Hi Michelle! I just wanted to share the good news. My husband and I paid off our last credit card last month! We estimate that at one point in 2006 we jointly owed about $50,000 in credit card debt! Since then we have also gotten married, had a baby, and bought a house. How did we do it? A new job and lots of incremental changes made a big difference, but we also took advantage of "found" money and lump sums - tax refunds, flexible spending reimbursements, and my husband's monthly reserve duty pay. We always put these extra funds toward credit cards and never in the "general fund." He also did a one-year deployment that provided a big financial boost, even though it was difficult for our family. Thank you so much for your commonsense advice - I feel like you and I talk sometimes when I am struggling with wants vs. needs. It feels so good to be out from under those huge debts and moving forward. Keep up the good work!!
First, thanks for your family's service to our country.
And a BIG congrat to you for becoming a Debt Defeater. I'll have to send you a tee shirt. Email me personally with your information and I'll send a debt defeaters shirt to you and your husband.
I'm so proud of you for the good work you have done to provide financial security to your family!
I planned on retiring to volunteer my skills to nonprofit organizations. I have benefited so much from children's programs, and other nonprofit programs. I want to repay my debt to the many people who helped me. I want to volunteer full-time. If the majority of people keep working how will it impact nonprofit organizations who depend on volunteers? Thank-you!!
Many of the 50+ workers I've met and worked with hope to devote time to volunteering as well. And, in fact, lots of corporations now offer some great programs for their employees to do just that. I always advise folks to keep a hand in volunteering to causes they believe in since it's a great way to give back and keep expanding their network from a career perspective, too.
My sister is in debt - all from overspending. My other sibilings are going to give her some money - enough to keep her going for several months so she can keep her house and car. I am reluctant to chip in because I don't think she will change her ways. Should I just ignore her problem and wish her well and support her emotionally, or give her the cash which she probably will never repay.
Can you tell me more about the situation. Why are the other siblings helping her now? What I mean is, does she work? Are her bills mostly credit card debt? Is the money they are giving going to specifically pay her mortgage/rent or car note? I ask because I agree with you. If she isn't about to be put on the street giving her more may not be the knock to the floor she needs to change her ways. They will just be enabling bad behavior. Sometimes people have to fall and fall hard to become better financially. Your sister may not need money but a plan to get herself out of debt.
But tell me more. Who made the decision to help? Did she ask?
As the mother of soon-to-be college grads, I'm dismayed by the prospect of seniors staying in the workforce long past the usual retirement age. I realize that most 65-year-olds are not ready to sit and knit by the fire all day, but wouldn't it be better for them to stay active as volunteers, so the jobs can become open to the next generation? To be honest, I'm not very sympathetic to pleas of financial necessity. For years we've been seeing articles about the Boomers' low savings rates and high consumption. So a generation that spent beyond its means now wants to maintain that lifestyle at the expense of their grandchildren's start in adult life.
I get it. But I think a blend of generations is the ticket. Companies need the experience and younger workers will benefit too moving forward. Many employers are actually reaching out to bring more seasoned workers in as contractors and to help mentor those new members of the workforce. It can be a win for both.
I can see your frustration about the job market but I don't think the answer is to push out seniors.
And you make, I think, the wrong assumption that many of them were spendthrifts all their lives. The median income in the U.S. is less than $50,000 for a family. It's hard to save for college, life and retirement on that. So some people who worked hard all their lives and didn't overspend may still not have enough to afford to retire at 65.
And if they did overspend, if they retire on just Social Security then what? That's not a lot of money to support themselves.
I try to be careful to understand where everyone is coming from and help people find ways to work if they can or retire if they can without being a burden on their family or the government.
You were unfair when you criticized those who said losing the deduction would mean they gave less money. It's not necessarily a matter of "I only donate if there's something in it for me." Some of us include add the tax savings to the gift; if we're giving as generously as we can but we have to pay those taxes, we'll have to cut back because that money won't be in our budgets any more.
I understand your point. But I just don't give more or less depending on the tax break. If there wasn't the fear that people will pull back (and by the way the stat about people pulling back was from people who didn't "need" to pull back) then perhaps the tax code wouldn't have to be used to encourage people to give. Because in the end somebody pays for that tax break in the form of less money to the government for needed programs.
