Color of Money Live: The last chat, for now

Oct 15, 2020

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

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The day has come.

This is my last regular chat.  

As I mentioned last week, I have loved taking your questions live every Thursday. I hope I've helped you over the years. I know you've helped keep me informed about the pressing financial issues facing so many people. 

I'm ending the regular chats on my own. It's not you. It's me. I'm finding I need to trim some of my responsibilities to make room for more series like the one running now, "Sincerely, Michelle."

 But I'm not gone completely. I'll be doing chats periodically. 

For example, I'll have chats around tax time. Next year is going to be wild. (The 2020 tax year is going to be a hot mess, and the coronavirus is why).

It's been my absolute pleasure to take your questions. 

So, for today, let's get started.

Michelle, I am sure you will receive hundreds of thank-you notes today. Here's mine. I'm a 55-year-old white man from Maryland and I have been a follower for years. You have changed the way I think about lots of things. Sure, it starts with helping frame things that I haven't thought about like how to plan for college, bequests, and long-term care, but it also includes larger issues: the way debt poses as a tool and turns into a chain, the way money matters affect poor people differently from comfortable ones and people of color differently from whites, and the ways that we all have the ability to change our financial circumstances even if only a little at a time. And above all the way you help us celebrate all the victories, small and large. I'll miss the chats. Thank you so much for everything you have done and will continue to do.

See, why you go and make me cry -- in a good way!

Wow. Just wow. You just summed up why I do what I do. 

Mostly, I appreciate that I helped you see things differently, grow, and isn't that we all should do?

So thank you!

( ) - this is my text hug.

For everyone rushing to refinance: be careful if you "drop your rate" with your current lender that you aren't getting a new loan. We were at the point where we were paying more principal than interest every month. When our lender offered us a no cost, drop your rate (two points!) we jumped at it. We didn't realize until we got the first statement that the loan had reset and we were now paying all interest and very little principal. As for the thank you, because of your sage and forceful advice, we didn't consider the monthly savings "free money," we still paid the old amount. And got back to paying more principal than interest in a couple years. You've helped so many people..you are a gem!

What great advice. I try to tell people this ALL the time. Work the numbers. We paused about refinancing too and the wait was worth it. Got a great rate years ago (2.75) doing from 30 to 15. Kept making principal payments. Now most of what we are paying is principal and not interest, in addition to the extra money we still pay. 

So thank you for the reminder I'm happy to pass along and your kind words. 

Please know, I'm not gone. I hope you continue to read my columns. And I'll be back with chats from time to time. 

I don't really have a question, I mostly want to say thank you for all the stellar reporting you've done during the pandemic. I'm sure it wasn't easy tracking down answers about missing stimulus checks and filing deadlines and whatnot, but you helped so many people feel seen and heard. I'll really miss your weekly chats. And I've loved your Sincerely, Michelle columns so far and can't wait to read the rest. The most recent one was a real eye-opener as a White woman whose family has benefited from the financial system for generations.

Wow. Thank you so much! There were weeks I did barely sleep trying to run behind IRS to get answers to people about the much needed stimulus payments. And while the series is draining me, it's been a wonderful journey to hear folks say their eyes are being opened to something so important. 

Here's my latest stimulus column and Sincerely Michelle column

I just wanted to say that I've enjoyed reading your weekly chats for years and am sorry to see them end! I can't fathom how many people have benefited from your great advice.

Thank you. 

Also, please continue to email me your questions and comments at colorofmoney@washpost 

As you can expect, I can't answer everyone directly but I often set aside time to get to a lot of folks. 

Hi Michelle, I'll join with the group with my disappointment that this is your last chat. I was so looking forward to posting next year that I finally paid off my student loans ($60K from a master's) after 10 years. I was helped greatly by taking a high paying job out of the region for a few years and living a lifestyle well below what I could have afforded and, even after I moved back, choosing to live in Baltimore with its lower cost of living and somewhat reliable public transportation so I don't need to have a car. -- By the way, it is AMAZING how much you can save not having a car when you have public transportation, Zipcars, and can walk or bike. -- Thanks for all the advice over the years, and I look forward to continue reading your pieces in the Post, especially the "Sincerely, Michelle" series!

