonprofit world for her entire career, her 403(b) and Roth IRA investments have time to grow and support her through retirement. She is now contributing enough to the 403(b) to receive her employer’s match, and she is maxing out her new Roth IRA.

Elaine’s Story

"What’s the best way to use my inheritance, and when can I retire without worrying?"

Elaine is 57 years old and works as a marketing executive. Her work enables her to travel all over the world, which she truly enjoys. She is divorced and has a daughter who is just finishing college.Elaine wanted to know if she would be able to retire at age 66 and not outlive her money. She had just inherited a home, and she wanted to know if it made financial sense to keep it and rent it out. She had no will or other estate documents.

Based on my analysis, Elaine did spend some additional cash to improve the home for rental. We got her ready to see an estate planning attorney, so that she wouldn’t have to spend extra time compiling information I already had. Based on my guidance, she thought through her wishes beforehand, so she didn’t have to spend extra time and money with the attorney.

The best news of all is that she can retire at 66 if she wants to. She could actually retire a lot sooner, but she loves her work! Based on my analysis, she recently increased her budget for personal travel and is off on another glamorous vacation this fall.

Amir and Alyssa’s Story

"How can I set up my business for future success? "

Alyssa and Amir are a young couple just starting out together; they are working on starting a family, and they own a condo downtown. Alyssa is a product management specialist at a large tech company, and her husband, Amir, is starting his own web-based business. During the course of our discussions, I discovered that Amir was working with a business partner, Terrence. They had no formal, legal agreement regarding what would happen if one of them passed away early or was unable to work for an extended period of time.

Alyssa is not technical, and had no interest in working in her husband’s business if something happened to him. But with him putting all of his time and energy into the business, they both wanted to see some return if he couldn’t continue for some reason.

I advised them that they should consult an attorney to draw up a formal Buy-Sell agreement, so that Amir’s partner could buy Alyssa out of the business if anything happened to Amir. And the reverse is true, of course; Amir could buy Terrence’s family out of the business in case anything ever happened to Terrence.

This Buy-Sell Agreement was then funded with inexpensive term life insurance. Amir and Terrence each have a life insurance policy to pay for their share of the business if one of them passes away early. In this way, the other partner can continue in the business, but the decedent’s family would also benefit from their hard work.

Derrick’s Story

"When can I get off the hamster wheel and do work I actually enjoy? Am I saving enough for retirement? And why do I need a will if I don’t have anyone who depends on me? "

Derrick has been a software developer at a large technology company for the past 12 years, and he’s about 45 years old. His job is very stressful, and his management tends to change frequently. He had always been a disciplined saver, but wasn’t sure he was saving enough to retire comfortably. He wasn’t sure how long he wanted to stay at his current company but was worried about his retirement picture if he changed jobs. He had no will or any other estate planning documents.

All of that disciplined saving meant that Derrick’s retirement picture looked very strong, which was a great surprise and relief to him. He lives fairly simply, so he was also surprised when I told him he could change jobs as long as he could cover his expenses and still max his 401(k) at his new employer. He was thrilled to have choices about where he would work, and how much he needed to earn.

But he also had some estate planning issues to think through. He is divorced and has no kids. His dad and sister don’t live in Washington, and his dad’s health isn’t very good. His sister is married and has a young son, and Derrick would like to make sure his nephew gets some college money if he passes away early. He didn’t realize that this would not necessarily happen if he had no will. He also wanted to minimize any hassles for his family by simplifying the probate process and setting aside the funds to pay for it himself.

I walked him through the decisions he needed to make to create a simple estate plan, and prepared a list of his assets for his attorney. I also advised him to make sure the attorney created a Financial Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, and Living Will so that his wishes would be followed no matter what happened to him. He didn’t realize he needed any of these documents, because he doesn’t have anyone who depends on him. But he felt much better knowing that if something did happen to him, he had done his very best to minimize the impact on his family.

Dipraj and Asha’s Story

"We feel directionless and out of control; how can we set up a strategy for our financial life? How do we make sure our kids will be OK if something happens to us? "

Dipraj (Dee) and Asha are in their 30’s; they have a boy who is seven and a girl who is six. Asha works at a large technology company, and Dee works in biotech. They feel like they have adult lives and responsibilities, but are not really “adulting” when it comes to their financial life. They want to make sure their kids were taken care of no matter what, and they are also concerned that they are spending too much and not saving enough for retirement. Asha also has some student loans, and they wonder if they should pay them off now or continue with her current payment plan. They want to get a handle on their overall financial life.

We started by settling on a budget which would allow for fun and treats, but also enable the other goals they wanted to achieve. We put significant life insurance in place for both of them, since the family would suffer financially if it lost income from either of them. They both purchased supplemental disability income policies as well, since the family could not meet its goals if one of them couldn’t work for more than three months. We also put an estate plan in place, partnering with a local attorney.

Their retirement picture looked solid, assuming that they both continued to maximize their 401(k) contributions, or contributed elsewhere in case of a job change. We set aside a line item in the budget to make sure this happens every year, and we check in at least once a year to make sure they are on track.

I also analyzed how they were currently investing and found that they could optimize their balance between market volatility and returns by making just a few tweaks to their portfolio. I also determined how much they would need to save to fund four years of college for each of their kids, and set up an investment plan to get them there in a tax-friendly way.

Asha’s student loans had fairly high interest rates, so we decided that it was important to pay off as much as possible with some of their existing cash reserve, and then pay off the rest with Asha’s annual bonus and stock option proceeds.

Asha and Dee are making good progress toward their financial goals, and they enjoy having clarity on what they spend. They still go on vacations and eat out, but now they know why they are spending what they’re spending, and they make conscious choices about it. They have a sense of security and control, knowing that the family will be OK no matter what happens. They also have the accountability they need to continue with the behaviors that will get them what they want. They are making smart, informed, adult decisions for their family.

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