Color of Money Live: Build your savings for times like these

Jan 10, 2019

Send in your questions to Washington Post nationally syndicated personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary.

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Thank you for joining me today. I have a great guest, Dr. Carolyn McClanahan, a physical turned financial planner. Take advantage of her knowledge.

Let's get started.

My Roth IRA fund advisor suggested I switch from my current PPO health plan to a high-deductible health plan combined with an HSA. Do you think this is a smart move toward increasing savings? I am right on target for my retirement savings without this switch. I'm 52 and go to regular check ups, but worry that as I get older, a major health issue could negate the savings. Thanks!

For most people, the HSA will be the better deal, especially if they don't use their health care much. You get a tax deduction now and tax free savings for health expenses. If you have a future health issue, the money you've accumulated can be used for the health expenses. And if you don't have large health expenses in the future, you can use that money for retirement, although you will have to pay taxes on any withdrawals that are not for health expenses.

It is important that you have enough set aside now if you do have a large health expenses. Ideally, your HSA balances will go up over time and can cover any large event in the future. 

I am about to turn 70 1/2 and need to start withdrawing from my IRA. The bank has closed or merged and I don’ t know where to start tracking it, HELP. Do you have any suggestions? This happened some years back. Thank you!

I'm a little confused - do you not know where the account is located anymore? If not, you can try to find your assets using your states site to find lost funds (or the state in which the assets were located) - here is a LINK

I know you've been writing a lot about managing your cash during the shutdown. I thought you'd be interested to see that some of the regulated utilities in the state are taking actions to assist affected customers. Verizon and Pepco both have the ability to set up payment arrangements and connect customers to other assistance programs. Here's a Verizon link: https://www.verizon.com/about/news/impacted-government-shutdown-verizon-has-your-back I know you always advocate making payments directly for someone in need so here's a link to Pepco's Gift of Energy page where you can make a direct payment on someone's behalf: LINK

Thanks for sharing. 

To hold or sell? Retired 67 owner of paid off single family brownstone. Rental income has been around $2k/mo. Currently planning a remodel, which should bring in $3600 - $4k/mo. The mirror image of my blg across the street sold for $730K last year after remodel. If I spend 200K on the remodel, I think I would qualify for $500k married capital gains exemption and so could sell for around the same. Or, I could forgo the remodel and sell "as is" for maybe $400k. Post remodel I would spend the additional income on fun stuff, such as traveling. No kids. What's the optimum long term approach? (Am told my 401K should be adequate through age 92 with current rental income.) JJ

There are some mitigating factors here - where do you plan to live after you sell? Is your home aging friendly? How long do you want to deal with renters? If you plan to buy another home, you may not be able to get what you want to replace it?  

In general, if you plan on selling a home and have to decide to remodel it, remember that it usually takes longer than planned and costs more than you expect. My recommendation is if you plan to live in it, and the remodel will bring you joy, then you do it. If it isn't something that excites you, think long and hard before you do. Just because the housing market is strong now doesn't mean it will be strong when the remodel is done. 

Several chatters wrote in to the Post's "Free Range" chat yesterday with suggestions for economical dishes to make, which are especially appropriate for Federal workers who won't be getting paid tomorrow due to the partial shutdown. Of course, others might want to use them too. LINK

 I hadn't seen this so thanks. I know I can alway use information on how to shave food costs. Thanks.

