Then and Now: Stretching a Small Income Paid Off

Family Finances

Stretching a Small Income Paid Off Big

We checked in with Tina Huang and Mickey Pentecost, 2006 cover models of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, who discussed their savings strategies.

Now: Mickey Pentecost and Tina Huang have had to navigate some bumps on the road. Photo by: Jessica Anderson Crocker


Our April 2006 cover couple, Tina Huang and Mickey Pentecost, were newlyweds in their mid twenties who were just starting their careers. Mickey was a PhD student in microbiology at Stanford University, and Tina was establishing herself as an actress. They discussed their strategies for stretching a limited income in the San Francisco Bay Area—including sharing a used 2001 Honda Civic.


Tina, 33, and Mickey, 34, who live in West Hollywood, recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary. Mickey just finished a post-doctoral program at UCLA, and Tina is in her fifth season with TNT’s Rizzoli and Isles TV show. And they’re on firmer financial footing.

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Then: The couple graced our cover in April 2006.

Slide Show: Proven Tactics to Overcome Big Debts

Tina qualified for membership in the Screen Actors Guild, which gave her access to group health insurance and a retirement plan. When she moved to Los Angeles for more acting opportunities, she and Mickey lived apart for more than a year and saved money by bunking with roommates and family members.

Tina began breaking into TV and movie roles, and in 2008 Mickey joined her in Los Angeles and began writing his PhD thesis. With help from Tina’s mother, a successful businesswoman in New York, they started house-hunting in a buyer’s market. After about a year, they settled on a condo in West Hollywood. “It had to feel like home but also be a good investment,” says Tina.

Their irregular income made it difficult to qualify for a mortgage, so they paid off their only debt (Tina’s student loans) to make their finances more attractive to lenders, and they used savings and help from family members to come up with a competitive down payment. They timed their purchase to take advantage of both federal and state tax credits for first-time home buyers, and so far they’ve shaved five years off their mortgage by paying ahead on the principal. Since buying the condo in 2010, they figure the value has increased from $430,000 to about $560,000.

The couple hit a major bump in the road when Tina’s mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease. She moved from New York to Los Angeles, first to an assisted-living facility that cost $10,000 a month. “We were slowly liquidating her assets,” says Tina. Then her mother purchased a one-bedroom condo in Hollywood, and Tina took charge of hiring caregivers to provide 24-hour care until her mother passed away last December. The fact that her mother had options for her care impressed on Tina and Mickey the value of saving. “We did a lot of maturing over the past three years,” says Tina. But that 2001 Honda is still their only car.