Carlos and Carla Sanchez

Case Facts:

  • Carlos and Carla are 56 and 54 respectively, married 26 years.
  • They have (3) children: CJ (Carlos Jr.) (27- married), Mary (21- college senior), Tony (17- HS junior)
  • Carlos is a Ph.D. in Immunology and has been in his current university research position since 2007.
  • Carla was a social worker but 10 years ago went back for her doctorate in Psychology. She’s currently an adjunct professor at a local school.
  • They both very much enjoy what they do for work and have many interests outside of work
  • They’d like to be able to start easing into retirement of some form in 6-7 years.
  • They may be called upon to assist their parents to some degree, logistically and/or financially.
  • They haven’t paid a lot of attention to their finances but have always saved.
  • CJ and his wife Amy are big spenders, constantly ask for money, and have mentioned maybe needing to move in to make ends meet. Carla wants to help. Carlos thinks they’ve done enough.

Their Goals and Concerns:

  • Will they be able to retire in the next 6-7 years and maintain their lifestyle and travel as they wish?
  • How do they help their parents- especially Carla’s- without jeopardizing their own well-being?
  • How to come to some agreement on a plan for dealing with CJ and Amy.
  • How to help Carlos satisfy his desire to provide science education to pre-college age kids.

In our early meetings we spent time talking about them- where they’d been, how they were feeling about things now, and what their goals and dreams were for the future. They met when Carlos was in grad. school and Carla was starting out in social work. Carlos had spent a little time following his post-doc working in the pharma industry but has since been in academia, reaching full professor. On the whole, they are like a lot of later middle-age couples. They’re nearing the end of the child-rearing years but now face the possibility of parent-care years. They are very much engaged in their careers, and both feel valued. Neither is looking to get out right away, but they are starting to envision something different. Their biggest concern is whether they are on track to be financially OK in retirement and what could derail them.

As we talked Carlos started to share some of his ideas and interests. While he envied some friends from school who made it big as part of start-up companies, he felt that probably wasn’t for him. And besides, what he wanted was to teach more. He wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do but it was a nagging urge that wouldn’t go away. Carla was good with all this because she couldn’t figure out what he’d do if he just “retired” (drive her nuts was one stated possibility). Carla on the other hand was happy as is. She taught a couple of courses and collaborated on some research on the side too. She wasn’t interested in stopping any of this cold-turkey. She was active in a few social groups and served on the board of a local non-profit group which brought her a great deal of satisfaction. She even surprised herself some with thoughts of grandchildren someday- and her last child wasn’t even out of the house yet.

As is often the case with folks who haven’t paid a lot of attention to their finances, their actual financial situation wasn’t all that clear. They knew what they earned. He had always contributed to his retirement plans and had a trail of TIAA accounts. She had several retirement accounts from past employers too. Other things weren’t so clear. For instance: how much are they spending and where; what do they owe (mortgage, some school loans from CJ); what about pensions and Social Security? It was important they see what they had accomplished so far. As it turned out they had done better than they thought. Those years of just putting money into accounts had yielded some decent results. “Dumb luck” they said. There was probably more to it than that. But they still had Mary and Tony to get through college and they wanted to pay off the house if at all possible.