"Martin and I were instilled with the same kind of care about money," JoAnn Overholt said. "Never a borrower or a lender be."
Like the first generation of Overholts, Arlington's Martin Overholt family is reluctant to carry big loads of debt. They resisted getting a bank card until eight years ago.
Up to then, JoAnn, 45, recalled, "we had a gasoline credit card because we don't like carrying a lot of cash around and a Central Charge card which we used for medicine and cigarettes."
But the Overholts ultimately succumbed to more credit cards because "I just got sick and tired of trying to write a check in department stores," JoAnn said. "They always wanted a major credit card for identification, and if you didn't have one because you wrote checks, then you'd have to go off and find a supervisor, and it would take them 10 minutes to come back. I always pay the bill monthly . I finally figured out that I might as well use somebody else's money interest-free."
Despite the family's plans to use the bank card only for convenience, there was a time when Martin racked up substantial debt with his card. "We had a Visa and Mastercard. There was a period of time when the Mastercard became mine. I abused it a lot for a couple of years. I got it up to $1,000 or $1,500. I paid it all off and closed it."
For the most part, though, this generation of Overholts has tried to approach money with the same attitude as the senior Overholt family. "Early on in our marriage, we operated with the philosophy that if we didn't have it in the bank, we weren't going to spend it -- except for the house, cars and major things like that," JoAnn said.
Married 19 years ago -- a second marriage for Martin -- the Overholts consider themselves fortunate to have purchased their Arlington house when they did 16 years ago.
"We were really lucky. We got this house just before everything got really expensive," Martin said, adding that their mortgage loan interest rate is only 8.5 percent.
"We have a VA loan so we didn't have to have a downpayment," said JoAnn. "But we had a small inheritance that gave us enough for the $2,000 downpayment. That made us feel good. The house was $28,500; the loan was for $26,500," making the whole monthly mortgage payment about $329.
"We couldn't afford this house if we had to buy it now," said Martin, 54, a ticket agent with United Airlines.
Yet, with houses in the North Arlington neighborhood selling for around $150,000, the house now "is like money waiting," Martin said. With two teen-agers approaching college, the Overholts said they have thought about the fact that they could borrow against the house to help pay for college tuition.
"I would like to save our kids from going into debt for college education," JoAnn said. "That is such a burden to start off with." JoAnn, administrator of Arena Stage, said she has been saddened by interviews with university graduates who often must turn down Arena's relatively low-paying jobs because they have to pay off huge college loans.
JoAnn came to Washington 22 years ago to work for Arena Stage. Martin came to Washington with his first wife in 1957, just after he graduated from Iowa State University. Martin had hoped to get a job in the State Department but narrowly failed the Foreign Service exam. While waiting for another chance to take the test, he decided to look for another job.
"Here I was in Washington with a wife in her ninth month of pregnancy and no job, and my savings were dribbling away fast," Martin said. "So I got a job with United Airlines and stayed there."
The job has had its hard times, with labor strikes and cutbacks as a result of airline deregulation. Yet Martin is content: "No two days are the same. I love dealing with people. I enjoy traveling, and, although I don't make a lot of money, I travel cheaply." United Airline employes and their families pay service charges to travel on the airline -- such as $13 for a one-way coach flight to San Francisco ($26 first-class).
With two teen-agers, it is hard for the Overholts to put money aside. "We don't save a lot -- $45 every two weeks," Martin said. That money is invested in Martin's credit-union account to be used for major purchases, vacations or emergencies. "We get better interest there than we would anywhere else, and it is accessible," Martin said.
Unlike his mother and father, who never took out a loan, Martin has borrowed money to buy cars. He usually gets a loan through his credit union because it can be paid off early without penalty. "We have managed to pay off every car loan early," JoAnn said.
JoAnn inherited the family's only investment in stocks, which she sold last year because she thought she could get a better return elsewhere and because she got tired of depositing lots of small dividend checks.
Turning 55 this year, Martin is considering early retirement -- leaving United to work at a new career, perhaps in a counseling center where he could more directly help others. The family could afford his move to a lower paying position since JoAnn would continue to work at Arena, and Martin could collect retirement income, he said