The financial mess that was 2008—foreclosure signs proliferating, the stock market tanking, banks failing—has all of us more than a little nervous. We check our wallets, we mourn our shrinking 401(k)s, we cut back on our daily Starbucks fix, and each of us wonders: How am I doing? Is everyone else in the same boat? Here, you can see who’s raking it in, who’s not (and who should be). But the paycheck is only part of the equation—it’s what you do with it that counts. Meet nine Denverites who reveal their spending habits, and the local financial experts with the surviving-this-crisis advice that will keep you on track.

Denver Salaries 2009

Who makes what in our city? A list of more than 200 local salaries.


  • Gene Butterfield
    Veterinarian; Denver Dumb Friends League: $68,143
  • Zookeeper, Denver Zoo: $30,391
  • Lindsey Sterling Krank
    Executive Director; Prairie Dog Coalition: $31,900
  • Susanne Costello
    Owner; Pupsicle Dog Care: $70,000
  • Jenifer Doane
    Marketing Director; Butterfly Pavilion: $39,000
  • Marie Belew Wheatley
    President and CEO; American Humane Association: $207,660
  • Dog Walker, The Pet Valet : $12 per half hour
  • Deidre S. Hered
    Pet Stylist, Owner, and Manager; The Wag Shop : $36,000


  • Heather Annese
    Barista; Café Europa : $7.65 per hour, plus tips
  • Lauren W.
    Customer Services Representative; Diamond Shamrock: $7,761 part-time
  • Karen Padrevita
    Business Development and Marketing Director; Metrum Community Credit Union: $36,480
  • Julian
    Marijuana Dealer: $20,800 plus: $15,600 from a day job
  • Full-time Nanny: $26,000


  • Frontload Trash Collector: $60,000
  • Susan M. Collins
    Archaeologist; Colorado Historical Society: $70,013
  • Roger Parker
    CEO; Delta Petroleum Corporation: $520,000
  • Richard T. O’Brien
    President and CEO; Newmont Mining Corporation: $760,000


  • Tammy Stephen
    Hairstylist; Atmospheres: $58,000
  • Nico Pratt
    Funeral Director and Embalmer; DeWitt and Tabler Funeral Home: $35,000
  • L.E.
    Certified Massage Therapist: $25,000
  • Chiropractor: $130,000
  • Thomas J. Croghan
    Dentist; Park Hill Dental Arts: $81,000
  • Dentist, Self-employed: $210,000
  • Full-time Pilates Instructor, Pilates Bodies: $39,500
  • Sarah Clark
    Makeup Artist; Simply Moore: $22,000
  • Personal Trainer, The Denver Athletic Club: $51,741
  • Piercer, Tribe Tattoo: $20,800
  • Tattoo Artist, Tribe Tattoo: $102,000


  • John Hickenlooper
    Mayor; City of Denver: $145,601
  • Peter Groff
    Senate President; Colorado General Assembly: $35,967
  • Andrew Romanoff
    Speaker; Colorado House of Representatives: $47,244
  • Michael H. Coffman
    Secretary of State; State of Colorado: $68,496
  • Bill Ritter
    Governor; State of Colorado: $90,000
  • Betsy Markey
    Representative; U.S. House of Representatives: $169,300
  • Mark Udall
    Senator; U.S. Senate: $169,300
  • Ken Salazar
    Senator; U.S. Senate: $169,300


  • Dishwasher, Bang! restaurant: $7 per hour
  • Librarian, Schlessman Family Branch; Denver Public Library: $22.83 per hour
  • Caitlyn Cavanaugh
    Movie Theater Manager; Harkins Theatres: $9.45 per hour
  • Program Participant, Women’s Bean Project: $7.50 per hour
  • Prison Inmate: $0.12 per hour