Good for you. And please let me know when you get that student loan monkey off your back. Email me. For real. At colorofmoney@washpost.com

I still want to celebrate with you. In fact, you just gave me an idea for a chat next year. I'll have one just so folks can share their news of becoming free of debt. 

Thanks for talking to and writing for us. Thank you for your series. I am a few years older than you and public schools weren't desegrated until 1967. My uncles (both vets) couldnt go to the white HS and darn it the colored HS 20 miles away didn't have bus service like the white children who went to school 5 miles away. So sad too bad. Although my father and uncles were vets noone received VA loans and had stable jobs. Domestic violence causes long term trauma so does financial violence.

Thank you for being part of this forum.

Hi Michelle - Not a question, just a comment. Thank you for all you have given us during these chats. We can only hope that Those Who Make These Decisions @ WaPo reconsider ending them. You have inspired so many. And your caring thoughtfulness is amazing (I think of all the people you offered to follow up with personally). Your grandmother may not be here to pat you on the back (but she IS smiling), but your family can do this on behalf of us, your devoted readers. Of course, being a daily & digital subscriber, my family can read all your articles at any time. Best wishes to you. Always. (She/Her, Retiree, in Central VA)

Thank you. I love hugs, so going to get my hubby to give me one for you! 

And I'm always happy when readers let the powers to be know the impact my work has had. 

We are going to miss your weekly chats Michelle. I have learned so much from your approach and have gotten a lot out of the financial fast, the pots of money for job loss, emergencies, etc and created a goal to pay off our mortgage by retirement. Thanks for all you do.

I really can't say enough how much I appreciate all your words of encouragement and praise. Means a lot to me.

Hi Michelle, first, please let me add my voice to the chorus of people who are disappointed (but understand) that you aren't doing chats anymore. I also want to say that your series has been so informative. The interaction between you and your manager about hiring is something I've now repeated so many times over the past 2 weeks. Now to my question: you mentioned in a previous chat that you pay your bill in full early in the billing cycle so as to impact your credit score. Can you explain? I ask because I've noticed that my score is bouncing up and down even though I pay every bill, every month, in full. Does the timing of your payment really have an impact? Thanks again for all that you do. (female, 60, NY)

Thank you. So people often don't realize that your score can change month-to-month. Each month your creditors dump information about you to the credit bureaus. They pick the day. So even though you pay your bills off every month, you could have a huge bill one money and it just so happens the report about that bill goes to the bureau before you make the payment. Now, if you aren't carrying credit card debt month to month the drop or uptick in your score isn't going to matter that much. Once you get into the high 700s and definitely anything over 800 you're golden.

But I noticed a few years ago I hit a perfect 850 on several models. In researching I realize part of that is because I pay my bill in full and long before the due date. AND..I keep my utilization super low during the month even though I pay off my bill every month. Typically people with super high scores or a perfect 850 utilize only about 7% of their available balance even within the monthly payoff cycle. 

If my incarcerate wants the money to come to my bank account will that be a problem if the bank account is not in his name?

I would not do that. The money may be held for suspected fraud. 

Read this FAQ at caresactprisoncase.org 

Dear MIchelle, I thought of this song when I read that you were ending your chats. I also suspected that the thought of getting yet another "now that the market is up, are you reconsidering your advice to pay your house off" comment for another year was unbearable! Glad to hear you'll do limited chats during tax time. Thanks for all your work to help us. And, yes, I did pay off the mortgage early and before retirement.

Lol!

My hero. Can't wait to pay off my mortgage. And you are invited to the party.

