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February 24, 2011

12:05
P.M.

Color of Money Live

Total Responses: 35

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Michelle Singletary

Michelle Singletary

Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, "The Color of Money," which appears in The Post on Thursday and Sunday. Her award-winning column is also carried in more than 120 newspapers. In her spare time, Singletary is the director of a ministry she founded at her church, in which women and men volunteer to mentor others who are having financial challenges.

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Color of Money Q&A Archive
Color of Money Video Archive
Host: Bethany and Scott Palmer

Bethany and Scott Palmer

Bethany Palmer is the co-author of "First Comes Love, Then Comes Money: A Couple's Guide to Financial Freedom," one of this month's Color of Money Book Club selections.
Host: Scott Palmer

Scott Palmer

Scott Palmer is a co-author of "First Comes Love, Then Comes Money: A Couple's Guide to Financial Freedom," one of this month's Color of Money Book Club selections.
Host: Hal Runkel

Hal Runkel

Hal Edward is a co-author of ?ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer,? one of this month's Color of Money Book Club selections.
Host: Jenny  Anderson

Jenny Anderson

Jenny Anderson is a co-author of "Spousonomics," one of this month's Color of Money Book Club selections.

About the topic

Need advice about how to handle your personal finances? Whether the struggle is saving for retirement, organizing your bank files, or talking about money responsibility with your spouse or loved one, Post personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary offers her advice and answers your questions on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 12 p.m. ET. She will be joined by the authors of her Color of Money Book Club selections for February, all of which focused on finance and romantic relationships.
Q.

Michelle Singletary :

Whew. I've been busy these last few days. Just finished my live video chat. If you didn't watch live, I hope you go back and watch it. Last night, I moderated a great panel of people talking about race and the recession. You can go online at our site and see a recap of that discussion.

And now jumping into this great discussion about love and money.

Today all my guests have written books about dealing with money issues with your honey (husband, wife, significant other). So looking for great questions about that. 

So let's get started.

Q.

Family budgeting

How do I get my husband to talk about putting on paper a budget to live by for our family without his immediately getting defensive? Is there a template budget you would recommend I could use as a basis for getting our cash in/cash out on paper?

A.
Bethany and Scott Palmer :

go to www.themoneycouple.com and click on resources and under "cash flow worksheet" will be your cash in/cash out!  Make it Happen! :-)

– February 24, 2011 12:01 PM
Q.

Foreclosure Timetable

My wife had a foreclosure for a home in Georgia in 2010. How long will this stay on her record and when will we be able to qualify to purchase a home locally?

A.
Michelle Singletary :

Negative information such as a foreclosure stays on your credit reports for 7 years. But in a few years if your wife and you pay your bills on time, all the time, you can rebuild that negative credit history and apply for a home loan. How long it takes depends on several other factors such as your income, price of the home, type of loan, etc.

– February 24, 2011 12:04 PM
Q.

CARD Act - changes

My hubby and I have been working at paying off all of our credit card debts. I don't want to deal with them anymore. I never thought they would go quietly into the good night, but they (cc companies) seem to constantly try to find ways to circumvent the laws, dream up new fees, new 'gotcha! things. No more. The problem is that without a credit card, when you do apply for a loan for something, you are told that you can't qualify, because you don't have any credit cards. HUH???? This tells me that the credit scoring people are only interested in their own money, and reporting what they want you to have - DEBT! We are saving up for a new car to replace our 10+ year old van now. Want the smallest loan possible when the time comes.
A.
Jenny Anderson :

Credit card companies seize on our very human tendency to value today a lot more than tomorrow. They know that we 'plan' to save, but when confronted with a potential purchase -- and armed with a credit card - we often fall prey to making the purchase. And then the credit card companies find ways to fleece us with fees.

Sounds like you are doing it the right way: Save the money and don't give those credit card companies the benefit of your business -- or your savings in all the interest you will pay them.  

– February 24, 2011 12:04 PM
Q.

Michelle Singletary :

Q.

Federal Government Shutdown

Hi Michelle, I know your husband works for the government (right?), so I was wondering what your thoughts were. I work for the government and while I have an emergency fund for hard times, this whole budget debate is stressing me out. One of the best things about a fed job had been the security. But now I feel like everything is up in the air. Any advice on how to stop stressing?

A.
Michelle Singletary :

Stop stressing.

Really. 

