Money

An Air Force veterinarian needs to reduce his expenses and his debt. here are a few tips

Joshua Wright, a freshman at Kent State University, is not your typical student. He and his wife, Melissa Wright, live near Rootstown, Ohio, with their three children aged 8, 12 and 14.

Mr Wright is a 45-year-old retired Air Force veteran and attends Kent State with the GI Bill, which means the military covers 100% of his cost of tuition, provides an allowance for school supplies and pays $ 1,200 per month for the life of the Wrights. expenses.

This is a big help for the couple, whose immediate financial goals are to reduce their monthly expenses and pay off their debt. Mr. Wright, who is majoring in applied engineering with a minor in sustainable energy, plans to seek an engineering position with a sustainable energy company when he graduates. Although Ms Wright is currently a stay-at-home mom, she was an accountant at a property management company before the children were born.

The Wrights were living in Kansas in 2019 when their home was flooded. Almost everything has been destroyed. They had tenant insurance of $ 35,000, but it wasn’t enough to cover all the expenses, so they made up the difference by using credit cards.

Mr. Wright also receives $ 1,800 per month in Air Force retirement pay and $ 2,400 per month in Veteran’s Disability for an injury sustained while on duty. And, even though they now live in Ohio, the couple receive an allowance of $ 800 per month from the state of Kansas because they adopted two of their children into foster care.

Mr. Wright bought a home for $ 230,000 last year, using a 30-year, 4.1% fixed rate VA loan that did not require a down payment. The Wrights have two auto loans: $ 27,000 and $ 12,000, with interest rates of 5.3% and 4.9%, respectively. They also have $ 30,000 in debt spread over 14 credit cards.

The family’s monthly expenses include: $ 1,429 for the mortgage; $ 895 for two car payments, plus $ 150 for auto insurance; $ 770 for credit card debt service; $ 400 for groceries; $ 220 for utilities and waste; $ 185 for cell phone and Internet; $ 100 for children’s expenses, $ 300 at restaurants, $ 200 for life insurance and $ 16 for dental insurance. Family health insurance is covered by the military.

After paying off their debt, the Wrights would like to continue cutting down on their monthly expenses and then be able to save money for retirement and help their children pay for their education.

Advice from a pro: Dan Andrews, a certified financial planner at Financial Planning Fort Collins in Fort Collins, Colo., Says now is the time for the couple to rethink their approach to their finances. Developing good habits now will help them immensely once Mr. Wright graduates and increases his income, says Andrews.

First, they need to reduce their spending. About 20% of their monthly income goes towards auto payments, says Andrew. Replacing the more expensive car with something cheaper, but just as safe, could save them around $ 300 per month. Then if they spent $ 100 per month in restaurants instead of $ 300 and cut their cell phone bill by $ 50, perhaps through a military or student discount, the couple would have an extra $ 550 per month. That, added to the roughly $ 540 per month they have now left after spending, means a surplus of almost $ 1,100 per month, or more if the Wrights find other ways to save.

Half of that surplus should then be used to build an emergency fund of about $ 25,000 for five months of spending, so they can avoid using the credit in an emergency. They should put this money in a high yield savings account separate from their checking account. The other half should be spent on paying off credit card debt; they can pay off the card with the highest interest first, or consolidate their debt into a single payment. Mr Andrews recommends that they look into debt counseling services through the military or the state of Kent to help find the most effective way.

Mr Andrews says it is important that they pay off as much debt as possible while Mr Wright is a student, so it becomes a habit and then significantly increase those payments when he gets a full-time job after graduating. diploma.

The couple should also consider part-time jobs for one or both.

Good financial habits will now put them in a much stronger position not only to pay off debts, says Andrews, but also to start planning for other important financial goals, like their own retirement and even helping their children with their retirement. university, once his income. increases.

“He’s got the discipline, because he’s a veteran, and the mindset, because he’s a student, to create new habits and stay on track,” says Andrews.

Ms. Ward is a writer in Winhall, Vermont. She can be reached at reports@wsj.com.

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