 

From my first paying job at 16 to my retirement at age 60 and past, I mismanaged a lot of money. A total spendthrift and debt evader. I did however live near DC, and read your columns. One day, everything you had been saying clicked. Your sensiblility and firmness without guilt just got through. I went from a paycheck to paycheck person to a savings account holding, home-owning (well, me and the bank for now, but paying it down quickly), able to give to charity instead of receiving, responsible individual with good credit (soon to be great, I think). Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your chats will be so missed, as they formed a way for instant feedback and affirmation so many times. Godspeed in your endeavors, and may you and your family be healthy and safe.

Y'all making me cry. 

Wow. Just wow. Your testimony is amazing. 

Thank you for listening and more importantly taking action. You did all the work. I just fussed. 

Got a call on my home phone on Wednesday. Voice said that I had recently become a member of amazon prime and a fee of $129 (?) would be charged to me unless I pressed the button and indicated that I didn't want to. No, I didn't decide to play with the scammer's phone person. I have done that occasionally, but wasn't in the mood this time. I did do a quick check of my credit card (no charge) and my Amazon account (no charges in the past 3 months). But I can just imagine my mom getting a call like this if my dad weren't around to intercept. Yikes. I've had a similar scam call over these months when I am much closer to my phone during the day. I think the last one was for an $1100 smart phone. Anyway. It is good to check just in case, but no store calls you offering to assist you in cancelling an order. Your credit card might call/text/email to check on a possible fraudulent transaction, but almost certainly won't be for something less than $150. Keep alert.

These scammers are the worst!

And speaking of Amazon read my latest column: The dirty secret of Amazon Prime Day: Shoppers aren’t saving as much as they think.

 

I don’t always get to read your chat live but with the chats ending wanted to add to comment you made to “Lessons Learned.” You said “I wish I could go back and tell my younger self not to be so scared of investing.” I wish I could do that also but would expand it to all of life and “tell my younger self not to be so scared.” All of what you said is true of life including “I missed so many gains being afraid.” “The younger you are the more risk you can take because you have more time. I wish I knew that way back when.” And “I would also tell my younger self to chill and enjoy life a little more.” Would be a great graduation speech…

You are so right. I could kick my younger self. She was so afraid of everything -- and if I'm being honest still is. 

But with age comes wisdom and the ability to push pass your fears. I still panic when the markets go super crazy. But I don't act on the fear. I just scream and drive my husband nuts. 

But you know what? 

Since you can't go back, going forward forgive yourself for all the dumb financial things you've done (or are still doing). Every day -- every single day - is an opportunity to change. It's never too late. Ever. Now, you may have to change some of your expectations or be nicer to your kids because you will be living with one of them (be nice to the son-in-law and daughter-in-law). As soon as you know better, do better. That's all I ever ask of folks. 

I still haven't got my first check yet

I'm so sorry. A lot of folks still haven't. But the IRS is still making payments and will be doing so until the end of this year. Then if you don't get the money, you can still claim it when you file your 2020 tax return next year. I know this doesn't help you right now but unfortunately that's the situation. 

Thank you for your series on racism. It's the life ranging offenses that shatters lives for decades. In my HS in Charles County only a handful of black students were ASSIGNED college prep courses. They were assigned to general math which was adding and subtraction. White students were assigned college prep or vocational trade schools. Black girls went to the beauty schools or took typing. Black boys graduated with no skills or training. Some black girls and boys joined the armed services. I don't recall many white students joining the service. I graduated in 1978. We had a football booster club but no PTA. So decades later, who have generational wealth and more financial security by being a plumber, mechanic, carpenter, or accountant for their families. Heck just having health insurance on a job.

Amen. Amen. Amen. Part 4 of the series is dropping tomorrow. Honestly, I've cried so many times since the series started. Because I had to recall the racist things that happened to me and my ancestors. Plus the emails I've gotten although overwhelmingly positive have included some straight up crazy racist crap. Trying not to cuss but man oh man!

