Color of Money Live: In defense of the 'staycation'

Apr 25, 2019

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Thanks for joining me today. 

As always, would love to here your Thursday Testimonies. Have you gotten out of debt? Met your savings goals? 

Also, today's newsletter is about taking a summer vacation. Should you if you're deeply in debt? 

Let's get started. 

Hi, I'm about 3-4 payments away from paying off my student loan debt; $42,460.14. I have money in savings and I'm wondering if I should take money from savings to pay off the debt in full...saving about $55 in interest. What are your thoughts?

Make sure to leave yourself a small cushion, say $1,000. After that, I say get that monkey off your back today!

Then quickly build back up your savings with the student loan payments you were making. 

The other day I made the mistake of buying one too many perennial plants at the hardware store. Since it was still in perfect condition after only a day, I wanted to return it since it was $50. But because they don't have any employees out in the parking lot where these $50 plants are located, if I return it, the manager most likely will assume I took my one day old receipt and then grabbed an existing plant from the parking lot to "return." (My friend who is a store manager says that sham returns are how so much of a store's losses occur.) I'm not sure if it is worth the $50 return to have the store manager quietly point me out to other employees that I was probably doing a sham return but having no way to prove it. I really feel for people who have to deal with this "guilty until proven innocent" on a daily basis while shopping.

I would feel NO guilt AT ALL! Not shouting at you. Just want to get your attention. You have a receipt. You don't want the plant and per store rules you can return it. 

Sir, ma'am go get your $50. Today! 

Further, I see a lot of people get into debt or lose money worrying about what other people think. Only YOU can make yourself feel guilty. 

As they said in my beloved Baltimore back in the day, "Poot" them that try to make you feel guilty when none is required. 

You commented in last week's CHAT, that you love tax season, because you can see everything all together at one time. I take it to mean, all your statements, funds, etc. I have prepared a document for my household, the "state of our union" that I've completed annually, (for many years) in the first week or so of January, that gives us the balances of 12/31. Now that we are on the downhill side of our fifties, I've made this a quarterly document for review. When everything has posted at end of each quarter, I fill out my form, yes, with pencil & paper ! And total everything up. At the bottom of the sheet, I have our property values included as well, they tend to be static -- so no real changes there. However, our 401K contributions, the market do make a difference. We get closer to the goal each quarter! We have different accounts in different institutions as well, some CD's which may be designated savings pots, for different goal/activity/life events. I enjoy watching the growth, and how I plan for future things. I'm watching one CD maturing soon, that will be designated for our funerals; another, will be designated savings for long term care. The aforementioned document is kept with my booklet, "What You Need To Know" which outlines final preparations, a document finder, account list, etc. Since I am the "family" manager/banker/accounts payable, I need to have all things in order for someone to follow after me. Since becoming co-representative for a sibling's estate, I have seen first hand at what all needs to be organized & easy to find/handle. Now, to get the other estate documents prepared! Thanks, Michelle, for your wisdom. I've gleaned some of the above as advice from others @ WaPo, who have written on estate planning subject matter as well.

Funny thing is a lot of people got a kick out of me saying I love tax time. But I do. Because no matter how good you are at budgeting, keeping track tax time forces you to look at all aspects of your finances.

-- Income

-- Expenses

-- Debt

-- Savings or the lack thereof. Retirement savings helps your tax situation as does saving in a 529 plan. My husband and I went from owing the state to a small refund mostly because of the large amount of money we put into each of our kids college savings funds. 

-- Overall net worth, which is what you have been doing.

So don't just hand over all your document to a tax professional or tuck them away if you do your own taxes. Look at the numbers and make sure you are on track for whatever you need to be on track for when it comes to your financial health. 

