Color of Money Live (September 6)

Sep 06, 2018

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So, not a good day. Fell last Saturday. Fractured my ankle in 2 places. Can't walk on right leg for about a month. 

This means I need a lot of good money testimonies today to cheer me up!

Let's get started. 

Hi, Michelle! Been following you for years and thank you for all your great advice. So, I'll probably be buy a new car next year (old one ok for now, coming up on 15 years!). When you say to purchase a car with cash — which I plan and am saving to do — how does one do that? Personal check? Cashiers check? Money order? Unmarked bills in a plain paper bag? Black suitcase secured with bungee cords? I like to plan ahead :)

Lol! Love that "unmarked bills in a plain paper bag."

I paid for my last car with a check. The dealer didn't require anything more. They knew where I lived if the check bounced!

But seriously, just ask to see what they may require . . . but ask AFTER you've negotiated the price of the car. Often they try to build in profit with the hope you will take dealer financing. So I don't tell them I'm paying with cash. 

I figure out what's a fair price for the car, get it and THEN pull out my checkbook.

Also watch in reading the sales contract for any processing fees related to financing. My had a $300 fee that I had to point out and get credit for in the purchase process because they had built it into the sales contract. 

 

Been there, done that. So if nothing, catch up on your television viewing while you rest your ankle. Check out your colleague's Hank Stuever chat for recommendations. :-)

I've been watching so much TV my eyes hurt. 

But you know it's been a wake up call on how difficult it is to be immobile. I have to use a wheelchair (leftover from caring for my father-in-law) and can't get to a lot of places in my home because spaces too small. Or when we go out realize there is handicap access but often not near where I want to go into a building. 

And have to purchase some things to make life at home easier. Why on earth are our toilet seats so low? I know that's TMI but for real been a challenge. Just saying. 

Also be sure to enter previously used names. I entered my mother's maiden name that she hasn't used in 40 years and came up with something. Not much, but still!

Read Michelle's column: Want some cash? Here are five places to look for unclaimed money.

I continue to hear from people who have found money. Alas, not I :(

But people please be careful in using the sites. 

It's:

-- unclaimed.org NOT .com   Lots of folks are typing in .com and getting taken to a very questionable site. 

-- missingmoney.com is also good. 

Again, if someone is asking you for money to search for unclaimed funds run!

If it's a personal check on a local bank, the dealership might accept that (ours did). Otherwise, probably a cashier's check.

Yes, that's right. And they may call to verify the funds are available. I offered but the dealer in our case said that wasn't necessary. 

In fact, funny thing, the salesperson didn't even know how to do a cash transaction. He had to go get a manager. 

I hope it heals properly. Take care not to injure your shoulders if you have to use crutches or the like. No need to post this, I just wanted to say I'm sorry you fell.

Definitely posting your well wishes. And I did fall again using the crutches. The second day of the fracture. I was already trying to do too much.

I'm so scared that I'm using wheelchair when I can. Plus why is my left leg acting like it has never had to carry me around?

Oh and have MAJOR regrets that when we built our home we didn't put in a first-floor bedroom. 

I'm telling anyone I can who is building or buying to consider having accommodations on the first floor. We just never thought about aging in our home so we made some design decisions that I'm regretting right now.

Step downs and step ups look cute on the plans but NOT when you are trying to lift  your body up and down them. 

My wheelchair needs a pouch to carry things as I move about. 

Things I took for granted are just so challenging.

But it gives me a window into the world of being cared for and care taking. 

 

My question and your answer got me to thinking about the articles I read for work (financial planning) about how to prepare for aging in place - modifications to your home, etc. Perhaps a future column can address the financial aspects of this? Retrofitting home vs moving to accessible quarters.

Exactly. Granted when we moved into our current home we were much younger and had little kids so aging in place was so far from our minds.

But to age where I live now, we have to make some changes. I'm already thinking about a lift chair (I'm serious!). What do they cost? 

Hate my bathrooms right now!!!!

Have you read the Wall Street Journal article on how much you need for retirement? There's a spreadsheet that you can download and populate. What an eye opener!

I haven't read it but will go looking for it. Maybe it's not behind their paywall!

When that happened to me, I took the opportunity to complete a major writing project that I'd kept not having enough time for. Also, turn the others in your household into your personal assistants, because you deserve it!

About that -- getting help from hubby, kids, relatives and friends...

It's not so easy asking. I HATE asking for help even though I'll jump in a nanosecond to help others.

But it's a real challenge. Sure they want to help for the first day or so. However, the constant needing a helping hand get you a lot of blowing of the breaths, which makes you not want to ask, which makes you wait WAY too long to go to the bathroom or ask for your smartphone you left on the table. 

They forget to feed you! Or check up on you. 

I've cared for a lot of folks but this has given me a new perspective on asking for help especially since I'm looking at about six weeks of not being able to move around like I'm used to. 

