Color of Money Live: How to invest in your 20s and 30s

Aug 29, 2019

Welcome to a weekly discussion about your money hosted by Michelle Singletary, nationally syndicated personal finance columnist for The Washington Post.

This week, I'll be joined by Joe Duarte, author of The Everything Guide to Investing in your 20s & 30s.

You can submit your questions or comments by using the ‘ask now’ link. Although this isn’t required, I would like to know your pronoun as well as your city and state.

Why? I will often address an unanswered question in a future column. Knowing a little more about you helps me tailor my answer. Thank you!

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Today, Joe Duarte, the author of “The Everything Guide to Investing In Your 20s & 30s” is joining me. 

He's here to help answer your questions about investing.

If I can't get to your question today, I may answer it in a column. As always, love to get your Thursday Testimonies. Tell me something good about your financial situation. Did you pay off some debt? Have you finally been able to save in an emergency fund? 

So let's get started. 

What are strategies for a young person to grow wealth besides the baseline knowledge that's easily found on the internet (e.g. establish an emergency fund, max out contributions employer-matched 401k, create an additional Roth IRA)

Good question:

Some of the things you've mentioned in your question are excellent, but as I write in the book's introductory chapter, a good systematic approach is the best way to go. Here are a few basic steps.

1) Ask yourself if you are ready to invest

2) Know your risk profile - meaning are you a saver, an investor, or a little of both

3) Set realistic goals and timetables

Once you've got that sorted out reduce your debt as much a possible, make a good budget, and start saving.

I'm dead-set against this because I'm the person who always eats the most and I refuse to have my meal subsidized by others (or be inhibited from eating to my heart's content). If you're a big eater like me and this situation arises, announce that you insist on paying your way IN FULL and you don't need anyone's help. You can also mention that it would be too clumsy and tacky to find the person who ordered the least amount of food and slip them a twenty or whatever you underpaid by. If anybody fights you on it, shame them mercilessly by telling them they have parasitic tendencies and are cheapskates who don't want to pay their way. Because you are insisting on paying more, you have the higher ground, so use it (which will be to the benefit of any people in the group who have smaller appetites or a tighter budget). Sadly, I've never had the opportunity to do this because separate checks are the norm in my social circle. But what fun it would be.

Thanks for your comments. I agree except for the shaming part. Never shame, even when you think the person is wrong. You can merely point out what you just said. I'd like to pay for what I eat. And then to the server: Separate check for me, please. 

For those who missed the column, here it is: Separate checks and tipping decisions can set off distasteful round of judgment

 

Hi Michelle — I’ve read your columns and chats for years. I find myself totally irritated by your request to include pronouns and location, and I wonder if you could explain WHY that’s necessary. You are a financial columnist — so it seems to me the only pertinent information is age, employment status, and debt load (and possibly, marital status). Why do you need to know my gender or city, other than gleaning data for the Washington Post to use for reasons we haven’t agreed to? Or are you just jumping on the woke bandwagon of making everyone state their gender when it’s not even relevant? Thanks for taking my question.

None of the information you provide goes into any database. I'm asking for a bit more information because if I can't get to a question today, I might in a column. 

When responding to a question, I'd like to say, "he said" or "she asked" in a second reference so that I don't have to keep writing "a person asked." Just helps the writing flow. 

As for the city, someone might ask about tipping in their state. Nice to know what state. Or he or she might wonder about a certain law in his or her state. Can't answer if I don't know where he or she lives. 

Or, I might like to write, "according to a reader in Memphis."

It's also helps people to know I'm actually writing about real people with real questions. 

 

Many millennials (like me) have thousands of dollars in student debt. I've always heard and read that you should pay off your debt first before investing, but for some of us who have years before we can pay off the debt, should we set aside at least some money for investing? I am currently putting my money towards paying off debt and setting up emergency fund savings, and know that this will make me feel more secure financially. At the same time, I'm wondering if I'm missing out by not investing a little bit, especially as I won't be able to pay off my debts for another two or three years.