I LOVE the staycation concept. I was looking forward to a week of staycation, this year, but d/t being a caregiver for my 91 yo mom, and driving her to MD appts, etc. I have used most of my vacation time for such....and I earn 4 weeks a year! I had actually plotted out a week at home just to do some catch up things; and a week of staycation, visiting local state parks (day trips, events, etc), being a visitor to my own city/area. Oh well, I guess there is another week, in another year, down the road I will get to do this. Staycations are an excellent concept. Enjoy it if you can have one. And yes, sometimes we have used for home projects as well. Sometimes, you just have to do that!

Read Michelle's column: If you’re in debt, you don’t deserve a vacation

For your mom, thank you for bing a caregiver. 

But please try to find time for yourself -- even one day. See if you can get friends or family to give you a reprieve. Or if you can afford it hire a health care assistant to stay with mom while you take some time off.

I've been a caregiver for my grandfather, grandmother, disabled brother, godmother and most recently my father-in-law. And each time I needed a break. With my father-in-law we found a great living assistance facility and had him stay for a month (He had the funds). It allowed us to take a two-week vacation and then have some down time when we returned before his coming back and our giving him 24/7 care. Well worth the money.

Wow - that was a seriously judgmental column. But you ignored an entire aspect of things. I have student loans - should I not go on vacation until they're paid off 6 years from now? Should people with mortgages not go on vacation until they've paid that off - sometimes 20 or 30 years later? Additionally - you look at things in a vacuum. Vacation and time to recharge makes people better employees, better parents, better students - all things that will make them better members of society.

Judgmental, really? What I said was if you are deeply in debt (not your mortgage) then YES you don't get to go on a vacation you cannot afford. That is life and about consequences of your choices. 

Besides not going on a vacation where you fly, rent a hotel room, etc. doesn't mean your life ends or you don't get time off to enjoy life. It means you find things to do so that you live within your means.

So, yes I tell people no vacations until the student loans are gone. But life still goes on. Why can't you enjoy walks in the park, a picnic at a local lake, time with friends? Why do you have to spend thousands of dollars that could go to dig out of consumer debt -- credit cards, student loans, 401k loan?

Take your time. Please. Relax. But that can be done without spending money that you don't really have.

We haven't taken an expensive vacation in about 10 years. We haven't taken any vacation in over a year. In the past two years, we've had to deal with unemployment and major medical and house repair expenses. We're paying down debt at the rate of $2K per month. I spend most weekends doing house repairs and improvements. We won't be taking a vacation until late November. It will be a trip that is at the top of my wife's Bucket List: Hawaii. Will our debt be paid off by then? No. We don't deserve to go? Ask me how much I value your opinion.

You don't have to listen to me, even though I'm right.

It's your life. But the responsible thing would be to wait until you have the money to go to Hawaii, which by the way is one of the MOST expensive places to vacation.

I'm sorry about the unemployment , medical issues, home repairs, etc. 

But yes, you don't deserve what you can't afford. 

I'm not saying never go to Hawaii but wait. 

Wait until you have paid off the consumer debt (I'm not talking about a home loan or even an auto loan). 

Wait until you've built up an emergency fund in case there's another disruption in income or medical emergency. 

And stop defining peace by being on a beach at an expensive location.

You can vacation right in that home you've been fixing up. Enjoy time together. Binge watch movies or shows you don;'t have time to catch up on. Visit friends. Take long walks. 

I try to help people chose financial responsibility. 

But, as I've said, it's your life.

I have a 2017 Mercedes Benz GLC300, a mid sized SUV with only 14k miles. Vehicle is leased (In month 30 of 48) with monthly payment of $850. I can buy out of lease for $40k now...or wait until end of lease (18 months) and buyout for $30k. I have cash invested and am not sure if I should wait until lease end or buyout lease now? Your advice is welcome.

I hate leasing especially high-end, luxury cars. I nearly choke on you're paying $850 a month. 

But okay.

The numbers say get out of the lease now because you're save about $5,300. But keep in mind if you're selling investments you may owe taxes on the gains so factor that in as well. 

You may also be forgoing some gains when the market is pretty great right now. 

 

Is s/he eligible for Family Leave? For personal leave? For sick leave to use to care for her elderly mom? She (it's usually a "she") should look into social services to see if there is some relief for herself. Burnout is not a good thing.

