By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Winsted native Samantha (Schommer) Liebhard and her husband, Travis, both 24, recently received a “money makeover” from Money magazine, complete with a full financial analysis, photo shoot, video interview, and a feature article in the magazine’s November issue.
“Now you all know how much money we make and how much debt we’re in,” Samantha noted after posting the article on her Facebook page last Monday.
With 1.9 million subscribers, the magazine has made Liebhards’ personal financial details an open book.
The couple currently has a combined income of $48,000 ($40,000 from Samantha’s occupation as a public relations specialist for Spong PR in Minneapolis, and $8,000 from Travis’s part-time hospital job).
They also have $135,000 in student loans, primarily due to Travis’s graduate studies. He is currently in his third year of the pharmacy program at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
“Pharmacy school is about $35,000 per year,” Samantha said. “It adds up very quickly.”
Travis and Samantha met their freshman year of college at Minnesota State University-Mankato.
Samantha, the daughter of Pat and Lisa Schommer of Winsted, is a 2008 graduate of Holy Trinity High School. In 2006 and 2007, Samantha was a summer intern at the Herald Journal. Travis is originally from Belle Plaine.
The couple got married right after graduation in 2012, and have since been living in Minneapolis.
Married with roommates
At first, they had a two-bedroom apartment with a $1,500/month rent. This year, in order to save money, they moved to a four-bedroom apartment and added two roommates.
“I think the whole roommate thing is one of the reasons we were chosen for the article,” Samantha said. “It’s a different element for a married couple.”
The roommates are guys Travis knows from school, and the four of them get along well although Samantha does complain about extra messes to clean up.
“I definitely consider them like family,” Samantha said, jokingly adding that the arrangement is preparing her for children someday.
Samantha and Travis would like to buy a house of their own, but after talking to Money magazine financial consultant Sophia Bera of Gen Y Planning in Minneapolis, they’ve decided to hold off for awhile.
“If you have student loans the size of a mortgage, you should avoid taking out a mortgage,” Bera noted in the Money magazine article.
Most of Travis’ loans are unsubsidized, with interest rates of about 6.8 percent. For now, Bera recommended that repaying debt should be the couple’s main goal.
Bera gave this and other detailed financial advice to the Liebhards during two 1.5-hour sessions on Skype.
“I’ve always wanted to meet with a financial consultant,” Samantha said.
She found out about the opportunity through her workplace, where she has access to a list of story ideas for which reporters are hoping to find sources to interview.
“They were looking for 20-somethings who would like a financial makeover,” she said. “I just saw it and responded on a personal level.”
The photo shoot for the magazine article was extensive a photographer was flown out from New York, and there were stylists for hair, makeup, and clothing.
That day, Travis and Samantha were also interviewed for a video, which will be released in the future.
“They mostly focused on our unique roommate situation,” Samantha said. “I’m interested to see how it turned out.”
Tips for the future
The financial consultations took place separately. Beforehand, Bera reviewed the Liebhards’ financial documentation in detail. Then, Samantha and Travis talked through their goals, and Bera provided recommendations.
Some things were easy for the Liebhards to implement right away. Samantha was advised to reallocate her 401(k) portfolio to include more stocks, for instance. Bera also advised raising her 401(k) contribution from 4 to 6 percent, to get the full match from her employer.
Once Travis finishes his two-year residency, his salary as a pharmacist (about $120,000) will enable higher payments on debt, while saving for retirement.
For younger students considering future career options, Samantha offers this advice:
“Don’t be intimidated by the cost of college; in the end it’ll pay off.”