But the way to stop stressing or to minimize it is to continue doing what you are doing saving (maybe even a little more with what's going on). Pay down debt if you have any so that won't be a worry.

Just prepare for the worse and hope for the best.

– February 24, 2011 12:08 PM
Q.

Link, please

Would you please post a link to your video chat? Thank you.
A.
Sarah Halzack :
– February 24, 2011 12:11 PM
Q.

Saving vs. Living Question

I keep reading (trying to learn) that you should try to save 20% of your gross income and live on the remainder. Is that to be put in a plain vanilla savings account at a local bank/credit union; invested in a Roth - or a combination? Can you really live on just 80% of your income? I would love to try. My ultimate goal is to save a full year of my gross income. Paying creditors, college loans and raising 3 kids is keeping that at bay right now. :-(
A.
Michelle Singletary :

First, that 20 percent is probably all the savings combined -- retirement, emergency, life happens, college fund.

So if you think of it like that may not be so daunting since that not 20 percent for emergency and then saving for other stuff.

Second, instead of aiming for saving a year's of your gross income try to save 12 months of your "living expenses" or what it takes to run your house. But 12 months might be too big a goal for right now giving that you have THREE kids. So shoot for one month, then two, then three. You could stop at three so you can focus on making sure you are saving right for retirement and to help send those three kids to college with no debt.

Finally, your emergency fund and life happens money should be in a FDIC insured savings/checking account or short term CDs. You are not going to try and invest this money because you don't want it at risk.

 

– February 24, 2011 12:15 PM
Q.

wedding bill blues

A few weeks ago I submitted a chat comment about the cost of a wedding and suggested against a big to-do. Your response, a bit later, was to say that in some cases a blowout might work (if money was plentiful). So we disagree. Fine. You also were a bit snide in saying that people "should not get mad" about the costs of weddings. Um, I was not mad. I offered my view, which I continue to hold. "Spare" money could help with other things. In any event it was a bit over over-reach on your part. Be polite, as I am.

A.
Sarah Halzack :
– February 24, 2011 12:19 PM
A.
Michelle Singletary :

Polite?

Really.

You said I was snide. Not a nice word and not an accurate account of what I was trying to say. 

You know it's very, very hard to indicate "tone" in these types of forums. I wasn't being snide. I was just pointing out that some people can have a big blow out wedding if they have the money. That also doesn't mean they aren't using other money they have to help other people, charities, etc.

I respected your point. I agreed with it because I had a frugal wedding. But I also understand and appreciate that other people have different values than you and I.

That's what I respect.

– February 24, 2011 12:19 PM
Q.

College savings

We have an 11 year old son and no college savings for him yet. I am stressing and my husband isn't and he retires in 3 - 5 years! What should I be reading to understand our savings options for college? We live in Maryland.

A.
Bethany and Scott Palmer :

Google 529 plans - and also when tlaking to him about it try this during a "money huddle"...."hon why don't we write out and brainstorm all of our options and approaches to college savings and then we can come up with one together"  Hope that helps!!  The Money Couple

– February 24, 2011 12:22 PM
Q.

Is blood really thicker than water?

While, like everyone, we've made mistakes, my husband and I have largely done things right. We come from modest backgrounds but worked our way through college and med school. We waited to start a family until we had paid off all student debt. We now live in a nice home and recently bought our first new cars (which each cost under $20,000), but still live way below our means. We have good savings, life happens, college funds for the kids, and more. To say our families were not supportive of our efforts is a major understatement. Starting in HS, they accused us of "acting white" and now say we are "too big for our britches." It was as if they were rooting for us to fail. Many of them did not complete HS, much less college, and they made some very poor choices. One sister had 3 children with a married man, who has since dumped her, by the time she was 19. Most of their children were born to unmarried parents, and many got involved with drugs and petty, and sometimes not so petty crimes. Now that we are successful, they seem to think that we should cover all their bills. We do help out our parents, and will help pay for our nieces' and nephews' college expenses should they attend college. We also occasionally "lend" bail bond money, or help out with emergency medical expenses, without expecting to be repaid. But truth be told,we would prefer that any "extra" money that we have (and who knows what money is actually "extra?") go towards helping deserving patients who have made good choices but still cannot afford their medical care. Your thoughts and guidance would be most appreciated.

