Despite an above-average salary, his financial profile flashed a few warning signs. He had about $27,000 in debt, with little savings for retirement or emergencies.
Paul Thureen is one of Seattle’s high-tech newcomers, although that doesn’t mean he has arrived at a financial promised land.
The 36-year-old bachelor earns about $90,000 a year as a software administrator for Sealaska, an Alaska Native corporation with an office in downtown Seattle.
But Thureen also is paying $1,500 a month for an apartment in West Seattle while still paying the mortgage on his former home in Fargo, N.D., which he rents out.
Would you like some free financial advice?
IF YOU WOULD BE INTERESTED in a free financial makeover in exchange for having your story and photo published in The Seattle Times, answer a few questions at http://bit.ly/STmoneymakeover
His debt ledger includes about $16,000 in student loans and $11,000 in medical debt from when he got sick while uninsured.
When Thureen applied for a money makeover, he wrote, “I am sick of worrying where my paychecks go.”
Help arrived in the form of Lowell Parker, a financial adviser with Merriman in downtown Seattle.
Parker voluntarily pored over Thureen’s finances and crafted a plan for getting rid of the debt, living within a budget and saving for the future.
“There’s opportunity for him,” Parker said.
Thureen is a technology nerd from the upper Midwest with a fondness for beer and cigars. He has two associate degrees, one in computer-information systems from North Dakota State College of Science and another in computer networking from Minnesota State Community and Technical College.
In 2006, he landed a job at a 24-hour Microsoft support center in Fargo, where he helped business customers troubleshoot software problems.
After the flooding Red River stranded Thureen in his third-floor apartment in 2009, he decided to buy a Fargo town house for about $135,000 as a way to accumulate equity. His timing was excellent: Real-estate values were depressed in the aftermath of the 2008 financial panic and stock-market crash.
Then, in 2011, Thureen lost his job in a Microsoft layoff. A friend from Fargo who worked for Microsoft in the Seattle area urged Thureen to move west and pursue opportunities in the region’s lively tech sector.
Thureen did various consulting gigs and information-technology jobs in Seattle before signing on full time with Sealaska last year.
Despite Thureen’s above-average salary, his financial profile flashed a few warning signs. He had about $27,000 in debt, with little savings for retirement or emergencies.
He also was spending about $1,200 a month for the Fargo town house that he no longer expects to live in. Thureen is renting out the town house for $900 a month, but it’s not enough to completely cover the mortgage and taxes.
The Puget Sound Chapter of the Financial Planning Association connected Thureen with Parker, the financial adviser at Merriman. Parker came up with a plan to put Thureen on stronger financial footing and lay the groundwork for the future.
Most Read Business Stories
- 'Like science fiction,' Seattle startup sends laser-equipped robots to zap weeds on farmland
- A new focus at Seattle's chamber faces an old roadblock at the City Council
- Lawsuit over January crash of Boeing 737 alleges autothrottle malfunction
- Amazon must address racial and gender pay inequities in its workforce, Harvard Business School petition says
- A new ‘denim cycle’? After a decade, jeans move from skinny to loose
Parker and Thureen first agreed to sell the Fargo town house and put the net proceeds — about $20,000 — into an existing savings account that now holds about $800. Thureen could then use the account as an emergency fund that he could build with monthly contributions. Over time, the account balance would be large enough to provide a down payment for a home in Seattle.
Next, Parker urged Thureen to create a household budget, an exercise that would shed light on his discretionary spending and help him increase his savings.
Parker then came up with a plan for eliminating all of Thureen’s debts in about four years. Under that plan, Thureen would pay $500 a month on his medical debt, enough to pay off the outstanding bill in about two years.
At the same time, Thureen would pay $300 a month on his student loans. When the medical debt is retired, he could increase his monthly student-loan payments by $500 and be debt free in about four years.
Finally, Parker advised Thureen to open a Roth individual retirement account and contribute $200 a month. Thureen also would increase his contribution to his workplace 401(k) retirement program from 2 percent to 5 percent — and, eventually, to 10 percent.
Within a few years, Thureen will be debt free with an emergency fund and retirement savings. If he wants to buy a house, he will have a stronger credit rating, cash in the bank and a down payment, which is music to lenders’ ears.
“It will put him in a better place,” Parker said.
Thureen already has opened a Roth IRA and started working on a household budget. He is especially relieved to have a plan for ridding himself of debt.
“My problem was overthinking it,” Thureen said. Coming up with a simple plan for paying down the debt made the challenge seem easier to achieve, he said.
“It just took somebody to say, ‘Stop ignoring it and do it.’ ”