Co-Op Strategy Guide: Case Study

The Problem

Isabelle & Bobby have been married for three years and have a 1-year-old daughter named Norah. Isabelle has a great foundation of financial knowledge since her parents made it a priority to teach her as a teenager, but Bobby never had anyone to guide him with his finances. They are both early in their career. Isabelle is a UX Designer and Bobby is a pharmacist for the local hospital. Up until now their finances were separate, but now they are thinking about buying a home together, which spurred their need to seek guidance. Isabelle’s foundation of financial knowledge did not include long-term planning, stock options, Traditional and Roth 401(k)s, or Bobby’s pension and 403(b).

The Solution

Time is not abundant since they both work full-time and have a baby, but feel that if they leverage a financial planner, they will be able to be more efficient with their planning and it will reduce the unnecessary financial stress by having clarity. Level Up Financial Planning was referred to them by a friend that works with Isabelle and she set up a time for after work, when she knows that her nanny will still be able to assist with Norah.

The Process

During the intro call, Bobby is shocked that Isabelle is just as stressed out about finances as he is since he considered her financial situation to be awesome compared to his. They also realize that they have other shared goals that they never talked about including family trips and saving for college. Seeing the value of the free intro meeting, they were excited to see what future meetings would uncover.

In the Values and Possibilities meeting, Isabelle finds out about Bobby’s first-time job as a newspaper delivery boy to help his single mom afford the bills and Bobby finds out about how Isabelle used to be frustrated that her parents made her save 20% of her allowance. Bobby chimes in, “we should do that when Norah is older!” Both Bobby and Isabelle support the goal of saving for college, but agree they want to see how much they can afford to help first. When discussing their health history, they mention that it’s possible Isabelle will likely receive an inheritance, but she doesn’t know any of the details yet.

In the Getting Organized meeting, Isabelle and Bobby setup their wealth portal and begin to add their respective accounts. This is the first time either of them will see the other’s financial picture. Having not taken vacations themselves growing up they were not totally sure on the dollar amount to target but their vacation goal but agreed to use $4,000 as a placeholder. Isabelle loves her work and would like to work forever, but to be conservative we use a retirement age of 65. Bobby has no clue but knows 65 is way too long. We add a placeholder for him retiring at 55. They also set a target price of a home at $550,000 but said they would schedule a meeting for themselves to discuss the wants and needs to compromise and try to keep it in that range. They are really concerned about the down payment.

In the Strategy Guide 1.0 Proposal meeting, Before diving in they reflect on the goals and things in life that are the most important to them. They see their whole financial picture in one place. Bobby feels a little guilty since he knows his student loans and lack of retirement savings is weighing down their net worth. He makes a comment, but Isabelle reminds him that she did not have to take out student loans and support pay her own way through school. As they discuss the Strengths, Weaknesses, Possibilities, and Threats they both say how much of a huge step it is to be putting a plan in place. Before they jump into the results of their initial strategy guide 1.0 projections Lucas reminds them that it does not include college since they wanted to see what they could afford and that Bobby’s retirement age of 55 was aggressive. Then the reveal. They have a 60% chance of reaching all the key goals outlined without making any changes. More importantly, they see that they can increase that probability substantially by saving $500 more a month, and they both look at each other and say they have a lot of expenses they know they can cut. Also, delaying Bobby’s retirement age to 62 would also make a huge difference. Another alternative they reviewed to include education was 100% costs to an in-state college if Bobby was able to delay retirement until age 65.

The Results

The Level Up Recommendations identify ways to optimize a few key ways to reduce their cost, like paying in full for car insurance, leveraging credit card rewards. They also are on board for the debt snowball approach to paying off Bobby’s Credit Cards and Student Loans. What they are relieved by the most is that they have options when it comes to coming up with a down payment on their home leveraging their employer retirement accounts or simply putting a lower down payment on the home. They also receive the life insurance recommendation, which will not only support the other if one of them were to pass away but will provide for Norah including college should something happen to either of them. They also find out that they have not been maximizing the benefits on their Health Savings Account and can easily reduce their taxes by $1,500.

They schedule a follow up meeting to review their budget and identify areas they can save, and they notice they have some duplicate expenses due to their finances separate, as well as identify expenses that they no longer utilize as busy working parents. Before the meeting ends, they have identified $350 of savings that is easy.


Over the next year, they buy their home and Bobby transitions to another hospital that he enjoys way more. Isabelle receives a promotion and negotiates for more time off for family vacations. They also open up a small college savings fund and set up automatic deposits.