Color of Money Live (December 21)

Dec 21, 2017

Join Washington Post nationally syndicated personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary for an online discussion.

“Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.”

Stay informed.

Read & share Michelle Singletary’s Color of Money Column on Wednesdays and Sundays: http://wapo.st/michelle-singletary

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I can't believe this is the last chat for 2017.

What a year!

Let's end it with a bang. I'd like as many testimonies as possible. Would love to put them in a column. 

So let's get started.

Thank you for answering our endless questions and helping us find sense out of world we were ill-prepared. My parents worked saved at a bank and bought US Savings Bonds. That was it. Later on in life, they got IRA's. To their credit they taught us how to save, live below our means, pay bills on time, have a rainy day fund, and a hurricane fund. I want to take the time to thank you and your staff and your guests for HELPING us. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holidays to us all!

Thank you so very much. And my chat producer is Teddy. He's amazing and the guy behind helping me answer your questions.

Of course this forum wouldn't be what it is -- very popular -- without all of you. 

Thank you for trusting me with your financial issues. Thank you for sharing your successes. 

 

Hi Michelle - I'm so excited to announce that I and my husband are debt-free!! We paid off our mortgage 3 years ago and just paid off our car. With no debt, hubbie is going down to 4 days of work starting in January. Thanks to all the lessons we learned from you over the years, our budget can handle the 20% decrease in pay. And to boot, for Christmas this year, we are giving all 8 of our nieces and nephews a copy of your book "Spend Well, Live Rich." You are very welcome for the spike in royalties :-)

Wish I could give you a hug.

Here's a virtual one (  )

What an accomplishment! Just warms my heart to see people free from debt monies on their backs.

And thank you for getting my book. Please know all royalties are used well -- COLLEGE FUNDS!

I always lived paycheck to paycheck, how do I break the cycle. I recently purchased a condo in DC, with so much at stake now, I need to start saving but am still struggling to do so. Made some healthy changes, but any more advice would be great. Thanks

In metro areas like where we live (I'm in Md), the high cost of living can result in living paycheck to paycheck. 

I would recommend to help free up the money you need to save that you find a good financial program at your church, community center, local community college, etc.

I teach one at my church in PG (First Baptist Church of Glenarden). We are starting a new session in 2017 on Jan. 13 at 11 a.m. All are welcome. And for 2017, I'm teaching from one of my new favorite books "Dollars and Sense." I reviewed the book and had one of the co-authors Jeff Kreisler on as a chat guest.

The thing is this money stuff is hard. It is complicated so get into a program or class that can help you figure it out. I also think it helps to have an accountability partner, which is what we do in the program I run at my church. And it's free! 10 months of teachings that help you break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck, get out of debt, or just view money differently.

But if not with me, please seek out some education or get an appointment with a budget counselor. Go to debtadvice.org to find one at a nonprofit consumer credit counseling agency. 

Finally, just asking the question means you are on the right path. 

Michelle, just read your column about what society owes the poor and I want to thank you for speaking out. Your point that empathy does not equal endorsement really struck a chord with me. No one chooses to be poor. Yes, we all make choices in life, but the poor often have less desirable choices than other economic groups, or are more at risk of making foolish choices because they do not have access to information or role models to help guide them through decisions which will impact their economic well being. And even those of us who make good choices can be an illness or job loss away from economic hardship. Thank you for helping to provide personal finance education to those who might not otherwise have access to it, and for being a voice of compassion in a politically-charged time. I often remind myself, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

 

Read Michelle's column: What do we as a society owe the poor?

One word: "Amen!"

My parents always lived beyond their means - fancy cars, vacations, shopping, dinners out, a big house. When I was in high school, my father became sick and couldn't work. Everything came tumbling down, with creditors constantly calling and utilities being shut off. It was terrifying. As an adult, I've been scrupulous about living within my means and I married someone who shares my values. We share an economy car, only eat out on special occasions, hate debt, save like maniacs, and only have our mortgage left to pay off. When I became too ill to work, we were able to adjust to one income with barely a hiccup.

I'm so sorry about your father. Often it's not until someone falls that they learn a lesson. And while it was a fall that taught you frugality, I'm glad you took that lesson and learned how to live below your means for a time when you too would need a safety net. 