  • Michael Butterman
    Music Director; Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra: $49,464
  • Corps de Ballet, Colorado Ballet: $21,450 per season
  • Principal, Colorado Ballet: $30,442 per season
  • Soloist, Colorado Ballet: $25,040 per season
  • Chip Walton
    Producing Artistic Director; Curious Theatre Company: $47,392
  • Julie Nowasell
    Staff Accountant; Opera Colorado: $50,375
  • Ruppert Hemmings
    Production and Technical Director; Opera Colorado: $83,137


  • Melissa May
    Clothing Designer and Owner; Incroyables by Melissa May: $1,000, plus: $13,200 from a day job
  • Stephanne MacCarter
    Docent; Molly Brown House: $0
  • Chris Ransick
    Denver’s Poet Laureate: $2,000 honorarium
  • Wayne Shephard
    Deputy Chief of Fire Operations; Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department: $0


  • Tamra Ryan
    CEO; Women’s Bean Project: $79,144
  • Mary Lou Makepeace
    Executive Director; Gay & Lesbian Fund of Colorado: $143,082
  • Patricia Disney
    Chief Financial Officer; National Sports Center for the Disabled: $22,500
  • Craig Pollitt
    President and CEO; National Sports Center for the Disabled: $132,500
  • Ernest Duff
    Executive Director; Rocky Mountain Survivors Center: $63,000
  • Katherine Peck
    Chief Operating Officer; Gill Foundation: $41,863
  • Rodger McFarlane
    Executive Director and Senior Adviser; Gill Foundation: $73,119


  • Parking Attendant: $7.50 per hour
  • Shoe Shiner, Shine: $26,000
  • Hippie Skippy
    Street Musician: $40 per day
  • Crystal Robinson
    Street Artist: $100 per day
  • Hot Food Vendor: $86,400


  • Erwin Haitzmann
    Chairman of the Board and Co-CEO; Century Casinos: $456,444
  • Jared Ewy
    Comedian and Radio Guy; Jared Ewy LLC: $48,000
  • Nicolette
    Entertainer; Shotgun Willie’s strip club : $80,000 part-time
  • Micheal L. Ocello
    Chief Operating Officer and President; VCG Holding Corporation (parent company of Diamond Cabaret and other adult nightclubs): $450,000
  • Phelyx Hopkins
    Mentalist Magician: $50,000


  • Tow Truck Operator, City of Denver: $37,657
  • Bus Driver, Denver Public Schools: $13.89 per hour
  • Elliott Leslie
    Bicycle Courier and Assistant Dispatcher; Denver/Boulder Couriers: $26,000
  • Russell Lloyd George
    Department Executive Director; Colorado Department of Transportation: $140,000
  • Valet Driver: $200 per weekend night
  • Delivery Driver, Taste of Philly: $6 per hour
  • Flight Attendant: $60,000
  • Helicopter Pilot: $75,000
  • Simon Roberts
    Part-time Flight Instructor: $40-: $60 per hour


  • Conor Casey
    Forward; Colorado Rapids: $180,000
  • Pablo Mastroeni
    Midfielder; Colorado Rapids: $280,000
  • Carmelo Anthony
    Forward; Denver Nuggets: $13,762,775
  • Kody Lostroh
    Professional Bull Rider and Cowboy; PBR: $273,647
  • Professional Cyclist: $120,000


  • Rusty Perry
    Owner; Revolution Cleaners: ”Next to nothing”
  • John Conde
    Solar Energy Installer; SolSource Inc.: $40,000
  • Brian Stern
    Solar Energy Consultant; SolSource Inc.: $80,000


  • Berton L. Glandon
    President; Arapahoe Community College: $157,362
  • Linda Bowman
    President and Vice-President of Education and Student Services; Community College of Aurora and Colorado Community College System: $264,024
  • George Peterson
    Chancellor; University of Colorado­, Boulder: $346,830
  • Karen Reinertson
    President; Front Range Community College: $152,880
  • James Rizzuto
    President; Otero Junior College: $149,863
  • Tony Kinkel
    President; Pikes Peak Community College: $159,390
  • Catherine Michele Haney
    President; Red Rocks Community College: $137,000


