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Personal Finance: $11.5 Million: Poof, Gone!

Michelle Singletary
Thursday, November 11, 2010; 9:08 AM

"What you've never had, you never miss."

Those are the words lottery winner Violet Large said after giving away all of her $11.5 million winnings, reports Patricia Brooks Arenburg of the Chronicle Herald.

The 78-year-old Nova Scotia resident and her husband, Allen, bought a lottery ticket and won. But rather than go on a spending spree, the couple gave away every last penny of the winnings to family, but mostly they gave it to charities, including the local fire department, churches, cemeteries, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and hospitals.

Mrs. Large, who is recovering from cancer, said the money was "a big headache." The couple lives modestly and said they just didn't need anything. With Thanksgiving around the corner, I thought this story was an amazing testimony of not just generosity but of a couple who truly understands what's important in life.

Unkind Cut

The response to my column last Sunday has been overwhelming. It was the last part in a series I started earlier this year in which I looked at the personal finance difficulties of ex-offenders. As part of the series, I interviewd a 32-year-old ex-offender, Kelly D. Brown, who had been working at the Hair Cuttery. Brown wanted me to tell her story and show how she's overcoming the mistakes she made.

Brown was upfront about her criminal past on her application and was hired by the Hair Cuttery. Even though the salon manager and a company recruiter knew about her past, Brown was fired when higher management found out about her conviction.

The company said Brown was fired to "ensure the safety and well-being of our stylists and our clients."

I want to hear from you. Read the column about Brown and weigh in. The Color of Money Question of the Week: "Should companies have blanket bans on hiring ex-offenders or ex-offenders with felony convictions?" Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. In the subject line, put "Unkind Cut."

Online Chat and Text Today

Trying to get your money right for the holiday season? Join me today at 11:45 am ET where the financial conversation begins with my live online video chat.

If you have a question you would like me to answer live online, send it to colorofmoney@washpost.com.

After the video chat, hang around online and join me at noon ET for my online text chat. If you're unable to participate live, send your comments in early or read the archive later.

Foreclosure Fiasco

I have a new hero. It's Long Island Judge Jeffrey Spinner, who's showing the banks they can't push around homeowners.

We've all seen the devastating affects of the housing crisis and how many distressed homeowners feverishly fought lenders to save their homes, often times to no avail. But Spinner is giving banks a taste of what that boot kick feels like.

In one court ruling, Spinner found that one mortgage company's paperwork in a foreclosure case was so flawed and the bank's behavior in negotiations so bad that he wiped away the $292,500 debt the family owed on their house, reports Post writer Ariana Eunjung Cha.

Of course, the bank is appealing, but the decision is still enough to make Spinner my hero. But his ruling is just one of a growing number of foreclosure judgments against mortgage companies because of messy or deceptive foreclosure filings.

In cases across the United States, local judges have wide latitude to impose sanctions on banks, writes Cha. With the foreclosure rate projected to affect one million American households by the end of this year, many courts are taking a closer look at the paperwork being submitted by mortgage companies.

Here are just a few other cases in Cha's report:

-- In June, one judge ruled that Wachovia Bank lacked standing to foreclose on a home because the document used to prove ownership of the mortgage was incomplete.

-- In September, a judge delayed a foreclosure by Ally Financial's GMAC mortgage unit after noticing that the paperwork transferring the mortgage to the bank was dated two days after the foreclosure was initiated.

-- Last month, a judge dismissed a foreclosure motion by OneWest because the bank had not adequately documented how the mortgage had been sold and resold to investors.

"I think we're going to see more decisions like this across the country," said Craig D. Robins, a foreclosure defense attorney who publishes the Long Island Bankruptcy blog.

Responses to "It's the Economy and We're Not Stupid"

For last week's Color of Money Question, I wanted to know: What do you think it will take to improve the economy?

Here are some comments.

"Jobs, jobs, and more jobs," says Michelle Brown of Accokeek, Md. "When people work and make good wages, then they can pay their mortgages, buy new cars and houses, travel, and do all the types of things that keep the economy going. If we don't have jobs, we've got nothing! With things so precarious right now, even if you have a job, you don't want to make any major purchases. I was unemployed for 19 months and even though I finally found another job this past June, I certainly am not running out to spend money or get into debt."

Mary Zawoysky of Woods Hole, Mass. also wants to see greater effort to boost job growth.

She wrote: "For years corporations have been sending jobs overseas. Our politicians need to give incentives to get those jobs moved back. As shoppers, we need to concentrate on buying items made in the U.S. It's possible!"

NSB Carter of Athens, Ga. says time is what will fix the economy.

"We seem to be very short on patience, and that's understandable, but a problem of this size can't be fixed overnight or even in two years," Carter said. "I think we've made great strides and avoided disaster, but that doesn't console those who are hurting now. This administration has done well over-all. I hope they will keep on chipping away at the problem."

A balanced budget and revenue is what will help the economy, wrote Earl Roethke of Minnetonka, Minn.

He wrote: "It's just like running a household. After you've pared back your expenses to the minimum, you still need to ensure that there is enough coming in to keep things running."

Teamwork is the trick, says Lanoria Lester of Chicago.

"I think it would take both parties -- Democratic and Republican -- working together and not worrying about trying to get even or get back at the President," Lester said. "This is very sad and ridiculous how everything is going on in our country right now. This is supposed to be America, the land of the free and home of the brave."

Lester is right. If our leaders don't figure out how to work together without the ugly partisan politics, America will increasingly become the home of the broke.

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.

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