Just wanted to give a 'shout out' -- to YOU... THANK you for your persistent -- shall I say 'dogged' -- and consistent reminders of the need of a 'What If' AND an Emergency Fund. As a long time Federal employee who opted for public service for stability and security, I initially resisted. With your consistent messaging and reminders, I did get around to building both funds -- thankfully. With thanks to you -- I've built enough of a cushion thru the end of February -- albeit prioritizing house payments (mortgage, utilities, food) -- and, to the extent possible (swallowing some pride) requesting deferment, suspension, or completely stopping misc allotments. Thus far, everyone I've spoken to or reached out to has been completely supportive and sympathetic. I'm hopeful this shutdown doesn't last for "months or years" -- that is an anathema and untenable for so many reasons and on so many levels. And, for the record knowing that you are the spouse of a federal worker -- I am NOT supportive of the shutdown..... Lastly, the only money I've been comfortable spending has been my FSA funds. So, with the unrequested time off I'm been able to schedule needed medical appointments and not worry about copay costs. Many thanks again Long time Federal follower

Read Michelle's column: Unsure what money to save and what to invest? Here’s the answer.

You just made my day! Thank you. 

It's funny you talk about me being so "dogged." I get a lot of push back about having an emergency fund AND life happens fund from many gov't workers who had/have a false sense of security. I just had dinner with a great couple. They both have federal jobs and they both are about to miss a paycheck. But they were laughing and totally chilling. Why?

They took the class my husband and I teach at our church, "Mastering Money in Marriage." They dug out of a debt and had been boosting their savings. They were not stressed at all because they too heeded my warnings long before this shutdown.

No job is safe.

I am in my fifties, married with kids who are now adults and with about $75,000 in a savings account. I am not very savvy about financial matters, and though I have always worked and saved I come from a culture that stresses easily accessible funds (like under your mattress!) I have only recently opened an account with fidelity and I am putting about $300 in per month (7%). At this point, my account is losing money, but because of my age, should I go ahead and contribute 15% or should I wait until things pick up? I have an old but serviceable car and no mortgage or major expenses right now. My husband also works but is not really good at saving.

Keep saving! This is called dollar cost averaging. When the market is not doing well, you are buying things on sale! Investing is a long time proposition - don't look at your accounts too often or you'll drive yourself crazy.

I will be 65 in 15 days and recently retired from federal service on October 31, 2018. I had been sick on and off for a while and had been off work since the first of September. I exhausted my annual and sick leave and slipped into my LWOP status. I had planned to continue working at another job as a registered nurse post retirement on a part time basis to increase my income and pay off debts... the plan had been to delay tapping my social security until age seventy and to be debt free but the prolonged illness had me reconsider and I hope to receive my first social security check by next month. While less than I would like, it is enough to live off . My question is this.... what to do with my TSP??? I had made imprudent withdrawals in the past and have a huge tax debt along with consumer debt of about sixty thousand dollars. Which is about what I have in TSP funds. Should I use the remaining TSP to pay off my debt. Roll it over to another retirement or investment account or use the withdrawal as a downpayment to purchase a small home. Thankfully my health is much improved and I can return to work if someone will hire me. I lowered my costs by moving in with family and friends temporarily. I didn't anticipate another 30 years having to live on so much less and how devastating even a short term health challenge can be even when insured.

You will have a huge tax bill withdrawing your TSP all at once. It will also increase how much tax you pay on your social security. Don't do it! Instead, figure out how much you can take out each year in a low tax bracket - consider working with an accountant or hourly financial planner to do this. Then create a plan to pay off your debt using your current funds and the small amounts you can take out of your TSP over time. 

Eric Yoder provided this quote from the OPM guidance: The employee remains enrolled in FSAFEDS, but eligible health care claims incurred during a non-pay 17 18 status will not be reimbursed until the employee returns to a pay status and allotments are successfully restarted. I'm not sure what "17 18" status is, but I read that as saying that I have to carry the "float" on any expenses that I incur that happen while I am on unpaid furlough but that, even if we aren't paid for the furlough time, as soon as we are back to work, they will process those claims as if we were regularly employed during the shut down. Can you confirm this? I can pay those bills until we are back to work, but if incurring the expenses during the shut down means they can't be taken out of the Flexible Spending Account, then I will have to wait and take sick leave for the doctor/dentist/whatever appointments after we are back to work. Which seems like a really, really dumb result. We are going to need to be working full out to catch up once the government reopens.