You're on it.

First, it's good that you have a good assessment of your situation. Second, there is nothing wrong with setting up an emergency fund, and so on.

My best suggestion is that as you're working on your current situation,  start developing ideas and an investment plan that you can deploy when you're ready.  The first two chapters in my book will help you.

First: (MD/She/26) Hi Joe, my copy of your book arrived in the mail yesterday. Looking forward to reading it as I'm not even 101-level when it comes to investing. Ignoring the fact that I already have a copy, if you had to pitch me your book based on a single chapter, which would you pick (and why)? Second: I'm curious to hear people's thoughts on Geoffrey Fowler's August 26 piece on credit cards sharing data with numerous entities. The obfuscation and futility described in the article left me feeling, for lack of a better word, gross.

Cool question:

If you are, as you say,"not even 101" level, I suggest you start with Chapter 1, which is all about getting to know your willingness to take risks and getting organized. There is no substitute for getting organized before jumping in.

I agree with Joe about starting at the beginning. What I like about the book is that he asks young adults to take a step back and make sure they are ready to invest. First you need money you can afford to lose. So if you have debt or you don't have a savings or adequate savings, do that first.

As for the story on the "spy" in our wallet or our credit cards: I feel you on feeling like it's a lost cause to protect our privacy. We give it away because to get some of the things we want we have no choice. BUT do what you can when you can to deny companies access to your information (And just so you know, again, I'm only asking for pronouns and cities to help with answering your questions.). 

So, for example when I do sign up for something, I often opt out of getting emails, sale notices, etc. Still, your information is out there so be careful. 

The market is due for a correction and bond returns are so low. Where is a safe place to invest that will at least beat inflation? Preferred stocks? Short term bond funds? Thanks

The answer to this question is more about your understanding of this very complex financial market - stocks, bonds, currencies, and commodities.

As you say, this is a risky market. But it  is challenging even for professional traders. I've been trading and investing for nearly 30 years and have had to retrain myself and re-evaluate every aspect of my analysis and trading methodology in order to deal with it.  In fact, I am constantly reviewing what I do and how I do it.

That said, in my book I offer easy to understand discussions about the current economy, how the markets work and how things are different than even a few years ago, including some details about how artificial intelligence has changed everything and how to deal with it.

The book also has chapters about preferred stocks, short term bond funds, exchange traded mutual funds and when and how they may be used.

I also write about these things in my weekly commentary which you can find at joeduarteinthemoneyoptions.com.

Bottom line, know your stuff and know what you're up against before putting money to work in this market.

One thing stood out for me in your question. "Where is a safe place to invest?"

There really isn't a safe place to invest. All investing comes with risk. Now, you can buy U.S. Treasury bonds or put your money in a CD but investing as in buying stocks and bonds comes with risk. With stocks, it's losing your principal. With bonds, it's losing the value of your money to inflation. Or, if you buy a bond the company/state/local jurisdiction would go broke. Keep in mind that bonds are an I.O.U.

To invest wisely you need to know how much risk you can stand. Then come up with an investment strategy. 

I’d like to see a living wage paid to the service industry and eliminate tipping. It would be nice to just pay a bit more for my food, drinks, haircut, etc. then figuring who gets tipped and how much is a good tip. Tip the salon owner or only the staff, and how much for the colorist, shampooer, and stylist? If 25% is a good, or standard according to some, how long before we tip servers 30%? Does the server look at 10% and thinks “I should have done better” or “Stiffed again.” Tom Seitsema regularly recommends talking to the manager if the service is poor, which is usually so much more effective. I know I’m glad my pay doesn’t depend on having one bad day, the whims of a client, or clients who just want to pay less.

I agree. 

My newsletter for today: How much to tip when the service is bad


 

Mr Duarte what do you think of the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movement?

I am not an expert on FIRE, but generally speaking, I'm all about saving as much as possible.  

The key to FIRE is your income. The more you have the easier it is to save.  

