It’s A Family Affair

Judith Aidoo

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Part Two Of The Black Enterprise Lifetime Financial Planning Guide focuses in couples in their 30s. It’s a stage in life when you’re facing the best and worst of times. You’ve completed your education and now you’re finally making your mark on the workplace. But no sooner have you finished paying off students loans and credit card debt, than you’re face to face with new obligations–buying a home, launching a new business or starting a family.

Walter Fields and his wife Donna Wharton-Fields aren’t quite old enough to be full-fledge baby boomers. They’re facing too many changes in the next couple of years to fit comfortably in that late 40s, 50-something set. Yet, at 38 and 37 years of age, respectively, they’re too old to pass as GenXers. Instead, label them as members of the squeeze generation–a demographic group snugly packed between two more famous segments of the population that have hogged media attention for years.

Squeezers, as you might call them, don’t get the limelight, but that doesn’t make their financial concerns any easier. True, their earning power is at its highest once they cross their late 30s, early 40s, but their financial responsibilities are also growing. Squeezers are likely to have set down roots. They’re getting married and buying homes. They’re raising families and fretting over six-figure college tuition bills per child. They’re neck-deep bills–a mortgage, car note, day-to- day expenses, for instance. And, to top it all off, they’re considering retirement.

As they get started on their path, the Fieldses, like Squeezers all across the nation have lessons to learn and investment strategies to master. One very important thing they’re discovering is how to best tailor a portfolio that meets their preferences and style. Another is just how to spread investments across various types of financial instruments, like mutual funds, to best grow their savings.
Walter heads a public affairs consulting firm, Fields Communications, which he started three years ago, and Donna is a management consultant. Together, they make over $100,000 a year. But from that base, the Fieldses find they have a lot of responsibilities that tap into their take-home pay. The couple just bought their first house. Between the two of them, there are four college degrees to pay off from the likes of Morgan State, MIT and Williams. And they have started talking about having kids in the near future.

With their purse strings tugged in every direction, the Fieldses needed a plan. “I approached the idea of going to a financial planner with great trepidation,” says Walter. “I thought that I managed my affairs pretty well, but I must admit that I found the process to be very helpful while we were still in our 30s.”

Determining how much to salt away can be staggering, considering what’s ahead. A good rule of thumb for savings, even for couples who are full- time entrepreneurs, is a minimum of 10% of your annual income before taxes. It’s a goal the Fieldses have held to by aiming to

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