Since I'm in this chat don't have time to find clarification for you but in reading through the guidelines from OPM (If you haven't and you're a federal worker, please do), you should be okay to go to the doctors. You may have to front the money but you will get it back if you have the funds in your flexible account. Anyone know different?

So, I started the fast and then injured myself. Doc says no driving. And not much walking for a while. So, if something is more than 2 blocks away from metro, I have to uber. Fun. At first I thought about waiting and doing the fast later, but then I realized the fast will help me pay for all of those stupid uber/lyft rides I have to take. And I check both apps to see which is cheapest before I ride. I'm still thinking of doing it again fairly soon when I don't have those expenses, but I'm still glad I'm doing it. No question - just a thanks.

The fast like anything can be adjusted if something happens. I think you are keeping to the sprit of it so I'm okay with you getting those rides. As many regulars know I broke my right ankle in the fall so I totally feel you. Get your rides. 

And you can always do another fast later in the year once you've healed. 

For those who don't know the fast involves spending 21 days not spending any money that is not necessary - not eating out, no movies, no shopping at the mall. And you can't use credit (although with uber/lyft you have to and that's okay given your situation). There's a book that I wrote that goes along with it in case you want more structure. 

Good luck with the rest of the fast and hope you get better soon. My foot healed well but still very sore, especially in this cold weather. 

I realize this is a question that Google should be able to answer, but I'm still confused - can I set up a 529 for an unnamed beneficiary? Specifically, I'm planning to adopt an older child from the foster system in the coming years and would love to get a head-start on saving for their education now. My friends are having babies and starting 529s for them, I'd love to start a 529 for the kid I'll adopt in 5 or 6 years. And if I can't do that, are there any tax-advantaged way to save for their education? (Knowing, full well, that I'll take the tax hit if I don't end up adopting/it isn't used by the child I adopt.)

You can open a 529 account in your name and transfer it to the adopted child once you officially adopt. However, you can't transfer it to a child who is not a family member and can't open up an account without a beneficiary.

I've heard you speak at several FPA events, both in Florida and nationally. You really know your stuff, so thank you for your wisdom and guidance over the years!

You are so kind! Thank you. 

Hello Mrs. Singletary, Happy New Year! This is my first time writing but my husband Devon Brown has written in many times and you have even posted a few of his responses. I share that to say that I am not considered the financial genius in our marriage but believe we should be making a few changes financially. We are currently debt free (consumer debt) but still have two mortgages. Our rental property is not making us any money currently and will not for almost ten years. We also are in a position where I have to work to maintain our lifestyle which gives me alarm being we are expecting our first child next month. My questions: Should we hold on to a rental property that is not making us any money? We live in Fort Worth, Texas and our rental is in Landover, Maryland. Also how do I get my husband to agree to lower our expenses so that he can take care of everything on his salary without leaving my job? Thanks for your advice. Diamond Brown

Carolyn here... 

I am not a fan of rental properties, especially rental properties in other states. They often required professional management, it is hard to keep an eye on the property, and you never know when disaster will strike. 

It is good for you to figure out how to cut expenses. I caution all women that dropping out of the work force entirely can hurt your earning potential for the rest of your life and encourage them to do something to keep their skills up while they are taking time off to rear their children.

I'm with Carolyn on the rental property. I'm a fan of passive income (low-cost index funds). Tell your sweetie and future daddy I said (put it on me and Carolyn) that he should also heed the wisdom of his very smart wife. 

Let the rental go and with it all the stress that it's probably causing you. You'll have enough to deal with when the baby comes. 

Then

-- Work to make sure you are building a good emergency fund and life happens fund, especially since after the baby comes you or your husband may want to take more time off than you planned. I stayed home for six months with each kid and we could do that because we had savings. 

-- Once you get rid of the rental and the baby comes start a 529 plan for him or her.

-- Enjoy life and that baby!