 

I've done this, as I travel internationally a lot. I would suggest making sure your safety deposit box has at least 2 others who can access it. Also, in addition to a list of banks and investments, I put a copy of each statement in a folder, so that specific stocks, mutual funds etc are obvious, as well as account numbers and contact methods. After my father died, I went thru all of my investments to make sure the beneficiary was correct. Talking about finances wasn't "done" in my parents day, and look where it got us...if you have wishes about your estate, only you can do it!


Read Michelle's column: How to get your financial house in order before you die

You are so right. I have to update stuff too because even in the last year things have changed. 

But who do you trust?

My husband and I had a personal representative that we thought we could trust. Years later that person proved to be a cad. Last year, we removed his name and put in another person's name. Now that person is dealing with her elderly relatives estate issues so we need to find another person because I don't want to overwhelm her.

Thinking we might sit down with our oldest daughter and make her the personal representative now. 

I've been thinking about buying a condo or house and I'm starting to think mortgages are a huge scam. Most of the money is interest. And significantly reducing the amount of the loan doesn't significantly reduce the monthly mortgage payment....because it's ALL interest! I'm looking at places in the under 200k range and it seems like mortgages are skewed towards helping people buy more expensive homes. Increasing the loan amount results in unproportionally small increases in the monthly payment. And throwing tens of thousands of extra down payment at the loan results in useless tiny decreases. I'd rather keep the 20k stash to use for home improvement and travel and pay the extra $30 a month on the mortgage. Am I missing something? I'm also considering buying a place that is slightly too expensive and getting a roommate/airbnb, because it appears to be the only option in this area where 400k is "affordable". But I can hear you already saying "Noooooooooo!" :)

Yes, I'm saying noooooo to getting more than you can afford based on the theory you will always have a roommate or be able to do airbnb. 

It does feel like mortgages are a scam but think about it. The bank is lending you $200,000 or $400,000 for 15 to 30 years. Of course they want their profit/interest upfront because that is a long time to wait on being paid. 

So mortgages front load the interest. BUT...paying more does and paying extra does make a huge difference over time. My husband and I have on tract to pay off your 15-year mortgage in 8 to 10 years saving thousands of dollars in interest. 

Unless you can pay cash for your home, you are stuck getting a mortgage. Just be smart about it. 

Buy what you can afford with the money you have now, not with promised income increases or the hope you will find the perfect roommate. 

Keep your monthly payments at no more than 35% to 36% of your net monthly income. If you are paying 40%, 50% or 60% (yes, I've seen that and one time 70%) you can't save well enough for other things and most importantly for retirement. 

And if buying for you is a stretch right now, you be the roommate. Also FYI paying rent is NOT throwing money away. You are not a financial failure if you are a renter. 

When I broke my leg a few years ago, I had a "go bag" assembled and refreshed each day that I kept by my side. Phone charger, water bottle, trail mix, book, etc. As attentive as my family members were, having those basics at arms length in one place made me feel a bit more sane. It doesn't eliminate every problem, like assistance around the house, but it made me feel a little less bothersome. I hope the recovery goes well.

I love this idea. Going to do it today if I can. It would help when I need water or just a nibble of something and don't want to bother anyone, especially when I'm upstairs and the rest of the family is downstairs. 

Which is best for an executor: relative or Lawyer?

There are pros and cons to both. 

Relatives often come free. But you have to not just trust them but make sure they are up to the task of handling an estate. I've done it for four relatives and it's a nightmare, especially when you have people carping at you.

Lawyer knows what he or she is doing but the oversight comes at a cost. And what if that person turns out not to be trustworthy. Sure you have legal resource but if he or she runs off with your money you have to have money to chase the person down and even then you may not get back your funds. 

I'll say this. I am NOT agreeing to be a personal representative or trustee for anybody else. 

So sorry, Michelle. And none of the kids at home to do the housework, right? But, a teachable moment: what unanticipated expenses result from such an accident? Get well soon!

You are so right. I realized how much I was picking up even when they do clean. And the unexpected expenses are real. A little more eating out or bringing in food because I was the main chef. Have to put in an order today for things that will make it easier for me around the house. And would like certain items on both floors because if I'm alone in the house and the item is upstairs and I forget to ask that it be brought downstairs, I'm stuck. 

Thank God I have a ton of extra pillows!!!

My aunt and her husband bought a house without a first-floor bathroom. When her husband developed such a crippling form of early-onset arthritis that he had to retire on disability, it was so difficult for him to go up and down stairs numerous times a day.

My godmother has trouble staying with me overnight for this very reason. She can't do stairs anymore and we have sooooo many stairs! 

I charged the max allowed by the dealership (usually only about $2500) for the points - and of course paid it off in full when the bill came - then wrote a check for the rest.

