Heather and Jose Ramos of Renton are a hard-working, frugal couple, but it's been a struggle to save for the future.
Talk about life coming at you fast. In the past few months, Heather and Jose Ramos, of Renton, have welcomed a new baby, made room for Heather’s ailing father in their home, sold their old house and bought a new one.
At ages 32 and 29, respectively, they want to get an early start on financial planning, but so far it has been a moving target.
In April things just flipped and became a whirlwind, said Heather Ramos.
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“We want to retire at 60, but its pretty hard to imagine that right now. Can we live off part of our income and save? Are we doing well?”
Brad Allen, a certified financial planner with Coast Capital Management, based on Bainbridge Island, and a member of the Financial Planning Association Puget Sound Chapter, is working with the couple to navigate the fast-moving scene. At first, he said, they have a rocky period to get through.
Heather hopes to remain a stay-at-home mom for their daughter Lauren, nearly 2, and new baby Isaac, who is about a month old.
Jose Ramos is an apprentice steamfitter with the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 32. Its a five-year program, with him graduating in 2012. His father was a union pipefitter. Among the places Jose has worked on are the Beacon Hill light-rail tunnel and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
He has seen his annual income step up this year to about $60,000, and he is due raises each of the next three years.
Heather stopped her work as a Mary Kay cosmetics representative to be home with the babies, and to help care for her 68-year-old widower father, who suffered a head injury, was forced to retire and moved in with the Ramoses this year.
They also have about $12,000 in two Roth IRAs. In addition, they have about $500 in savings.
The couple consider themselves conservative financially and savers. They drive older cars and try to walk to errands when possible. Major grocery shopping is now a once-a-month chore. And they buy everything else second-hand.
But, as Heather puts it, “2007 did us in because of unexpected medical bills.” Two emergency surgeries and 18 months of physical therapy left them with $12,000 on credit cards. They also owed $17,000 on student loans and $9,800 on a home-equity line.
Their concerns rose when Heather’s father was injured and had to move in. With a pension, he receives about $5,000 a month, and carries private health insurance, Veterans Administration benefits and Medicare. But their house was too small to accommodate the rapidly growing family.
Recently, they took action. The Ramoses refinanced their Renton house for $210,000, using $75,000 to pay off debt and make a down payment on a larger, $325,000 home, also in Renton.
They hope to sell their old house. But given the slowing real-estate market, they may turn it into a rental property, hoping to get about $1,500 a month in rent. Heather’s father is helping, paying them about $2,000 a month.
Jose Ramos said: “Our two biggest financial goals are planning for our retirement, and making sure we can take care of her dad.”
That includes the hoped-for retirement at 60 for Jose, and allowing Heather to stay home to raise the children.
The couple say they are willing to make the sacrifices to get their finances in order, although Heather laments the fact that they don’t have the money to go out anymore.