My husband and I are federal government employees and work for departments that are part of the shutdown. For the first time in our 20 years of marriage, we have no income arriving in our checking account. I see this moment as the first test of our life preserves. We are afloat for now and should be able to keep our heads above water with minimal adjustments if the shutdown continues for a couple more months. Do you have advice on how to explain our situation to our 11- and 13-year old daughters without causing undue concern but in a manner that shows them why planning for the unexpected is important? Sincerely, Fatimah Mateen Alexandria, VA

I'm so glad you have an emergency fund. This is an excellent time to teach your children about the importance of saving. I frame this as "Everyone has problems, and because we saved, we have the resources and resiliency to weather what is going on." Being out of work is a problem, and stress that you will get through it, even if you have to discover other roads to take. 

As many of you know my husband is a federal worker and is furloughed. We've got savings but that doesn't mean we aren't stressed. You save for emergencies but not this nonsense of holding people's pay hostage for a political fight.

Nonetheless, we have shared with our children the situation and that we are cutting back just as an extra precaution. The point is to share but scare. 

And in sharing you also get to point out that you need a rainy day fund because it always rains. Tell them this is why you have said "no" to some things -- for this very day. 

 

Hi Michelle. My family doesn't have a budget. We generally just buy what we need and want (though most would consider us frugal). I feel ok about this because I know how much we save each month (>30% of our gross income). We also max out our 401ks and still meet our college savings goals and annual giving. Given this, it seems fine. What do you think?

People operate differently and you have to find what works for you. It is great that you are saving 30% of your gross income. Still , take stock of how much you spend and what you spend it on periodically so you can make sure your savings will match your needs in the future. 

Think of budgeting as using a GPS when you also know where you are going. Sometimes I use it in case there is a better route. My husband likes it because Google maps will tell you which route is faster based on the traffic.

More information -- a budget -- helps provide structure and can confirm what you know in your head keeping in mind that we all can always do better. I know I can. 

Thanks to your advice I'm well on my way to paying off my student loans, just a few more months! and saving for a down payment for my first house. No other debt and credit score 750+. I would really like someone to sit down with me and tell me if I'm on the right track to get a mortgage in several months time but I'm unsure who to talk to. There are housing counselors in my area (I don't live in DC), but my income is higher than they allow for counseling. I belong to a credit union but they have very strict mortgage standards so I'm unsure I would be able to obtain a mortgage through them (and I course would shop around anyway.) Should I ask them to review my finances/plan anyway? Do you have any ideas? Thanks!

A credit union is a great place to see if you qualify for a mortgage and for how much. For now, you can use this calculator to give you an idea: LINK

Definitely talk to your credit union and a bank. They will absolutely sit down with you and walk through what you can afford, etc. 

Try looking at Wikipedia (or googling) for your original bank name (I assume you know it). Wikipedia often has the line of mergers/acquisitions that took place. It should identify the last bank merger. For example, Sovran Bank (an old Virginia bank) merged with others and renamed itself along the way. Any accounts at Sovran would ultimately have ended up in Bank of America. So if I had a Sovran IRA, BoA would be the first bank I would start looking at.

Thanks for the tip.

Just a mini-testimonial about achieving one of my annual savings goal. I can't remember if I read about this technique in your column, but someone suggested the following. Put money into an account in the following manner: week 1, $1; week 2, $2; week 3, $3. At the end of 52 weeks you'll have saved over $1,300. I'm fortunate that I can actually do this in increments of $10, and I've saved over $13,000 per year doing this for the past 5 years. I finished my savings for 2018 and just made my first deposit for $10 for 2019. I do this in addition to maxing out my 401K and putting money into a Schwab account each week. It's actually been a fun way to save, and I look forward to each Friday morning when I move my weekly contribution from my checking account into a designated savings account. Love the work you do - keep it up.

Wow. I'm so impressed. Haven't heard of this savings method but sounds awesome.

And did I mention I have three children up for adoption? (Lol) 

don't you think Coast Guard telling their furloughed people to have yard sales is kind of offensive? I do, I don't like it when people make light of all this either.