A.
Hal Runkel :

Wow, first of all two thoughts: 1) You are really dealing with some incredible challenges; and 2) You and your husband should really be proud of yourselves for bucking trends, battling odds, and working together. Very impressive stuff, indeed.

Unfortunatlely, your path of deferred gratification is now inviting irresponsible others to drain you. Here's the first principle to consider:  you cannot throw out a lifeline from a boat that's not floating. If saying yes to funding all your family's struggles means taking on water for yourselves, you're not actually helping anybody.

This doesn't mean don't help family, but it does mean to carefully evaluate what would actually be helpful. My favorite Abe Lincoln quote is this:  "The worst thing we can do for another person is that which they need to do for themselves." Simply put, if helping your family out actually discourages them from making the tough choices that you've made, that have brought you to this level of success, then you're not actually helping them. Period. That's called enabling, not helping.

What might be helpful is to set aside a doable amount that you and your husband agree  upon, that is available to help family. And then establish some clear principles upon which to decide to use that fund. And stick to those principles, even if it means saying "no" to a brother and then watching him call you all sorts of names, etc. If the money a cousin needs would exceed the amount you've set aside, then explain that you can only help up to a certain point. If they then complain and reject your help, so be it.

What I hear in your heart is that you cherish your hard work, you wish other people would make similar decisions, and you also want to help people. Beautiful. Work with your husband to discover ways to help that are actually that, helpful.

Peace,

Hal Runkel

– February 24, 2011 12:23 PM
Q.

Advice for a friend

Michelle, I was talking with a friend this am who is in quite a bit of debt ($55,000) and is stressing out as she has had to take in family who are also having financial difficulties. She is feeling rather hopeless that it will never get paid off. I told her about your columns and chats and hope that she is able to take the time and read and get you. I had about $8000 debt a couple of years ago and followed your advice and now my only debt is my mortgage. I hope my story and your articles and chats can give her some much needed inspiration.

A.
Michelle Singletary :

Thanks for passing along that advice. You might also suggest my latest book "The Power to Prosper." I say that not because it's my book but also it will give your friend a place to start -- a 21-day financial fast.

Also share with the friend how it takes time to dig out of such debt. Yes, it's overwhelming but it can be done. 

Additionally, perhaps the relatives moving in can pay something toward the rent/mortgage and she can use some of that money to help pay down the debt.

– February 24, 2011 12:24 PM
Q.

retirement

Good afternoon. Any suggestions on how to get your spouse to do something about retirement? My spouse is in their late forties and will not go to any job-offered retirement seminars and will not look into saving for his retirement.

A.
Bethany and Scott Palmer :

Good question - talking about retirement is such an important topic to agree on - here are three essentials.

1.  Gain an understanding of how he views money by understanding his money personality - go to www.themoneycouple.com and take the money personality quiz.  This will help you to know how to approach the subject.

2.  Position with him that what we talk about today directly impacts your future together.

3.  Remember that we all view retirement through different lenses - gain an understanding of how he views retirement.

Make it Happen!

The Money Couple

 

– February 24, 2011 12:28 PM
A.
Jenny Anderson :

A lot of people feel intimidated by all the information involved with signing up with a 401k. Economists call this "high-information processing costs" which means that we become paralyzed by too many choices.

Ask to see the investment options and see if you can't help find a simple investment option, like a target-date retirement fund which rebalances according to projected retirement age. Maybe if you two can solve the investment option question, then the process of signing up won't seem so daunting. 

– February 24, 2011 12:28 PM
Q.

Extra savings

For years I have been doing what my dad and you preach. I have never bought anything I couldn't already pay for in cash (except the condo and my first car). I have been extra thrifty over the past 5 years and paid off everything, contribute to my TSP, and have a emergency fund and savings for if I am out of work for 9 months. Now what should I do? With state/local budget issues, Mideast turmoil and federal budget issues, I worry about investing more in the stock market. But hoarding excess cash isn't doing me much good for planning for retirement either. Any thoughts?

A.
Michelle Singletary :

Just be sure you are saving what you need. Go to www.choosetosave.org. Do the ballpark retirement calculator. That will give you an idea if you are saving at the right pace for retirement. After that if you have extra funds pay down any debt you have (student loans, car loans, etc.) If you don't have any consumer debt and you have a great emergency fund and life happens fund (for things such as vacations, car repairs, etc.) but you have a mortgage consider using that money to pay that off before you retire. 