Thanks for sharing.

 

Hi Michelle -- Last December I wrote in to tell you how much I have learned from all your advice, and how I keep telling my husband about your columns, and that I suggested to him that we have separate savings accounts for savings, and for a new car, that we contribute to each paycheck. Well, I'm back one year later to tell you that this past May, I was laid off from my job -- my position was eliminated by a new supervisor and I was shown the door. It was quite a shock to be suddenly unemployed without warning. My husband and I live frugally anyway, but the first thing we did, after I calmed down, was to stop the automatic transfers to the car account and the savings account and just let them sit. And this ended up to be the best idea, because over the summer, both our 10-year-old cars (2006 Honda and 2007 Toyota) ended up needing crucial maintenance, which came to just under $4,000 for both over several months. My husband freaked out, and started saying we should just buy a new car, but I calmly said, "this is why we have the car savings account. We don't need a new car; Michelle says to drive it into the ground and wait until the costs to fix it are more than it's worth." And we were able to pay for all of these car problems from this savings account, without touching his paychecks which we need for mortgage/bills, or our regular savings account. The cars are in excellent shape and I know they can both go at least a couple more years. Plus, we still have about $2,500 left in that car savings account and once I find a new job (still looking, it's hard at 52!) we will build it back up to one day get a new car. I just want to say, Thank you thank you thank you for your wisdom. I could not be getting through these months of unemployment and not be frightened about paying bills if I hadn't listened to you for the past 10 years! With best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!

You guys are making me tear up!

While I appreciate the accolades, it's YOU and your HUBBY that did the heavy lifting. I give you credit for living below your means when your means were pretty good! 

I tell folks all the time that in good times you have to have the discipline to save for a time when things aren't so good. Life happens, which is why you need an emergency fund and life happens fund. 

I hope you get a job soon but at least you had the cushion. 

First, thanks for all you do; I've learned so much from your writing. In your 12/18 column, you wrote: "For us, it was realizing that we needed to switch health providers so that we have insurance in the gap years – the time between when we retire and when we qualify for Medicare." The only thing keeping my spouse and me (we're 57) from retirement is the uncertainty about whether we will be able to buy insurance on the private market for the next 8 years and whether we can afford future cost increases. We've worked hard, been frugal, saved enough, but feel the rug has been pulled out from under us with the attacks on Obamacare. Would you share more information about switching health care providers so you have insurance for your "gap years" and would the strategy apply to folks who do not work for the federal government or have a private pension & health insurance? Wondering if this is something I've overlooked. Thank you.

I wish I had a good answer. But in our case we switched to the federal health insurance program because we had not other choice. We'd been carried on my insurance until our pension changed and eliminated health insurance for retirees. Well, we hadn't realized that we needed to be on the federal health program for 5 years before retiring to take it into retirement. This had delayed our retirement plans. But had we not done retirement planning 10 years in advance we would be faced with going into the private market for the gap years.

And folks the private market, if you have some means but aren't Uber rich, is HORRIBLE. 

It's so expensive! 

So what's the strategy? We HAVE to get Congress to truly fix healthcare and frankly with the signing of the tax overhaul bill the cost of healthcare is going to get worst. 

I'll be traveling today during the chat but I simply wanted to say thank you and Merry Christmas for all your advice. Since following you, reading your columns and participating in this chat the last two years, I've gotten my act together: no debt except mortgage, Life Happens/Emergency Fund established, relocated and downsized to a home with a more manageable payment, and am fully funding both my Roth IRA and 401(k) plan yearly. Sometimes you speak a harsh truth, but we need to hear it. Keep on doing what you do. :-)

Hoping you read this later.

Thank you! For allowing me to fuss, push and well, be tough. 

You didn't have to listen so good for you that you did!

Look people like to say "information is power." But it's not. It's only powerful if it's the right information and you apply it.

Merry Christmas to you too. 