That advice truly wasn't well thought out. 

Carolyn is nicer than me.

It was idiotic. And tone deaf. 

It's like the advice from OPM that people should ask their landlords if they could do some maintenance in exchange for a break in rent. 

Who are these people writing this stuff?

I am using a financial person who says she is a fiduciary and part of big company. She invests my money. She has a Schwab account that I can view, but she controls. She indicates her advantage is that she can buy into mutual funds that I cannot. As I understand it, she does not do the actual selection herself but has a group in her organization that does. Her overall return, after taking our her management fee, has been about half of the S&P index, but more than if I put it into CDs. I don't really have the inclination or knowledge to do this on my own, but not sure that other financial people would be better. What do you think?

First, make sure you hire a fee only fiduciary. And make sure they are doing financial planning as a good financial plan is important to provide applicable investment advice. 

How much is she charging you? Charging 1% just to pick mutual funds is too much!! You can use a roboadvisor to manage the investments at a fraction of the cost.

Your other option is to hire an hourly planner who helps you pick your asset allocation and helps you rebalance your portfolio periodically. 

For the person with the question about renovating their brownstone or not, it wasn't clear from the question whether the homeowner is living in the home or not (the point about rental income made me wonder). If the owner is not living there, they will not be able to take advantage of the capital gains exclusion. That benefit only applies to a home that has been the taxpayer's principal residence for a certain period of time.

This is correct. I assumed they were living in the home and that it could be a duplex, as I see this often. Should have asked... If they are using it as a rental property and have not lived in it two of the last five years, they would not get the exclusion.

My husband's company hasn't put money into his HSA or 401k for many months now (since September?). He has contacted BOLI and is contacting lawyers this week. It is apparently a company wide issue. What else can he do? All those deductions are coming out of his paycheck, though. and we had to make elections for this year not knowing if he was going to be getting the money. For all we know the deductions for taxes aren't being paid either -- how do we find that out before we file?

This is illegal from a number of fronts - the employer will be in trouble with the IRS and they are breaking ERISA rules on the 401k. The employer could go to jail if this is the case. 

Either way, you will file your tax return as if you paid your taxes and most likely the IRS will sort it out. Talk to your accountant for a definitive answer. 

Please, please right away contact state and local officials about this. I might also stop contributions to 40k(k) until I know for sure the money is being sent to financial company running the plan. Make this a priority!

Soulmates of the man who's been a millionaire since he was 8 years old telling folks that he can "relate" to the plight of the furloughed Federal employees. "Let them eat cake," huh?

Right on the money!

Early in our marriage we had to budget like fiends in order to just barely to survive financially. Since then we've reviewed our spending and drawn up budgets a few times, like when we bought our first house, then later when we sold it and bought a more expensive house, as well as when we bought our first car together (had to make payments because we didn't have enough savings yet to pay cash; we've paid cash for subsequent vehicles). But in between these times, we found that we had an almost instinctive sense of how much we could (or couldn't) spend on things.

I hear you. What I don't want to happen is others who aren't as discipline think that having this all in your head and a "sense" of things takes place of a good budget. 

And keep in mind a budget is just saying, I want to spend this on that so I can save, invest, live well. 

Putting things down on paper or a spreadsheet helps my  husband and I see the big picture. For example during one of our annual budget meetings we realized we were saving too much in tax-advantaged retirement savings at the expense of having more liquid funds. Something that is vital right now that he's furloughed. We wanted to err on the side of having a bigger emergency and life happens fund rather than throwing everything extra into retirement funds. But now that our kids are nearly done with college (at least two of them) we are looking to get back to putting more into retirement. 