 

– February 24, 2011 12:31 PM
Q.

Retirement

My sweetie is 17 years older then me. When we married 12 years ago, it didn't seem to make any difference. Now he's talking retirement in 3 years without a plan other than a 401K, which took a big beating this recession. What should we do now BEFORE he retires to plan for such a big life change? I'm worried we don't have enough.

A.
Hal Runkel :

I don't think your question is a financial one, as much as it is a relational one. You are worried that you don't have enough. What does your husband think? Has he laid out his plans, explaining how he think's it's possible and what you both need to do to make it work? These are not unreasonable questions to ask. If he gets defensive, or defaults into a "I'm older than you and I know better" stuff, then it's then on you to represent yourself as an equal partner in this life together. Explain that you want to support him retiring, but you are not simply going to take his word for it.

– February 24, 2011 12:31 PM
Q.

Long-distance relationship and finance

My boyfriend and I live in different states, so of course, there is that expense for traveling that comes up. I'm unemployed, but not broke, so I do live a decent lifestyle and I am able to still contribute to my savings. Because I am unemployed, he feels he has to take on the bulk of the traveling expenses. However, I don't want him to start resenting the distance and eventually me because he's spending so much. He also likes to buy me nice gifts. He's no millionaire, but I don't want our particular situation to become a problem for our relationship. We've talked about marriage and eventually will be together in one state, but I guess I think he spends a lot right now. Should I have a conversation with him about it; and if so, how do I approach the subject without damaging his male ego?
A.
Jenny Anderson :

How about telling him that you love the gifts, but that the best gift he gives you is your time together? Maybe if he sees that as a gift -- framed by you this way -- he might cut back on the other presents and use his money for the very important task of spending time together. Economist Allen Parkman categorizes gifts different ways and he has shown that for many people, acts of service (traveling to see you, for instance), are highly valued. 

To the broader question of discussing finances, you could try discussing an article - say this one about how couples share finances  -http://www.slate.com/id/2281613/ -  and use it as a spring board to talk about what you two think is the right system for sharing money. When posed as a hypothetical, it's could be a great way to get the conversation started. 

– February 24, 2011 12:32 PM
A.
Bethany and Scott Palmer :

He is obviously a "spender" and spenders are great because they don't just spend on themselves they spend on others too - just like he is with you.  You are probably opposite of that and that is why it seems so "foreign" - so an idea is to approach him and tell him how appreciative you are that he "spends" on you the way he does - tell him you view money differently and you don't want it to come between you. A good foundation now with your financial relationship will reap huge rewards in the future.  

Make it Happen!

The Money Couple

– February 24, 2011 12:32 PM
Q.

Mother's credit card bills

My mother was placed in a nursing home last year. Her credit cards were all her own debt. Because I have power of attorney. These companies began calling me. Now I'm getting letters from law firms. All her retirement checks and bank accounts are with the nursing home. How can I get them to stop bothering me?

A.
Michelle Singletary :

If your mother has no funds to pay them, send all the creditors a letter letting them know there are no resources for them. However, they do have the right to continue to try and collect, but they don't have the right to harass you if that is what you mean by bothering you.

Stay proactive with this because the companies could go after any unprotected funds your mother has. See if you can work out a payment plan or something so that they don't go to court and get an order to take the money in her bank accounts.

Go to the FTC website and read about the Fair Debt Collection Act.

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm

– February 24, 2011 12:37 PM
Q.

Saving victory

Hi Michelle, As of today, I have a 6 months emergency fund and a 1k "life happens" fund. This wouldn't have happened without you. Thanks!
A.
Michelle Singletary :

Great testimony.

Thanks so very much. But the kudos is all yours. I give the advice but you do the hard work.

– February 24, 2011 12:38 PM
Q.

Eliminate CC or save for downpayment?

My husband and I have about $20,000 in credit card debt (no collections or anything like that). We also have about that much in savings (which we are saving for a down payment on a house). Should we just wipe the debt out, or continue to save, and chip away at the debt $500 at a time?
A.
Michelle Singletary :

You you have some savings -- even one month of living expenses -- then I would pay off that credit card debt before even thinking about getting a house.

Think about it. That's $20,000 in credit card debt.

$20,000

$20,000

$20,000

 

– February 24, 2011 12:41 PM
Q.

