Color of Money Live (April 19)

Apr 19, 2018

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

Follow Michelle Singletary on Twitter (@SingletaryM) and Facebook www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary

Did you make it through Tax Day? What a wild ride for late filers. 

So what's your tax story for this year? 

And as always, I'm looking for those Thursday Testimonies. Tell me something good about your financial life.

Let's get started.

one little way to save money is to buy whole chickens instead of just chicken breasts. You can generally get a whole chicken for the same price as a package of chicken breasts. Cutting up the chicken takes 10 min tops, and then you have free wings, free legs, and free bones to make stock with

Very true. But I'm awful at cutting up a bird. I really wish I had paid more attention when my grandmother Big Mama was cooking. 

Still looking for her corn pudding recipe! 

Hi Michelle! Last week, someone mentioned the pitfalls of minimum orders to get free online shipping. Here is how I deal with free shipping minimums when I shop online: I always order enough to get the free shipping. For example, if a store sets the cut-off for free shipping at $75, I will order slightly more than that just to get the free shipping (often a value of $8 or $9). First, I place in my "shopping cart" the item(s) I intended to order. Then I will supplement that order with items that I call "maybes" ... for example, possible gifts for upcoming birthdays/Christmas or clearance items that seem like good deals. However, I have no qualms about returning those items to the physical store if they are not what I expected or I if change my mind later. Some might argue that one is spending more money than intended if you "up" your order to match the free shipping minimum. But if you have a resolute mindset about rejecting any item you don't really want, this shopping strategy allows the buyer to get the free shipping and than a few extras for "browsing" at home, with the caveat that those items will be returned to a physical store if necessary (and the shipping will still be free).

I do something similar. But I just load things I need/want in the shopping cart and let them stay there until I have enough to make the free shipping minimum. 

And you know what?

Often I find I didn't really need/want the stuff and don't end up ordering. It's like a shopping pause thanks to my desire to get "free" shipping.

Thanks for sharing. 

Hi Michelle My wife and I are starting infertility treatment and imagine my surprise that neither of our insurances cover it. The coverage is literally nothing. No procedure, no med's, no testing, no appts... NOTHING. I know others have been in the same situation. We're in our late 30's so please DO NOT say we have time or to adopt or let it happen naturally because without medical intervention it will NOT happen. With that being said we have debt from before - mainly cc debt/1 car loan that we're working to pay down but have a ways to go (almost 30k). We both contribute to 401k and we have a mortgage. We have maybe 100k in equity. I know you don't want to pay debt with debt however in the case of IF how else do you suggest it? We've cut expenses already and throw as much as we can at the debt This is something incredibly important to my wife and I. The fertility place we're going to has suggested borrowing against the home, taking out a loan they offer (5% apr) etc. We're looking on average $20k per cycle because we need to do IVF.

I try to keep my answers about debt the same because everyone has a good reason why they need to borrow. 

So I get that you want a child. No minimizing at all on my part. I have three children and although they get on my last nerves somethings, they are a job. So I understand. Truly I do.

If you decide you want to go forward, can you at least get rid of the credit card debt and car loan. You need to free up some money if you're already cut expenses to the bone. You need to prepare with the added home equity debt if you are intent on doing. (I wouldn't but I have kids so who am I to tell you not to move heaven and earth to try and get pregnant)

One way to speed up paying off the debt is to pull back on your retirement savings. Although you're in your late 30s, you still could have another 25 or even 30 years to save for retirement. If there is a match put in enough for that because that's free money. But then stop other contributions to aggressively pay off the consumer debt before tapping your home's equity.

And, if I may, can you guys also talk to a counselor. As you know IVF often doesn't work. You need to be prepare for that and the fact that you put yourself in more debt to try. 

I've seen marriage fall apart because one spouse wanted to try to have a baby so bad that he/she put the family finances in deep jeopardy -- some serious debt. In the one case, it nearly bankrupted the couple. The husband couldn't take it any more and walked away from the marriage. 

Try if you must, but do think about a backup plan should it not work. 

Good luck!