Point taken. Caregivers need to take time for themselves so that they don't burn out. 

I took a very nice vacation last month (no debt, everything paid off) but it was expensive. I looked at my credit card bills for the past couple of months and was shocked to see how much I was spending buying lunch every day. I'm on a mission to bring my own lunch every day - so far I've saved almost $100 over 12 days!

Wow! Good for you. I had one couple who did my 21-Day Financial Fast realize they were spending about $1,500 a month eating out. For real!

They are now taking that money and paying down debt. 

Every few years, I take a week off to rediscover all the Smithsonian museums. They're amazing, they're local, and they are free. There is a reason why millions of people spend lots of money to visit DC. And we can do it for the price of a Metrorail fare.

Exactly.  

Fun doesn't have to be a financial drain. 

I recently paid off my credit card for carrying balances (lowest interest rate) and have started paying off the rewards card "current balance" instead of the "statement balance". I don't really hear much about this and wonder if many realize that paying off your statement balance monthly will avoid interest being charged, but that you are still weeks behind on your debt. My billing cycles are a little over four weeks with another two weeks or so until the payment date. This means I can be two to six weeks behind on payments at any given time. While this is great if all is well and money flow is never interupted, it can be very risky when the cash flow stops for any reason. If money stops you not only don't have money for tomorrow, you also owe for the past two to six weeks. In business we called it inventory float. You buy it and with luck sell it before the bill comes due, but too much float can be a huge risk if sales fall off. I suspect that this was much of the problem for federal employees when the government shut down and why those that had good savings could cover the issue while those who did not got in real budget jams.

Great point. I do the same. But last month I got distracted and forgot to pay my statement balance by like one day. I was charged $1.14 in interest. The only credit card interest I've paid in something like 30 years. 

I'm still mad at myself!

Michelle, I agree with you. The psychological effects of having no debt, will last far longer than any effect of an expensive vacation. We didn’t take a vacation until our 15 year anniversary, when we were both in stable jobs, and able to get out of debt. We were not deprived in the least. We are now retired, and traveling, because we got out of debt, and saved.

Thank you for your testimony! 

Hi, I'm a homeowner with an AGI that came in just under $100,000 this year and it may creep up above that next year. Is there good reason to limit it at $100,000 and if so, what are the best ways to keep it lower?

I'm not sure what you are asking. Are you asking me if you should try to NOT make more money? Or are you asking what tax moves you can make to reduce your tax liability. 

I just was fussing because someone said they were going to not make more money because they had to pay more taxes on the extra income. 

That's crazy. 

If you are concerned about your tax situation and want to make sure you take advantage of all possible deductions and credits now is a good time to make an appointment with a tax professional who can help you do some tax planning. 

Just a shout-out to the Absolutely Amazing Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Some days/times you need to pre-reserve an advance ticket (free but they go FAST) and some (weekday afternoons?) it's walk-up. Highly recommend! See: https://nmaahc.si.edu/visit/passes

Love, love that museum. And it takes multiple visits to see and enjoy everything. Same is true for most museums. Great way to have a staycation. 

Hi Michelle, I participated in one of your chats a few months ago regarding several student loans I was holding and wanting to go on a vacation. I had saved a decent amount for a trip and I was trying to justify a taking a trip before I had everything paid off. I am so happy that I listened to your advice regarding waiting til I got that proverbial debt monkey off of my back before taking a trip. Not only did I have a great deal of satisfaction from sending in that final payment, but I was able to use my vacation savings (that had grown while I was pursuing delayed gratification) to finance a trip (debt free) for my mom and me to go to Peru in February (my mom did cover some food, my dad (who paid his own way) also assisted with food, some tours, and owns an apartment that we all stayed in). It was beautiful and a nice treat weather wise (90 degrees compared to the cold and snow in the DC area at the time!). Thank you as always for your columns and these chats!

Thank you for the update and for listening! 