  • Phil Riggs
    Project Engineer; Colarelli Construction Inc.: $51,500
  • Chris Lanning
    Superintendent; Colarelli Construction Inc.: $72,000
  • Brad Meuli
    President and CEO; Denver Rescue Mission: $126,492
  • Larry Mizel
    Chairman and CEO; M.D.C. Holdings: $1,000,000
  • Jean Tutolo
    Executive Director; Metropolitan Denver Homeless Initiative: $27,083
  • Dakota Irlbeck
    Day Laborer and Student: $200 per day
  • Marketing Coordinator for Commercial Real Estate: $44,800


  • Ira Chernus
    Religion Studies Professor; University of Colorado: $93,361
  • Jamie S. Korngold
    President and Rabbi; Adventure Rabbi: Synagogue Without Walls: $30,000
  • Reverend Michael
    Sheeran S.J., President; Regis University: $0


  • Mitchell R. Morrissey
    Denver District Attorney; City of Denver: $144,720
  • Gerald A. Marroney
    State Court Administrator; Judicial Department: $125,905
  • Peter E. Schoon Jr.
    Larimer County Judge; Judicial Department: $112,940
  • John W. Suthers
    Attorney General; State of Colorado: $80,004
  • Mary J. Mullarkey
    Chief Justice; Colorado Supreme Court: $130,963
  • David Getches
    Dean; University of Colorado Law School: $281,827


  • Aristedes W. Zavaras
    Executive Director; Colorado Department of Corrections: $140,004
  • Parking Meter Collector, City of Denver: $32,954
  • Ronald C. Sloan
    Director; Colorado Bureau of Investigation: $135,000
  • Mark A. Broaddus
    Warden; Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center: $109,438
  • Mark V. Trostel
    Chief; Colorado State Patrol: $132,128
  • Vernon L. Craig
    Probation Officer; Colorado Judicial Department: $75,410
  • Police Officer, Fourth Grade, Denver Police Department: $43,824
  • Police Sergeant, Denver Police Department: $79,200
  • Police Captain, Denver Police Department: $102,324
  • Andrew Jackson
    State Patrol Trooper; Department of Public Safety: $72,617
  • Peter A. Weir
    Executive Director; Department of Public Safety: $140,000


  • Matthew S. Koehler
    Chief Resident, Anesthesiology; University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center: $56,000
  • Leslie L.
    Registered Nurse; Banner Home Care: $49,656
  • Fire Fighter, Denver Fire Department: $64,008
  • Fire Captain, Denver Fire Department: $86,480
  • L.G.
    Registered Nurse; Northern Colorado Medical Center: $56,094 plus mileage
  • First-year EMT: $22,500
  • First-year Paramedic: $36,500


  • Peter H. Coors
    Vice Chairman of the Board; Molson Coors Brewing Company: $816,667
  • Bartender, McCormick’s Fish House & Bar: $175 per shift
  • Brewer, Avery Brewing Company: $30,000


  • James W. Griffin
    President; Colorado League of Charter Schools: $124,284
  • Andrew Slater
    Head of School; Logan School for Creative Learning: $143,889
  • Substitute Teacher, Denver Public Schools: $93.52 per day
  • First-year Teacher, Denver Public Schools: $34,200
  • Bill Kurtz
    Head of School; Denver School of Science & Technology: $110,770
  • Scott Yates
    Athletic Director; Kent Denver School: $113,133
  • Mary Feller
    Director of Development; Graland Country Day School: $108,902


  • Natasha Gardner
    Research Editor; 5280: $28,000
  • Advertising Sales Representative, Denver Newspaper Agency: $37,000 plus commission
  • John Murphy
    Vendor Distribution Manager; Denver Voice: $14,400 (about: $2 per paper)
  • Toni Knapp
    Writer and Editor; Knapp Editorial Services: $45,000
  • William Dean Singleton
    Vice Chairman and CEO; MediaNews Group: $1,061,250
  • Associate Mechanical Designer, The CE Group: $60,000
  • Steve Bredt
    Sales and Marketing Support Supervisor; The Integer Group: $57,000
  • Print Sales Representative: $30,000, plus commissions
  • TV Photojournalist: $50,000