Teaching Children Good Financial Habits Early

My parents never spoke about money except behind closed doors. I wish I had learned to be comfortable with money as a kid and how to save, give, make priorities, manage, etc. Any thoughts on how to go about teaching your children (under 10) good money habits and values?
A.
Hal Runkel :

Your first priority is to get as educated as possible yourself. I, like you, grew up in a home where money was never discussed; I had zero financial education at all. That has left me at times scrambling for answers, and learning from costly mistakes. It does not have to be that way for your kids.

There are a number of good resources for parents &  children to begin conversations about good habits and practices. Dave Ramsey has several. But first, re-parent yourself by making your own financial education a huge priority. Start reading David Bach, Dave Ramsey, Richard Kiyosaki, etc., and start some great habits of your own. As you become more comfortable, and less anxious, about your own financial journey, teaching your kids won't be as daunting or difficult.

Oh, one last resource: buy The Richest Man in Babylon on audio, and then listen to it with your kids. Fascinating fable about the power of investing in yourself above all others.

– February 24, 2011 12:41 PM
Q.

Talking with a spouse about money

For the wife that doesn't know how to talk to her husband about budgets, guys often get defensive when something is "sprung on them," so schedule the talk. She should tell the husband that she is very concerned about the family budget and she wants him to pick a time in the near future when they can sit down and calmly discuss a family budget without him getting defensive. If you schedule it and he knows when it is coming, it might keep him from being so defensive.

A.
Sarah Halzack :
– February 24, 2011 12:42 PM
A.
Hal Runkel :

I agree with this. Both men and women can get reactive when their spouse springs a serious conversation on them. Represent yourself by clearly expressing your concerns and desires, and then give your spouse the space to process. Then ask, in as non-accusatory way as possible, when he or she would like to discuss finances. Then plan accordingly.

– February 24, 2011 12:42 PM
A.
Jenny Anderson :

Frame it as an opportunity to better understand your finances rather than a confrontation -- or even "serious conversation" about budgeting. Often times when we are talking to our spouses about money we feel like it's a losing game. And when we feel like we are losing, we tend to act irrationally (economists call our dislike of losing loss aversion and they have documented that we have trouble thinking clearly at such moments). Frame the conversation as an opportunity, and arm yourself with questions rather than challenges to him, and the conversation can be a productive one. 

– February 24, 2011 12:42 PM
A.
Bethany and Scott Palmer :

Having a regular Money Meeting is key - we call it a Money Huddle but you can call it whatever you like.  We find that if you have a weekly meeting for 90 days it will transform your relationship financially.  There is usually a worrier in the relationship (usually the saver or security seeker) and that person, due to worry, talks about money all the time - driving the other person crazy.  Regular Money Huddles give the worrier a scheduled time and a safe place and the person who isn't worried confidence that money won't be talked about all the time....here's to a great financial relationship!!

Make it Happen!

The Money Couple

– February 24, 2011 12:42 PM
Q.

Where Does It All Go?

My fiance and I are in our late-20s, make a combined $100K and use Mint.com, and live our life within the recommended percentages of the Washington Post budget worksheet. We have student loans (30K); car loans (8K, which will be paid off next year). But it seems that at the end of the month we can barely put 10% away into savings. My question is: if we're living in the recommended percentages; pay off our credit cards in full each month; don't have any new clothes/new possessions; where does the money all go and how can we save more? We also live in New England so I know that probably has something to do with it.

A.
Bethany and Scott Palmer :

First of all, do you agree that you should be saving more - if you both agree on that then it will be "easier" to find places to cut.  It is crucial for your financial relationship that you agree on this.  Lets say you are both "savers" then this will be easier to agree on - but if he is a "spender" then that may be your problem.  Determine your money personality and it will be easier to approach this subject....sometimes financial infidelity can creep in because one wants to save and the other "rebels" against that control - so the other person may "secretly" be spending.  Get on the same page and the savings will be easier and watch your financial relationship grow!!

Make it Happen!

The Money Couple

– February 24, 2011 12:43 PM
A.
Jenny Anderson :

Look for ways to make small cuts, what economists would call "thinking at the margin". Faced with the overwhelming task of trying to save enough for so many things - down payments, college, retirement - we throw up our hands and consider the problems insurmountable, or only answered by large solutions. But small changes can have big impacts. Cut out a Starbucks coffee every day and you have $25 extra dollars a week and $780 a year. 