Okay, one way. But clearly if you do this be sure to pay off the credit card before the due date. Also remember that having a lot of outstanding debt even within the month you pay it off can lower your credit score. 

Yes, Michelle, you are getting an early learning on accessibility and mobility in your own home and other public buildings! I'm making a list of those things that will be helpful to update and improve as we age, such as grab bars, walk in shower, elevated toilets, entry ramps....especially if aging in place or planning to downsize, want to have those updates for accessibility in place. We remodeled & built an addition to our home when we were 30 something -- a lot has changed in our lives in the last twenty plus years.

This accident has me thinking the same thing. I have trouble reaching counters and sitting at the table in the wheelchair. Right now as I type my wheelchair is crushed against my desk because it's not really high enough. 

And I can't say enough about how our bathrooms are so not equipped for this. Separate room for the toilet. Cute in plans but a PAIN now. 

I moved down to the DC area in 2005. I thought housing prices looked absurd. And thus far, I still haven't bought. But I have been saving, and keeping almost the same lifestyle as my income increased. And as I know the area, I have become VERY good at entertaining myself on the cheap. No spouse or kids, so that is a little different than some, but just the monthly fees and property taxes on a place in my neighborhood would be 1/2 to 2/3s of the rent I pay. And I only have to call the front desk if something breaks (garbage disposal recently). Heck, they even change the light bulbs in the fixtures they provide for me. I guess they don't want the liability of someone trying to change a light bulb while standing on a desk chair and falling down. Would I prefer a bit more space and hardwood floors? Yes. Will I get there eventually when I can max out retirement accounts AND save almost $2000 a month? Yup. At this point, I might just wait and pay cash someday.

Good for you for thinking this way out!

My amazing, brave wife has endured four surgeries in the past five years with each requiring a lengthy recovery that required crutches for an extended period of time. One of her tricks was to use a backpack to carry items around without using her hands, which were obviously busy with crutches. Also look into getting a temporary handicap permit for your vehicle, if you haven't already. Even simple things like walking from the parking lot to a store can be taxing when every step is a struggle.

Thank you! I'm going to have my husband pack my backpack tonight. Also need to get a smaller one than I have because it might tip me over -- more like a hiking backpack. 

For years, I've kept a spreadsheet tracking my income/expenses by month. But after retiring, I found that we were spending way too much. I'd read the many times you've counseled "pour over your numbers and look for places to cut", but blew it off because, I always do that. Much to my chagrin, when I did finally take that advice, I realized that I had been misinterpreting the financial plan provided by my financial planner--instead of having one bucket of money, he'd set up three buckets--one dedicated to regular expenses, and two others for special things I like to do. Once I reallocated my expenses to the correct buckets, we were actually well within our budget AND I've saved an additional $5K to add to our life happens fund! Boy, you can lead a horse to water......but was I drinking?!

Gulp...gulp..gulp! 

Michelle, I feel your pain. I am recuperating from rotator cuff repair surgery, watching more TV than an entertainment critic. It's awful, but one thing that makes it easier is knowing that my savings account has double what I need to cover my insurance out-of-pocket maximum. This is helpful, because I still have to pay for PT, uncovered anaesthesia costs, etc. (WHY is anaesthesia not covered?) This will clean out my savings but I won't go into debt. Happy Thursday.

l hear you. I have pretty good health insurance but my co-pays are up because of the accident. 

I read your book the 21-Day Financial Fast in 2017, and it has changed my life. I never look at worldly things the same and see the difference that it has made on my family and my life. The chapter on tithing was what really hit home for me, because I’ve always struggled to do it at the full 10%. Well I’m happy to say that because of my obedience, I have seen the changes that HE has worked and continuing to work in my life. I just want to say thank you and HIM for letting you be the mouthpiece and operate in your gift to share with those who seek financial liberation.

Bless you!

You and Carolyn at the same time today! Can't wait until you can coordinate a joint chat. She gets questions about relationships that are really about money and you get questions about money that are really about relationships!

Very true. My dream chat too. I'm ready.

I think the last time I did this, I gave a small deposit by personal check ($2K?), signed a promissary note, drove new car home, and my credit union issued a check or wire transfer of some sort. I had a hefty trade-in credit so the total amount was probably $15K or so. Of course, I have impeccable credit and they knew where I lived.

Ask because much easier today. Like I said, I simply wrote a check. 

I had been feeling unsettled the last several months, and I knew it was because my husband and I hadn't done any estate planning. We have young kids, and we don't even have guardians named. Your recent columns gave me the kick in the pants I needed to make the appointment with the lawyer. We go on Monday! Yes, it will cost money - but that is why we have a "life happens" fund. I also finally mailed me in supplemental term life insurance application. We are finally on our way to securing our future - thank you! (And I hope you heal quickly!)

So proud of you! 