Budget = Big picture

Been a whirlwind year for hubby and I. Have gone from debt to almost debt free (thank you, Michelle), bought our first home together (would have waited til debt free, but in Florida rents are rising way too fast and was able to save $500 per month), and are now looking at paying taxes under the new tax bill for the first time in years. Wanted to remind retirees to evaluate increases in their Social Security benefits. For 2 people on the cusp, recent raises are pushing us over the top, when added to my small part-time job. (Lost our EITC for my disabled husband as he aged out, and we also lose the extra deduction for disability this year under the new law.) A bit of a shock, but handling by conserving even more (financial fast month) and by deciding to move some savings into an IRA for the tax credit. Your columns and advice changed our ways in our "old age". Thank you.

Y'all making me feel so good today. Thank you!

And you did the heavy lifting. I only gave you the push up.

FDIC's Bank Find - LINK - is an easier search tool. Enter the bank information you know (name, state, etc) and search. The results will tell you the current bank.

You guys are so very helpful. 

Takes a village!

As a contractor, I won't be reimbursed for this shutdown, but luckily (thanks to years of reading your columns and this chat) I'll be OK for a while. I AM job hunting, as I can't afford the instability of this administration any longer.

So glad you have the savings. And can identity with your feelings about how the politicians keep using these shutdowns and threats of shutdowns to play their games. 

Shameful. And inhumane! 

We're thinking about setting up a 529 for our 2 year old great-great-nephew. Would it be better to set it up with my husband or me as the beneficiaru and then transfer it over to him or one of our other young relatives when we figure out who will actually need it?

It is best to set it up for the intended recipient knowing you can change it to another relative in the future if the need occurs. Make sure you have contingent owners to take care of it if something happens to you.

Elsewhere in the Post today there is a report of how pharmaceutical companies are aggressively resisting the approval and use of certain generic drugs. With her experience in both medicine and money, would Dr. McClanahan like to comment on proposals for universal health care, cutting health care costs, etc.?

I have written about this extensively and it would take days to go over everything I have written. In a nutshell, we have four health care systems - government paid and government provided - the VA, armed services, Indian health, and some of Medicaid; Government paid/privately provided - Medicare; privately paid/privately provided - private insurance; and the uninsured.

The key is this country needs to pick one health care system and implement it. Medicare for all is making headway, but a lot needs to be worked out.

The main thing we need to do is fix the cost of health care - our overhead is 25% to 30% and other countries have 5% to 15% overhead. If we could cut overhead to 15%, we would save $400 Billion per year - enough to pay for primary care for all.

One idea to cut the cost of care is to provide primary care for everyone as a public service...

You can read more in my blog - LINK

Our family had a very nice farm house out in Iowa. We decided to rent it out because the actual farm land was being farmed by other farmers. Three good years of rentals followed by one idiot who decided to gut a deer buck in the kitchen and destroy a very nice kitchen. And then he left without finishing the lease. That experience alone made us to never rent out anything to anyone ever again. Get a bond fund if you want income in retirement.

Great story. Thank you for sharing. 

Or a low-cost index fund for growth. 

My 13 year old used a gift card he received for Christmas but with tax, the total came to 22 cents more than the value of the card. I told him not to worry about it. He taped 22 cents to a note that says "I don't like being in debt" to the door so I'd see it the next morning when I left for my class. They do watch and learn! We are also affected by the shut-down so I think he was a little worried as well. Fortunately we have a Michelle inspired "emergency" fund so we'll be ok.

What a sweet story. Thank you for sharing and give that kid a hug for me!

Here's a link to the money challenge that was previously mentioned. I find that it's really easy to do this through about October. Then around Christmas, it gets tougher. One year I reversed it, knowing that I would be stretched a little thin at the holidays. LINK

Took at peak at the link. I like the method. And your twist.

With my workplace 401K I have to option to contribute funds on either a pre-tax or post-tax basis. I'm 25 years old and likely in the lowest tax bracket I will ever be in. Should I hold off on pre-tax contributions until I am older and have a higher tax rate or should I be splitting them 50/50 regardless of tax rate? Thanks and keep up the great work!

