MONEY fix my mix

Get Free Help with Your Investing Challenges

Pile of money
B.A.E. Inc.—Alamy

MONEY is looking for people who are willing to share the details of their portfolio in exchange for a free workup with a financial planner.

Has the volatile market caused you to flee stocks for the security of cash and bonds?

Are you close to 100% in stocks but thinking now it might be time to dial back?

Would you like to rework your investments to generate more income from dividends and bonds?

If so, we’d like to help.

For an upcoming issue, MONEY is looking for people who’d be willing to share their portfolio and financial situation in the magazine, in exchange for having a top-shelf financial planner examine their investments from top to bottom and come up with a full and personalized financial plan.

You must be comfortable sharing details of your personal and financial life (including your real names) and being photographed for the story.

If interested, please fill out the form below. Please tell us a little about your investment challenges, and also include a few details about your family’s finances, including income, approximate savings, and debts. All of this information will be kept confidential until we talk and you agree to appear in the story.

Everybody has an investment challenge, so let’s hear yours!

MONEY Financial Planning

Get Free Help Getting Your Retirement Off the Ground

Lipsticks in the shape of a dollar sign
Anthony Lee—Getty Images

As a millennial or Gen Xer, you face unique challenges when it comes to retirement. If you need some help getting going, share your story for a chance at a free financial makeover.

The two youngest generations of workers could use a hand with retirement planning.

Gen Xers have had a run of bad luck: a recession that slowed down their careers, a brutal bear market that hit in their early years as investors, and a housing crash that set in just as many had bought a first home.

No wonder they are feeling gloomy about retirement, according to a new survey from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Only 12% of Gen X workers say they have fully recovered from the recession.

Millennials, on the other hand, are off to a strong start, outpacing Baby Boomers and Gen Xers when it comes to saving for retirement. According to the Transamerica survey, 70% of millennials with jobs are putting money aside. They began saving at a median age of 22. Still, this group faces steep student loan debts, high unemployment, and uncertain entitlement programs in the future.

If you’re like a lot of people your age, you could use some help getting started, whether it’s tips on how to tame your debts and find money to save or advice on what investments to choose and how to best allocate the funds you’ve built up.

For an upcoming issue of Money magazine and, we’ll pair several novice retirement savers with financial planners to get a full financial makeover. To participate, you should be comfortable sharing details of your financial life, and keep in mind that story subjects will be photographed for the story.

If you’d like to participate, please fill in the form below. Briefly tell us how you’re doing and what your biggest challenges are. And include a little about your family’s finances, including your income, assets, and debts. All of this information will be kept confidential unless we follow up with you for an interview, and you agree to appear in the story.

We look forward to hearing from you.

MONEY Financial Planning

Nearing Retirement, With 3 Tuition Bills to Pay

Ackerman + Gruber 2013 The Keunings imagine a retirement filled with kayaking -- if they can get there.

At 59 and 60, Kim and John Keuning are closing in on retirement — but they aren’t quite ready for it.

Six years out from their target date, the Duluth, Minn., duo have roughly $500,000 saved. Selling the small ad agency they own could net them another $150,000, they figure. (None of their five grown children is interested in taking it over.)

The sale of a vacation cabin and office building could add $250,000 to the pot. Even so, they’ll likely come up short.

Saving more — they now put away $12,000 of their $150,000-plus income — will be tough. The Keunings carry hefty loans on their home ($334,000) and office ($156,000).

Plus, they’re trying to pay off $40,000 in credit card debt from home repairs. And they’re helping support their three youngest kids with college tuition, student loan payments, and rent. Total outlay: $32,000 annually.

“We know we spend a lot on them, but it’s something we want to do,” Kim says. “So how do we do that and everything else?”

Three fixes

Mortgage the plastic. The average rate on Kim and John’s plastic is 15%. To pay off the cards, Indianapolis financial planner Michael Kalscheur suggests they take out a $40,000 30-year mortgage on their paid-off vacation cabin.

At 4%, the loan would cost about $200 a month vs. their current payment of $1,300.

Related: How much will you need for retirement?

They plan to sell the cabin just before retirement, and when they do they can use the proceeds to pay the rest of the mortgage.

Redirect the payments. In the meantime, they can use the extra $1,100 in monthly cash flow to pay off their car loans. Once that $10,000 debt is wiped out, they’ll have $1,600 a month to build their emergency fund. Kalscheur wants them to have at least $20,000.

When this is complete, in about nine months, they should max out their Simple IRAs (in 2013, they can each put in $14,500).

Related: How often should you check your retirement investments?

Assess income needs. Following this plan, Kim and John will have almost $1.6 million in six years, after selling the business, office, and cabin. That will allow them to retire with about 72% of their income.

If they want more room in their budget — to, say, escape Minnesota’s winters — they’ll have to work a little longer. Or they can beef up the business to sell it for more by nixing debt, locking clients into contracts, and recruiting employees who’ll be indispensable to the next owner, Kalscheur says.

MONEY Financial Planning

Twins Stretch Couple’s $110,000 Income Thin

Mike McGregor With twins, Rachel Hopper and Josh Williams, 39 and 38, now have a bigger family and a tighter budget.

For years, Rachel Hopper and Josh Williams had hoped for a sibling for their son, Espen, who was born in 2005. So the Minneapolis couple were thrilled when they learned that Espen would have two sisters: twins Elsa and Rory, now 1.

“It’s wonderful — and it’s very hard,” admits Josh.

The couple’s income of $110,000 (Josh is a city planner; Rachel works for Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources) is stretched to capacity. They struggle to cover all their costs, including day care for the kids — $376 a week — and a loan for a car that comfortably fits the whole family.

No longer saving for retirement, they have also depleted their cash stash and racked up $7,800 in credit card debt. “We’re smart people with good jobs,” says Josh, “but we’re living paycheck to paycheck.”

Time for a new game plan, says Indianapolis financial planner Elaine Bedel: “What may have worked for their family of three isn’t working for their family of five.”

Three fixes

Squeeze the budget. Over the next two and a half years, Josh and Rachel must focus on eliminating credit card debt and creating an emergency fund — even at the price of delaying other savings, says Bedel. “They’re in a precarious situation,” she adds.

They now put $575 a month toward their card debt. Though their budget is tight, the couple should be able to pay down an extra $300 by utilizing Rachel’s upcoming raise and trimming some discretionary spending. That would erase the balance in 10 months.

Create a cushion. Once the credit card is zeroed out, that $875 should go toward emergency savings.

Bedel recommends three months of living expenses, or $18,000, knowing that Espen’s 529 plan could also be tapped if needed (though they’d incur taxes and a 10% penalty on earnings). This will take about 20 months to build.

Catch up on retirement. In 2016, Josh and Rachel should redirect the $875 to their retirement plans, for annual savings of roughly $13,000 pretax; they should also up their total contribution 2% annually. Combined with Social Security, that should give them $50,000 in annual after-tax income (in today’s dollars), provided they retire at 70.

A wildcard: If they stay with their employers, their pensions could provide significant income. But Bedel hopes they will find new jobs. Josh could earn 15% more in the private sector, which would seriously ease the family’s budget.

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