Michelle, I stopped working last November as it was time to do so. I was 65 and ready to go! I did not collect my SS benefits right out the box as the reduction percentage was way too much. Besides I had a nice income last year and any SS I collected would be heavily taxed for 2017. I have read extensively on SS the past years and most experts recommend that you wait till 70 to collect as the delayed retirement credits will increase the benefit by 8% per year. Provided you have some other income to live on, this makes sense--in most cases. However, in my case and maybe many others, my wife worked only a very limited number of years (but enough to qualify for SS) with low annual earnings. Her spousal benefit (up to 50% of my benefit) is much larger than the benefit on her own earning record. But there are 2 big qualifiers here. 1. In order for my wife to collect spousal benefits, I must receive my benefits. 2. The delayed retirement credit will not increase the spousal benefit as the spousal benefit is keyed to the full retirement age of the worker. So I could delay collecting SS until age 70 but my spouse would lose 4 years of spousal benefits. As her spousal benefits are about 3 times more than the payments on her work record, we would be leaving a lot of money on the table! There are a lot of little in’s and out’s to collecting Social Security and it truly does depend upon your individual situation. So my advice is first to get your online account at SSA.Gov. Second, review your earning records for accuracy. Third, review SS projection of your benefit at your current age, at full retirement age and at 70. Fourth, if you are married, review spouse’s account to determine if spousal benefits may apply. (Before you and I are blasted, please note that for many working couples, the benefits based on the earnings record for either of the couple may well be much greater than the spousal benefit calculation and so the spousal benefit would not apply at all.)

Read Michelle's column: Early or late: One senior says ignore the conventional wisdom of waiting to take Social Security. Take it at 62.

So well said, I really have nothing to add. You so hit the nail on the head. 

And, I have been having this debate with a lot of folks, including my husband. (Read the link). He wants to collect early. I want to wait. We both will get about the same in Social Security. Still not sure what we will do but again, loved your rundown. 

Anybody else care to weigh in?

Michelle, I have worked for large corporations all my life. Been witness to several wide-spread layoffs and been the victim twice. But the worst handling was the 1st one I saw. There were 3 people in my department who were "selected." We all came in at 7 am as usual. Those 3 could not logon to the network. The rest of us were able to logon as usual. At first, they thought it might be a IT glitch. But by 8 am, the whole building knew layoffs were in progress that day. When the 3 asks, they were told to stay in their offices. Actually all of us were told to stay in our offices. The 3 people were not called to see the "transition team" until 3 pm that afternoon! Talk about twisting in the wind all day! At least the corporation learned and handled it a bit better the 2nd time.

Read Michelle's column: Trump dumped Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a tweet. What’s the worst way you’ve been fired?

This is truly awful. Really, really bad. And inhumane! 

This is management at it's worst!!! 

I waited until the bitter end because I was waiitng on one last document to file my taxes. I had hoped to get it over the weekend so that I could file my full taxes and not an extension, but in the end I had to file an extension on tax day. :(

 

Read Michelle's newsletter: Well, that was a wild Tax Day. This is how many people procrastinated.

So sorry. But folks remember even if you file an extension to get your return in, it's not an extension to pay if you owe. If you pay late even with an extension you will owe a failure to pay on time penalty. 

 

I waited until the last minute because I owe the IRS money. I ended up filing for an extension because I misplaced an old checkbook with carbonless copies of my checks; I'm convinced I will find it soon and there are a couple or charitable contributions I can still deduct. I did, of course, pay the amount I owed based on the records I do have. And I have already adjusted my withholdings so if I do owe next year, it should be less than $100. And I have a folder in which I am putting receipts for tax-deductible contributions; I must remember to put my old check copies in there.

So glad you paid what you owed based on the records you have. A lot of people don't realize that an extension does not mean you can delay in paying. 

Hope you find the check stubs. But couldn't you have gone online to double check your statements?

We do most of our banking online, including with automatic payments. It makes it so easy to find things.

For example, I needed to find the receipts for computers I bought for my college-age kids (It's a qualified 529 plan expense now). For the life of me, I don't know where I put the hard copy and couldn't find the emailed receipt I got.

But then I just went online to my credit card and found it just fine. 

Be careful how often you do this. There has been recent news stories about retailers employing third-party data crunchers to review and potentially reject transactions, due to suspected fraud or simply, the customer returns stuff too much. These companies are not transparent at all, and there is usually very little recourse.

Really good point. I've been reading about this as well. I just don't like the bother of returns so I shop very carefully. 

Hi, Michelle - My husband and I are selling an investment property. It is paid off, but we will only be able to sell it for about $40K less than what we paid. Because this is a loss, do we need to reinvest the money into another investment property? If so, can we roll it into the mortgage of another investment property we already own? Thank you.

I wish I could answer you but I really don't know. This is a question best put to a tax professional familiar with investment property. 