I cover the steps to grow your nest egg in Chapter 2 of my book. 

Can I jump in?

I like the FIRE movement because it's really about living on less so you can live on more later. In other words, saving as much as you can so that you can invest so that your money grows and works for you. 

So many people get to the end of their career having hated their work and then still have not enough for retirement. 

What FIRE folks believe is live way, way below your means (for people with decent means of course) so that you have options. Work more, work less. Retire some, not retire at all, etc. 

Read more about FIRE:

3 myths about this early retirement movement

Do you need $5 million to retire early? Suze Orman says so. But ‘FIRE’ devotees say no.

Can you save half your income so you can retire early? FIRE advocates say it’s possible.

 

Last week, people indicated your previous guest sounded flippant in his advice to recent or about to retire people. He wasn't. If you're going to spend time worrying about if you have enough money you don't have enough money. It's very simple. Why waste your time worrying -- figure out what needs doing and do it. If you're just going to sit around and worry for 30 or more years, why retire?  Do something about it. The age of 65 for retirement is a made up age. When it was created, life expectancy was 64. It is close to 80 now. And the reality is if you are 65 your life expectancy is probably higher (given that you reached 65....what are the chances of living past 90?  Pretty high). If you can work more, work more. When you hit 80 or 90 you will NOT be able to work or work much at all (yes, there are plenty of stories where people do it, but who would really want to at that age?). But if you are 65 (or many people write in saying they want to retire at 50 or 55) -- you are capable of working.  Doesn't mean you need a high stress job, and you probably have a bit of savings, so you don't have to earn all your spending money. ...I know a retired couple who drive around others because they can still drive, and those others have had to give up their licenses for one reason or another. One can do lots of things in our economy these days, to supplement their income. Why not work while you still can? Who wants to spend all their time staring at a wall because they are too worried about spending money?

How is one supposed to identify a particular person as "the owner." Should the owner self-identify before providing service? Refuse the tip and explain why? I've encountered this in both salons and saloons, where the owner provides a service, I pay and tip, and find out later that the service-provider was the owner. I am never sure if I have insulted the owner or if he/she took a tip they were not supposed to.

I honestly don't think the owner is insulted by getting a tip. If he or she were, I'd imagine the person would say, "No, thank you. A tip isn't necessary."

How about telling people to lay off if you tip more than the usual too? I've been shamed about it when paying my portion of a group dinner and even the article seemed to imply an annoyance at people who tip more because it apparently is "minimizing the rest of the tipping public who give within established guidelines." But as an old story about field workers who went out to the fields at different times reminds us, what is it to you if I choose to be generous?

You actually make my point, which is what you give should be a private matter. You don't boast when you are generous and you don't publicly berate when others aren't. 

Another aspect of tipping that is rarely mentioned is the fact that it is based on the cost of the meal. Why should a server who puts a $10 steak in front of you get less than the one who puts down a $50?

Why indeed? 

I regret missing last week's chat live because I wanted to point out that if you make sure to ask a lot it might lead to a culture shift where waiters just start offering ahead of time. We noticed that this is often the default at restaurants of all types on the midwest (diners up to fancy steakhouses) where the waiters start off asking about separate checks in a group. It's wonderful and no one has to sweat bullets.

Takes people to make a cultural change. This is true. Yet, I continue to hear from readers that asking for a separate check is rude or a sign that you can't do math. SMH

I'm not an IRA millionaire, but kind of close to it. I like my job and plan to work until at least age 70 (I'm 65 now). I hope to leave a substantial IRA balance to my two adult children (I have no spouse) and I'm wondering what kind of adviser should I consult, to hopefully find ways to minimize the tax hit on my children when I die. A financial investment advisor? A tax professional?

This is not a direct 20s-30s question but it is applicable as Chapter 16 of the book is "Working with a Financial Advisor."