I vote to keep the charitable deduction simply because people say they will give less if it's not there.
I am 65 and will soon loose my current position because of downsizing. I have submitted my resume for several positions but don't even get an interview. I know it's because of my age. I'm not interested in filing complaints ... I merely want a chance to interview. How do I break through the wall to get an interview. By the way, my wife who is retiring from teaching and library science, has encountered the same road block. We have good work years left in each of us and want more than social security and modest retirement savings. Thanks!
I'm not going to sugarcoat it. Ageism is alive and well. So many workers 50+ know that potential employers are looking at them and seeing their expiration date. My best advice is this. Resumes don't get you an interview. Most employers read one in about 20 seconds. It really is who you know. Networking. Employers hire people whom they know...or people people they know know and trust. So it's a little tricky. You need to really reach out to EVERYONE from family and friends to alumni groups and industry association contacts and colleagues and ask for help with an introduction. One person I profile in my book actually found an entree to a teaching position from the parent of one of his son's friends. These connections and help can come from unexpected places. If you're on LinkedIn, for example, you might check and see if you have a contact who is currently working at the employer you are aiming for and see if they might be able to smooth the way.
My wife of 11 years is a well-respected, senior professional woman who once or twice a week wears tops that show 2-3 inches of cleavage. If I may say so, she's well-proportioned and quite attractive. She easily looks a decade younger than her 62 years, and take my word, that's not my bias speaking. My guess is that because of her success and stature at the firm she doesn't feel constrained by standard workplace rules--or has never paid that much attention to the best advice available, which is to save that look for more appropriate social situations. This morning I gently called attention to how great she looks hoping my wide-eyed stare would give her a clue about how clients and fellow employees at the office see her - especially the straight-laced (very) old guys who run the company and who are likely more uncomfortable than lecherous. She seems to me to be genuinely clueless; she attributes my reaction to my husbandly devotion. But the current twist: Because of the slow economy, the company has been doing exceedingly poorly. Cuts have already occurred and the consensus at the company is that they will need to make deeper cuts and thin the staff still more to survive. She's worried too. I think she got away with the occasional low-cut look because the economy was booming and she brought in plenty of business. But times have changed. Her target is to work 4-5 more years, but I fear she may have that date involuntarily moved up. It's entirely possible that she may be cut regardless of how she dresses, but why add that to the list of reasons to let her go? How can I bring this up without seeming to be a jealous, controlling husband?
How do you bring up your concerns?
Print out what you just wrote and read it to your wife. Seriously. I thought you made a great argument that you are concerned. Now, I'm not sure she will be laid off because she has some cleverage showing. I bet they are looking to keep the hardest workers and the rainmakers. So if your wife fits that bill, cleverage or not, she's staying. Nonetheless, so that you are at peace of mind that it wasn't her boob showing that lost her job and some of your family's income, tell her what you just told me.
Is it realistic for people to think they will be able to work past 65?
Absolutely! We're living longer, healthier lives and the possiblilities of what we can do in this next chaper of our lives is exciting. Today's 60-year-old might reasonably plan to work at least part-time for another 15 years. That changes the entire equation about what you want to do, what's possible to do, and whether its is worth even investing for more education. It's a new stage in career progression.
Michelle, We learned a few months ago that my grandmother intends to leave the bulk of her substantial estate to my sibling and me. I have expressed the view that we should keep most of whatever we eventually recieve in investment accounts, and reinvest the annuities until we actually need the cash flow. My husband clearly disagrees, thinking we should use some of it to make our lives easier/more enjoyable (we already earn a good income, so it's not like we're living on the edge). In our state, inheritances are not joint property, so really I can do as I please with this windfall, but I don't want it to become a source of resentment. How do we manage this fortunate situation without fighting about it?
Get a financial planner. Let him or her show your husband how much more you might have for later if you invest wisely.
I would not go the route of this is my money because the state says your opinion doesn't matter. You are married and this to me is a joint decision. Otherwise you will introduce disharmony into your marriage over money.
But also, give in a little. After your talk with the planner, see if you might compromise on spending the money on a want. Even those of us who earn a good living and not living on the edge could use a splurge every now and then.
