Couple who are gearing up for a triathlon want to transfer those rigors to finances.
Meg Brown and her partner, Jennifer Self, are training for a full Ironman triathlon in September: a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.
Now they need to bring that same self-discipline to their finances.
Brown, 38, recently had a baby, Lucy, who has been adopted by Self. In addition to being new parents, the Seattle couple are facing upcoming job changes and an overhang of debt.
“They have to do some serious training and hunker down for a year-and-a-half,” said Brant Greene, a certified financial planner in Poulsbo who is working with the couple. “The good thing is, they know about training and discipline.”
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The two had been getting by. But, as Self put it, “things just seemed tight every month.” Brown said their interest in developing a financial plan “is fueled by a desire both to not be ‘owned’ by the banks and to allow us to live more simply.”
Said Self: “We don’t want to get a bigger house. We just don’t want to be beholden to the credit-card companies.”
Brown works as a registered nurse at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. There she makes about $57,000 annually.
Self, 37, is a doctoral student at the University of Washington, completing her doctorate in social work. She is also director of the Q Center at the university, where she makes about $25,000.
Brown has a 401(k) with $38,000 and they own their car. But the couple face a large amount of debt. In addition to $360,000 in primary mortgage and a home-equity loan on their home, they have $20,000 in credit-card debt. Then they will face $120,000 in student loans once Self finishes school in 2009.
With 3-month-old Lucy joining the family, Brown hopes to cut back her hours once she returns from maternity leave. That will trim her salary to perhaps $47,000. Self expects to find a new, higher-paying job once she graduates. The couple will get additional financial help for Lucy from her grandparents, including resources for college.
“We know we are incredibly lucky and have a lot of resources,” Brown said.
Even so, Brown and Self represent many Americans in their late 20s and 30s, professionals who are establishing themselves while grappling with large student loans and debts while starting a family. Financial planners say the earlier that people begin to address debt and retirement savings the better.
Brown, who grew up as the child of an Air Force father, has lived in Seattle for 12 years. Self is from Oregon and has lived here since 2003. The pair have been together for five years.
Both women thrive on an active lifestyle. They are training for September’s Ironman Wisconsin. Brown completed one other in 2006, and both have done half-Ironmans and marathons.
They love cycling and often make it a centerpiece of their vacations. For example, they rode from Maine to South Carolina. Self played college basketball at the University of California, Berkeley.
“Being active together is really a way that we spend time together,” Brown said. “Someday we want to be able to cycle across the country when Lucy is old enough.”
The two also enjoy working around the house and playing with their two chocolate Labrador retrievers. They are in the middle of overhauling their yard, where Brown enjoys gardening.
Both women want a financial plan that allows them to continue to enjoy these pastimes, allow for some travel, get monthly expenses in line, plan for retirement and handle the transition as Self begins a new job and Brown spends more time at home with Lucy. Simplicity is a theme that keeps coming up.
“We are wanting to live more simply, live lighter on the earth, and consume less,” Brown said. Among the steps they have taken: sharing one car and using the bus; taking an organic gardening class at Seattle Tilth; purchasing used items, and selling or donating items they don’t use.
“We are hoping, Brown said, “that some financial planning might help us get on the track to increased simplicity and freedom.”