I empathize so much with this writer, and yet I don't. I thought I was poor when I was growing up. Cold house, cheap food, old cars that left us stranded on the side of the road, and hand me down clothes. As soon as I was able to get a job, I did, to the detriment of my schooling. And yet, it turns out my parents were just really bad with money and reigning in their impulsive wasting of money. They weren't thrifty, as I had thought growing up, but spendthrifts. Their parents were giving them money every year. My grandparents apparently thought the money was being set aside for my and my siblings' college funds... nope. We were shocked to hear that they had paid for our cousins' college while we were all burdened with student loans for in-state tuition. But they had "paid" for ours as well ... it was just spent by our parents on silly things like alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets. My parents inherited over 1.5 million in assets from their parents. My remaining parent is doing all he can to divest himself of those assets and money as soon as possible, through profligate spending, making foolish investments, and paying unnecessary taxes. I anticipate he will leave his children with nothing except bills and a mess when he passes. I envy the letter writer.

Read Michelle's column: How you think about money can affect how you manage it

It's painful to know that your parents were so wasteful. Trust me, I did not hit the lottery in the parents department (mom and dad). But I hit it big when I ended up being taken in by my grandmother, who was frugal and good with money. 

But let me say this. Make sure you've got a check on your envy and if I may, your anger at your parents. 

I think people -- most anyway -- do the best they can. They are flawed for whatever reason. But did you see the posting earlier in this chat from the person who had similar spendthrift parents? He or she learned from that experience. 

You can too. Maybe you aren't angry and that's good. And at times, it's okay that you feel jealous of our cousins. 

But you can do better because you know better. Take your life lesson and learn from it. Shake your head and move on with life with no regrets, as little envy as possible. 

Because in my case had I been raised by my trifling parents I would have missed out on being raised by m y grandmother, who taught me all the stuff I'm teaching you guys. And for that I'm grateful!

Hi Michelle, Some time ago you quoted a money author who wrote about what he had learned only after he had retired. One point was that it isn't easy physically to keep working after the retirement age. My husband and I both worked after our age 66 retirement age but neither of us would have wanted to be working after age 70. There is so much more to do with family, friends, volunteering and with our own issues of aging. Would you tell me the author's name and the title of his book? Thank you and best wishes for the holiday season.

I'm not completely sure of the book. But here's one that should still fit the bill. 

"How to Retire Happy" by Stan Hinden, who was a writer for the Post. 

I fell down about two months ago and needed knee surgery. Fairly minor, but it had been hurting for months and the fall was a warning that it was time. I don't have all the bills and explanations of benefits from the insurance company yet, but for an outpatient procedure, it looks like it would have been around $25,000 with no insurance, $7000 if I had a very high deductible plan and had to pay 100% of the costs at the rates the insurance company negotiated for me. With my (excellent) insurance it was a little over $500. And none of that includes the post-op physical therapy which is still going on. Our system is crazy.

CRAZY!!!

I could have cried when I learned that my perfect plan of taking my good Post health insurance into retirement was no more. We had kids later in life so they will need to be carried by us into our late 50s and maybe early 60s (with grad school). So no early retirement for us! And mostly because of the health insurance issue. 

We've saved well. But any major health issue could wipe out much of that savings if we don't have good health insurance. 

Our son had been in a bad relationship where that partner co-signed our son's car loan. He finally left the relationship, sold the car and bought another one but needed to get a new loan which my husband co-signed. After making payments for several months, he seems to have stopped and the bank is withdrawing the money from our account. We made a verbal agreement to pay us by the 15th of each month beginning this December so we would know it's been taken care of. He asks for extensions, he lies about having sent us checks or having paid the bank. Any suggestions on how we can get him to make the payments? Charge interest? My husband wants to take it out of his inheritance - we are seniors. He plans on selling the car in the spring but will still owe money on it.

I'm so sorry you are caught in this co-signing hell (and I mean that not as a cuss word).

It's why I always tell folks NOT to cosign even for your kid. (Couples can cosign because they are married).

I hope you can receive what I'm about to tell you.

Stop trying to get the money from your son. Just stop. Pay the car loan. Because it is your loan too.

Cosigning doesn't mean you are the backup borrower. You are equally responsible.

So face the truth. Your son is irresponsible.

Pay off what's left of the loan. Don't ever cosign for him again. Don't give any more financial assistance.

If you want, you can subtract it from his inheritance, which is your money anyway.

