Posts Tagged ‘Budget’

Tania CookI think the idea of buying property is like eating spicy food: it tastes good, it’s a bit of a challenge, and in this economy, you can’t be sure if it is worthwhile in the long term.

Ok, that is oversimplifying a commitment perhaps as large as the one to get married in the first place. 

Is buying property the perfect investment? The worst? You have to consider your income, job security, school district, re-sell value, neighborhood, not to mention the size of the property, heating or air conditioning costs, etc. … the list goes on and on. You could give yourself an ulcer just thinking about it.

I recently had lunch with Tania Cook of Capital Funding Mortgage and she offered some practical advice for first time home buyers. Of course, every state, couple, etc. is different, but these general suggestions should help get you started. 

The first thing Tania emphasized was the importance of setting a budget and keeping track of your money, both as individuals and as a couple. She recommended the budgeting website Mint. This is a free and secure website that that can help you set budgets, tag items for tax deductions, etc. If you are looking for a conversation and community dedicated to saving money, you might want to join the social networking site Wesabe. Two other useful sites are Finicity and Smartypig. They help you save by earmarking money for various expenses and savings.

To those of you in the midst of not only saving for a wedding, but also buying a home, you can help fulfill your savings for a a home by setting up a registry to which wedding guests can contribute. This helps to avoid registering for things that you don’t need or won’t fit in your current, rented apartment. 

Tania’s favorite thing is to help people to buy their first home. She remembers that when she bought her first home, she didn’t quite know what she was doing. She sees clients become intimidated and confused by the process, as she once was. She works hard to help explain what all of the documents mean and to untangle any confusion.

It can be a stress point in a relationship to locate the perfect first home – that is, something that fulfills your expectations and is still within your budget. To help limit that stress, Tania suggests sitting down with your partner before you start house hunting. Make two lists: a wish list and needs list. What would you love your house to have, but you might be willing to give up? What is necessary (handicap accessible, baby’s room, etc.) This exercise, done individually and as a team, will help you to set priorities and determine what your bottom line really is. 

Then, look to partner with a buyer’s agent and a trusted lender. The lender can be either a bank or broker. In this way, the fees will be charged to the seller, not the buyer. You should look for someone who is an empathetic and experienced realtor.

Remember, you want to determine if your lender is a broker or a banker (brokers can take your loan application to a number of banks whereas a banker works with only one bank.) 

There are a number of financial advantages to being a first time home buyer. Look into what might be available to you.

To consider how much you can afford to pay on your mortgage, try using Capital Funding Mortgage Company’s payment calculator. 

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to ask a lot of questions. For example, the cost of the new home isn’t limited to the mortgage. You will also have to consider repairs, utility bills, insurance, possible condo association fees, etc. You might want to look for an energy efficient home in order to save on some of the utility bills.

You are eligible for an annual free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. A good trick is to order one report from a different one of the three major consumer credit reporting companies every fourth month. 

Tania Cook specializes in creative financing for first time homebuyers, including low down payment  financing, no closing cost options and tax rebate programs.  She and her company, Capital Funding, offer a variety of programs to make your home purchase and refinance affordable and easy. Tania is an experienced, reliable, mortgage consultant with a referral based practice. She practiced law for several years, specializing in employment issues and was a manager at American Express Financial Advisors for 5 years. Check out her company’s website.

Read Full Post »

Susan FrankeI was impressed when I saw Susan Franke at the Brides-to-Be bridal show at Weber’s this winter. Among the tanning salons and DJs, here was someone interested in helping a couple plan for a healthy financial future. She shared her table with mortgage broker Emily Elliot.


Most of us bristle when we hear the words “financial” or “wealth.” We don’t want to talk about money, seem greedy or cheap. Susan helps couples to break down these barriers and make financial discussions simply practical and useful. Especially in this financial environment, who can afford not to plan for the immediate and distant future?


Susan reaches out to couples in many ways. For example, she works with social worker Mary Stevens from Life Cycles, to offer premarital financial counseling. Susan will help the couple to coordinate their assets and goals. Each couple has a unique situation. For example, some couples might be starting a second marriage and will have to consider the financial needs not only of each other, but also their children.


Susan asks couples to begin the financial conversation by asking them to share, in front of each other, how money was handled in their family when they were growing up (if there was a joint account, separate accounts, pooled money, etc.) Usually, this varies with each person and family. In this non-threatening approach, each person can describe what his or her expectations and experiences might have been. Since Susan is neutral in these situations, she can help them to understand how their financial decisions might be based on their early socializations. Transparency is really the key.


