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Advice for a money makeover

November 29, 2009

This month's makeover

Who: Jodi Binstock

Income: $60,000 to $80,000

Goals: Substantially increase income. Pay down credit cards. Save for retirement and pay for her daughter's college tuition. Refinance home loans.

Assets: Estimated $2,500 in emergency savings. $68,000 in retirement savings. Anticipated $1,260 in Social Security monthly income. Expected pension of $200 a year from the Directors Guild of America. Projected $250,000 inheritance from mother.

Debts: $454,000 in home mortgage and $71,000 in a home equity line of credit. $45,700 in credit card debt.

Recommendations: Return to working extended hours, including stints on movie sets and for out-of-town jobs, to earn her previous $120,000 annual income. Report higher earnings to the IRS to generate a higher Social Security income stream in retirement. Keep trying to refinance home loan, possibly with the help of nonprofit agencies. Pay down credit card debt. Stop saving for daughter's college because she can apply for grants and loans. Save aggressively for retirement not only for herself but also to keep from burdening her daughter in the future. If unable to increase income, consider filing for bankruptcy protection and/or selling her home and moving to a rental. Negotiate with credit card companies to reduce average percentage rates.

About the planner: Sandra Field is a fee-only financial planner and the founder of Asset Planning Inc. in Cypress.

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