Can you consider an online FAQ with some of your pearls of investing and saving expertise? A primer (I can hear you voice in my head) on everything from the Death Book, to separate funds for emergency and life happens, to why to pay your mortgage off?

What a great idea. Thank you! I will consider.

Also thank you so much for Sincerely Michelle! Your latest one (on investing) really spoke to me. We're Hispanic, but a lot of the same things (both for good and bad) were expressed to me growing up.

Thank you. 

If you missed it here's Part 3: The legacy of slavery made my grandmother fear investing

 

You linked to two of your "Sincerely, Michelle" columns. Are these the only ones, so far? And going forward, how can we link to all of them? Don't want to miss your wisdom!

Each one of the columns in the series should link to the others once posted. But here are all three, with Part 4 coming tomorrow.

Yes, I was hired because I was Black. But that’s not the only reason.

(Here's the podcast about the first in the series: "I hired you because you're Black.")

Stop telling Black people we could close the wealth gap if we valued education more

The legacy of slavery made my grandmother fear investing

One of my dreams was that you and Hax would have a joint chat bit I guess that's not going to happen now Thank you very much for all the years of good advice and encoragement.

I've tried over the years but couldn't make it happen. 

I guess all good things must come to an end. That's advice coming from this 67 year old retired woman. I am so sorry that you are ending this chat, but understand that you are moving on to other things. I have so enjoyed your advice to everyone - the young, old (like me), and in between. Please continue to look out for us old folks when coming up with ideas for future columns, series, chats, etc. Wishing all the best to you and yours.

Since I'm in my advanced years you can count on it that I'll be looking out for young, middle-aged and seasoned seniors. 

Michelle, first of all, I'm so sad these chats are ending! I've learned so much from you and you've been a huge, positive influence on my views on money, saving and investing. THANK YOU for giving us that gift, and enjoy your well deserved step back. Come back and chat with us from time to time, will ya? ;) My question pertains to DIY-type estate planning packages like LegalZoom. Do you think these are legit and/or good options to use? It's just my husband and me. We both have assets in IRA-type funds with the other designated as the beneficiary, a house in both our names and liquid savings/investments. The LegalZoom package includes options for will or trust, consultations with a state-specific attorney, and the actual documents (will, financial POA and living will). The ease of just using this service is very tempting; have you heard good/bad reports from folks using this service? Take care, Michelle, we will miss you!!

Thank you. I think DIY is better than nothing and can work for a lot of folks. But if you have the money, I would visit an attorney. There's just so much that can go wrong that you can't fix after you're gone. 

Michelle I got laid off last Friday which hurts so much but I know I’m going to be ok because of you. I have 20k in my big emergency fund for just this type of issue. But when you count in my car fund, life happens fund & all of my other pots, I’m up to 35k so we’ll be ok for some time if I have to dig into those. I’ve been reading you since my early twenties barely scraping by & now I’m married, 1 kid & own a house with no other debts. Thanks for all you have done & virtual hugs to you!

I'm so sorry about the job loss. Even having the various pots I can only imagine how scary it still is. 

But you got this. And thank goodness you do!

Michelle, I've been part of your chats for years now. I can understand taking a sabbatical - but consider some kind of rotation with other financial and business Post writers. I think a weekly chat with a rotating host focusing on these topics would go over well. I can't fathom why the Post would be reducing its overall chat footprint now that the format is in place and presumably the costs are minimal. Your chats have been helpful!

That's a great idea. I'll pass it along. 

And I'm with you about the decision to pull back on the chat footprints. I was not a happy camper. Trust me!!

Michelle, just piling on with the love-in today to thank you for the wisdom you've shared, the encouragement you've given and the occasional butt-kicking as well. You remind me of my late father, who always saved up for what he wanted to buy and paid cash. Plastic would have delivered more instant gratification, but more ramen noodles later in love. Will deeply miss my favorite Thursday sandwich chomping ritual. We love you!