She offers suggestions rather than recommendations. For example, usually one person makes more than the other. A couple can decide to split costs 50/50 or based on percentages. They can decide to have money on the side, or not. Susan helps the couple to tease out what each scenario would look like and come up with their own plan.


More marriages dissolve because of financial problems rather than infidelity. Susan’s goal is to make sure couples share goals and that they don’t break up over money. There is no right way to manage your money, she stressed. Every couple has to find their own answers.


Couples should consider scenarios before they arise. For example, she helps the couple to consider current or future children’s needs and a family’s religious beliefs that might affect their financial decisions.


Unfortunately, many of us have debt. She reminds couples that education loans are your own responsibility. Other debt, such as credit card debt, can be more haunting after someone passes, and she suggested life insurance to help pay off debt to protect the partner in that situation.


A wedding can place a considerable financial strain on a couple. She helps a couple consider cost-effective options, in the event that they don’t want to plan an elaborate wedding. There are traditions, but no rules, regarding how a wedding should be.


Sometimes family members or friends will offer to help with a wedding or other bills. She noted that if people help you, sometimes they think they are entitled in some way to have a say in what you’ve done or how you will pay them back. She suggests that if you borrow money from a friend or family member, that you do so in the most professional of ways. Create a promissory note (you can find them easily online) and make a plan about how the money will be repaid and used.


I asked Susan if men and women have different financial needs. Women tend to live longer than men and still, in some situations, make less than their male counterparts. Therefore, women should generally be more aggressive in saving for retirement. For example, men are encouraged to put 10% of their income towards savings and women are encouraged to put 15% of their income towards savings.


Not everyone has a financial advisor like Susan. When someone should consider finding one? Susan said that it really depends on your comfort level. You can do it yourself by reading available documents in print and online, but often time and expertise is an issue. This is the same with almost anything. For example, you could learn how to change the oil in your car or you could hire someone to do it. It depends on how much time you have to devote to learning about it.


If you do decide to do it yourself, she suggests reading Smart Money Magazine. She is a member of AAII, the American Association of Individual Investors, and they produce great magazines and have online non-trade resources.


She is national and offers a complementary consultation to couples. Her goal is to help people build their wealth in a planned way. She does financial advising, taxes, budgeting, insurances, estates, etc. A comprehensive planner will encourage you to address all aspects of your planning.


In a booklet that Susan shared with me, entitled, “Getting Married” produced by Mainstay Investments, there is a list of “Post Weddings To-Do’s”. Here are some highlights:


*Update beneficiaries on your insurance policies, bank accounts, 401(k) plan, and other retirement plans.

*Name changes on credit cards, Social Security, driver’s license, passports, bank accounts, insurance policies, etc.

*Get on the same financial page about budgeting, debt, and your financial goals.

*Do you need life insurance or more life insurance?

*Do you want to consolidate bank accounts?
*Whose health care provides better coverage?

*Do you need to update your auto insurance? What about your homeowners insurance?

*What additional expenses do you need to budget for? (mortgage, student loans, credit card debt, etc.)


Phew. That’s a lot to think about. If you are interested in having a free consultation, contact Susan Franke here.




For more information on Susan, here is a quick bio that highlights only a few of her many experiences:


Raymond James & Associates, at 350 South Main Street, in Ann Arbor, has been Susan’s employer since September of 2003.  Susan participates in the Calvert Funds Advisor Finder program for socially responsible investors as well as the Savingforcollege.com website as an area resource in college funding through the use of 529 plans.


After receiving an AB degree in Speech Science from the University of Michigan Susan furthered her education with graduate level coursework in the MBA program at Eastern Michigan University. 


Her community involvement includes volunteering as a financial education counselor at The Women’s Center of Southeastern Michigan, among a long list of other things.


A quick summary of what Susan does for her clients:

Retirement and Distribution Planning

Understand your strategy for building financial independence

Understand your strategy for drawing down on it/spending it,

And making it last!


Investment/Portfolio Strategies

                        Careful Planning and investment decisions

                        Invest assets in a diversified portfolio


Estate Planning

Plan the distribution of wealth during your life so you gain better control over your assets while living

Plan the distribution of wealth at death so you have peace of mind that after your death your assets are properly distributed and cared for


Tax Strategies

                        Reduction of taxes during earning years

                        More income during retirement years


Long-term Care Planning

                        Protecting your wealth and lifestyle

Ensure that you have a plan in place to fund the best available care if you need to stay in a nursing home or require care in your home


Life Insurance Planning

                        Taking care of your family if you lose your life prematurely


Disability Insurance Planning

                        Taking care of your family if you are unable to work


Accumulation Goals

                        Emergency cash reserves


                        Education funding


Cash Flow

                        Spending plan



Read Full Post »