Hi Michelle, I have always lived within my means and been a good saver for future needs. My kids are teenagers now and boy is life getting even more expensive. Some months I have to reach into savings to cover the extra spending. Thankfully, we have a lot saved but it makes me crazy if I have to transfer money to help pay the credit card. Do you think there are periods in your life that are just more expensive and as long as I am not in debt...I need to relax?

I so feel you. I have two kids in college and the third -- and last -- is heading off in the fall. But man are the expenses adding up. Right now heading into her high school graduation and prom. Money. Money. Money.

If you have savings to supplement the "life happens" part of life you're fine. If it's a chronic issue and happening more and more every month than yes, you probably need to revisit your budget to see where you can cut. 

Otherwise, you are good. 

My husband and I keep a well padded "life happens fund" just for the extras we may not have planned for.

I wish to generate tax-free income. What do you think of Vanguard's California Tax-Free Municipal Bond Fund? What are the pros and cons of moving cash out of the Prime Money Market Fund and into this one?

So, can't give specific investment advice. And would you really want it from someone who doesn't have a full picture of your income, expenses, retirement balance, risk analysis, etc.?

Best you seek advice from a fee-only financial planner. Could be a good time to pay a flat fee to get an long-term look at your financial situation. 

As to municipal bond funds in general, could fit well in your investment strategy. But keep in mind, you won't get much growth. So what you might be trading for tax-free income, you are giving up in fatter returns. 

It still might be right for you but get a good opinion. 

I pay off my credit cards each month. I have a credit rating in the 800s. I have literally no other debt - lucky to have no mortgage and pay cash for my car. Over the past year, two credit cards that I don't use were closed by the banks. This means that my available credit has gone from $70,000 to $30,000. My general statement balance is $2,500-3,000. I pay it off each month and didn't think about the available credit. But this means that I am using a substantially higher percentage of my available credit and it has been affecting my credit rating. On top of that, recently we had to replace both the heat pump and the water heater in our condo. I put it on my credit card - and paid it off immediately. I could have paid cash - but getting the points has really been a substantial saving over the years. My credit rating went down six points that cycle (still over 810). It will build up again. But I'm considering asking for a credit increase on one of the three cards I use to give me more of a buffer. Am I over-thinking all this?

You are definitely over thinking. 

Once your score hits 750 you are golden. And depending on the lending institution it could be 720.

You don't really get any browny points for having a score well over the 750 mark. 

You don't need to increase your available credit. 

So stop stressing. You're good. 

And keep in mind a good credit score doesn't mean you have money. It just means you are good at borrowing. 

I recently received a notice from an insurance company that my paid-up insurance has been processed, under the provisions of a Life Insurance Program from a former employer. I honestly have no recollection of any details regarding this insurance--i.e., was it a employee benefit, or an optional purchase made through the employer? Regardless, it is good news in that I am being asked if I want to surrender my paid-up insurance for a cash value. I am 64 years old and plan to take the cash value, primarily because the value of the policy is small and my heirs would not need the money when I die. My question is, what prompted the insurance company to contact me now after all of these years. Could I have taken a cash value sooner if I had know about the policy?

I'm not sure about why they are offering you the cash out. Could be they want to get the obligation off their books. 

At any rate, you are doing what I would do. Take the money because as you point out no one is depending on your income to live so you don't need the insurance. 

Leaving aside the points that Michelle raised, there are several organizations that offer financial assistance for assisted reproductive technologies. It may be worth looking into whether you qualify for any of those.

Thanks for this tips. Anybody have the names of the organizations to help them start their search?

I have a friend who went through IVF and now has a healthy 2 1/2 year old. Her doctor offered X cycles for $Y. If she did not have a successful pregnancy after X cycles, she would have gotten a full refund of that $Y. It may be worth looking for that type of arrangement. I can't remember exactly what the Y was, but definitely less than the equity in your home.

Thanks for sharing. 

I wanted to add one more thought for the couple contemplating IVF: kids are really expensive! Another mouth to feed, clothes to buy, diapers, child care, health insurance, it adds up big and fast. If you're in credit card debt as DINKs, and you either eliminate your savings or go into more debt for the IVF, when you add in all those extra kid expenses, I'm worried about you! I think the question you should be asking your doctors is not, can we conceive without IVF, but rather, do the odds of IVF working change if we wait another 2 or 3 years? If the answer is no, think about using that time to really set yourselves up by saving for the IVF by cutting back even more. Have a room in your house you envision becoming a nursery? Rent it out for a couple of years and save the rent to pay for the IVF. If you can live below your means now, when the added expenses of having a kid get added in, hopefully you'll at least be even and won't be completely underwater on day 1. Good luck!