I've got a recent college grad and a 64-year-old husband who can't find a job, so I see this from both sides. I actually saw a Pew study that refutes the notion that boomers did not save - I'm pretty sure it said they saved better than other generations. But I don't think that when a 60-year-old retires a college grad gets the job. There are plenty of other folks down the line who would take it. My husband and my kid are by no means competing for the same jobs. When I graduated as one of the later boomers the economy was terrible and it took some doing to get hired, but all the jobs I got in my 20s were newly created jobs, not jobs an old person had vacated.
Good point and observation. Thank you.
Dear Michelle, My husband and I pay our bills on time every month. For the last two years, we have been dipping into savings and retirement funds in order to do that. We have shrunk our shortfall to about $700/month and I am looking for a full-time job (my husband has a full-time job) but we are starting to run out of resources. We want to stay in our house and I have spoken with our mortgage company about our dilemma. There is the possibility that we could get our monthly payments lowered but that would affect our credit (although not has badly as foreclosure). I have spoken with the two credit card companies we have cards with and neither one will agree to lower our interest rate (the higher interest rate is 19% for about $27,000 in debt and the lower interest rate is about 14% for about $38,000 in debt) until we start missing payments. I don't understand that especially since I have been with one of them for over 20 years. We pay minimum payments on our credit cards and keep them maxed out since we have cash flow problems and want to make sure we pay our mortgage. My question is should we work with our mortgage company to rework our mortgage terms or should we work with the credit card company to set something up? Which is worse? I called the Maryland Credit Counseling Service but they weren't very helpful. They said they could help us put a budget together but I told them I have a budget already and we have negative cashflow. We're very stressed out and don't know what to do. Please help. Thank you.
You should call the agency back. I think you should let them sit down with you and look over what you are doing. Your budget isn't working, so let a professional see if there is anything else they can do.
Also, you may not be able to stay in the house if your mortgage is more than at most 36 percent of your net monthly pay. Unless you get your income up, or get a boarder, cut your expenses more, the numbers won't add up because you aren't willing to substract something.
Also, you won't dig yourself out of this hole until you stop using credit to fill the gaps. You have to not leaning on the cards.
I don't want to sound harsh but you may need to do some drastic things -- like giving up the house and wean yourself off the credit cards -- to get out of this situation.
When my mother died, I read a book on inheritances to see how to get the most from it. The author said to spend a portion (approx 10%) on a splurge--in my case a new car--because the future is always uncertain. It made sense and the car was definitely worth it. My husband died. The splurge was to take a cross country road trip in that car that we had planned to do when he retired (which of course he never was old enough to do). Now, I have memories. These are worth as much to me as money in the bank.
Thank you for sharing this. Hope it helps the woman who asked. I think your point is you can do both, save and splurge.
You talk about couples combining finances when married. I believe in that. Sometimes I feel a little guilty because I brought student debt into the marriage, and my husband is debt-free. But he's been nothing but supportive about paying it off together. My sister is having a baby but I know she and her husband have not combined. I can't imagine how that works, but I know people say each couple work it out to fit their relationship. What do you think? Should I say something? Would they just have one account together and everything is separate? Isn't it all one pot anyway?
First, don't feel guilty about the debt you brought unless you hid it from your husband, which doesn't appear that you did. If he knew what he was getting into and decided to take it on because you were joining as one, there's nothing to feel guilty about.
As for your sister, you have to be very careful about getting into other's financial affairs. I do because people ask me and well it's my job to give my opinion on such matters. You can meantion to her sister how you handle things and ask her if she needs any advice. And yes, many couples keep their finances separate and it works out fine. I don't advise it but they are grown and can do what they want.
This isn't a shameless plug but one that might help your sister. My second book, "Your Money and Your Man" has an entire section on how to handle your money when you are married. I think you could give it to her or get it from the library and use it to discuss it in a what do you think kind of way.
What do you see as some of the top jobs for seniors or people looking to start a second career after they retire?
