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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, May 9, 2004

Asset-rich widow short on cash flow

By Deborah Adamson
Advertiser Staff Writer

Money Makeover

Income-strapped: Cynthia Moiha

Work: Retired, studying Nursing

Income: $33,000 a year from pensions and rental.
Expects $830 a month in widow's payments from Social Security starting in November.

Savings: $37,000 in bank

Real-estate assets: Two homes worth $500,000

Credit-card debt and car loan: $10,000

Challenge: Positive cash flow

The makeover:

• Pay off consumer debt and improve monthly cash flow by $360.

• Cancel two term-life policies and save $69 a month.

• Let daughter take over premium payments on two whole life insurance policies, save $147 a month.

• Budget reserve for home repairs, vacations and school.

• Buy additional long-term-care insurance, depending on the cost.

The adviser: Sandra Harvey, CFP, CLU

Employer: First Hawaiian Bank

Position: Vice President and

Private Banking Officer Address: 999 Bishop St., Honolulu, HI 96813

Years of experience: 4

• Honors Graduate, Kamehameha Schools

• Stanford University, bachelor of arts in economics

• University of Hawai'i, Masters of Business Administration

Style of Planning: Broad range of investment styles.

Compensation: Salary
When Cynthia Moiha saw the X-rays of her husband's smoking-damaged lungs, she knew the end was near.

That was two years ago. Yet, the Kapolei widow still lives with the financial repercussions of his death from cancer: The widow's benefit for one of his two pensions was cut in half, leaving her with more expenses than income.

"We never had very much money between us," she said.

Every month, the former financial analyst spends $1,000 more a month than what she's getting from retirement benefits and rental income. While she lives a modest lifestyle, she also cares for her elderly mother and is burdened by college expenses. The 59-year-old widow had long cherished dreams of getting a four-year degree, so she's a nursing student at the University of Hawai'i.

Moiha believes college expenses will set her back about $25,000. "I don't stint myself, but I'm not an extravagant person," Moiha said. "If I want something, I buy it."

When she hits 60 this fall, Moiha will start receiving widow's Social Security payments of about $830 a month. That still leaves her financially in the red.

"Once I dispose of my mortgage, and if I didn't have school expenses, I would have positive cash flow," she said.

Moiha has three years of mortgage payments left on her Kapolei home. She earns rental income of $600 a month after expenses from an 800-square-foot home in Ma'ili that she doesn't want to sell yet.

Moiha recently had to fix the roofs of both homes, at a cost of $10,500 — for which she had not budgeted. In addition, she owes about $10,000 on a car loan and credit cards.

Her 84-year-old mother, who is legally blind, lives with her, and Moiha intends to support her for as long as possible.

Moiha lives on $33,000 a year from her husband's two pensions, her own pension and rental income. She has $37,000 saved in several bank accounts. In addition to her two houses, Moiha owns life insurance policies, annuities and a smattering of stocks bought over the years.

"I'd like to know if what I've done since (my husband passed away) — did I make some good choices or did some need to be revamped?" she said.

Sandra Harvey, a financial adviser at First Hawaiian Bank, said one of Moiha's priorities should be to improve her cash flow. By paying off her consumer debt, which is costing her a higher interest rate than what she's earning from the bank, she could boost her cash flow by $360 a month.

Next, Moiha should consider canceling two life insurance policies and save $69 a month, Harvey said. Both policies — one for $39 a month, the other for $30 — offer coverage of $10,000 each. She will still have three insurance policies, including one for long-term care.

"Do you think you'll really need this much (insurance)?" the financial adviser asked.

"I just feel a little safer," Moiha said.

She said she might ask her daughter to take over payments for two whole-life insurance policies. Moiha has been paying $147 a month for the policies covering her only child, a nurse in Virginia.

"I would highly recommend that your 32-year-old daughter take over the insurance payments," Harvey said. "By being nice to her, you have a negative cash flow."

Moiha nodded. "Yes, I know."

She already has long-term-care insurance, but might consider purchasing more, depending on the cost, Harvey said. Her current policy would pay $1,000 a month. That's not much, as nursing home care can cost at least $2,000 a month, Harvey said. She advised Moiha to have an insurance agent look into at least 10 policies for the best rate and plan.

Cynthia Moiha of Kapolei wraps a gift for her granddaughter. Since her husband died, she has been unable to make her income meet her expenses.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Long-term care insurance costs are changing," Harvey said. "You might find a better company offering a less expensive but better quality program."

With the additional cash flow, Harvey said Moiha should budget reserve money for home repairs, vacations and school. That way, she won't be hit with thousands of dollars worth of bills at one time that have to be paid from savings.

As for returning to college, the financial adviser said Moiha must be clear about her goals. If it's to start a new career, the expense of college might not be worth the effort, since she will have to compete with college-age job applicants.

But Moiha remained adamant: "Education is never a waste of money."

Interested in a free Money Makeover? Contact Deborah Adamson at dadamson@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8088.