Good points. I think we are all concerned about you going into debt. But if you still choose this path, make changes other places to accommodate the extra expenses. 

Are the teens old enough to have jobs? I know by the time I was 16, I was expected to provide my own walking around money instead of constantly going to my parents. I worked retail, but if that's not an option they could mow lawns, babysit, or run errands.

Yup, all my kids have to get summer jobs now. They also have to save it and use it for their personal expenses and books. Not because we can't afford to pay for the books but we want them to feel what it's like to live within their own means, even if that's just going to the movies, buying personal items, etc. 

We also discouraged them from working their freshmen years during the semesters. This is especially so for my son, who is on the autism spectrum. We didn't want him to have the extra pressure of trying to working study. 

Hi Michelle, I confess my total ignorance about money. I am turning 65, retired and have a pension. Every three months I get a statement that I don't understand. I have had the staff person from the company that manages my funds explain it to me but I still am confused. How do I select someone who is trustworthy and knows about the finance quarterly statements who can advise me. I also would like someone who can help me with my taxes. I suspect I am using computer software and not getting the best results. I love your columns and am doing better with money that when I was younger. No credit card debt and no mortgage. Thanks for your help.

Seriously, I have trouble reading the statements sometimes. There's a lot of information there. A lot of numbers, calculations, etc. 

For me, I just keep reading anything and everything about investing. 

I would also suggest you just take a community college course on investing. Or search and attend any seminars/workshops offered in your community. But be very, very careful about workshops being conducted by financial professionals if there is a sales pitch component (even when they say there isn't one). 

Finally, if you aren't sure about your taxes, why not hire a tax profession next year and compare what the person does with what you have been seeing with the software. 

We had a professional for several years and then found we got the same results using do-it-yourself software.

However, for next year with the tax changes, we are probably gong to get a professional to do our taxes just to be sure. 

Hi Michelle, I'm 62 and currently have my money in various investments but it's become clear to me that I should be investing in index funds. I'm paying way too much to have my investments "managed." What's the difference between Fidelity, Vanguard, T Rowe Price, etc.? Is it simply the funds they invest in? Thanks very much! Joanne

So all the companies you listed try to do a good job of keeping fees down. Many of the funds have similar investment strategies. 

In the interest of full disclosure,  I have money invested in Vanguard (personal and retirement) and money at T Rowe Price (529 plans). Happy with both. 

My fiancée and I are dedicated to budgeting and wiping out debt, except we currently maintain two separate checking accounts. What is the best approach to merging income? Best step(s) to take? Those to avoid? TIA!

Until you are married, you should keep your money separate. You each should be paying your own debts. 

And I really hope you have taken or plan to take a premarital class with a strong financial component. 

Once you are married, I recommend having a joint account where both your paychecks go into. Allocated a portion of your net income to savings. You can't save together in tax advantaged retirement accounts but certainly you both should be on the same page about how much you want to save for retirement.

To cut down on issues of withdrawing money from the ATM, after you are married decided on an allowance. You each get a set amount that you can use for yourself with no judgment. 

If you need to pull money from ATM outside of that, talk about it. Make a quick call. 

My husband and I have have joint accounts since we married almost 27 years ago. Very little issues. We save together. We spend together keeping each other very informed about any and all financial matters. 

We live like lifetime mates not roommates. 

Hi Michelle: Loved your column on what retirement income is taxed. One of the under-appreciated vehicles for retirement savings is a health savings account, particularly for young people. As a class, young people are not as likely to have high health care costs (the occasional trip to urgent care or the Rx from the doctor) as, say, older people. This puts young people at a great advantage to get a high deductible plan and contribute toward an HSA (which is different from a flex spending account). It's a triple tax advantaged account! Contributions are tax deductible, earnings grow tax free when you invest it, and if used for qualified medical expenses, the distributions are also tax free. So while I may be healthy now, who knows if I will get cancer or some other debilitating disease later on in life? The idea is to have this pot of money during my retirement years that I can use for health care costs; and as most older people will tell you, health care costs are one of those nagging expenses that increases as we age. Why not use time to our advantage, fellow millenials, considering many of us don't even use the health insurance we pay into? I learned after a couple of years that I rarely visited the doctor other than my annual physical which is already guaranteed to be free under the Affordable Care Act. Best of all? After age 65, I can use the money for whatever I please including non-health related expenses and will not incur a penalty (I will, however be subject to ordinary income tax).