  • Sally Rippey
    Executive Director and Secretary; Adolph Coors Foundation: $196,000
  • Dorothy A. Horrell
    President; Bonfils-Stanton Foundation: $208,789


  • Brian L. Fun
    Certified Ashiatsu Oriental Bar and Neuromuscular Therapist and Yoga Instructor; Balanced Being Massage Therapy: $120,000
  • Suzanne Benally
    Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Senior Diversity Officer; Naropa University: $66,800
  • Thomas Coburn
    President; Naropa University: $159,135
  • Barry Drexler
    Massage Therapist and Owner; The Healing Way Massage Therapy Inc.: $60,000


  • Christopher Landry
    Executive Director; Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies: $23,788
  • Paul Stastny
    Center; Colorado Avalanche: $710,000
  • Peter Budaj
    Goaltender; Colorado Avalanche: $800,000
  • Adam Foote
    Defenseman; Colorado Avalanche: $2,750,000
  • Milan Hejduk
    Right Wing; Colorado Avalanche: $4,000,000
  • Scott Hannan
    Defenseman; Colorado Avalanche: $4,500,000
  • Joe Sakic
    Captain and Center; Colorado Avalanche: $6,750,000
  • Ryan Smyth
    Left Wing; Colorado Avalanche: $7,250,000
  • Justin Miller
    Snowsports Instructor, Ski and Rental Technician, and Adventure Travel Guide: $30,000
  • Snow Plower, Independent Contractor: $78,000


  • Brandon Marshall
    Wide Receiver; Denver Broncos: $448,000
  • Jarvis Moss
    Defensive End; Denver Broncos: $2,460,000
  • Eddie Royal
    Wide Receiver; Denver Broncos: $2,539,830
  • Mike Shanahan
    Head Coach; Denver Broncos: $3,500,000
  • Champ Bailey
    Cornerback; Denver Broncos: $8,003,050
  • Boss Bailey
    Linebacker; Denver Broncos: $5,105,000
  • Jay Cutler
    Quarterback; Denver Broncos: $6,497,500
  • Drè Bly
    Cornerback; Denver Broncos: $10,400,000


  • Lindsay Horning
    Founder and Event Coordinator; Bliss Events LLC: $24,000
  • Natalie Lewis
    Redesigner on HGTV’s Decorating Cents, Founder and CEO of LewisStyle, and stay-at-home mom: $50,000


  • Ken Fisk
    Wedding DJ; A & J Entertainment and Photography Inc.: $21,000
  • Dan Richardson
    New Business Owner; Crowd Factor Inc.: $0
  • Kerri Butler
    Event Director; Eventive: $45,000
  • Jennifer Hyde
    Event Planner and Owner; Occasions Designed: $50,000


  • Leona Lazar
    Executive Director; Art Students League of Denver: $66,949
  • Jameson Dillon
    Assistant Tennis Professional; Columbine Country Club: $28,000


  • Dan Hawkins
    Head Football Coach; University of Colorado: $166,400 plus performance incentives
  • Michael Bohn
    Athletic Director; University of Colorado: $275,159
  • Tad Koch
    Chemistry/Biochemistry Professor; University of Colorado: $134,596
  • Patricia Adler
    Sociology Professor; University of Colorado: $120,229
  • Stephen Fairchild
    Head Football Coach; Colorado State University: $350,000 plus performance incentives
  • Paul Kowalczyk
    Director of Athletics; Colorado State University: $236,250
  • Joseph Tatum
    Professor in the College of Agriculture; Colorado State University: $134,300
  • John Straayer
    Political Science Professor; Colorado State University: $103,480