– February 24, 2011 12:43 PM
Q.

QA Order

Why are the questions/responses reordering? Questions that I read earlier in the chat are disappearing from the top and reappearing later. It's disconcerting, not to mention dull to read them more than once.
A.
Sarah Halzack :

Bear with us! It was a result of a little confusion stemming from having so many authors participating in the chat today. Should be fixed now.

– February 24, 2011 12:46 PM
Q.

Life insurance

Hi Michelle, I'm a 30 year old woman who's not married and does not have any kids. Do I need life insurance right now?

A.
Michelle Singletary :

Unless you have someone who is depending on your income to live, you probably don't need life insurance right now.

And even as I write that I KNOW there are life insurance agents, advisers, etc. screaming.

So that they won't scream at me. You might consider there are other reasons to get life insurance now. If you have a family history of health issues and think you might be uninsurable in the future, you might get insurance now. If you have a lot of debt you want to be sure is paid off after you pass away you might "want" to get life insurance. And I say "want" because unless someone co-signed for that debt with you your relatives, friends, mama, etc. are not liable for the debts. Your estate is and whatever is left in the estate.

You might want life insurance because you want to leave money to your church, charity or maybe to help a relative go to college, etc.

BUT if after all of those considerations you are only concerned that you don't have anyone depending on your income right now, you don't need life insurance right now.

– February 24, 2011 12:47 PM
Q.

gov't shutdown

Don't worry about the shutdown. The last one I was able to sit at home and when I came back to work I got paid for sitting at home and didn't even have to use vacation hours.
A.
Michelle Singletary :

Thanks.

– February 24, 2011 12:48 PM
Q.

For the person with $20,000 in credit card debt

I bet that CC debt has a higher interest rate than any mortgage you could think of taking out. Why let it hang around?
A.
Michelle Singletary :

Why indeed!

– February 24, 2011 12:48 PM
Q.

Starting a Life Happens Fund

Hi Michelle, I just got my tax return, and with it I hope to really get a jump on a "life happens" fund. Do you recommend this to be in cash, or in a money market, or what? Thanks for the chats--they are so helpful!

A.
Michelle Singletary :

If you mean by cash, sticking it under your mattress (smile) no. 

You keep emergency fund and life happens fun money in a FDIC insured checking/saving/money market account. 

– February 24, 2011 12:50 PM
Q.

Two Spenders

My husband and I are both spenders. He makes a very good salary ($300K) and I stay at home with our son and have a small consulting business. We max out his 401K, have life insurance, IRAs, etc., but our cash savings is suffering from neglect. The success of the other vehicles is largely because we've taken that money away from ourselves before we get it. Any thoughts on how to embargo some cash? It's a goal of mine for this year to get our cash savings more together.
A.
Bethany and Scott Palmer :

Make the goal together - get on the same page about the amount you want to save (don't start to big - to spenders that will seem overwhelming).  Talk together about the fact that you are both spenders and how fun it would be to have a stash of cash for needs.  Come up with an amount and have it automatically drafted into your savings - way to go - two spenders making savings!!

Make it Happen!

The Money Couple

– February 24, 2011 12:51 PM
A.
Jenny Anderson :

You've found the solution: Take it out of your own hands. So repeat! Create a savings account and have a certain amount transferred into it every month (or every paycheck). Discuss what you want to do with that money and devise a way to punish yourselves if you touch it. Economists call these "commitment devices" - things we put in place to make ourselves do the things we sometimes don't want to do. Here's one idea: http://www.stickk.com/

Good luck!

– February 24, 2011 12:51 PM
Q.

GOV'T SHUTDOWN

I wouldn't be so certain about retroactive pay this time. Lots of talk of using it as a furlough. Everything's speculative at this point, of course, but it's something to be aware of.
A.
Michelle Singletary :

You are right.

We don't know. So as I said plan for the worse. If you haven't been saving, do it now. Pay down debts. Cut expenses. All things you should be doing anyway.

We can only hope our legislators realize there are a lot of people depending on having good gov't workers stay on their jobs. There are often a lot of jokes about how gov't workers don't work but as the wife of a GREAT one, I know how hard many work and unfortunately it's not until there is a shut-down people realize these folks actually are public servants.

– February 24, 2011 12:54 PM
Q.

