Case Study: Examining How NewLeaf Works With Clients

I’m all about shaking things up, and I want to make sure that all marketing through NewLeaf Financial Guidance is adding value to my readers. That’s why, for the next few months, I’m trying something different.  

I’m going to walk you through a case study – step by step. Each blog post in the case study will talk about the steps I take when working with a new client, the problems they’re most consistently facing, and how we solve them by working together to create unique financial solutions.  

These blog posts will be followed by webinars, for anybody out there who prefers watching or listening to our content. And that’s not all! We’ll be tying each segment of the case study to free, DIY financial planning tools available for you to download. Pretty cool, right? 

Before we get started on this intensive, multi-week case study, let’s talk about the “client” who’s finances we’ll be picking apart and analyzing. I want to note that this client doesn’t actually exist. Instead, I’ve taken common themes I see in the lives of many of my clients, and created a financial situation that addresses many of these consistent problems. This way, we maximize the learning experience, and everyone can find a clear takeaway that applies to their own financial life. 

But enough talk, let’s get down to business –  

Our Client: Josh and Sarah Ackerman 

Josh and Sarah Ackerman live near Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sarah is a 28 year-old teacher, and Josh is a 27 year old optometrist who just finished his residency. They have a baby on the way, and are incredibly excited to start their family together now that Josh is entering the workforce as a full-time optometrist at a local practice. 

Their Debt 

Sarah earned her degree at a 4-year state school, and is carrying about $40,000 in student loans. She’s selected the longest repayment plan available to minimize their monthly bills. Josh was able to defer his loans while in residency and is about to begin paying off his $150,000 in student loans and is confident that the income-based repayment option is the best financial choice for his and Sarah’s growing family. 

In addition to their student loans, Josh has a $5,000 credit card balance that helped to cover some expenses during his schooling. Sarah recently purchased a new -to-her SUV to help support their growing family, and is paying $270 a month on a $15,000 auto loan over 60 months to cover the cost of the vehicle.  

Knowing that they have to start repaying Josh’s student loans has made them both a little bit nervous about their finances, and so Josh is determined to continue driving his beat-up Subaru until it dies in the interest of being fiscally responsible. 

Their Assets 

Because they haven’t been in the work force for that long, Josh and Sarah have only just started saving. As a teacher in the state of Minnesota, Sarah has a Teacher Retirement Account available to her where she contributes 7.5% of her salary, the district matches that contribution. She also has a 403b available that has a small employer-matching program, up to $500 per year.

Josh will have a 401(k) plan available once he starts at the local private optometry practice. There is an employee-contribution match available, and it’s fairly standard. His employer will match 100% of Josh’s contributions up to 3% of his salary, then an additional 50% of his contributions up to 6% of his salary. 

Finally, Josh and Sarah have fairly comprehensive medical insurance through Sarah’s teaching job – which has been a relief as Josh works his way through medical school. 

Their Goals 

With their first little one on the way, and Josh officially out of his residency program, Josh and Sarah are excited to start their lives together. Up until now, they’ve felt like their treading water – and at this moment it feels like everything is happening at once. Currently, they rent a two bedroom apartment in the city. It’s nothing fancy, but because Sarah’s teaching job is just outside of Minneapolis, they’re looking to relocate.  

Ideally, in the next 2-3 years, they’d like to buy a home. In the distant future, they’d love to be able to purchase a lake house, as well. Sarah is fairly handy, and thinks that she could fix up a smaller place and rent it out on AirBNB and VRBO when they aren’t staying there as an additional stream of income. 

Their parents have been asking them if they’ve thought about opening up a 529 plan for their new baby so that everyone can start contributing and, hopefully, cover the cost of college down the line.  

In general, Josh and Sarah don’t consider themselves to be big spenders. They value experiences over “stuff” – and would love to incorporate those values into both their budget and their long-term investment strategy. Sarah feels strongly that having flexibility as their family grows is important. Josh wants adventure, and is always up for a challenge. 

Their Concerns 

Having a baby on the way has really put things in perspective for Josh and Sarah. They know they need a plan for their debt, and want to feel like their finances are organized and on the right track. Although nothing is currently “wrong” with the way they live their lives, they can’t help but feel a sense of dread every time they think about money. They want clearly defined steps that will help push them toward success. 

Are you ready to join Josh and Sarah by starting your own financial journey?