 Tell you son you love him, which I'm assuming you do because what you did was an act of love. Tell him you are disappointed that he didn't live up to his end of your bargain but that you cosigned and that leaves you responsible too. Then say, "Son, as much as we love you, we will not be helping you out financially again. At least not until you've proven you have become financially responsible and apologize for your falsehoods."

Then say nothing else about the loan. Don't yell about it. Don't fuss about it. Don't bring it up. Just let it go with lessoned learned.

 

Hi Michelle - it would be a great service if you or a Post could publish an article on which D.C.-area localities allow prepayment of 2018 residential property tax. I currently itemize and deduct this tax, but may not itemize in the future, so I'd like to front load this payment onto the 2017 return if possible. I've contacted my local government (Alexandria) but haven't heard back yet. Thanks for any thoughts.

I've been reading up on whether this is a good idea. The law won't allow prepayment of income tax but may for property tax. But not every jurisdiction allows it. I'll pass on the idea to my business editor. 

 

Michelle, I forwarded your answer (Q&A) to my sister and she now agrees with us (and your very persuasive rationale), keep your oxygen mask (i.e., financial security via a portion of the inheritance)! Thank you, very wise personal finance person!


Read the chat from last week here.

Wow! 

Tell your sister I'm so proud of her for listening to you. And kudos to you for speaking truth into her life. Not everyone is bold enough to try and get their folks to see the right financial light! 

Because this is the last chat for 2017 and there are A LOT of questions, I'll go a little longer today. Will try to get to as many as possible

I absolutely love your chats, but always have to read them after they are finished and can't respond in real time. But I wanted to respond to last weeks "Weaning My College Kid" submitter. While your answer was right on, I think there is also more to it -- and I speak from personal experience. My parents always treated my sibling and I very differently when it came to money -- no bitterness at all from my end, I am comfortable and happy and feel blessed because of it. My sibling, however, stayed on the family "payroll" long after college. Rent, car payments, cell phone bills, etc. Whereas you might think that would cause a strain in my relationship, the opposite was true and it ironically has created a lot of tension in THEIR relationship. Taking that money is not free. My parents have expectations that they place on my sibling that my sibling cannot (or is unwilling) to refuse because of the strings attached to that money. This has continued long into adulthood. My sibling feels my parents are overly involved in their lives (after all, they are an adult), and my parents frequently feel that my sibling is ungrateful because of all they have done. My parents feel, for example, entitled to visit the house that they significantly paid for. The same is not true for me and my family because we are not beholden to them in any way. My parents may be right or wrong for attaching expectations to the money that they give, but no matter what it makes me sad to see this cause tension in our family. Please encourage the poster from last week to wean their child off in a reasonable timeframe, or they may find those financial ties breeding resentment from both ends as time goes on. It is a hard cycle to break, and just one more way that money can come between family. Thank you.

I so agree with you. I tell my kids all the time, "My money, my rules." 

When you take money there are often expectations. And example. We offered our oldest a monthly stipend when she started college. We didn't want her to work the first year so she could concentrate on her studies. 

She turned us down.

Why? 

Because she figured we would be telling her what she could and couldn't do with the money.

And she was right. No, you are not using our money to go on spring break. I don't even get a spring break and I work for a living.

Now, your parents may have gone too far but that's the price your sibling is paying. 

So thanks for sharing your story. Hopefully it will help some parents cut the financial strings. 

I just wanted to say that having an emergency fund is a great thing. In the past two months I've had to get a new furnace, hot water heater and a major repair in the bathroom. $7K. All I did was write checks. No taking out loans, borrowing from family/friends or using credit cards. Do I have much of it left? No. But I had it, I can build it back up, and I can sleep at night. Holidays are a lot less stressful!

So glad you had the funds. 

And can I tweak your system just a bit. 

Have two saving funds

Emergency fund: In case you lose a job or become ill and need to take extended time off.

Life happens fund: Use this pot for major repairs, etc.

The thing is, if you can, you want to make sure you have the pot for disruption in income. Then use the life happens pot so you don't deplete the emergency fund. 

