Color of Money Live

Nov 03, 2011

Need advice about how to handle your personal finances? Whether the struggle is saving for retirement, organizing your bank files, or talking about money responsibility with your spouse or loved one, Post personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary offers her advice and answers your questions on Thursday, November 3 at 12 p.m. ET.

Glad you could join me today.

Let's get started.

Hi Michelle. My husband and I both have government jobs (his is county, mine federal). We get life insurance through them. We have two young sons and a mortgage. When I talked to someone from my bank about life insurance, he said that it can't be counted on from jobs. But is that true for our stable government jobs? Thanks.

Did you really say "stable government jobs?"

I ask because some of the major job cuts have come from formerly stable state government jobs. And even your Federal job might not be so secure if the supercommittee and deficit reduction folks have their way.

So, if I were you, I might just talk to a independent insurance agent and get some supplemental term life insurance --just in case.

My dad, who is 70, is moving across the country to the city where I live. He is independent, but we agree he needs to be near a relative (me) as he gets older. Mostly, I'm glad he's doing this and am happy to help. The "mostly" -- Dad has not been the best money manager in his life. He is moving toward a Social Security only retirement as he depletes his savings, and I know this is tough. He can't live with me, though, because my family would go crazy. So I want to encourage him to make the most cost-conscious decisions he can make as he moves here. Right now, he says he doesn't want to move into a "seniors only" place, but that's certainly the most affordable option around here. I want to be supportive but not controlling, and I want to keep some boundaries so he's not always asking me for money (though I am willing to help some). Am I crazy to encourage this move? I'm worried I'm opening a can of worms here, but what else can I do? I love my Dad. Any advice would be helpful.

I think before you dad moves, the two of you need to sit down and go over his budget very carefully. Take into account the fact that he may only be living on Social Security. Can he really live in an apartment, even a seniors only one and pay all his expenses just from his SS check?

If not, and he still wants and needs to move, you may have to put up with a little crazy and have him move in with your family. If he moves and you haven't figured out all the financial stuff, he's setting himself up for failure and you're still be crazy but with a lot more issues on your hand.

So again before he moves, look at all the options. Can he find a roommate where he lives. If he moves, if he can't live with you, can he live with say another senior trying to save money. Use the state's aging department to find some resources.

Really think thu this move.

In my eletter today I weigh in on the Kardashian mess?

What's your take on the situation? Do you even care?

If you are a regular reader, you know I can find a personal finance take on just about any subject.

In many respects the breakup is much like what I see with many couples, most of whom split because of financial issues. People spend so much time and money on the wedding they don't plan the marriage.

I just don't get it. Why tie yourself to someone wiithout sorting thu a lot of things including and most importantly how you will handle your money or life, or children, or careers, or extended family.


My husband and I have a nine-month-old and another already on the way. We are dead broke--no savings at all (not even a couple hundred bucks), nothing left at the end of the month. (Are there places we could cut our budget? Probably, but my husband isn't interested, and we're at pretty minimal levels.) With kids in our lives, I know that we need wills--but there is no money for them at all. And if I had a few hundred dollars, I would sock it away for my upcoming maternity leave! Is there anything we can do for free that would help safeguard our children's futures if something were to happen to us?

You need a will not just to leave money to your children but so the courts know who will take care of them should both you and your husband pass away at the same time.

So, yes you need a will. And you may have more to leave them than you think.

The the important point is that you aren't in a good financial position espcially with another baby on the way. This is very serious.  If  you are having trouble now, how will you make do with the extra baby and all the expenses that go with that.

You need a plan, a budget some intervention ASAP.

You can safeguard your children's futures by becoming very proactive in finding a way to boost your savings, get a will and hopefully some life insurance. Find out a financial class in your community. Go to and set up a meeting with a nonprofit credit counselor. In addition to helping people with setting up debt repayment plans, the agency can help you and your husband manage your money better. If your husband won't go to the meeting, you go. 

Please get help so your children are financially safe.

In response to your question, no, I don't care; in fact, it seems crazy to me that people pay any attention to this clan whatsoever. But it's easier than dealing with our own money issues, right? Don't you think that's at the heart of most people's money problems-- the ostrich thing-- put your head in the sand and pretend nothing's wrong?

You are so right. It's so easy for people to watch the drama unfolding in other people's lives than deal with their own stuff. I mean the media is on this because frankly people are watching the show, reading the tweets, etc.

The fact is many people don't deal with their money issues. The sand is easier or so they think.

But as I write in my eletter, we can learn from what is going on with that clan. Kim admits she didn't think she should have gone on with the wedding but she did. And I don't think she's being honest when she says it wasn't about the money. Of course it was. Was all of it about the money. Maybe not. But had she cancelled the wedding there would have been no payday for the People photos and E special.

Other couples continue on with a wedding because the dress is bought, the down payment made for the reception, etc.

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

So what if you've paid all the down payments and you've spent money for the wedding. You just back out?

As I just said, short-term it's better to lose money on the wedding planning than to spend years in heartache, fussing and fighting. It's a bargain to cancel rather to go ahead and get married when you suspect there are too many issues that can't or won't get resolved.

I work at a military base and it was just announced this morning that 300 civilian government positions will be cut over the next year. I will be fine (I think) but just a gentle reminder that I wouldn't count any federal job as "safe"

Amen to that.

I don't think any of us can use "stable" and "job" together in this new economy. So that's why it's vital to have an emergency fund, life happens fund, etc.

You have to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Any thoughts on this? My saying is "The cost of the wedding is of inverse proportion to the duration of the marriage."

I have no evidence but I'm inclined to agree with you.

I knew a couple whose marriage didn't last long enough for them to pay off the debt they took on to have the big wedding. They were paying on the wedding debts after the divorce.