  • Harris D. Sherman
    Executive Director; Colorado Natural Resources Executive Director’s Office: $140,000
  • Dick Wolfe
    State Engineer; Colorado Division of Water Resources: $123,882
  • Richard C. Kelly
    Chairman, President, and CEO; Xcel Energy Inc.: $1,100,000


  • Troy Tulowitzki
    Shortstop; Colorado Rockies: $750,000
  • Ryan Spilborghs
    Outfielder; Colorado Rockies: $396,000
  • Todd Helton
    First Baseman; Colorado Rockies: $16,600,000
  • Manuel Corpas
    Pitcher; Colorado Rockies: $775,000
  • Jeff Francis
    Pitcher; Colorado Rockies: $3,000,000


  • Katie Kalkstein
    Executive Assistant to President; Colorado State University: $75,000
  • James Carpenter
    Chief of Staff; Office of the Governor: $140,000
  • Lee Jackson
    Dental Hygienist; Park Hill Dental Arts: $45,000
  • Leonard Dinegar
    V.P. for Administration and Chief of Staff; University of Colorado: $225,965


  • Host, Bang!: $7 per hour plus tips
  • Steve Ells
    CEO and Chairman; Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.: $557,692
  • Plant Manager, Continental Sausage: $60,000
  • John R. Stulp
    Commissioner; Department of Agriculture: $140,004
  • Kevin D. Seggelke
    President and CEO; Food Bank of the Rockies: $136,788
  • Baker, Gateaux Bakery: $20,800
  • Boyd E. Hoback
    President and CEO; Good Times Restaurants: $173,117
  • Short-Order Cook, Sam’s No. 3: $14 per hour
  • Journeyman Meat Cutter: $43,680


  • Waitress, Hooters: $900 per week
  • Waitress, Old Chicago: $4 per hour plus tips
  • Server, Bang!: $150 per night
  • Ian Ruppert
    Ice Cream Server and Shift Leader; Bonnie Brae Ice Cream: $9 per hour
  • School Lunch Employee, Denver Public Schools : $9.08 per hour


  • Park Horticulturist, City of Denver: $39,366
  • Mountain Parks Operations Supervisor, City of Denver: $53,740
  • Patrick Hayes
    Executive Director; The Park People: $72,000

How We Did It

An explanation of our research methodology.

We scoured public records, published material, nonprofit tax forms, and media sources, but we didn’t stop there—we ate at Hooters, trolled through hundreds of SEC filings, cornered vendors on the 16th Street Mall, and cold-called businesses to gather 215 salaries that were sometimes surprising (a Shotgun Willie’s entertainer makes $80,000; a Colorado Ballet soloist only makes $25,040) and always dishy. Listed salaries are usually base income—sans year-end bonuses, tips, and other compensation—for 2007 or 2008, with the exception of information gleaned from nonprofits’ 2007 tax forms (the most recent available at press time). Occasionally, we have withheld an individual’s or company’s name at their request. We also enlisted real estate and wealth management experts to answer readers’ money questions, and convinced Denverites to expose their monthly spending habits—right down to their daily coffee—to financial planners for mini-money makeovers.


We ask Denverites how they spend their hard-earned dough.

Damien Jenson, 34, stay-at-home dad
Karin Jenson, 35, attorney

The Story The childcare dilemma took on a decidedly modern twist for Damien Jenson, a former restaurant manager, when he became a stay-at-home dad for his son, Sebastien, and his wife, Karin, went back to work as an attorney at a downtown law firm. With no student debt and just one car payment, the couple is on track to buy a bigger home (they had lived in their townhome for less than a year before they found out Karin was pregnant). Eventually, Damien would like to switch professional tracks and get into a music-related career, but for now he takes care of another baby a few days a week for some “play” money that pays for afternoon coffee breaks at Starbucks or to rent out space to play and write music each month.