Hello, Michelle. My wife and I are on track to meet our goal of having a million dollars in our retirement plans when I retire in about 10 years. This is due to our frugal lifestyle, plus regular retirement contributions, starting with my first IRA way back in 1982. My problem is that my holdings are almost entirely in equity funds, and the market is doing great right now. How and when do I decide when to move out of exciting stocks and into boring bonds? I don't have a retirement planner, mostly because I feel that the several brokers that want me to consolidate my holdings with them are primarily interested in the fee income I will generate for them. Am I selling myself, and them, short?

I think the answer to your question is to find a fee-only planner who can map out how to reallocate your retirement funds as you get closer to retirement. But keep in mind since many people live 20 or even 30 years in retirement, you may still need equities for growth.

Montgomery County just rejected the idea http://bethesdamagazine.com/Bethesda-Beat/2017/Montgomery-County-Council-Nixes-Idea-To-Allow-Property-Tax-Prepayments/

Thanks for sharing this. 

Michelle- You are a far better human being than I am. I'd have paid of the loan in one fell swoop and then sold the car! But that's just me.

Lol!

That's an idea. But if the son needs the car to get to a job, I wouldn't want to take the car. Him not having a job might further damage the relationship. 

 

I have a really good plan with my employer. I'm a little worried about how much the cost will go up at renewal time, but it will be worth it. I plan to work until 70. There is no way I will move us from this plan to Medicare before then. Medicare might cost less on paper, but I think by the time I add up Medicare, Medigap and the tax cost, I'm better off with a grade A plan. But that makes me lucky.

Very lucky!

isn't going to 'fix' health care. we have all seen what the 'fixes' are -- they were worse than the original problem, if that was even possible. The reason health care is in such a mess is because of our laws and regulations. we need less of that.

Sure, regulation is why we all fear not having health insurance.

Not!

The cost of care is high. And it's high because a lot of people can't afford to pay and their cost is passed on to those who can pay. 

I love to follow you and have now done several financial fasts. I have set up a good way for me to keep track of my debts and expenditures. I am working on being at least credit card debt free by the end of 2018. Your advice is great. God bless you and your family!

Thank you!

I have a very stable job - my boss loves me and based on some of what I've seen in this office it would take a LOT to get fired. I have all my savings pots topped off and no debt other than a mortgage and student loans on track for forgiveness. My 3-6 months living expenses is close to $20K that just sits in a savings account not keeping up with inflation. Would it be the most terrible idea to put 3/4 of that $ in a target date retirement account that is targeted to sometime in the last 5 years? Choosing a 2015 account mean the investments would be transitioning to more bonds and would be low risk while still having the potential to at least grow in line with inflation. It just feels silly to have this moeny sitting there (which it has been for years) when it could be working.

No, keep the emergency fund liquid. You don't invest this money because you don't want to put any of it at risk. And there is still risk in a target date fund. 

You have to let go of the idea that all your money has to grow. This pot of money is earmarked for when life happens. And life can happen before you can sell shares in a target date fund, which can go down in value.

We 'owe' nothing. But as human beings, yes, we *should* do the right thing and help each other. Give to each other. Create community with all. But 'helping' doesn't mean that that help must come from a govt entity. That is where I think people confuse things. Just because you don't want a govt program doesn't mean you don't want said thing to be done.

I understand why you feel this way. But if we don't have gov't help this means relying on private help, nonprofits, etc. 

But we all know that people are fickle. They give one year and not the next. When their money gets funny they stop giving.

We can't have a safety net that only relies on the "people." 

When we do we have soup kitchen lines that go on for miles. 

 

or do you have to work in the federal government?

You have to have a federal job.

This is why we have to change the system. We can't continue having health care be so dependent on what job you have. 

Hi Michelle: Thanks so much for taking my question. I have to admit, you've become the voice over my shoulder any time I make a financial decision. I've been working for a few years now, and am ready to go back to school for my doctorate! I would start classes this summer. Per your advice, I've applied to programs that are highly ranked, yet affordable for me to pay for out of pocket, and have a pattern of networking alumni in jobs that I want to be in. I've been saving up for a little while now. I didn't pay for my undergrad or masters degree (I got full scholarships), so I want to be able to get through all my education without a single student loan. Since I'm paying out of pocket while working, would it make sense for me to put some of that money in a Maryland 529, so I can deduct it from my state income taxes? I'm thinking about opening an account with $2,500 before December 31st, so I can get a bit of tax relief this April. From there, I would incrementally put money in there and pay my tuition that way. Am I able to do that? Would that make sense? I know you're not a tax professional, but any advice would be much appreciated. Wishing you a Merry Christmas!