Some of the big fields to look towards are healthcare, education, and the nonprofit arena. But building out a work from home career as a consultant in an area where you have expertise such as bookeeping, fundraising and more, is another great avenue as more employers opt to hire contractors. There are plenty of opportunities there to slice and dice. In my book, I have a chapter on riding the age wave where I discuss several jobs such as being a patient advocate, financial planner,or a fitness trainer for an aging population. If you have language skills, there's a huge demand for translators and interpreters. Jobs for seniors are also often plentiful in college towns, or towns with thriving medical centers. Both are good omens for job seekers because they often bypass economic declines. Check out AARP's list of employers, http://www.aarp.org/work/employee-benefits/best_employers/ for some ideas of employers to consider. WorkReimagined is another site to investigate. http://workreimagined.aarp.org/
Michelle, your advice has had such a big influence on me--but I am not getting through to my husband, our main breadwinner. He thinks it is okay to charge a big purchase or trip on the credit card if he is pretty sure we'll have the money when the bill is due. He is not interested in saving for emergencies (though he will sometimes grudgingly let me do so) because his job is stable and emergencies aren't going to happen to us anyway. Basically, he wants to enjoy the money now. (Yes, we tried marriage counseling, but it didn't get us anywhere.) I could refuse to go on any not-paid-for trips with him, but he would probably go alone and leave me with the kids. So, now what?
I'm so, so sorry for this confusion and that your husband won't listen to your wise counsel.
Maybe it would help if you found a financial planner, invited him or her to sit down with your husband and let that professional show him how unwise he's being not to save for the future. I can't believe with the last recession when people who thought they had very secure jobs (think government workers, people in the auto industry) that he would have a live for the day mentality. No job is that secure. I would hate for you to prove yourself right if he did lose his job or become disabled or sick.
Keep trying. You are right on this one. And if won't believe you have him email me. I'll send him the hundreds of emails I've gotten from people who lost good stable jobs and then lost their homes, cars, etc.
Are there websites beyond Indeed, Monster, and newspaper job sites (such as the Washington Post) where the 50+ can go to find work? Are there employers that are willing to hire the 50+?
Check out RetiredBrains.com, Workforce50.com, PrimeCB.com, Encore.org and AARP.org/work for ideas.
I look and apply for jobs daily but rarely receive acknowledgement. Is this the way the job search market is today?
I have to say that's par for the course. The best way to find a job is the old-fashioned way of networking and getting in the door for an interview via someone you know at the company or a connection who can smooth the way.
I will go off on my soapboz for a minute here because I hear this all the time. Let’s talk about basic manners and consideration. Who hasn’t sent a resume to a job posting and felt the aching black hole of not knowing who will see it, if they will see it, and who will really care?
The number one challenge job seekers face is the lack of communication from employers, a report by Idealist.org says. In fact, 86% say they never receive any feedback or follow up at all.
That’s appallingly rude and insensitive in my book. I’d love to have one of these non-responders take a stab at job-hunting themselves and see what it feels like to be on the outgoing side of that equation. It’s more than frustrating. It’s insulting.
And this finding takes the cake: 40% of hiring managers dislike candidates contacting them to check on their application status… yet almost a quarter of all job seekers do.
Good luck with your job hunt! Reach out to your network. Stay positive.
My sister-in-law works full time supporting a family of 5, including her husband who has not worked for four years. They currently live with a relative as they cannot afford their own place. She claims he has applied for everything and anything (they live in Los Angeles). My father-in-law is skeptical, and thinks his son-in-law is refusing to do work he considers beneath him. What are your thoughts? Is the economy really that bad in California or is Dad right to suspect that something else is going on? Also, I have offered to pay for certain things (health care co-pays, for example) but I'm not comfortable simply writing a check. Your thoughts?
I'll be honest, I'm thinking like your father-in-law. Now with this latest recession it is taking people very long to find another job, sometimes 18 months or longer. But five years? It's time for a family meeting led by the people whose house your sister-in-law, husband and kids are living in. It's not unreasonable for the father-in-law to ask to see evidence of serious job hunting for anything that will bring in some money. Also what does he do with all his time? Is he watching children, doing the daycare, pickups etc. Because that may be part of the reason. It's cheaper for the dad to do it than him earning minimum wage and paying someone else to take care of the kids. I just think there needs to be a family meeting to get the state of affairs. If it is the case that the son-in-law won't work time to do some kicking of the behind to get home more productive (keeping in mind we don't want to be unkind). Loving but firmly ask what is going on.
