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Private School v. Retirement

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Dwight and Robyn McLeod bought a house in the Chester Heights neighborhood of Mount Vernon in 1994 for $230,000. Dwight has two grown children from a previous marriage, and together the McLeods have two children: a 19-year-old son who is a sophomore at Trinity College and a 15-year-old daughter attending the Ursuline School in New Rochelle.

Because Mount Vernon public schools have a history of challenges, the McLeods agreed private school was a price worth paying from the onset, even though, like most Westchester residents, a large percentage of their roughly $16,000 annual tax tab is for the public schools. With college tuition/room-and-board at Trinity reaching $64,000 a year and Ursuline costing roughly $18,000 a year, it compounds quickly. “We’ve been paying two tuitions for a very long time,” Dwight says. “It’s been a huge sacrifice…that we had to make for the kids.”

Following successful corporate careers with solid six-figure salaries (62-year-old Dwight’s with Verizon and 56-year-old Robyn’s with NYNEX and Deloitte & Touche), each started their own consulting company. Times were good… for a while. Then the economy tanked around 2007, and clients dropped off a cliff as their budgets were squeezed or eliminated entirely. Since then, it’s been a “wild ride,” Dwight says.

They’ve dipped into savings, cannibalized their 401Ks and took a pass on discretionary expenses like dental work, the latest gadgets, and dinners out. Past vacations were mostly road trips to visit family, and the grand plan of an early retirement to a home down South is a dream that may border on outright fantasy. While business has improved a bit, that’s merely translated to an occasional dinner out, a periodic case of wine, or perhaps a golf outing. They have a lot of catching up to do: “I’m 62, and I don’t see retirement in sight,” Dwight says, though he is not as laced with regret as one may infer.

 “I still love Westchester,” he says. “I love the people here.” 

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