And the rich get richer

Many members of Congress probably can’t identity with living paycheck to paycheck. For them there’s no rush to pass President Obama’s jobs bill or find a better alternative to the plan because they aren’t worried about feeding their families, sending their children to college or saving for retirement.

Members of Congress had a collective net worth of more than $2 billion in 2010, a nearly 25 percent increase over the 2008 total, reports Paul Singer and Jennifer Yachnin of Roll Call. The paper analyzed the financial disclosure forms of our federal lawmakers.

As protesters around the country march against the concentration of wealth among the few, that trend can be seen starkly in Congress, Roll Call points out. Although, a few exceedingly wealthy people skew the averages for the rest of the membership, by almost any measure, the average member of Congress is far wealthier than the average U.S. household, Roll Call found.

By dividing the total wealth of Congress by the number of members, the paper found the mean (average) net worth for each member was $3.8 million — and that’s excluding non-income-producing property, such as personal residences. By comparison, for the rest of the country, based on statistics released by the Federal Reserve, average household net worth is around $500,000 this year -- and that’s including personal residences.

So let me ask you for the Color of Money Question of the Week: Does having so many millionaires among our congressional leadershiphamper their sensibility to the average working family?

Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com . Put “And the Rich Get Richer” in the subject line. Please include your name and city.

Celebrity Cash

Actually, the rich don’t always get richer.

Former NFL player Terrell Owens is having major money woes.

The ex-football star — who earned more than $11 million a year in 2007 playing for the Dallas Cowboys -- is claiming in court papers that he has no income and is asking to have his child support payments reduced to his four children, each with a different mother, reports TMZ.com.

Owens was paying one mother $20,000 a month in child support until last year, when it was reduced to $11,202. Another mother was getting $15,000 per month; a third was getting $13,400 a month. A fourth woman receives $5,000 in monthly child support payments. Owens’s children range in age from 4 to 11, reports Aol’s SportingNews.

“He has tried to keep paying all of these mothers what they were used to year after year, basically putting himself into a financial crisis. He has always paid his child support payments and loves his kids,” a rep for Owens told TMZ.com.

Here is a video of Owens talking about his financial issues.

That’s what happens when you live above your means and have far too many baby mamas.

Heftier Hotel Fees

Like so many other industries, hotels are dinging their customers with an array of fees for services.

Following in the footsteps of the airlines, hotels are piling on a slew of hidden fees for services that used to be free. Now guests are getting charged for everything from access to a gym (or a pool), to early check-ins or departures to holding your luggage, reports Jessica Dickler of CNN.com.

A recent study by Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, found that total fees and surcharges collected by hotels in the United States are projected to hit a record $1.8 billion this year, up 80 percent from a decade ago.

My advice is to challenge any and all fees. I’ve often been able to get some fees waived. For example, during a number of hotel stays I’ve refused to pay for a safe fee if I wasn’t going to use it.

Debt Defeaters

Have you finally beaten your debt addiction?

If so, I want to hear your story. Send your debt defeater story to colorofmoney@washpost.com and include the amount of debt you paid off, how long it took to do it and how it feels to be debt-free. Put “Debt Defeater” in the subject line.

If I read your story during my live video chat, I will send you a T-shirt.

Upcoming Events

-- On Saturday, I’ll be speaking at the YWCA Hartford Region’s 10th Anniversary Money Conference for Women. The organization will be “Celebrating 10 Years of Giving Women the Power to Prosper.” The free event will be held at the Hartford Marriott Downtown, 200 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford, Conn., from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. For information, click here.

-- Tuesday, Nov. 15, I will be moderating The Washington Post’s “Sweet Savings” event, a discussion about finding bargains and stretching your dollars. Panelists include Post Travel section staff writer Andrea Sachs, Local Living staff writer Terri Sapienza and deputy Food editor Bonnie Benwick. The event will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW in Washington. Click this link to register. The event is free for Platinum and Gold PostPoints members who register online. All others must pay at the door. Tickets are $20.

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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