I bought my last car at CarMax and wrote a personal check. I had to show my bank balance on my phone to prove I had enough to cover the check (not that it means much, I might have had other outstanding checks they didn't know about, but whatever). I made sure I was *not* on their public wifi when I logged into my bank account. If I had known they wanted that info ahead of time, I would have printed out a statement at home. Previously when buying from an individual I've either brought a check made out by the bank for the agreed upon price, or cash when the car was super cheap (like $2000).

Smart!

My husband is recovering from shoulder surgery (but we're over the worst of it). He hates asking for help. I DON'T READ MINDS! Nothing frustrates me more than him trying to do something himself, creating a mess, then I have to do the original task PLUS clean up. So, please, ask for help. Ignore the sighs.

You are right. The mind reader comments is of on point.

My husband said even if he sighs, ignore it. But it's hard. I hate to be a bother.

However, I'm learning to lean on people.

Hi Michelle - sorry about being laid up. More time for reading! My 21yo daughters will graduate from college this spring. I have been encouraging them to read your columns and study up on how to be wise with their money. I am pretty wise with money (thank you!!), but I am also a believer in doing fun things when you're young. Can you point to a good learning direction for the just-out-of-college crowd?

Point the finger at you!

I mean that. Your daughter will learn more from you than anywhere I can point you or her.

Still, these chats, the Post Sunday biz section and definitely get her a subscription to Consumer Reports.

Trust me on this: No matter what, keep asking for what you need. If they give you attitude, give 'em 'tude right back! Been there, done that.

:)

In the last few years someone! decided the "natural" height of a seat should be more of a squat--I know too much info. Unfortunately the rise has spread to public toilets which means looking for a handicap stall. We have a raised seat from when I had hip surgery and we kept it as both of us find it much more comfortable. It may be worth it to invest in a raised seat for your home.

I know TMI but I'm so into raised toilet seats right now.

Got to go find one after the chat. Have one from the days when my father-in-law lived with us but need another one on both floors. 

This has been one of my must-have requirements since fracturing my knee when I was in my 20's. Had no one had a place with a first-floor bedroom, I would have needed to be in rehab for weeks if not months. Remember, you don't really need a first floor master bedroom (although it's nice if you have); just a full bath on the first floor, and a room you can convert into a bedroom in an emergency.

Exactly. I'm seriously going to get some quotes after this is all over. We have a half bath on the first floor but need something more substantial. 

Some kinds of insurance will help pay for things like lift chairs. Think long term disability insurance and long term care in particular. They are delighted to spend some bucks to keep you out of a place they will have to pay for. Sure they won't do it for a temporary situation like a broken bone, but you can check out the policy for the future. Also, if you are really unable to care for yourself, it might count towards the days you have to use up before being eligible to use your long term care insurance benefits (probably 180 days). You might have to document it. So contact the companies and see what they need. Even if you don't qualify, it is decent information to have.

Thank you!

As an object lesson to the rest of us, could you tell us how a pension apparently worth $25,000 a year was overlooked? I remember where I have worked and for how long, and when I worked for a company that provided pensions it was required, under federal law, to mail out statements about the pension fund's financial status. How did this happen?

Such a long story and involved some past stuff -- like running from an abusive husband - and not wanting to file paperwork that could track her down or result in some legal action because of a changed social security number. 

My mother was a very complicated person, which is why I ended up being raised by my grandmother.

I started to have this conversation with my parents last year after my dad had a stroke in his mid-60's. I said that we should start thinking about the future and asked them if they wanted to stay in their (2 story) house and do some remodeling or sell it and get a one story house. After talking with contractors, going over finances and looking at some one story houses, they decided to sell their house and have a one-story manufactured home installed on a lot they already own next door to my sister and brother-in-law. I was willing to support either decision but we are all looking forward to this change and it will hopefully allow them to stay in their home longer. (The house should be delivered next week, super exciting!)

So glad you guys planned ahead!

When we moved into our current house, part of the reason for moving was my parents were moving in with us, and we needed a full bedroom/bathroom on the first floor. They're gone now, but it's really nice to have this. Just in case.

It will be a must if we ever move again.

You are probably in pain. Please remind the people around you that it will make you more impatient and more tired than you usually are. It has a real impact. Even on top of the exhaustion from not being able to use your leg muscles to do the work they are meant for, moving yourself. People get tired using little bitty arm muscles to do the work of legs.

Funny you should say this. My husband, who I adore, was getting fussy with me for being so fussy. He apologized yesterday and we are back in love again!

Actually, for able-bodied folks this is the more natural posture, and makes the process *ahem* easier. But for those of us with mobility considerations, it isn't desirable (or in some cases, even possible).

I hear you but it sure is a pain now. 

Thank you all for your kind wishes and concern. Just FYI, I'm going to take a break from the chat next week to rest. The pain medication makes me sleepy!

As always appreciate your participation in the chat. Take care.

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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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