I just don't have enough words for the love I'm feeling right now. And love, just love "Thursday sandwich chomping ritual." That just made me lol!

Why should people who owes child support get there stimulus offset like tax returns when they are unable to pay cause out of work due to covid reasons. They suffered just as much as any other working or non working american citizen. Please respond and help me understand why.

I don't understand a lot of what Congress does. I supposed the thought was that the money is still going to help children in need of support. 

My husband And I haven't got our taxes yet and filled in early February when can we have our money and their giving money to incarcerated imates

Two separate issues.

Tax refunds were delayed like so much this year because of covid-19. It's been rough on a lot of folks and I know me telling you this doesn't help. It's just what is. 

As for the incarcerated I don't have a problem with this decision. I volunteer in prisons and this money can go a long way to help prisoners stay in touch with their families or buy personal products that are not supplied by the correctional facilities.

But I get it. People are there because they committed a crime. However helping them get jobs, stay connected to family with stimulus money prevents them from returning to a life of crime. And this helps all of us. 

Was it fair to leave out Seniors and Individuals for a Stimulus Payment because they were claimed as Dapendants on taxes We all are United States Citizens and pay taxes one way or another even if claimed on someone taxes that was unfair to move a million people who didn't receive payment??

Vote. This was a decision by the leaders in power now. 

 

Hi, Michelle. Sorry to see you're leaving the chat scene, but I'm sure your next step will be great. The question is: Should I pay off my mortgage before I sell my house or wait and pay it off during closing? A bit of background -- My wife and I have recently moved in to a new home we built, but we haven't sold our old one yet. The market in our neighborhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, seems tight. Several houses nearby have been on the market for months, and we don't think we'd fare well at the moment. So we're maintaining two mortgages, which, thankfully, we can afford. So the question is, is it better to pay off the mortgage on the old house (we have plenty of money to do that), or is it better to pay off the mortgage and go into any sale "clean"?

I would think if you are planning to sell anyway, you might hold on to your savings. But talk to the realtor and make sure the home is really priced to sell, even if you have to get less than you want. 

Both you and inmates are entitled to this money as the law is written. Both of you may experience processing delays before getting it. But some inmates were, in addition, illegally barred from receiving funds they were owed, unlike you. That wrong is what is being redressed now.

Hank Stuever! I always toggled back and forth between your chats and more than once he said when he was done with his, he'd grab lunch and read the transcript of YOUR chat! All of you will be missed but for the record, as a daily/Sunday print subscriber I know my money is still supporting the work you all do!

Love Hank! And thank you for your support, for being a subscriber. I still have two kids to put through college. 

But there were things like this, https://www.edcjcc.org/event/wexler-lecture/ available to them to get started with businesses and established in this country. My great grandmother was so business savvy that she memorized the transactions at a little store front she ran and waited for a child to come home from school to write them down. She didn't want to risk anyone from the government seeing she had two sets of books since she never learned to do more than sign her name in English. Probably was a pretty good business education for the kids too.

Right. People are trying to say Blacks should do better when compared to other immigrants. But this immigrants didn't come here in chains and then spend 400 years in slavery only to be freed into Jim Crow, etc. 

Some similar issues but still not the same. 

that will be sad to see you go. You have providedmuch needed common sense financial to a wide audience and we love you for it. Spouse and I were lucky that we had good paying jobs and were able to always live by rule #1 - live and spend below income. House and cars paid off. Two kids through 4 year colleges with no debt. Credit cards paid in full each month. Think twice, no three times, before that impulse purchase. Best wishes!

Thank you! 

Thank you for these chats I will miss them! My story is a bit of a reverse testimonial - we are currently working on getting our first Big debt (buying a home). Previously we’ve paid of all credit cards etc in full every month. It is a little intimidating, even though we’ve done the math every which way and know we can afford this sometimes I think it’s so. much. money! But thanks to your years of advice I know we can do this, and eventually get out from under this monkey rather than the other way around! (She, mid thirties)

Yup, you can do it! 