YES YES YES. Do the contributions post tax because it will get to grow tax free forever. Smart move to start saving early. 

For those of us who might be contemplating a mid-life career change --- voluntarily or otherwise --- could Dr. McClanahan tell us something about what motivated her to move to an entirely different line of work, and how she went about it?

I went back to school for fun because my husband and I couldn't find a financial planner who did more than investments. I fell in love with it, and it took me about two years to contemplate changing careers, and another three years before I cut the cord from medicine. The key is to save for the transition, and make sure you feel really good about your new career before letting go of your skills for your old career. Even though I have had a successful practice for 15 years now, I still keep up my medical license and volunteer as a doctor just in case the world falls apart. 

I so like this woman! I really l like how she thinks about money and truly looking out for regular folks.

While I sympathize with the current plight of federal workers and the government shutdown, eventually these workers will get paid as has happened in the past. By comparison thousands of workers from companies such as Sears and Kmart to mention a few who make much less than the average federal worker have lost or will lose their jobs and are without funds. Companies such as utilities, restaurants, etc. who are giving federal workers a break of sorts need to extend the same thing to workers in the private sector as well.

I agree and this is a huge systemic issue. 

Hi Michelle, thanks for all you do. I was reviewing my finances at the beginning of this year and I had a eureka moment. I've found it tough to build up a 6-month emergency fund (I have about 2.5 mos. saved) but I put aside a portion of my monthly paycheck for clothing. I love clothes! But I realized that no clothes I buy will make me feel better than have 6 months of expenses in the bank. Bam, clothing fund plus some additional cutbacks are going into the emergency fund, and I should be able to build it up to my goal by the end of 2019.

So proud of you. And guess what? I have very little in my budget for clothes. How do I do that? 

I probably go to the mall maybe, maybe three times a year.

I also try not to shop often online either. I just make what I have in my wardrobe work. So what that folks see me in the same outfits. They are not going to support me in retirement.

One word: Manager. We pay 10% of the monthly income to a local company that handles all the hassles. It's well worth the price.

One word: Sell.

They aren't making any money. And she's having a baby. 

I know rentals work for some. But many doing this shouldn't be. 

You may have a question more for Hax, how to “convince him” to lower expenses. That is a worry - he may like living more comfortably, and not being the only breadwinner. What if he doesn’t want you to quit? What if you are at home 3 months and decide you are crawling up the walls and need to go back. Take the maternity leave, maybe negotiate part-time if you can. We are a two-income household, but I went part-time after the 2013 furlough. My then-8th grader and 5th grader needed me around more. Sometimes older kids need you more than a baby - so if you drop out, prepare to drop out for 20 years. (Based on my observations of friends...) Disclosure - my spouse and I worked full time when the kids were small (had a great daycare & school aftercare)

Great advice. And totally agree about the older kids. I found my parenting had to really kick in gear once they became teenagers. Needed to watch things like a hawk. And it paid off. All are doing well in college (Dean's lists, etc.). No issues with drugs, alcohol etc. Because they know their eagle-eye mama is right here in their faces. 

Thank you so much for joining me today. Carolyn has agreed to answer some leftover questions so look for them in an upcoming column. And please, if you don't already, sign up for the weekly newsletters. It helps me and you.

Also, just a note. I'm taking some vacation time in the next two weeks. Much needed. 

The next chat will return Thurs. Jan. 31. And my guest is a CPA who will be talking about budgeting. I hope you mark your calendar and join me. 

Take care, especially those of you who are affected by the shutdown. 

This is why we love you, Michelle. ;-)

Had to send this through. Thanks. 

In This Chat
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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Color of Money Q&A Archive
Carolyn McClanahan
Dr. McClanahan is a physician turned financial planner. In addition to working in her financial planning practice, Dr. McClanahan speaks regularly on the interplay between health and financial issues, particularly regarding aging, chronic illness, end of life, long term care, health care reform, and health care costs.
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