Seriously, I only have your -- all of you - best interest at heart. 

Maybe it's because I see the end result of people thinking they deserve this and that and then life happens -- job loss, medical issues, kids have too be taken out of college.

Perhaps you won't regret the vacations you couldn't afford. But then don't complain when you have to spend years or decades picking up the financial pieces because you did not heed the wise counsel to live within your means.  Or you have to work until your 70s because you can't afford to retire. 

It's all about balance. I do want you to enjoy life along the way. I just hate seeing the regret when you realize you gave into your sense of entitlement too often to the determine of your long-term financial stability.

Plus the stress of debt later can affect your job, health, marriage and/or other relationships.  

 

I make just north of 100K per year. No CC debt (except mortgage). Need to start an emergency fund. What's a good number? I've heard anything from 10% of annual salary in cash to a full year of net income. There must be a middle ground. Where is it?

Actually experts recommend three to six months of what it cost to run your household. 

Since you are highly compensated I would aim for 9 to 12 months of living expenses since it can take several months to find a similar paying job should you be laid off. 

Wow, you got a lot of nasty responses to your staycation article. I think you struck a nerve! I haven't taken a "real" vacation where I traveled and spent money in a different locale since 2005. Do I feel cheated? No. And, I'm not even in debt except for my mortgage! I'm lucky that I get six weeks paid vacation a year. I alternate between taking a week off to do work on my house to taking a week off to go to local museums, parks and lunch out, to taking Mondays off for a month or two.

Those nasty comments don't bother me one little bit. 

What does bother me is taking my advice out of context or trying to is sound like I'm crazy to suggest people live within their means. 

And point of clarification, I certainly did not meant to say you can't take a vacation if you have a mortgage. I'm talking to people who are carrying debt they know they need to get rid of before they "treat" themselves. 

Also, it's funny to me that people think telling people they can't afford a vacation means they can't enjoy life. 

How ridiculous. 

I half-agree with you re: taking vacations while in debt, but also...I watched my mother in law suffer from dementia that set in as she retired, and she died soon after. My husband and I think about how much she gave up with the goal of doing it all in retirement, and it's a personal goal for us not to put everything off until we can retire. That said, we're also debt free and are on track to retire in our 50's so we did do a big international vacation this year. What shocked us is how cheap it ended up being - we found a good deal on airfare, stayed with friends for half the nights, and Air-bnb'd or cheap hotel'd the other half. We did some eating out, as it's hard to totally avoid it while traveling, but also hit up the grocery stores and did lots of picnics in the mountains. If you're flexible and patient, there are lots of ways to do some travelling and significantly cut down on the costs of a typical 'big vacation.'

I often hear people say, "What if I die and haven't done xxx."

None of us knows what lies ahead. And I also have written numerous times that you shouldn't wait until you retire to treat yourself. 

BUT . . . financial responsibility comes first. You should have certain things in place before you spend $5,000 on a cruise. 

How do you do that when you don't have an emergency fund or even $500 saved for your children's college fund? 

That's my point. Everything it is due season, including a vacation. 

Who in their right mind pays $850/month to lease a car and then worry about saving money when paying it off?? You could "buy" two cars with that monthly payment! Just saying...

I would say it a bit differently. I would never purchase and definitely not lease such an expensive car but others have the right to what they want -- if they can afford it.

Sometimes getting away from your home can help you relax and unwind and refresh. This doesn't have to be expensive. I've rented cabins in MD State Parks for a weekend for example. I cooked, we hiked, we read and looked at the view and I got away from the 'I really should be doing X or Y that is staring at me at home'. Staycations are wonderful, but if you feel you need to get away to relax, it doesn't have to be expensive. I'd rather do the MD State Park Cabin than spend thousands of dollars on a holiday I really can't afford.

However, again, if you're in debt (minus the mortgage and I'll even grant you the car) stay home. Figure out a way to relax within your means. 

Why is this so hard to embrace?

Why can't people learn to find joy where they are?