Let the numbers guide you not the fear.

Michelle, Thank you for hosting this chat for so many years! It has taken me a lot of very small steps, but I have been able to apply many facets of your advice and am in a much more sound financial state because of it. I appreciate your willingness to share your personal experiences and confront issues in a straightforward and meaningful way. Thanks for cultivating this forum for so long and I look forward to continuing to read your columns!

Wow. Thanks.

Michelle! I am so grateful for your work on these chats. There was something so inspiring about being able to reach an expert of your stature personally. I've learned so much from your confidence in holding to good financial principles no matter what others do/say. Best of luck in what comes next, and I'll be celebrating along with you when your mortgage is paid off! (One last testimony - My 2006 hoopty hit the point of no return last month. Because we had saved our "car payment" for years, we were able to jump on a good deal for our new used vehicle with no financial stress. Current plan is to keep it until the kids currently grinding Cheerios into the upholstery take their driving tests!)

Lol! Love it. Thank you for your testimony and kind words.

Assuming it happens, because the last paycheck of the year will be a half check (further reduced by having certain items like health insurance withheld at the full amount on a half sized check), everyone will come in at under $4000 for the pay period and have their SS taxes deferred. So, while that has mostly impacted lower to mid level workers now, the higher paid workers will also get pulled in for that last check of the year, arriving right after Christmas. Unless they change the rule, but my understanding for now is that the SS taxes are not withheld for anyone whose SS applicable salary for the pay period is under $4000. The GS scale doesn't go that high.

That executive order forcing federal workers to take what is just a loan, was/is horrible. 

Dear Michelle, Thank you for your advice over the years, which is guided me through the ups and downs of young adulthood, then early marriage, then new parenthood, and onward. There have been times where I have missed the mark, let my pride or social pressures lead to poor choices, or otherwise failed to follow "what would Michelle Singletary do," but all-in-all, my family's finances and emotional health are so much better than we would be otherwise due to your advice. Thanks for all you do, especially for those most in need. It is so very appreciated! Best wishes in all your future endeavors, and I'll continue to be a fan following you from way out in Idaho!

Idaho!! Wow. Thank you.

Michelle, Thank you for doing these chats. I've written in a few times over the years about paying off student loans and buying a house, and just want to thank you for providing so much knowledge to all us readers and providing an environment where I never felt stupid for asking a question. Your weekly chats will be missed but I look forward to continuing to read your work and your occasional chats. I hope when you host chats, the WaPo advertises them so we know they're coming up! Thank you again for all your guidance and support over the years.

I hope so too -- about the promotion of the chats. 

If you have a mortgage and a heloc and the interest rates are comparable and you have a little extra money you could put into a principal payment, where is the best place for it to go first? Or split it?

I would pay off the mortgage where the rate could adjust up. 

Michelle I want to thank you so much for these chats - I really looked forward to these every week. You inspired me to learn more on my own and share with others. I also organized a series of meetings on financial literacy and investing at work. Your new series of articles is amazing and I shared the most recent one with many of my friends and colleagues. I will continue to follow your work and writings, will miss the chats terribly, but I wish you the very best as you have chosen the optimal path for your growth. Which ultimately will benefit your many dedicated readers. With warmest regards from DC/she/her.

Loving you right back!

I see a few more questions but I have to go and finish the column for Sunday. (I may answer them in a column. So keep reading Color of Money. And as I said you can reach me at colorofmoney@washpost.com)

If I write anymore I'll start crying again. This is a wonderful forum. It has been the highlight of my week, truly!

I won't say goodbye because it's not for good that I'm gone. 

I'll be back. 

Thank you for all the love. I needed it and appreciate it. 

Sincerely, 

Michelle

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. Her award-winning column is also carried in more than 120 newspapers. In her spare time, Singletary is the director of a ministry she founded at her church, in which women and men volunteer to mentor others who are having financial challenges.

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