Hi, Michelle. My car is 20 years old. I plan to sell it in the next few months and get a new one. But don't I need the title to do that? I bought it new and don't remember getting one, and the dealership is out of business. I don't even know what a title looks like. Am I in trouble here? Any advice?
You can get a copy of the title from your local MVA office.
We've been members of our church for a long time. However, we have long felt that they do not devote enough resources or attention to the high school youth group, and as a result the program is barely functional. (I have three teens.) I am not inclined to write a big check this year, as I usually do. Is this unfair? Should I make it known somehow to the ministers?
Talk to your church. There could be a good reason why they aren't financially supporting the high school program. Maybe there's a problem with how it's run or not having enough volunteers, etc. Maybe not enough teens were participating to warrant keeping it going. As a member, it's your right to ask questions.
How likely do this think it will be for the mortgage deduction to be eliminated? I am very upset at the prospect. That is the only one I have!
I think it might be put on the table because of how much it's worth to the government. A lot of things are being seriously considered because we are deep in debt as a nation.
We've already sold our car and pulled our younger son out of daycare. I set up budget billing with Pepco and Washington Gas so we pay the same amount every month. I was thinking that if we can work something out with our mortgage company, we can at least keep our house albeit with some damage to our credit.
I'm so sorry you are struggling. But if you question is should you ask your mortgage company if they can help, I say yes. Ask. You might be eligble for a mortgage modification. Nothing wrong with asking.
I will personally call a non-selected interviewee. I believe if they took the time to come in for the interview, I owe them that. But responding to each and every person that submits a resume? That's not a reasonable standard, particularly the people who spam their resume to every job opening, whether or not they're qualified.
This sounds reasonable.
I've discovered on one of my digital channels (I don't have cable) a finance "reality" show called "We Owe What?". Can't remember the host's name. But it was interesting listening to her try to convince a young couple who had had financial difficulty that they shouldn't buy a house. They kept saying they wanted to "own our own home." She seemed to have finally disabused them of two misconceptions. 1) A house is not your "home". Your home is your family and what you make of where you live. 2) If you take out a mortgage and take on more debt, the BANK owns your home. You do not. Food for thought for people in the same mindset. P.S. the show is nowhere on your level, Michelle! Just a diversion. I will never leave you!
Thank you NEVER LEAVE ME.
But good advice to that couple. I would have said the same and have.
People say all the time they own their home. But most don't. The bank does. Just ask the folks who lost the homes they thought they owned over the last severy years.
Many people I know who are 50+ are working not because they like the work but because they need health insurance. How do we transition to jobs that keep us healthy and happy but don't provide health coverage?
You have hit on an important point here. Healthcare coverage is a huge stumbling block for workers who want to head off on their own to follow a passion and find work with meaning that resonates at this stage of life. The fear of not being able to afford health insurance, stops us cold. The Affordable Care Act, which takes effect in 2014, is likely to help independent workers buy affordable insurance through health care exchanges offering coverage from a variety of providers. If you can hold on until then, you may be able to purchase the coverage you need at a relatively reasonable price.
For now: Shop for an individual policy. If you need to buy coverage on your own, compare plans in your area at the federal website Healthcare.gov. Check your state insurance department website, too, since it might list policy choices for residents. Also, ask your doctors which insurance carriers they accept, so you'll be sure your coverage will match
To find the lowest-priced policies, compare premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs at such websites as eHealthinsurance.com, GoHealthinsurance.com, Insure.com and Netquote.com.
I'm turning 50 next month and I took several years off from a law career to raise three kids. The problem is, I don't want to do what I did before, and I want to transition to a totally new field. Should I zero in on organizations and offer to volunteer or do an internship? I'm just stuck at the moment and don't know how to get started. Any advice appreciated.
I am a huge fan of doing the job first. If you can volunteer, moonlight or apprentice, it's a great way to get in the door and see what goes on behind the scenes. It's also a networking opportunity. What might sound romantic and wonderful might not be so much fun when it is your daily routine, so this insider look can help. A potential employer can also vet you too. You'll also learn what new skills you might want to add to help you make the leap. Take the time to research. No one starts a second career on a whim.
