Diva Of The Week Series: Susan Langer

1. Describe your financial life in a few words.

Complicated, confusing, chaotic.
-My stepson is heading off to college in a couple months.
-My stepdaughter is in the process of getting braces.
-We are upside down in our mortgage. There are few comparables to our home; a recent appraisal came in @ 30% of our purchase price.
-We rent 40+ acres of land to a farmer, which barely pays our property taxes.
-I manage a small consulting business out of my home; I need to keep detailed track of expenses … and know that I am likely missing opportunities for cost savings and tax advantages.

2. Look inside your wallet. What do you see?

Receipts. Driver’s License. 3 Bankcards. Target Card. Health & Dental Insurance cards.

3. Name a time that your emergency funds saved your butt.

Sept 2008, my husband was diagnosed w/ cancer. The following month, I totalled my car in a head-on collision. The next month (Nov) , the used car we purchased with the insurance money incurred a $1,200 repair bill … and three months after that we needed all new tires on the same used vehicle AND our other vehicle. Every time I get my savings up to a decent level, something happens to completely wipe it out. After building it back up 1 1/2 years later, I took a huge hit w/ my compensation and left my job thinking I would be able to secure another position earning the same or larger salary. That didn’t happen. We ended up depleting all our savings and the $12K invested within a 403b from my former employer. We are currently living on a ‘wing and a prayer’, as they say.

4. What’s your greatest financial accomplishment to date?

Being able to manage our expenses in a way that has allowed us to stay in this house for this long without missing a mortgage payment – or any bill payment. A secondary accomplishment would be the investment of my home in S. Mpls where I more than doubled my investment within 5 years.

5. Which of the 5D’s (death, divorce, disability, disaster, debt) do you think is hardest to prepare for?

They all are, however, I think Divorce would be as it encompasses all of the other 4 D’s in same manner/fashion.

6. Name something you couldn’t afford but bought anyways. Do you have any regrets?

I’m not one to look back and have regrets. I believe God works through all things and can turn even our stupidest of decisions/actions into a beautiful bouquet of lessons, growth and opportunity. If I WERE to choose a regret, it would be the purchase of the house we’re currently living in. I did not understand we actually bought it when we did … nor for how much. We purchased it on auction and were bidding against one other buyer — there was some confusion and my husband gave the signal to buy $50,000 above our agreed upon top dollar. We’ve struggled ever since. That said, it’s brought many wonderful, priceless memories for the kids.

7. Who do you feel most comfortable talking with about your finances?

My brother who is a financial planner, though would prefer a woman at this point in my life. I can be completely honest with my brother, however, there are some “family” issues that can sometimes interfere with our conversations.

8. If you could go back in time, what financial advice would you tell the “younger you?”

1) Make and live by a financial plan; meet w/ your financial planner annually at a minimum; and I would intentionally time it with my annual OBGYN appointment — it’s that important! ;-)
2) Never use your retirement savings to pay down debt.
3) Put more into your company’s 401k than you think you can afford — because you CAN.
4) Get a pre-nup or talk much more intentionally about finances, priorities and problem-solving with my husband prior to getting married … and specifically, about how his ex-wife would be contributing to the kids’ expenses.

9. Name a decision you’ve made that has changed your financial life for the better.

I purchased life insurance at a young age and adjusted it as my life circumstances changed. I’ve always had peace of mind that if/when I pass on, I will not leave the added burden of financial debt on my family as they grieve; as well, I will be able to contribute to my church and organizations that address human and spiritual needs among those who suffer.

10. Where do you hope to see your financial life in five years?

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY better than it is today. I would like to be debt-free, with the exception of a small mortgage, if necessary.

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