Generally speaking discussing this sort of thing with your CPA is not a bad place to start. However, before you spend money you may wish to speak to the financial institution where the account is housed. For example, if it's a mutual fund company the phone rep is very likely to refer you to someone at the company who will help you out.  If you don't like the answer then you can talk to your CPA or another type of financial advisor. 

For estate planning purposes you should speak with an attorney as well. Your accountant can lay out options on how to leave the money to your heirs and the attorney helps you execute in a will. And please do get a will. 

My spouse and I would love your opinion on what to do with our money in our savings account. We have about $100,000 in savings. We max out our retirement programs and have a 529 plan for our child. We are currently overseas and are looking at returning to the U.S. and buying a house in about 5 years. We want to use our savings for a down payment. I feel like it is not wise to keep that much money (which we will continue to add to) in a low interest saving account but worry about tying it up somewhere that we may end up losing some of it. We have about $500,000 in stocks and mutual funds that we try not to touch. We also own rental property that we still owe money on but have a 30 year 4% interest mortgage on. Should we pay down our rental property? Funnel money to our mutual funds? Let it grow in our savings account? We are at a loss what to do - probably a financial planner is the best way to go? Thanks for your help.

You really are in a good place, which means that staying patient until you have your answer is your best bet.

Most likely, the best thing to do is to speak to your CPA about the advantages/disadvantages of that mortgage on your rental house from a tax basis.  Refinancing at 4% may not make much sense at this point.

In Chapter 14 of my book I describe the basics of real estate investing.  In Chapter 18, you will find a general overview of the current tax situation.

Here's my two cents. Don't invest the $100,000 because you plan on using it within 5 years. So, on that point you are right about not putting that money at risk. 

I'm a debt-free kind of gal so I would love for you to have a plan to pay off that rental. Yes, you might give up a tax break but you also eliminate a lot of mortgage interest. 

Also, depending on where you live that money could go a long way to making sure the principal on your primary home is low, meaning you don't have to borrow as much -- also a savings. 

Finally, make sure you've truly run the numbers so that you have enough to send your child to college with no debt. 

I (mid-30s, MA, she) graduated right in the midst of the Great Recession so am nervous about the prospects of another recession right as I start hitting my stride career-wise. Any advice beyond "save what you can now and don't plan on making any career changes for the next few years"? Also, if we are going to be heading into a recession, does it make sense to be saving in a bank account, or investing it?

Great question, and the answer is more about you than the markets.

In the book I discuss knowing your risk profile, which is all about how much risk you are willing to take.  More than anything learn about interest rates and how the markets and the economy work together. Become an analyst of sorts. Chapters 1-3 should get you on your way.

So here is an example. I started investing in November 1987, two weeks after the market crashed and I learned more and more with every trade.  I've had good years and bad years, but I've done well over the longer term because I developed and have adjusted  my investing plan over time.  

The fact that you are asking this question suggests that you are a thinker, so start putting your plan together, learn about investing, and how you can do so in a way that fits your personality. 

Good luck, and don't quit!

I agree with Joe. The markets will do what the markets do. Don't start with how do I invest considering what the market is doing today. Invest for what you need now and in the future. So:

-- Make sure you have a well funded emergency pot -- three to six months of living expenses. If you are in a job that is more prone to losses in a recession (retail for example) try to save at least a year's worth of living expenses. 

-- Get a "life happens fund" for the things in life that happen. Say we have a recession in a year and your car breaks down and needs $1,500 worth of work. You don't want to touch your emergency fund. Instead you can tap this pot of money. As you drawn down on it, when you can, replace the cash.

-- Set your retirement plan and then forget it. You have 30+ years to retirement. The market and economy will have many ups and downs during that time. Figure out how much risk you can take to sleep and then invest accordingly. For example, for your age you might have 90% of your retirement in low-income mutual funds and 10% in bonds. Or no bonds at all. Or 20% in bonds. All depends on your time horizon, age and risk factor. 

If your employer has a 401(k) or similar plan, talk to someone at the financial company to help you map out an investment plan. 