The Makeover “Damien and Karin are going through an adjustment period with a new baby in the house, but are on firm ground,” says certified financial planner Herb White. A priority is setting up a tracked, monthly budget. Karin has resisted in the past because she prefers to be less controlled by her money, but she now recognizes it as an important milestone in reaching their goals. So far, additional baby costs have had little impact on the family’s finances because Damien and Karin had shifted funds normally dedicated for travel to caring for Sebastien. But with a budget in hand, the couple should be able to fund things they like to do (travel) and things they want for their family (buy a bigger home).

The Breakdown
Annual Income: $100,000+
Monthly Expenses

  • Auto Expenses: $950
  • Clothing: $100
  • Groceries, Diapers, and Target Runs: $950
  • Eating Out: $230
  • Entertainment and Recreation: $130
  • Home Expenses, Utilities, and Mortgage Payments: $2,700
  • Insurance and Medical Expenses, including hospital bills from birth: $700
  • Total: $5,760

Kati Bostwick, 28, attorney

The Story Since graduating from the University of Colorado Law School in 2007, Kati Bostwick has worked hard to pay down her student loans. She still rents an apartment in Capitol Hill and has negligible credit card debt, but now the 28-year-old attorney is wondering what do with the $12,000 she’s saved. Invest it? Use it for a down payment on a home? Pay off student loans?

The Makeover Kati is in the enviable position of having a good career, bright future, and no emotional issues around money, says financial planner Jake Koebrich, meaning that she can focus more on a shopping list of “things to do,” instead of typical issues like debt and stress management. Protecting her property through renter’s insurance is vital, as is setting up disability insurance. Kati should also set up savings accounts earmarked for her goals, like making a down payment on a home and paying for vacations. She can invest her current savings into these accounts while still meeting her long-term goal of paying down her student loans.

The Breakdown
Annual Income: $69,845
Monthly Expenses

  • Rent: $750
  • Clothes: $250
  • Phone: $50
  • Gas: $50
  • Groceries: $300
  • Eating Out and Entertainment: $250
  • Student Loan Payment: $624
  • Car Insurance: $50
  • Health Insurance and Costs: $58
  • Cable TV: $50
  • Gifts: $50
  • Personal Care and Incidentals: $25
  • Total: $2,507

Dorothie Hughes Werth, 40, stay-at-home mom
Michael Werth, 39, art director

The Story When Dorothie Hughes Werth was laid off from her marketing executive job during her sixth month of pregnancy, the family lost more than half of its income. Unemployment helped for a while, but unpaid medical bills from a C-section began to pile up on the financially strapped couple. Michael and Dorothie carried three mortgages: two on their home (one has an adjustable rate set to change soon), and one on a Leadville condominium. Selling one of their properties seemed unavoidable, but the couple didn’t know how to find the money or time to make the house or condo sale-ready. They sold their “gas-hogging” Range Rover to help with the cash crunch, but the remaining financial stress was creating fissures in the fabric of the marriage as Dorothie tried to stay home with Ryder, their son, and the couple picked up freelance work to help make ends meet.

The Makeover To start, planner Jake Koebrich asked Dorothie and Michael to individually complete a life questionnaire, answering questions about how satisfied they were with their careers and the amount of stress that money puts on their relationship. The couple read their answers to each other over dinner and a bottle of wine. “It got really emotional,” says Dorothie, “but it reminded us how many of our goals are similar.” Armed with their shared goals, the couple could focus on “big stepping stones,” or priorities that would help move them through this precarious time. The first big step came when both admitted that letting go of some debt and taking stress off of their family was much more important than holding onto a house. They have already met with a Realtor to explore options and a timeline for selling their Denver home. Once they recognized that keeping the Leadville condominium was more important to them, they could strategize how to start renting that property to generate additional income. “They knew what they needed to do,” says Koebrich. “They just needed to talk it through.”