Prioritizing a Budget

My BF and I need help! We rent in the priciest city (hello, NYC) and plan to move in together - which will save us $1000 a month. We'll pay off credit card debt first, and then focus on "cost of living" savings. (I have $13,000 in cash but assume I need $20,000. You're supposed to have 6 months' cost of living, right?) But then what?! We want a house but don't have a down payment. Can you do 10% down these days, or does it have to be 20%? We max out our 401(k) payments but don't put anything else away towards retirement yet. Plus, we'll want a baby in 2 years (I'm already 35), but how do we save for that if we're trying to put together a downpayment? Plus, is that enough for retirement? I'm panicking because there aren't enough financial resources for me to feel comfortable -- I feel like I'm 10 years too late on everything. Help!

A.
Hal Runkel :

First of all, I really like your thought process. You are trying to think carefully through some of life's bigger decisions, and you're trying to do it with principles. Here's one principle I think can help:

 

We always get into trouble when we sacrifice what we want most in order to get what we want right now. For instance, one of the things I want most is a fit, healthy body that my wife still finds attractive. What I want right now is a Krispy Kreme donut. Saying yes to what I want right now would eventually lead me away from what I want most.

 

I would say the biggest priority for you and your BF right now is to clearly prioritize what it is you want most. Is it starting a family? Is it owning a home? Is it saving for retirement? Figuring out your highest priority, your longest term desire, can then help you evaluate your short term decisions.

 

Do you want a baby? What financial resources would you like to have in place before, during, and after that happens? Do you feel you need a house before a baby? What would you need to do in order to make that happen in that order?

 

I know this doesn't specifically answer your questions, but only you and your BF can do that. Hopefully, this principle helps you do so with honest and faithfulness to your truest desires.

Peace,

Hal Runkel

www.screamfree.com

 

– February 24, 2011 12:55 PM
A.
Bethany and Scott Palmer :

Sounds like you are a "security seeker" and that having your "house" in order is crucial.  Make sure your BF is on the same page with you - often times we are with people who are opposite and so you feel like you are carrying the burden.  Write down each area of concern and at your next "Money Meeting" or what we call your "Money Huddle" be open and tell your BF the categories that concern you and work through each one together.

Make it Happen!

The Money Couple

– February 24, 2011 12:55 PM
Q.

Home payoff vs. cash cushion

I have sufficient cash to pay off my mortgage, but to do so would use up more than half of my cash (about 1.5 years of expenses - I'm a bit paranoid). Does it make sense to pay it off all at once, or to keep paying double the required payment until it's paid off in 5 years?
A.
Michelle Singletary :

I would need more information for this question because it sounds like in addition to retirement savings, etc. you have the CASH to pay off your mortgage NOW (I make that assumption because what you have left owed on your mortgage is half of 1.5 of your living expenses.)

Me, I would be getting that monkey off my back like yesterday.

– February 24, 2011 12:57 PM
Q.

life insurance for single

I am in a similar situation: single without kids. I do, however, own a home with a mortgage which is my only debt. Since I plan to leave the home to a family member, I would like them to own it free and clear, so as to not be a financial burden to them. So I have enough life insurance to make sure the home will be paid off with my passing.

A.
Michelle Singletary :

And that's what I was talking about. But see you thought it through. Makes sense to me, not to mention what a wonderful thing to do.

– February 24, 2011 12:59 PM
Q.

Can I file my taxes now?

Hi Michelle. I am filing a 1040 with itemized deductions. I know the IRS recommended waiting as their computer systems weren't yet done. I can't find any info on when it's safe to file and of course, I'd really like to get this done! Thanks.
A.
Michelle Singletary :

On Feb. 15, the IRS announced it has started processing individual tax returns affected by legislation enacted in December. So yes can begin filing electronically immediately.

Here's the link for the release:

http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=236037,00.html?portlet=7

– February 24, 2011 1:01 PM
Q.

Teaching Kids about money suggestion

As a person who has no debt at all (at the age of 45 and owner of a house), I got this way because of being taught by my parents. The way they taught me is from when I was very little, I would sit on my dad's lap as he paid bills. I saw him write the check for each bill, saw how much mortgage, electricity, garbage, credit card payment etc. were. I saw how much he deposited with his pay check each month and how quickly that dwindled with each check. When we wanted something new, like a car or furniture, he would say to us all, okay time to start saving for it. It was like a fun countdown clock to watch the savings grow and then see us reach the goal and go out and buy the stuff. It was like a prize at the end. There were no lectures. It was learning by seeing and being part of the process without ever feeling like I was "learning" anything.
A.
Bethany and Scott Palmer :

You saw "modeling" - that is so great - one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids in modeling money meetings - we call them "Money Huddles" - that way they don't see the fights that money tension can put inside of the relationship - this is awesome!