(VA/she/53) A suggestion we have heard from several financial folks is to spread out the investment. So move the money from simple deposit savings in equal increments each month. Essentially you spread the risk of buying too high over time. And shoot - if stock prices are falling and you’re young, think of it as a discount.

It sounds as if you are referring to a method called dollar cost averaging.  It is not a bad way to go, especially when you are young and have time on your side.

I discuss all about this method and mutual funds, the best vehicle for deploying it in Chapters 9-12 in my book.

A friend's son is about to enlist in the army, and I've been asked to give him a financial guidance talk. I'm well-equipped for most of that talk: showing some compound interest examples to encourage early saving, budgeting, monthly tracking, etc. But I want to learn more about resources available just to the military, so my advice can be as specific as possible. Are there any good guides available for that? Ideally I'd read it to customize my talk, but then give him the book for later reference.

I am not an expert on military finances. However, I know many who have served and they seem to find USAA, a useful resource. You may want to go to their website and see what's available. 

I think you are a terrific friend and you covering the major bases. Good for you. 

The only other thing I might discuss are options if the young man decides to go to college later. Make sure he understands the GI bill and college financing options that don't involve debt. 

I was talking to my (very financially astute) mom and she mentioned she just bought some new furniture. Instead of paying for it all up front, she's paying in installments at 0% APR. She is using auto payments and she will finish paying off the furniture before she pays a cent of interest, so the cost will be the same. She has the full amount and could pay it off immediately, but to her, this is more financially savvy because she can take the money she would have paid at the beginning and invest it for a higher return. Along the same lines, she prefers to owe a little bit of money at tax time because she is borrowing the government's money interest-free, instead of vice versa. I disagree with her approach. If I have the means, I would much rather pay a large expense up front in a lump sum and not have to worry about it. I strongly dislike having a lot of monthly payments- to me, it's more stressful, even if they're on autopay and don't cost additional in interest. Owing taxes is also stressful to me- I'd rather have a (small) refund, although I know I'm technically letting the government borrow my money interest free. It's not worth it mentally/emotionally to stress about owing someone money, especially if I have the means. Is one of these approaches to large expenses objectively better or do we just have different philosophies? Perhaps this is a generational difference (I'm a millennial, my mom is a boomer). And how does investing fit into this? Thanks for your input!

I'm much older than you and I totally agree with you. I HATE making debt payments. Stick with your plan. Now, your mom's strategy isn't bad -- except she shouldn't risk the money she has stashed to pay off the furniture should that be needed. Otherwise it's not wrong to take the 0% financing. However, unlike your mom many people intend to pay it off early but then life happens and they don't/can't. Then they are hit with this super high interest starting from money on one of the purchases. 

You can't just leave the IRA to your kids. You will have to take out the minimum distributions starting at 70 1/2 so it isn't as simple as just leaving it to them and not needing to make estate arrangements for your other funds, even if they are minimal now. Also, as of now, $1million isn't even close to being an issue for estate taxes, so that isn't the primary concern unless you have LOTS of other assets. Also, you are going to be 70 and retired. You are going to be spending that money. Enjoy some of it!

Right on the money!

I read your column on tipping upon receipt of poor service, and I was just as confused as ever - not your fault, it's the system itself that is irrational. I have found an increasing number of establishments offering recommended tips that are now based on the cost of the meal including tax, so that you actually have to write in less than the recommended amount if you want to base it on the traditional "meal only" cost. How do restaurant workers themselves, particularly those who like the tipping system, deal with/talk to themselves about how absolutely loathed the system is? Don't they care?

I hear you. I've heard from a lot of servers and they see the flaws in the system too. But until it's replaced they need the money. 

Hi Joe, looking forward to reading your book. I’m early 30s and lucky to have a good surplus each month. After investing a portion for retirement I find myself torn about what next: I have a few mid-term “maybes” that are sizable but uncertain: wedding, House, car...but shoveling money somewhere low-yield for these things that may not happen seems unwise. Possibly more of a psychology question than a strict investing one, but I’d love to get your thoughts, thank you.

