They also got a $3,000 tax refund. In years past, "our automatic response would be, 'We've got extra money? Let's go eat,'" Carla admits. Dr. Robin Smith helped them root out their self-sabotage by looking at how their childhood role models affected their attitudes toward money. Eric realized that although he didn't come from a family of savers, he desperately wanted to do better for his kids. With that in mind, the couple decided that rather than eat out more often, they'd take Glinda Bridgforth's suggestion and use $2,000 of the refund to bolster their emergency fund. They put the remaining money from the tax refund into Carla's Roth IRA.
As for the $1,000 monthly cash flow, Glinda asked Eric and Carla to use it to start chipping away at their debts and building savings. Although most people should focus on their (expensive) credit cards before their (cheaper) housing debts ( Step 3 of Oprah's Debt Diet ), the Stevens's situation is the opposite. Because they always paid on time, they had negotiated for a really inexpensive credit card, with a 2.9 percent fixed interest rate. Their variable rate home equity loan costs almost three times as much. Glinda advised them to make the minimum card payments, keep a lid on new charges, and put an extra $575 a month toward the home equity loan, which should enable them to pay it off completely within 30 months.
The fact that Eric never stopped funding his 401(k) at work frees the couple to put $250 a month into Carla's Roth IRA. If she continues to contribute $3,000 a year through age 65 at 8 percent annually, she'll have $630,000 at retirement. Eric's account should be double if not triple that. This leaves roughly $175 in wiggle room each month for whatever little things crop up. Carla says the arguments over money have pretty much stopped. "We're more on the same page than we have been in years."