Michelle, I was wondering whether your answer to the staycation/debt question changes if the travel in question has some sort of limited window of opportunity attached to it. Am thinking of a trip I'm planning where we're visiting a friend whose residence at the destination is temporary -- this makes it somewhat cheaper to go there, of course, but I'm guessing that would not in your mind outweigh the decision to spend any travel funds at all before paying down debt. As I've hinted, I suspect the overall answer is still no on the grounds that "if you miss an opportunity, too bad, your more urgent opportunity is to pay down your debt," but I thought it'd be an interesting question/food for thought regardless.

You know me so well. Nope, answer does not change. 

Debt first. Responsibility first. Living within your means first. Might you miss an opportunity, sure. 

But others will follow or present themselves. Or not. 

Doesn't matter. 

I want you guys to be as debt free as possible so that you have choices when life happens. And we all know life happens ALL the time! 

The first decade we were married, our only vacations were tent-camping, driving by car, cooking all our own meals, hiking, swimming. We were young and it was so much fun!

Yes! 

Hi Michelle! Just wanted to chime in with some good news; several years ago we bought our first house. We meticulously researched how much we could afford - and still over estimated. We also listened to some (bad) advice from family to buy a brand new, far from work, bigger than we needed at the time house because once we have kids, etc we’d want more space, and the warranty would save us so much on maintance, etc, My husband was always determined that one more raise would make it comfortable, but I convinced him we could be comfortable now and be in a much better place if we downsized and moved closer to work/kids activities (much less commuting). I’m happy to report that last summer we sold our first home, made a huge profit that we partially rolled into our new (to us) house and also paid of one car loan and student loans with. I don’t miss the extra space AT ALL and it’s hard to overstate the peace of mind. If you’re on a be fence, downsize folks, I promise it’s worth it.

Thank you for sharing. 

I know this isn't the week for SS questions, but I have one anyway. I have read that the actuaries have computed the monthly benefits so that over the course of your retirement you will get the same total amount by filing early as by filing late. If this is so, what's the benefit to waiting?

Click the link because this question of when to take Social Security is complicated and depends on your circumstances.

We too have had major financial setbacks the last few years (unemployment and medical, & house repair expenses). I think it's important to getaway but we've rented cabins where we can do our own cooking, take hikes, and have campfires at night. Total cost? $1,000 for the week. These vacations have been every bit as enjoyable as a $5,000 - $10,000 trip. I don't even feel it's a compromise - these inexpensive vacations have their own charm AND we have peace of mind from not over-extending ourselves. Some people can't even afford a week in a cabin so we feel lucky!

Right. Even at $1,000 that is too much for me if you are carrying a credit card balance. 

Learn people to enjoy life where you are -- and that could mean in your own home, neighborhood, city, state. 

Your article is timely, we are planning our family vacations for the summer. I am leaning towards cutting back on some of the trips we have planned - is $200 too much to spend for a day at a family amusement park for a family of five (I'm counting tickets, gas, food)? We have no consumer debt but we do have a mortgage and I am constantly worried that in our late 30s we only have $125k saved for retirement. We were also thinking of driving to the beach for a few days (maybe $500 for that trip) - should I cancel? I feel so much anxiety over finances but on the other hand we are expecting our fourth child and won't be able to do anything fun for a year or so afterwards.

So when you say you won't be able to do "anything fun for for a year" do you mean life is over because the 4th kid is coming? 

Because it's not. I have had the MOST fun just playing with my kids. 

If you have an emergency fund, life happens fund, saving for retirement at a good pace, saving for college for the kids who are already here, no credit card debt, then go to the amusement part or the beach.

Replace the anxiety with financial facts. Are you doing all that you can to be financially responsible. If you can tick off the list I just gave, yes take a vacation that you've saved for. 

I'm in my late forties and growing up my family never afford vacations but back then people didn't really have credit cards. Nowadays, it seems like "credit" is too readily available and just getting themselves into trouble.

Yup!