Good question:

First, you are in a good position because you have money left over and you don't know what to do with it but at the same time you aren't doing things that would cause you to lose it.

In the book I discuss stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and real estate. I suggest you keep saving and dive into those chapters to see if any of those areas appeal to you.

I am very thorough in describing the pitfalls, so once you know your risk profile you can explore other areas. Take your time and if you decide to do stocks consider paper trading where you don't risk money until you are comfortable with the process.

I'm a pot person and as such I know that some pots won't earn much money. You have to get comfortable with that as well for money you may need in the short term. So, it's okay if your emergency money isn't earning much. Its purpose is to be there and not be at risk should you lose your job or have a huge financial emergency. 

Wedding: Coming up in five years or less you don't want to risk losing the principal because I forbid you to go into debt for a wedding.

House: If you need the funds soon, again don't put it at risk. But if you're talking 10 years from now, sure you could invest it with the hopes of growing the money. 

Car: Again, if your hoopty is on its last leg keep your car money liquid. And please do try to buy a car with cash. If you  no longer have a car note take that money and put it away in a car fund so that when you buy a car in 10 or 15 years, you will have the cash. 

Do you recommend them?? Where should I buy them??

You can buy them directly from the U.S. treasury.

 

I am lower-risk when it comes to investing, mainly because my job security is lower, and I am afraid to lose my principles. I also can't play the long-game like I do with retirement, because there is a decent chance I will need the money within 5 years. I currently use no-fee CDs from Marcus by Goldman Sachs, because it is 2.3% (or so) return for 13 months. But, are there anythings I should be looking at that still aren't real risky but that give me flexibility and a better return (say 5-6%)?

In the current climate, higher yield often has higher, sometimes disproportionate risk.  Read everything before you consider putting your money into it.  Greed, contrary to what Gordon Gecko said, is not good.

Hi! I am in my mid-30s, singles, no kids. I am lucky enough to have paid off my student debt, and am currently maxing out my 401(k) contributions (to the tax limit). I pay off my credit card in full each month. I have a life happens fund of about $1200, and a 6 month emergency fund. (roughly $15,000). After this, I have about $15,000 that is sitting in an online savings account. I guess it's tentatively the start of savings for a house downpayment, but I'm kind of lukewarm on home ownership. I don't really know what to do with this money. Should I move it somewhere? I feel like it's not enough money to make seeing a financial advisor worthwhile. I guess I'm not sure where to go after finally getting the basics taken care of. Thanks!

As with others on this chat, you are in a good place but it sounds as you need a bit of organization.

You should have a better idea about which way to go after reading the first 3 chapters of the book.  Once you've answered some key questions things should come together in your mind and you can formulate a plan.

Above all, keep saving!

If you can afford it go see a fee-only financial planner and get set up with a long term plan that includes what to do with your "extra." 

For now, we put our extra after retirement, college fund, life happens, emergency, helping family, tithing, in a low-cost index fund. 

We used money from this fund to buy a car in cash recently. The money was in the fund for about 15 years (how long we hang onto our cars). We got a great return over that time. When it came time to buy the car, I moved it the money into a money market paying about 2%. Took us about a year to get the car (don't ask). So in that time earn a little coin. 

 

she/her - Columbia, SC I moved from DC to SC in the past 6 months and took a $40k pay cut to do so. I am so much more comfortable and healthy in my new job, so a majority of the time the pay cut doesn't bother me. One place where it does is saving. I plan on buying a house in the spring with about a 15% downpayment and leave $10k in savings for life happens/emergency fund. I am contributing to my pension plan at work, and have about $27k in my TSP from my previous job. I would like to start investing but I'm really not sure how to, or if I can afford to. I have about $250 a month that I can save, more after I buy the house (mortgage will be less expensive than renting). Is that enough to start investing? Or should I put it into a 403(b) account through work?

