For eight years in the Air Force, Ben Tsu was a navigator aboard a KC-135 tanker. In a self-deprecating joke, he says, "It was no big deal...

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For eight years in the Air Force, Ben Tsu was a navigator aboard a KC-135 tanker.

In a self-deprecating joke, he says, “It was no big deal, just a floating gas station.”

But the big plane is actually the key player in one of the most complex and dangerous ballets in aviation, aerial refueling.

Now a civilian, Tsu is serious about charting a different course: ensuring a sound financial future for his growing family.

Ben Tsu, 40, and wife Jill, 37, of Bothell, want to start a family within the next two years.

They also hope to pay off the mortgage on their house and retire by their early 60s.

“We’re pretty well off, but we never set up a financial plan,” Tsu said.

“We’re fairly comfortable, and now we want to start a family. We never really thought about the next steps.”

Those include trying to maintain their lifestyle, save for college and perhaps go down to one income.

Like all Americans, the Tsus’ goals must now also contend with an economy that many economists say may be tipping into recession.

But they have a sound foundation.

Ben Tsu, who grew up in Maryland near Washington, D.C., is a business-development executive for Johnson Controls in energy-conservation programs for the federal government.

He received his MBA from Seattle University.

Jill Tsu, a Tacoma native, is an instructional designer for the Intrepid Learning Solutions, a Seattle consulting firm.

The couple own a house in Bothell, as well as a rental property in Kirkland.

Ben’s salary is approximately $100,000 a year, while Jill makes $70,000.

With 401(k)s, certificates of deposit, stocks and mutual funds, the Tsus have approximately $300,000 saved.

Meanwhile, they have about $3,600 a month in debts including one car, student loans and a mortgage.

Ben Tsu said they try to pay off credit cards each month, with no more than $1,000 carried over monthly.

Cheryl Curran, a financial adviser with Merriman Berkman Next, in Seattle, is the certified financial planner who will work with the Tsus as part of the financial makeover.

She called money “a very emotional issue for most people. They may be scared to face it, or expect the worst when they do. But when we work out a plan, people’s attitude changes. They walk taller.”

Curran said one of the hardest tasks is to stay on the investment plan in a volatile market.

“The last several years [of a bull market] were wonderful,” she said, “but they weren’t normal.”

She said a downturn must be part of something that investors should expect periodically.

“I try to help them stay on track,” she said.

“As long as you have a good portfolio with diversification, you’ll be able to ride out the storm. You can’t move money around based on emotion.”