So, if you're not in debt (beyond mortgage), and have savings/emergency fund, maxed 401K, kids' college funds, etc. how do you know how much you can spend on vacations? I am thinking of going with extra pay, which I often get (beyond what I lay out as expected annual income, in my budget), work bonus for husband, and tax return = annual vacation fund. Does that seem reasonable? I feel like it's wasteful to spend $7,000-$10,000 on a trip each year, (for 4), but I also really want to, and have no debt....

It's not wasteful if you have the cash for it after you've put in place the right financial things, which it appears you have.

So go, enjoy. 

I thought the headline was click-baity. It implied that people in debt don't deserve time off, rather than what you really said in the column, which was that people in debt don't deserve to spend money on a destination vacation. That's consistent with your larger message, and it would have been unsurprising to see "you don't deserve" attached to any luxury item: an engagement ring or a fancy new suit or a luxury car or a second home or a boat. Now, click-bait headlines happen from time to time. But it seems to me that on this one people feel judged for spending money, and they don't like that. It almost seems as though they are putting getaways in the same category as food or shelter.

When you write about tough financial topics sometimes you have to be provocative to get people to read what they need to hear. It's not my intention to trick readers only to open up an interesting dialogue. 

Following up on a previous chat, we did sell our house to one of those 'we buy homes' groups. My husband researched a local company and was pleased with the decision. We will walk away with some money and we don't have to spend a dime to get the house up to par for what could have been a long, tedious few months. We are even able to stay a few weeks after closing to pack up for our new home.

Glad this worked out for you. And that you did your homework. For others, just be careful. 

As soon as my statement arrives, I set up a transfer for the statement amount on the due date (same bank for checking and credit card, so transfer is posted same day). That way I never forget to make the payment on the due date. This only works if you always pay the full amount of the bill.

I usually do this but life got in the way. Lesson learned. 

My home is currently in foreclosure. After months of being under/unemployed, I now make enough to afford the monthly payment. Problem is, I'm behind; don't qualify for a modification (had one during unemployment), they wouldn't approve repayment plan and I don't have enough savings to cover the reinstatement amount. I've tried getting a loan to pay the past due amount, but with the late payments on my credit report, I can't get approved. Is bankruptcy the only option at this point?

I'm so sorry for all that you are going through. Talk to an bankruptcy attorney. But in the end, it might just mean you have to walk away from the home and rebuild. And that's okay. 

It seems to me in this area that so many people do things (house, cars, vacations, etc) to "keep up with appearances." They must be able to brag to neighbors or on social media about their fabulous vacation. (One reason I hate this area.) All this leads to the debt you are trying to save people from. Even though you get push-back, keep fighting the good fight! You are helping so many people.

I get the most pushback when I hit a nerve!

Just a note to say that all this talk about having your finances in line before vacationing motivated me to make an extra contribution to our daughter’s college fund during the chat :)

You just made my day! And made it worth all the negatively I knew I would get because the truth hurts!

So thank you for sharing this. 

I think that the word "deserve" that you use in your column about whether or not people "deserve" a vacation is a really loaded word that is full of moral judgement. When you take away the word "deserve" what you are really talking about is whether or not it is "responsible" or even "a good idea". For those who are upset at the column, reading it through this lens might take out the sting.

I hear you but I use the word people use to tell themselves they can afford to go when they can't. 

They say, "I deserve a break."

I say, you have to get rid of this sense of entitlement. 

So where do you draw the line at "deep in debt"? Is it just based on CC deb? It's not a mortgage (based on above). It's not a car loan (based on above). What about a mortgage and a car loan? A mortgage and 2 car loans? A mortgage and 2 car loans and a $50k HELOC? What if in the latter case both spouses are maxing out their 401ks, have an emergency/life happens fund, have 529s for their children and just came back Hawaii? Did they deserve the trip? Inquiring minds want to know. [and yes, they realize they can scale back on the 401k/529s and pay off the HELOC, but the gains of the market outweigh the loss of the APR on the loan]

I repeatedly point to the line. I cave sometime with the car loan but really, If I were being hard core I would say just a mortgage and no other debt. I allow the car because I'm a softy. 