Good for you on making a life choice that wasn't based on money.

The first topic in my book is "Can you afford to invest?"

That should get you started. 

Good luck!!

I think for now until you get the house and see the full cost of ownership I wouldn't invest the extra money. Save it all because a home can be a money pit -- even a new one. New furniture, curtains, shades, etc. Lawn work, etc. 

After you get used to how much it cost to be in your house and you still have the extra you can then look at investing more. Or, you can boost that life happens fund (a few thousand) and emergency fund (six months)

Sorry to be late to the game (was out of the country last week) but, in general, my group of friends all pretty much know what we ordered and put in appropriate amounts (with normally too much in the pot meaning better tip). However, with one friend from high school, we would always insist on separate checks since he would always put in what he ordered plus 5% (which barely covered tax). We got tired of subsidizing his lack of tip.

Welcome home.

Really, the point is do what is comfortable for each individual and the group. 

She/her in DC: I don't drink but end up heavily subsidizing those who do. Drinks in DC can run around $15 each. Would be nice if those who drank offered at least to take care of the tip as I don't usually dine with folks who do separate checks.

So become one of those who do separate checks. 

She/Her in DC: I was a server in college, tips went towards my tuition. 35 years later, my son is a bartender, working hard but very much depending on tips to make his rent and have a little cushion. I wish service workers did not need to depend on tips, but I don't hae a magic wand to change the system. So . . . I tip well. Always. Why? Because I have more and I can. I don't miss that money. That's really it.

Erring on the side generosity is a good thing for your soul and the person on the receiving end. 

Separate checks used to be hard for waiters. Now, the "cash register" is really a computer that easily spits out separate checks. In our groups, the waiters generally get a higher overall tip with separate checks because we all usually round up each of our individual tips.

Good point. But even if it weren't better with computers, I would hope that a server recognizes that is part of the job. 

Just wanted to let you know that in the past few days I have received telephone calls telling me that my credit rating is taking a hit because of unusual activity, offering to help me pay off my federal student loans (I grew up in Europe and never had $1 in student loans) and, weirdest of all, telling me that my social security was about to be cancelled because of (you guessed it) unusual activity. People, don't fall for this nonsense!

Thanks for the alert. 

Read: This Social Security scam is just evil


 

I tried to haggle with a vendor once to give me the discount for cash that they were paying to the credit provider, but no deal. I still paid in cash. Also keep in mind that 0% comes with applying for their credit card, so you get an inquirty on your credit report.

Good point about the credit score hit. 

Also: Make sure your resume is up to date. Work on building a network. If there are names or numbers that you'd want to have at home for your contacts or references, take a moment to email them to a home address (in case you are terminated and walked out the door without a chance to pull these together). Are there trainings or certifications you can pursue now, especially if your work will pay? Do it. Start thinking about what will make you the most marketable should you find yourself looking for a new job sooner rather than later.

Love this. Thanks.

Every time you call a car a hoopty I laugh so hard I snort coffee out of my nose. It's a great visual. FWIW, I completely agree with keeping a car as long as possible. Thanks for all your good advice.

You just made me laugh!

Please warn him to be careful. Outside every base is a line of furniture stores, car dealerships, etc all offering "financing." At very bad rates. They prey on our young troops who may not have strong financial management skills and all they know is that they get a reliable pay check 2x per month. It's gotten so bad I believe the spouse of a former CJCS got involved - to do outreach, education, etc. If I had more time I'd look that up.

Thank you for adding this. You are so right!

Always the time seems to go by too fast. Thanks to Joe Duarte for joining me today. 

And for all of you. I see your comments/questions. Your time was not wasted even if we didn't get to your question. You may see your question in a future column. 

Take care and see you next week. 

 

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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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Joe Duarte
Joe Duarte, author of The Everything Guide to Investing in your 20s & 30s, is a market analyst, trader, investor, and money manager. One of CNBC’s original Market Mavens, Dr. Duarte has been writing about and analyzing global events since 1990.
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