The Breakdown
Annual Income: $85,000
Monthly Expenses

  • Entertainment and Recreation: $125
  • Dining Out: $35
  • Groceries: $300
  • Home, Utilities, and Mortgages: $2,441
  • Personal Care and Incidentals: $153
  • School Loan Payments: $50
  • Pets: $20
  • Health Insurance: $200
  • Auto Expenses: $585
  • Public Transportation: $108
  • Baby Gear: $42
  • Child Support: $560
  • Total: $4,619

Judy Browne, 47, owner/founder of Workshop for Women
Bill Ryan, 60, retiree

The Story After working at a lumber business for 22 years, 60-year-old Bill Ryan was ready to retire. His wife—whom he met in 2003—joked that she would become his retirement fund. A former manufacturing engineer, Judy had started Workshop for Women, a business dedicated to teaching women home-maintenance skills, in 2004. The couple agreed to live off of Bill’s IRA retirement funds while Judy’s business became profitable. But the stock market’s erratic behavior has made them nervous about dipping into Bill’s account. They have little debt—their two cars and two motorcycles are paid off—and several real estate investments to help out, but they are paying $800 a month for COBRA health insurance.

The Makeover “Judy and Bill are a unique couple in the way they approach life and the way they approach finances,” says Lisa Purcell. “It is very dynamic and there are a lot of moving parts.” Fine-tuning their finances so that their inflows match the outflows is the overarching goal. That means drafting wills, managing their rental properties, and finding less-expensive health insurance. To help, Judy will start working part-time as a home inspector to minimize the amount the couple pulls out of Bill’s IRA. Most important, Judy and Bill plan to meet more regularly with a financial planner to make sure that their investments match their retirement goals.

The Breakdown
Annual Income: $77,700 from IRA distribution and rental properties
Monthly Expenses

  • Home, Utilities, and Mortgages: $4,044
  • Car Payments: $0
  • Health Insurance: $800
  • Groceries: $520
  • Gas: $320
  • Entertainment and Incidentals: $1,410
  • Total: $7,094

Marsha Corn, 41, social worker
Michael Penka, 39, quality assurance analyst

The Story Marsha Corn bought a 100-year-old home in Sloan Lake 10 years ago, and the 800-square-foot space was a perfect fit for her single lifestyle. But five years ago she adopted a daughter, Olivia, and things started to feel cramped. In 2006 she met Michael, and when they married last August the couple squeezed two households into the tiny home. With a baby boy due January 11, the growing family dreams about staying in the neighborhood and building on their current property. But first they have to confront their different money management styles—Mike rigorously tracks his monthly spending, and Marsha has a more laissez-faire approach. Says Marsha, “We seem to be just piddling away our money instead of figuring out where it all is and how it can work for us.”

The Makeover Herb White helped Mike and Marsha set up short-term deadlines to help meet their long-term goals. “The first goal is to within a month cut $100 to $200 a month out of the budget,” explains White. The next is to rent Mike’s bachelor condo, which has been empty and draining $820 a month. Within a year, the couple will free up more than $1,000 a month to put toward their goal of building a new house in their current neighborhood. Meanwhile, the new family needs to create wills, designate durable powers of attorney, and secure life insurance for Marsha to make sure that their personal and financial goals remain in synch.

The Breakdown
Annual Income: $120,000
Monthly Expenses

  • 403(b) Loan: $75
  • Auto Expenses: $633
  • Charity: $25
  • Clothing: $510
  • Computer: $36
  • Credit Card Payments: $25
  • Dining: $546
  • Coffee: $16
  • Education: $478
  • Entertainment and Recreation: $728
  • Gifts: $193
  • Groceries: $680
  • Gym Membership: $29
  • Home, Utilities, and Mortgage: $2,757
  • Health Insurance and Costs: $471
  • Personal Care and Incidentals: $396
  • Pets: $46
  • Storage Unit: $99
  • Subscriptions: $20
  • Vacations: $286
  • Total: $8,049

Burning Questions

Build an addition or move? Save for retirement or a child’s education? Financial advisors consider real-life debates.