But let's look at the overall point of what I'm saying. 

If you are spending thousands of dollars on a vacation and you have credit card debt, student loans or aren't saving for retirement or your kids college fund you shouldn't be going. 

You get to draw the line but on the other side you should have financial peace and that means making some hard choices and yes, denying yourself for the greater good. 

Presumably another option is to wait out the lease-term, return the Mercedes to the dealer, and then, um, purchase (NOT lease) a car that YOU WILL KEEP FOR THE NEXT DECADE. You have 18 months to get your head around the idea!!

Good point.

I've not seen this kind of backlash on this chat in a while re: no vacation when in debt. And you're right - people don't have to listen to you. You're making a suggestion. But you know what folks? The woman knows of what she speaks. She lives it day in and day out. So you can either take her advice or don't. But trust me as someone who was in a real sh**hole of a financial situation 4 years ago, Michelle can help you if you let her. That's my Thursday Testimony for MS today. We now return you to your regularly scheduled chat.

Bless you! (But no cussing next time)

Hi Michelle, The best "stay"cation activity I did with my kids was tour our professional baseball team's stadium. It was so exciting...we got to sit in the dug out, see the press booth and the fancy private suites.

Love it.

I had no idea it was even possible to spend a month at an assisted living facility and then return home. I thought it was "once you're in, you're in." Maybe a potential column topic?

Yup. You usually have to give them a month's notice you are leaving. So we signed the contract and the notice he was leaving in a month on the same day.

It takes imagination but the rewards can last a life time. Lots of camping but I was a Scout. The church retreat had great weekly deals. They were even cheaper if you were willing to help out a little. We got free breakfast at a campground for mowing the grass. We went to the beach but always stayed in a simple house. Lots of board and card games. I wonder if you can find a beach house without a TV and A/C these days. And yes, vacation would end when time or money was getting low.

Thanks for sharing.

We paid off our mortgage last month (March). However, we still have a HELOC for $50,000. Should we take a part of that money to quickly pay off the HELOC? We still will have $700 a month to pay our taxes. Our mortgage was $1,800 per month.

I would definitely take all the first mortgage money and dig out from under  the HELOC. 

Call before you go, give them your name and ask who to return it to. Then there won't be any question that you're legitimate.

I like this. Thanks.

1) IMHO, it is OK to disagree with Michelle (or anyone who offers advice). But it is NOT OK to be so rude. 2) Why are you spending your time on this chat if you don't value her advice?

I appreciate the defense. And I actually don't mind that people push back. You should question anybody who give you advice. I don't like rude or ugly but I understand I'm saying some things that make people very uncomfortable because it makes them look at what they are doing. Change is hard.  

(just for Michelle) Thank you - I am one of three caregivers/my sister along with a paid caregiver, and I have the weekends. She has the funds (& LTC policy when needed) for assisted living, etc....but chooses to be at her home for as long as she can. So we are abiding by her wishes. Also, it is time, (sharing memories/ learning about the past) with a parent that I will never have again, while her mind is still good, physical challenges, and mostly home bound.

Thank you for what you do.

Hi Michelle, I know there have been discussions about paying rent or still having a mortgage in retirement. Well, my mother was able to survive off only her monthly $1100 social security payment because she owned her modest 1 bedroom condo. She recently passed but was able to live in her home until the last month of her life. Watching her experience...I am a big believer in paying off your mortgage.

Read Michelle's column: The great Social Security benefits debate: Take it early or wait?

I remain a big believer in being debt free. Thanks for sharing.

Well this was an great chat. Lots of debate. If we are talking about money even if we are in disagreement it still means I got you thinking about your finances. And that's always a good thing. 

Thanks for joining me today. See you back next week.

P.S. If you think today's newsletter about not deserving a vacation if you are in debt caused a stir wait until you read my Sunday column. 

I may need to hire a bodyguard. 

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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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