Make it Happen!

The Money Couple

– February 24, 2011 1:02 PM
Q.

Question

My long-term boyfriend and I live together and basically consider ourselves spouses. We keep our finances almost entirely separate, and have decided that he is responsible for x bills and I am responsible for y bills, and everything works fine. We have separate bank accounts, investments, retirement savings, everything. He makes dramatically more than me (but I dont know how much he makes and don't really want to know), and owns the house. I have sizable savings and make good money. Do you think this is a healthy financial arrangement? So far everything works great, I just wonder if you think we need to be more collaborative. Thanks!

A.
Hal Runkel :

At the risk of sounding overly traditional, I have to say that considering yourselves spouses is categorically different than actually being spouses. I say this not from some moral grounding, but from experience in working with countless couples. There is just something unique that happens when two people publicly and legally join their lives together. Without obviously knowing much about you at all, my gut tells me that without that legal, public, till-death-do-you-part arrangement, your totally separate financial arrangement will continue to work.

 

But not if you were really married. Marriage is a union that asks more of us than we can ever prepare for, and it intertwines our lives more than can predict or prepare for. This is even without kids. Throw kids into the mix, and you've got more shared bills, more shared future considerations, more shared everything.

 

I think it's fantastic that you have been taking care of your own financial house, as it were. I also applaud your respect for one another's space, decision-making, and privacy. The challenge will be finding ways to become more open, revealing, and sharing with one another as you grow your relationship. My guess is that while you are happy now, and you may not be looking toward marriage or kids, one of you may, in the future, take some steps toward joining your lives a little more. Then life will ask you to share more.

 

This doesn't mean you'll suddenly have to share every little dollar and every little detail, but it will mean a thoughtful procession toward revealing more and sharing more as you strive to grow old together.

 

Peace,

Hal

www.screamfree.com

 

– February 24, 2011 1:03 PM
Q.

Money Chat Ambushes

As someone who is not financially savvy or money-oriented, I will say it's nuts and counterproductive to spring a money chat on people like me. My fiance will plunk down next to me on the couch while I'm watching a movie or unwinding, and start with, "Here's what in the accounts, blah blah blah." Frankly, I tune him out almost instantly or wrap the convo up as quickly as I can. I hate to feel sideswiped with the "big stuff" when I've had a long day and want to put my feet up for a bit. And, also, I find it a little controlling to have one person decide when money conversations happen, at times that are convenient for him. I've asked him to let me know in advance when he wants to talk this stuff over, so I can feel prepared. I'll let you know how it works out for us!
A.
Michelle Singletary :

I hope it does work out. Tell him what you just told us. Exactly as you told us. Show his the archive of the chat and say honey I want to talk about this stuff but not when I might be distracted.

Good luck!

– February 24, 2011 1:06 PM
Q.

Thanks!!!

Hi Michelle, just want to say love your chats and articles. Last month a portion of my living room ceiling collapsed, partially due to a roof leak and partially due to poor workmanship. Thank goodness I had savings since my insurance only covered a small amount of the damage. Something I never would have had if I hadn't started reading you years ago.
A.
Michelle Singletary :

I love hearing such testimony. Not because you are praising me (although that's nice) but because YOU decided to be purposeful with your money. I share these stories hoping it will motivate others to do the same.

So thank you.

 

– February 24, 2011 1:08 PM
Q.

Michelle Singletary :

Well, it's time to go. I so enjoy this time with all of you. 

And I hope you get a lot of out of too.

And for the poster who may still be smarting from my comment about weddings. Really I meant no disrespect. I heard you and I hope you heard me. 

I can be hard in these forums. I can be try to be funny and it come off being snide. And yes, sometimes I am a bit too short.

But always know that my heart is in the right place. I do this not because I have to (I could just to my two columns a week). I do this because I think it's important to talk about money, exchange ideas, values, tips. 

I have a strong opinion about a lot. I know. But I also know lots of people are being help and that's what this and I'm all about.

So, until we meet here again, be financially safe.

Q.

 

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