My only concern is that if you need the money in the short term (five years or less), putting in the 529 plan would be risking money you need fairly soon. The market is going great now, but what if it dropped and big time. You'd lose money you plan on using soon.

I wouldn't do it. 

Hi Michelle My husband and I have been trying for a baby for years and we're at the point where we're facing a hefty bill of doing IVF. I'm working with the center but EACH cycle is going to end up being almost $15k out of pocket and that's before any medications are factored in. According to the doctors sometimes 3 cycles (or more) are needed. Obviously I'm devastated and have spend many sleepless tear filled nights over this. We own our house (well paying the mortgage) and do have credit card debt which we're working to pay down but how on earth do people pay for this? My insurance will cover ZERO dollars so it's all out of pocket for us. Please don't say it's best to "hold off" because as I'm sure you know the longer you hold off the harder it is based on age and other factors. I'm already in my late 30's so age is going against me.

I wish I had a wand. I'd grant you the money. I'm the mother of three and kids are a blessing, even if they get on my last nerve at times.

So I say what I'm about to say with a heavy heart. 

I wouldn't go into debt for this. I just wouldn't. You already have credit card debt. If you are successful after three rounds you'll have the debt for trying for the kid and all the extra pressure of taking care of the kid. 

But I know that when you want a baby so bad logic doesn't make sense. 

And telling you there are other ways to be a parent probably won't make you feel better either.

However, I have to be true to what I believe and what I teach. If it were me and I didn't have the money, I wouldn't do it. 

Hi Michelle - My parents have proven to be very bad at managing finances. They also do not talk to each other about money. My father has somehow "lost" substantial sums each month. There's not enough to pay the bills at the end of the month (he's retired), and it's not clear what the money was used for. My mother has decided she will retire from a stressful job next year. We raised concerns on finances (her pension will be far less than salary), and she said that as long as there are no unexpected expenses they will be fine. Meanwhile, each month she complains about being broke. In the past I've offered to help connect them to a financial adviser, but they refused. They get angry when we raise issues around money. Is there any constructive way to express concern and ask about their plans? Or should I accept that their mistakes will be their own? Thanks.

Because they won't share what's going on, you have to stand by and let them fall. Because they won't listen to you, you have to stand there and let them fall. 

Just be there when they fall with whatever help you can afford. 

So my husband lost his job & benefits 3 years ago and has been getting benefits through my work. We have only one option with a high deductible that has ranged between $7000 and $10,000 the last three years. We have maxed it out each year as he has health concerns and have one more year before he can officially be eligible for Medicare. This has taken a serious toll on our finances and we are on payment plans to all our health care providers. I am terrified of seeing the bills come in again in force come January and not being able to pay them yet again. How can we ever catch up on all we owe for the past years, never mind pay upcoming charges? When there are chronic conditions that need attention, it is positively debilitating on finances although I work full time and he has a part time position. Is there any relief that we may not be aware of or places to turn for assistance?

Contact your local social services office. But you may still earn too much to qualify for any help.

I'm so sorry. I wish I had more to offer. You are exactly why we must figure out how to better handle healthcare in this country. 

Not a question or testimonial, but my last class of Financial Literacy is taking their final exam right now. I hope they learned enough to make good financial decision in their future. We have used your columns and chats regularly throughout the semester. Thank you and happy holidays!

Ah, thank you!

And tell the students I said good luck! Also, would love to hear who they feel about what they learned. Have them send me an email to colorofmoney@washpost.com

And do Micelle's 21 day financial fast - it will help you know where your money is going. If you don't track that you can't make changes.

Yup, do the fast. It will help you see what you can't see because you're spending all the time.

Working on our behalf to speak truth to power and to provide us with as many of the facts as you can on so many issues.

Appreciate this!

