In Search of Gay Money: Millionaires in the Making
As gays and lesbians writing about money, we’ve grown weary of reading all the personal finance content that’s written from the perspective of straight marriages. So at Queercents, we’ve turned the tables on money and relationship advice by asking: What if all of our favorite money columnists were gay? Would their advice be more relevant to our lives?
We think the answer is yes! And as such, this is our weekly series called In Search of Gay Money where we reprint their advice by swapping out pronouns and a few other words to make it seem like everyone is queer!
Millionaires in the Making: Ryan Hope and Bill Wells
By David Goldman and Queercents
Ages: Ryan, 25, Bill, 23
Occupations: Car phone salesman, Customer service representative
Salary: Approximately $56,000 combined
Home and land: $125,000 estimated value
IRA, 401(k): About $22,500
Mutual Funds: $3,000
Utilities: $310 per month
Groceries: About $350 per month
Entertainment: $300 per month
Car payments: $330 per month
Mortgage payments: $570 per month
Credit card debt: $100 per month
School loan payments: $65 per month
Is it possible to retire by 50 with an income under $60,000? Ryan Hope and Bill Wells think so.
Together since 2005, the young Arkansas partners are just starting out. Ryan, 25, works as a car phone salesman, and Bill, 23, works as a customer service representative at a call center. Together they earn an annual $56,000 – above the national average, yet still not exactly easy street in today’s economy.
But with a little discipline, they think they can meet their goal of an early retirement. “I feel pretty comfortable with a target of a little over $2 million,” Ryan says.
It may sound ambitious, but Ryan and Bill have a plan: put roughly 10% of their earnings toward retirement, 10% toward bills, 30% toward debt reduction, 15% into taxable mutual funds, and 35% to daily expenses and emergency savings.
Ryan and Bill have a lot going for their finances. They’re young and don’t plan on having children. They live in Pottsville, Ark, an area that has one of the lowest costs of living in the country. And they’re aggressive investors for their age, currently putting $530 per month into stock-only mutual funds.
“Right now, I am really trying to build a strong foundation in our portfolio so that we are in a very good position to live a comfortable life,” Ryan said.
But their financial picture isn’t all rosy. Like many gays and lesbians in America, they’re saddled with credit card debt: about $4,500. But they continually roll their balances onto new 0% APR promotional credit cards to avoid paying interest. They plan on making steady payments of $100 a month and paying off their debt in less than four years.
They bought a one-year old used Honda Civic for $19,000 about 4 months ago and put monthly payments of $330 toward the $17,500 left on the loan.
Ryan and Bill are working to pay off Bill’s student loans, which total $5,500.
For the more distant future, Ryan maxes out his IRA, which currently stands at about $22,000. His job doesn’t offer a 401(k) plan, but Bill has access to a company-sponsored plan through his call center employer. He only contributes the 2% that his employer matches, but sometime in the near future he expects a promotion that could nearly double his salary. When his salary increases, he will also max out his retirement contribution.
“We each have some room to grow based on income potential,” said Ryan, who has fairly steady pay despite earning the majority of his salary on commission from car phone sales.
Ryan and Bill say their priority now is to replenish their emergency fund, which they recently depleted to pay down some debt, as the promotional period on one credit card was ending. They would like to get their savings up to about $10,000, or six months of expenses.
Our expert’s take
With their current plan, Ryan and Bill are on their way to millionaire status, but maybe not as soon as they’d like, according to Diana DeCharles, a Certified Financial Planner with AIG Financial Advisors.
She says that even with an aggressive 9% to 10% annual return on their investments, Ryan and Bill will be worth about $1.3 million at age 50 – no small sum, but probably not enough to retire so young.
DeCharles believes that Ryan and Bill are smart to prioritize their emergency savings, which she recommends they keep in a money market fund with no stock exposure.
“Forget the funds for now,” DeCharles said. “Especially with the market heading down, they have to build up their cash reserves first.”
She also thinks they are managing their debt well, but they should be wary of opening too many cards. “Although they are moving their balances to new cards with 0% interest, if they continue to open new cards to do this they are bringing their credit score down,” she said. “Their credit score will take a hit for having cards that are maxed out, getting inquiry hits, and opening new cards.”
To save up, she suggests they cut into their monthly entertainment expenses. “Cook at home, or get movies from the library – they’re free!” said DeCharles.
But overall, DeCharles thinks Ryan and Bill are in a good position, even if they can’t retire by 50. “They’re doing pretty good, frankly. They did pretty well with their home, and it’s great that they’re saving so much.”