Hi Michelle, We have a new granddaughter, our first. She'll be 6 months old at Christmastime. We are thrilled with her and of course want to dote upon her. We've already spent 2 and a half months renting an apt. near our daughter to help out - it was great for all. Our concern is Christmas coming up. Daughter and her husband are well off and the baby has SO MUCH STUFF - multiples of everything, from clothing to car seats to strollers to bouncy chairs - even two cribs. As doting grandparents we want to give things to her but, let's face it, a 6 month old doesn't really understand a "present" to begin with and the house is loaded with more things than I would have thought possible. We could start a college fund (modestly) but it seems sort of chilly compared with presents. I'm stumped. Any ideas?
Buy a bear and in the arms of the bear put the information that you've started a 529 plan for your granddaughter. She won't care now (or maybe not even her parents) but she and they will down the road. You need to be strong and not give in to the temptation to buy more especically when you've done so much already.
I lost my job in 2008 and have been out of the workforce since then, due to family and personal obligations. Now I need to work, to get back to bringing in income. Any suggestions for how to deal with a four-year absence from the workforce?
You have to have faith in yourself. Hone your time off as a plus on your resume. Look for ways that your work with family was something that added to your experience. Don't dwell on the fact that you were unemployed for too long. After you have been out of work for a while, you forget your value. You take for granted your accomplishments and contributions. Ask people you know well to help you evaluate, in writing, your best skills and talents. That can give you the jump start you need.
I am just overwhelmed by the holidays. I prepare a meal for 30+ people, and do most of the house cleaning, decorating, shopping, gifting, mailing, etc. I want to break some traditions (e.g., buying gifts for friends' kids) but I'm not sure how to word an email about this . . . any advice?
Don't do it by email. Get some cards, mail them early and say you would like a simple holiday this year. Don't mention they shouldn't buy you gifts or that you won't be getting gifts. Just say you want to spend time not money in recognizing the love you have for them all.
Hi Michelle! I rent an apartment but would like to take advantage of the low interest rates and buy a home before 2014. Here's the issue - I have about 55K in student loans. I will have enough saved by the end of 2013 to put 20% down on a home. I figure I can double up on my student loan payments after I purchase the house. Your thoughts?
Take the money and double up on those student loans. That's a lot of debt to take into a new home.
Get rid of the student loans first. Then buy the home.
Don't just use low rates as a measure of when to buy a home. Gage it by how financially fit you are. You need to be as debt free as possible, have an emergency fund, life happens fund (for car repairs, etc.) then the down payment for the home before I think you are ready. Don't rush this.
As someone who hopes to retire in about two years, how can I begin now to identify organizations that I'd like to volunteer with? I have some specific interests like literacy, personal finance, and helping women/girls in developing countries. But I don't know where to start to get involved. I now work full-time and still have a child at home so I haven't done any significant volunteering recently.
Some great web sites to check out:
volunteermatch.org, bridgestar.org, boardnet.usa, change.org, experiencecorps.org, handsonnetwork.org and idealist.org
I'm 59 and I've been job hunting twice in the last two years. Your resume should NOT reveal your age. List your college degree, but not the year that you earned it. Only put the last 10-15 years of job history. I had several interviews where they never called me back afterwards (and I think it's because they saw how old I am when I showed up) but I did get job offers.
In this situation I don't think the home is worth saving. I would sell and move into a cheap apartment until I got my credit cards under control. That amount of credit card debt is insane.
Doting grandparents, you will do your new granddaughter and her parents a HUGE service by putting college funds in a 529 or savings bonds. Our granddaughter used bonds bought when she was 3 to pay for her junior year of college. A lifesaver for all of us and a lasting gift. Beats the dumb "toy du jour"!
I said goodbye but had to get this one in. Thanks.
Hi Kerry & Michelle, I'm disappointed that none of my questions were answered: my guess is that you were swamped! Would you plz post at the end ALL the questions you received but were unable to answer? I think it would be helpful to anyone reviewing your Q&A to see the un-answered questions.
And this one. Please see my send off note. Yes, we were swamped with questions but she will answer them and I'll print them. So keep looking for my column and eletter. So sorry we didn't get to yours.