ABC7 On Your Side: Managing Your Money

April 19, 2010 (CHICAGO)

ABC7 provides some advice for navigating the uncertain economy.

A slow housing market means realtor Holly DuPart has more time with her kids.

"When you clients don't have any money then you're not making any money," said DuPart.

It's meant the family needed to be cut back. Her husband is a loan officer who was also impacted by the recession. Now possible cuts in state funding to their children's school may put the family in a financial bind.

"All of sudden, I have to find a school to put them in and I have to pay for daycare for them," said DuPart.

Tricia Rosado relies on public education for her twin 5-year-old boys. She says even with both her and her husband working keeping up with the bills is a struggle.

"We worry about babysitting. We worry about our credit card debt," said Rosado.

Unexpected trips to the emergency room for the boys and the occasional emergency to repair the car added to their credit card debt.

"Costs that were incurred having children and daily costs and every once in a while that expense that comes in," said Rosado.

Early retirement was the hope of Jennifer Rakstad and her husband. Currently, they're grateful to be employed watching layoffs happen around them.

"My firm just let go of a bunch of people last week. And there's still a lot of anxiety, at least for me personally," said Rakstad.

The recession is not helping them toward the goal of early retirement or help them save for their children college costs in a 529 plan.

"It's not only been stagnant but has lost value," said Rakstad.

Financial advisor Chris Long suggests families create a plan to address their long term needs and save - even a little bit at a time - so that tough times aren't so scary.

"Figure out what systematically we need to do to reach our long term goals and not let short term issues or emotional feelings about things derail us," said Long.

For retirement, he says have a long term strategy to you can tolerate the ups and downs of the market. With credit card debt, pay off the cards with the highest percentage most aggressively. And for college savings he suggests investing in a 529 college fund, but reevaluate the risk when the child is 10 years old, long before it's needed.

Long urges clients to make retirement planning a priority, even if they have children young or grown who need help.

"Someone will lend your child money to go to college. They will either get a loan, they'll get scholarships. No one, absolutely no one will give you money for your retirement," said Long. "You're actually really doing your child a favor because if you don't take care of your retirement you're going to be living with them.

Life throws unexpected curves but families can prepare. Make a plan and stay on track, so those curves don't throw you off your course.

"This has given us an opportunity to look at a lot of fat we had in the budget and to really look at what's important," said DuPart.

Chris Long encourages saving despite credit card debt because credit card companies are reducing limits. He also recommends saving six months worth of living expenses in case of emergency; for those who are self employed,12 months worth of expenses. And if you need funds immediately he suggests taking a loan against your 401K. Otherwise you'll incur penalties and have to pay taxes on an early withdrawal.

If we didn't get to your money concerns, you have an opportunity to get free one on one professional advice. The money bus stops in Chicago on Tuesday, April 20 at 30 East Lake Street in front of Harold Washington college from 9am to 7pm. Financial advisors will be available.

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