Well, those people who live on reality shows don't really live in reality. She was looking to stay in the limelight. Maybe after 2 months she realized this wasn't the guy to do that for her.

Today's eletter.

Actually I don't agree. I understand that many reality shows are scripted but the similar drama is playing out in people's homes. Trust me I've seen some off-camara stuff that would make some of the reality shows look like Sesame Street.

And as Dr. Phil says, you have to earn your way out of a marriage. You did the deed, take the time to work on the marriage. 

you need more life insurance. we got a policy on my husband at my insistence. It would be very tough without him, and the money from his work is only a fraction of what I would need. And that's with selling the house and moving elsewhere. I said to him that he needed a policy on me (the stay at home mom) but he said 'i'll be fine.' So there isn't one, but I encourage everyone to get them on the stay at home mom, there are expenses that people don't realize. And not having to worry about money right after a spouse's death is probably a wonderful thing. and it's not that expensive...

It frustrates me so when people, couples, husbands, even stay-at-home wives don't think the stay-at-home parent doesn't need life insurance. Oh what it would cost to replace the services a stay-at-home parent provides (housecleaning, cooking, driving kids around, etc.)

If you have kids, both spouses need life insurance.

Almost ashamed to be writing about this Michelle, but the entire Kardashian family is a project that sells itself to the highest bidder. I don't know how much the E! cable network made off the "wedding," but I know it was substantial and I'm sure magazines such as In Touch and Us had to pay for interviews with the blushing bride. I'll bet if you hooked all these folks up to lie detectors, you would discover that this was done entirely for the money. And I am sure the Kardashians and their advisers even now are trying to figure out what the next big money move is.

I'm betting the same thing!

Amen, Michelle. It is MUCH cheaper to lose your deposits from the wedding. The alternative being counseling, being miserable for years, and the costs of getting divorced. Losing the deposits seems like a bargain to me!

Definitely a bargain.

And you know what esle is a bargain.

Paying for premarital classes.

As a long-time church organist, I noticed that the biggest dog-and-pony shows inevitably ended in divorce. The largest and most extravagant--with 12 sets of bridal attendants--ended less than 6 months later. When the bride told her father she was getting a divorce, he had a heart attack--he had taken out a second morgage to pay for all the foolishness. Sad sad sad.

Indeed that was sad. My goodness.

I'm the maid of honor for my friend's wedding and I've already spent well over a thousand dollars on the dress, shoes, gifts, travel expenses, etc. My friend confided that she wishes she had just gone to city hall and been done with it. At least I got some good lessons learned from all this...

It might just be me, but I think it's not very thoughtful for couples to expect people to pay so much to be part of a wedding, especially if they aren't sure people have it to spend.

But I always tell folks, find out how much it might cost to be in a wedding (everything) and if you can't afford it, decline. And if the couple (bride or groom) give you a hard time, they aren't worth the friendship.

Michelle, can you please link to today's eletter? Thanks!

Today's eletter, Keeping up with the Kardashian's Kash

I almost did the same thing. I was engaged to someone who was constantly in financial trouble, and I was constantly bailing him out. Until a friend quietly asked me, is this REALLY what you want? And I didn't. So I called it off. I only lost about $100 on the reception downpayment and I own a wedding dress I'll never. But oh my goodness, the lifetime of savings that I gained by calling it off. Priceless.

I agree. Priceless.

As someone who is about to celebrate her 20-year anniversary I can't understand getting married to someone when you know there are major issues. Look, we didn't have any major issues and it was still hard.

I love, love my husband and he's a great guy, dad, friend but  my goodness the work it takes. So don't do it unless you've worked thu the issues you know are there.

My dad has been in the hospital for over three weeks and we have discovered over  three months of opened and unopened bills. How do we help our aging parents in the area of their finances without offending them?

I'm so sorry. So once your dad gets better take a bag of the bills and go through them with him. Pay what you have to pay now but sit down later and talk to him about setting up a better plan to handle this finances. You have to do an intervention really.

I'm in a similar boat to your previous questioner, regarding care for an aging parent. I did some research this weekend by visiting various facilities with varying philosophies, levels of care, and financial requirements. The place that handled people on public assistance was horrendous. I hope they're not all that way, but my experience so far wasn't promising which is causing me to consider getting long-term care insurance for my mother. It's not really fair - it will be about$6,000 a year (not "spare" money) - when she has very carefully planned not to have a plan and leave it to fate, which equals me. I really don't know what to do. Is it possible to get life insurnace for a relative, to pay for the cost (retroactively) of making sure she has some comfort in her declining years? Or do I just leave her to her choices?

You  may find it hard to get insurance on your relative now. If you can, and you think they will have bills  you want to pay after he or she passes, you could do that.

However, don't incur expenses counting on insurance. First, it's not likely you can let those expenses run up until the person dies. Facilities like the ones you are researching require monthly payments and they can't build up. Keep looking for resources to help, including perhaps having the relative live with you or someone and hire someone to come in to provide services, which could be less than a full-time facility depending on his or her needs.

I was able to get my unemployed brother into a community college.  Am I enabling him if I pay for the first class?  Or should I cover the books and pray they come up with tuition and fees? His wife is the primary breadwinner.

I think it's great to help your brother by paying for the first class to help him become employed. But I would hope there is a plan to pay for the other classes going forward. While I believe in prayer, it also takes money and a plan to be sure he can finish the program.

So sit down and talk to them about how they may be able to see this through. Otherwise you will pay for one class and that's all he does or takes.

when you marry for money, you earn every penny of it.

Amen to that!

Thank you so much for joining me today.

And remember be financially safe.

In This Chat
Michelle Singletary
Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, "The Color of Money," which appears in The Post on Thursday 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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