Michelle Singletary: Welcome. Should be a great discussion today with the market going crazy up and down. So let's get started.
Pentagon City, Va.: Michelle - I just paid off my car loan last week! I'm so excited! I wanted to get rid of debt before I try to buy a place - and you provided some extra encouragement for me to do that, so I thank you! My question is - how long does it take for that payoff to show up on my credit report? Thanks!
Michelle Singletary: WAY TO GO!!!!! It's so great to get rid of a debt. Good for you. You should notice a bump up in your credit scores over the next few months. Technically it can change immediately after your creditor sends the data to the credit bureau or bureaus after you've paid off the loan.
Northern Virginia: Michelle, I wanted to say thank you, thank you, for your advice! Last week I paid off my final credit card balance, and I feel so relieved. Last June I had almost $8,000 in combined balances on four cards, one with an interest rate as high as 19%. I cut out clothes shopping, packed lunches, clipped coupons, and did everything I could do pay down the debt. What a great feeling to be rid of the weight of the debt. Thank you, and please keep up what you are doing. To other readers, have faith and discipline -- it can be done! Michelle Singletary: Oh my, yet another great testimony. Really, I'm so, so proud of you. Consider this a virtual hug (). And love your encouragement to others. Yes, it can be done. Just do it.
Reston, VA: Hi Michelle, I just submitted a question but I don't think it went through. It's not related to today's column but I know you've talked about this before. I grew up in a single parent household and I was lucky to get a scholarship to the college of my choice. My younger sister wants to go to a big public university that is out of state, but her financial aid package gave her very little. She's very upset because she thought she had a good chance at getting a scholarship or need-based aid. I don't know what to tell her or how to help because I don't have the money and neither does our single parent. I told her that going into debt would be a bad idea but I don't think she agrees. Advice?
M ichelle Singletary: You've told her the right thing. But you can't make her listen. So help as best you can. Help her compare costs of hopefully an in-state school she's chosen. Show her what she would make given her career choice and how much she woudl need to make to service a lot of debt. Perhaps the numbers will show her the right path. Can you promise to pay for her books at least? That's what my husband and I did with one neice. Paid for all her books and supplies for four years.
New York, NY: I had to brag that I paid off my credit cards!!! It took me 4.5 years and cost me $62K...but I am a free woman!! I still have student loans but the money I used for my credit cards is being directed into my student loans. For those who still have credit card payments, the best thing you can do is to STOP using them. Use a VISA/MC debit card so that you always have a "credit card" but you only spend what you have. I was lucky that I was able to pay off my credit cards without ruining my credit. I was also lucky that I caught my credit cards trying to raise my rates and was able to get on top of it. That should be a key priority in regulating credit card companies. They should not be able to pull a "bait and switch" because their idea of a deadline is very different from the rest of the world's idea. I encourage everyone to keep up the great work on paying things off! It's so wonderful to come home from a paid vacation and know that you won't be paying for it twice!