Q: We’re in good financial shape at the moment—my husband has a nice pension set up, we both have IRAs, and have invested our money into 403(b) plans. So do we put money away for our daughter’s college education or do we get ourselves settled for retirement so that we won’t be a financial burden to her?

A: In 2010 there will be a change in retirement planning laws that allows eligible people to convert an IRA to a Roth IRA. The advantage is that the taxes are paid earlier and the funds can be used later for retirement or for a child’s education. —Herb White, certified financial planner, Life Certain Wealth Strategies.

A: If college is several years away, you may consider saving within a tax-advantaged plan, such as a 529 plan. Keep in mind that you can always take loans to fund college education; however, you cannot take loans to fund retirement. —Lisa Purcell, wealth management adviser, TIAA-CREF

Q: Should we build an addition onto our small Highland-area home or is it time to move to ‘burbs like Westminster and Broomfield for more space?

A: If you like where you live and your children are enjoying the school system, it might make sense to build an addition rather than disrupt those relationships. Before you build, research similar additions in your neighborhood to determine if the emotional gain is worth the cost and inconvenience of renovation. —Herb White, certified financial planner, Life Certain Wealth Strategies

A: Consider the market—Highland has one of the highest rates of average price appreciation in the Denver metropolitan area; in Westminster and Broomfield prices are stable and/or declining. —Michael Canon, broker associate, Your Castle Real Estate

Q: We have a rental townhouse in Lakewood that has a small negative cash flow. Should we wait for the market to recover or should we sell it now and use the cash to finance other goals?

A: If your tenant is reasonably easy to work with and if the house is below $200,000, then I would wait until the market recovers to sell the home. I know that prices will bounce back to 2004 levels, but it might take three to five years. If you can wait for the recovery, you will come out ahead. —Lon Welsh, owner, Your Castle Real Estate

Q: The cost of daycare in Denver is astronomical. How do I balance that with wanting to pay down debt, save for our children’s college tuition and our retirement, and make home improvements?

A: See if your employer has a flexible spending account (FSA) where you can designate pretax income and offset the cost of childcare. —Herb White, certified financial planner, Life Certain Wealth Strategies

A: Though childcare tends to have a large upfront cost, this will typically decrease as children grow older and enter into school. Once they do, you can strategize to meet other financial goals. —Lisa Purcell, wealth management adviser, TIAA-CREF

Advice for Tough Times

Three Essential Tips From Our Financial Experts

Jake Koebrich

  1. Remain focused on your financial plan and ignore the news of gloom and doom if you can. If your goals are years away, don’t worry. If your goals are sooner, think of them in terms of new possibilities instead of sacrifices.
  2. Live within your means. If you “can’t,” then you must!
  3. If you are able, take advantage of the incredible investment opportunities the market is offering.

Jake Koebrich has nearly a decade of financial planning experience, and with his company Life Works Inc. uses “life planning” to focus on aligning his clients’ goals with their investment and savings strategies.

Lisa Purcell

  1. With lowered interest rates, evaluate the current interest rates on current debt obligations to determine if lower rates can be obtained.
  2. Maintain a fund with six to 12 months of cash to cover basic expenses.
  3. Check your asset allocation “seatbelt.” Now might be a good time to make any changes needed to get you through the difficult times ahead. But talk with an adviser to make sure you are moving investments in your portfolio around for the right reasons.

Lisa Purcell has been with TIAA-CREF, the financial institution geared toward investors from nonprofit, academic, cultural, and other fields, since 1995. She joined the wealth management group in 2005.

Herb White

  1. During times of economic downturn, don’t panic or make emotional sell decisions with regard to your investment portfolio.
  2. Do not stop investing in your employer-sponsored retirement plan.
  3. One way to benefit when a stock goes up is to own it while it’s down.

Herb White founded Life Certain Wealth Strategies in 2003 and uses his 12 years of finance-related experience to provide a comprehensive and independent financial planning service for clients.