I have a parent that always told people how poor she was so they'd give her free stuff, like meals. The kicker was she wasn't poor . She made the same amount of money as her friends, she once told me if a person has one more penny than I do they are rich and that makes me poor. How's that for screwing with your head when you're a kid? I'm still dealing with money issues to this day (50 years old) that go back to my Mother and her bizarre ways.

I don't know what to say.

Just be different. 

I paid my way through college with loans and working almost full time, own a tiny house in a good neighborhood that I bought in 2009, have only bought three cars in my 28 years of driving, have been maxed out on my 401K for years now, and am a shopper pretty much only when I need something, but I really, really enjoy eating out. I know I could save money if I cooked more at home, but after a long day at the office staring at a computer screen, a couple or few nights a week I like to go out for a cocktail and a meal while surrounded by people. (I love my cats at home but they're not brilliant conversationalists.) Can I not feel guilty about it? I don't have a spouse or kids to leave anything to.

If you've got all your financial bases covered, go ahead and eat out with no guilt. 

Hi Michelle, I wanted to give you a quick year-end THANK YOU for helping me with my personal finance motivation last year in the chat (post-masters debt-free and how to save again). Another chatter noted about my post-masters bump in salary which admittedly took until this year to fully arrive, but now I’m finishing the year with a fully funded Roth, life happens, and ~3 months emergency savings. Feeling pretty happy to close out the year like this and wanted to pass along my warm holiday wishes to you!

Thanks for coming back to share!

Like every other industrialized country, we owe them health care. We can follow their model.

Amen. Amen.

My work-provided health insurance is excellent and I pay very low premiums, co-pays, and deductibles. BUT I recently found out that the higher-ups here get executive physicals (those virtual physical scans) paid for by the firm. Because I guess my life and position here is easier to replace than theirs. But I can say the same about me vs. someone who pays out the nose for not great benefits. It's all just so crazy, why can't we be like Canada???

Why indeed. 

It's entrenched in the documents of our forefathers: Declaration of Independence: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." Lincoln's second inaugural: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan" We're all in this American experiment together.

We are indeed all in this together. 

I feel so badly for you and your husband. Having a child is wonderful and stressful and wonderful. But also please remember there are other ways to be a parent and many children out there who need love and attention.

Yet, I get the urge, need to procreate your own.

I will say this. I was one of those kids. Left. And then picked up by my grandmother. 

I have a friend who went into terrible debt over this, and they ended up adopting. It took them more than a decade to recover, and they were lucky - they bought low in the housing market and had a cheap mortgage. If adoption is in the picture, save for that - it can cost as much as an IVF cycle. And if you try again, just that one more time, try to make sure your reproductive endrocrinologist is telling the truth about success rates. This area is so unregulated that sometimes it's just a sales job. Hugs!!

Yup, many hugs to you from all of us!

I'm in a similar situation (and age) as the poster going through infertility. I'd go back to your clinics and let them know you have financial limitations. Our clinic has discount programs available if your household makes under a certain amount. There are also flat fee, money-back guaranteed programs for the procedures (you would still have to pay for medications). After their age cutoff, you only qualify for the money-back guarantee program if you use donor egg, but I made peace with that after several failed traditional IVFs. Flat fee donor egg IVF for us was about $31K, plus less expensive meds than you see with traditional IVF. And $31K is a lot less than $45K plus thousands in meds with no possibility of a refund. You can also often find less expensive meds by shopping around and using rebates, or asking your nurse if anyone donated unused medications.

Thanks for sharing.

After the chat, when you get a chance read today's newsletter. Here's the link.

It's what I think are the best of my columns for 2017, ones that really resonated with readers. Would love your thoughts too. 

I wish I could stay longer but I have my Sunday column to finish. 

Thank you all you came ask a question, made a comment or shared your testimony. I'm sorry if I didn't get to your question. But I keep everything you send. Some ends up in my column. 

Finally, please know I appreciate the time you take to join this chat. I appreciate your questions, candor and comments. I know some of you don't agree with me on some things and that's okay. A respectful debate is good. 

Wishing you all  a Happy Holiday and New Year.

See you back in 2018.  

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Michelle Singletary
Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, "The Color of Money," which appears in The Post on Wednesday and Sunday and is carried in more than 120 newspapers.

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