You make a good point. I would only caution not to oversee in the account. You want money at the ready before 65 to use for retirement without a penalty. 

Just saw in the news that there were some protesters at a gathering of payday lenders in Florida, and last week a heard an interview on Fresh Air on NPR with the author of a book about evictions, who said a landlord told him “there’s money to be made in the hood,” as compared to in middle class neighborhoods. What can average citizens do to help expose - and ultimately change- the endless ways there seem to be to profit from the poor? Talk about ill-gotten gains!

Call and write your congressmen and women. They need to hear from us that we don't support pay day lending, an industry that spends a lot of money lobbying. 

I would just like to encourage anyone considering buying a home to ask about utility costs. I have found cost per square foot per year to be a useful metric - it costs me approximately $0.50 per square foot per year for my gas (heat), electric and water. For a home that is slightly less than 2,000 square feet, my annual utility costs for the last two years have been under $1,000 - total. I try to find something every year to do to increase my home's efficiency. Knowing this kind of information before locking in a contract can save a lot of money. The home I am in now had no insulation in the upper attic space - and the home inspector didn't catch it. I vowed I would never buy again without a blower door energy audit as part of the pre-purchase contingencies.

Very good point!

A bit of a testimonial…My wife has wanted a new car for the last year. We have been savings towards it, but are nowhere close to being able to buy it outright. Her car is 11 years old and has 150k miles, but otherwise works fine. I asked her why she wanted a new car when her car worked just fine. She gave a litany of excuses like the cup holder broke, one of the visors is broken, she wants a self-driving car, she wants the newest safety features, and that she wants enough room to take home things from her sister 8 hours away (who we may visit once a year). I made a good counter that those things do not necessitate us buying a new car when we can't afford it. Also that we can pay to ship the stuff for less than one month of a car payment. She reluctantly agreed not to get a new car this year. So in the meantime we will keep saving towards the car, with the occasional house repair. She was upset that our clawfoot tub need refinishing and that it would prevent us from adding the new car savings for a month, but she agreed that we needed to not have a rusting tub. Talk it out with facts and try to remove the heart from big financial decisions

Love, love, love your approach. Oh, how I wish more people would take out the emotion from a financial decision.

I have a six-step decision tree that I teach. Not one step involves how you feel.

You did exactly what I teach. Talk it out. Do research. Take the emotion out. 

Works every time. 

Now this doesn't mean you can't get something you want because you want a better cup holder. But it makes you think about whether the time is right. 

Anyway, good for you and good for your wife to listen to such a wise spouse!

I’ve had lousy returns on my bond funds for the past year. Is there a safe alternative? Thank you

There is no completely safe investment that will give you big returns. 

Now, keep in mind despite the lousy returns you may need the stability of the bonds as part of your investment mix. 

However, if you have a long road to retirement you want to take some risk for growth. 

Or, if risk keeps you up at night, you'll have to sleep with the lousy returns. 

My mother sends me emails asking for money for basics. She refuses to do a budget or tell me how she spends her money. When do I stop supporting her? It feels awful, but I feel like I'm just enabling her bad habits. She's not a gambler, a drinker, or a massive spender. She just refuses to do a budget or make any effort to figure out what's going on money wise. Help!

I really need you to email me (colorofmoney@washpost.com). And actually, I would love to hear from others who have parents who won't/don't handle their money well and are tapping you to frustration.

As for your situation, as much as it hurts you, you have to stop enabling your mother. Why would she get better if you keep bailing her out? 

It's the same thing I would tell parents of adult children who are financially irresponsible. You are actually hurting them/her but giving the money.

So stop. Now.

In a loving way just say, "Mom, I can't help you this month."

Then brace for the guilt. It will come from her or your head.

But don't give in. 

If and when she allows you to see her budget and help her plan, then you can decide if you can afford to supplement her income. I do that for my godmother. My husband and I send her money every month to help with her prescription drug copays. But I also know she's living within her budget. And I know because I look at her budget. 

 

Just a tip here, it's still a way to save because many grocery store meat counters will cut the chicken up at no charge! (Publix in the South)

Hadn't thought of that. Thanks.

Please please consider that this is secured loan. The bank can take your house. Talk to proper financial people about this - the IVF people should not be advising you on debt. Please please, heed what Michelle says. Get your finances in better order before you do IVF.

I appreciate the backup. 

but you can't do them all at once. My brother asked if I wanted to join his family on a trip to Ireland. I went. it was great. Lots of time with the niece and nephew. Saw lots of things. And my brother did the driving (I'm horrible on the other side of the road). Here is the humble brag. It looks like I am going to do it without making any changes in my regularly scheduled savings. Of course, it puts off getting a new TV (what I was saving up for before) until probably the next wave of sales around Christmas/just after. And I am going to be pretty close to your financial fast (not quite, but close) to build up the "fun stuff" money again over the next month or two. Please note, I managed this with NO impact on my retirement savings or any other savings goals. Just pulling back spending once I decided I was going to go and pulling back spending now that I am back to rebuild the splurge money. It is similar to what I told co-workers when I was paying off my student loans in 3 years and they wanted to know how. You can't spend the same money twice. Plan A has to wait if you decide that plan B is going to happen first.

Love this!

Not a question but I wanted to pass along IVF money advice. Shady Grove Fertility has a few programs to assist. Depending on your circumstances they offer a guarantee. Check there. IVF is costly emotionally & financially. Good Luck

Thanks for sharing. 

I highly recommend ItsDeductible.com, a (free!) service of Intuit/TurboTax. You can track all your contributions there, and if you use TurboTax it will import them automatically. (I also keep a more detailed spreadsheet for my own purposes, which you can do if you don't trust Intuit with your information.)

I'm check this out myself. Thanks.

Surprised (or maybe I shouldn't be) that the doctor's office is suggesting home equity or a 5% loan that they conveniently offer. What about a payment plan, not a loan? What about a lower interest rate? How about not conflating a medical practice with a moneylending practice? I would get another opinion.

Yes, right. And certainly if you are going to get a home equity loan shop around independent of any medical provided option. 

It can also mean you are good at paying your bills on time. You can have a great credit score without debt.

Well yes. But at some point you had debt to make those on-time payments.

It wasn't a slight. Just letting folks know that you can have a great credit score and still not have financial security.

 

Here's a list that may help you get started: https://resolve.org/what-are-my-options/making-infertility-affordable/infertility-treatment-grants-scholarships/

Thanks.

Been there, done that. IVF's chances of success go down the longer you wait, unless you are willing to use donor eggs. Have a serious conversation with your doctor about your egg quality/chances of success, but bear in mind they may cheerlead because they want your money. Also, sometimes your body has quirks that don't come up in the initial tests (for example, my uterus has a condition known as pre-receptivity that makes me reject embryos, so we had to adjust my protocol). My clinic has a Shared Risk program where you get up to six attempts for a flat fee, and your money back if it doesn't work. Not everyone qualifies for that program, you have to be under a certain age or willing to use donor eggs. It also has a Shared Help discount for families with a household income under a certain level. And always, always double check what your financial counselor tells you. (Ours mixed up Shared Risk and Shared Help, and told us we didn't qualify for Shared Risk because our income was too high. So we didn't get to enroll in Shared Risk, which cost us a heap of wasted money and became a huge drama.) We were able to do IVF without going into debt, for which I am thankful. (And I'm currently seven weeks pregnant!) But it is a huge, huge source of stress and can be hard on a marriage, no matter your financial situation. I wish you the best of luck. Also, anytime you hear "just adopt!" feel free to give that person a kick in the shins.

Thank you so much for sharing your story.

And no kicking. People often mean well, even if they don't say the right things.

My credit union provides check images going back just one year. It's the ones from January - April 2017 I need to find. I believe there are some contributions in there that I don't have receipts for. Of course if I hadn't procrastinated, I'd have access to those online..... And I'll start printing check images to have for next year. There are only a few since most of my donations, including tithes and offerings, are online.

Or make sure the folks you are contributing to send you a statement. Also we give online now so there is always a computer record.

Insurers are legally required in many states to make the best effort to outreach to beneficiaries when payouts are available. If the term ended and you are owed a benefit or payout, it is why they are contacting you now. Depending on the policy terms, you may have been able to make a withdrawal earlier. Enjoy the surprise benefit.

Thanks!

I'm not here to rain on your parade, but let's say the IVF works and you have a baby and that baby is not healthy. Can you face a lifetime of care? I am that parent. I have a child who will never be able to take care of themselves. It's bankrupted us twice. Please think abut what you're getting yourself into. Children are a blessing, even disabled children, but at this point, I am 50, I will never be able to stop working until I die.

I can appreciate your situation. But this could be the case with anyone deciding to have a child. 

I do hope you are accessing as much help that you can get. I've there too with a special needs kid so I know.

 

You guys really wanted to talk today. Questions/comments still coming in. 

I'm back next week and I keep all the questions, turning some into columns. 

Thanks for joining me today. 

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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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