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Color of Money Book Club
Thursday, September 25, 2008; 12:00 PM
Personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary hosted an online discussion with Jessica Blatt and Variny Paladino, authors of "The Teen Girl's Gotta-Have-It Guide to Money" (Watson-Guptill), on Thursday, Sept. 25 at Noon ET.
In her last book club column, Michelle wrote: "This book is packed with information. It has interactive exercises that explain basic financial terms and concepts, job-hunting tips, and a good section on how the stock market works. It's well illustrated with cartoon-like pictures of multiracial teen girls and cutesy, colorful graphics throughout."
A transcript follows.
Michelle Singletary: Good afternoon all. So, it's been a lot going on and a lot of you have much to say and ask. I'll try to flip flop between the book discussion and answering your non-book club selection questions. Also keep in mind in my weekly eletter I am answering many leftover questions. So if you aren't signed up please do. If your questions isn't answered today you could see an answer in the eletter.
So let's get started.
Tucson, Ariz.: How difficult will it be to get a mortgage?
Michelle Singletary: Good question to start with.
When you go to the lender bring lots of money, your first-born child, your dog or cat, good job history and salary and prayers.
Sacramento, Calif.: How do you encourage young girls to pursue what they love?
Jessica Blatt: One great way to encourage girls to pursue their passion is to show them how much satisfaction you derive from pursuing your passions: Sure, your daughter may not think your hobbies are "cool" all the time, but just having hobbies and interests and passions of your own shows girls the benefits of them. Another great thing to do is learn more about your daughter's or student's passion--not in an overbearing way, but in a thoughtful way. So if your daughter is into skateboarding, clip an article you read somewhere about a new line of skateboards, and leave it on her desk; if she's into music, ask her to upload some of her favorite songs to your MP3 player; if she's into art, offer to take her and a friend to a local exhibit, gallery, or museum. Ease into it, at first--you don't want her to think you're cramping her style or invading something that's personal or precious to her; but showing her you support her with interest and non-judgment can really boost her confidence and commitment (whether she lets on or not).
Columbus, Ohio: What will it take to fix the bailout? Why can't we as taxpayers own these assets that the government is buying with our money?
Michelle Singletary: Very good question. The problem with the bailout is the administration doesn't have the answers. I watched the entire Senate hearing the other day -- TWICE. And I was just apalled that Congress is being rushed to pass a bill on a 700 BILLION bailout without any real answers to which assets will be bought, how much will they cost, how will they decide which ones to buy, how long will the gov't hold on to them, who will price the assets, etc.
Washington, D.C.: I really love how the book is written. I am 24 years old but I never learned how to manage my money. The book breaks down things that can be used for your 20's also.
Jessica Blatt: Thank you for such kind and supportive words--Variny and I are so grateful for your encouragement! And, psst: You're not alone--we've heard from lots of people who said they bought the book for a teen, but ended up learning something too. We're so happy it's helping people.
Moorhead, Minn.: Why should the average American's pay to bail out big corporations? To fatten up their big wallets for the collapse of our economy while we eat the crumbs off their tables?!? Let the whole thing collapse so they can see what it's like to go without.
Michelle Singletary: I hear you. And you voice the frustration of a lot of people.
Really this bailout isn't about the assets or the people at the core of this crisis. It's about restoring confidence in the markets so companies and consumers will go back to borrowing and lending. In other words our president wants us to go back to doing what got us in this mess in the first place so things can go on as they were.
Washington, D.C.: Okay Michelle, I'm all for teaching teens about money and I wish I had this book when my 20 year old daughter was younger but what about my teen son? He's 15 and needs help too--any book suggestions for him?
Variny Paladino: Hello! This book was created for girls, but the basic money lessons are the same for both your son and daughter. Your local bookstore is a great place to start. Take your kids their and have them peruse the financial books that look interesting to them...or, there are many magazines that deal with money issues. The first step is just getting them interested in talkign about their finances! Good luck!
Michelle Singletary: I have gotten a LOT of letters from people with sons. I have a son as well. Cute little 10-year-old. And I would love to see a book just like this for boys. There are other books out there but this was/is perfect. So Jessica and Variny push your publisher to issue a boy's version but you will definitely have to change the graphic. No boy will want to go thu it with all that girly stuff!
But as Variny said there are still resources out there for boys. I love her idea of taking your son to the books store.
Berkeley, Calif.: What makes this book unique from other books currently in the market about money?
Jessica Blatt: Great question! There are a lot of great money books out there, but this one is especially useful for and relatable to teens for a few reasons: First, it really talks to girls in a way that's conversational, without being condescending. (It's like getting advice from a big sister, as opposed to a teacher or parent.) Second, it's super-relevant: It addresses facts and feelings--from how the stock market works to how to deal with awkward social situations with money. And third, it's got adorable illustrations, fun quizzes, and cool interactive elements (like games and fill-ins). So it makes money a fun topic to dive into--not a chore.
Variny Paladino: The book is extremely user-friendly and visually appealing - sometimes, that is half the battle! We also encourage the girls to reach out to their parents, caretakers, counselors, or other important adult in their lives to talk about money.
Bowie, Md.: Michelle - There is an email going around (like a gazillion times) this week that says if you wear Tshirts, hats, buttons, to the poll with your choice for president that you will be turned away. Can you find out if this is true, no one can seem to confirm this. My response to them was if you can't confirm it, don't wear anything, or put a jacket on....Hopefully you can clear this up. Thanks Sylvia
Michelle Singletary: Good question. I've gotten that e-mail several times.
The answer is it may be true.
Snopes wrote something recently about it. Go to http:/
The laws vary from state to state so you may be turned away if you wrap yourself up in a candidate's stuff. Call your state election board to find out for sure.
Singapore: Are Americans ready to accept the help from the IMF or World Bank? These entities have pools of money ready at any time.
Michelle Singletary: Ha.Ha.Ha.
of should I say LOL
Burlingame, Calif.: What can parents do to introduce finances to their kids?
Variny Paladino: Hello! Just start making money a topic of discussion in your every day life. With everything that is currently happening in the news right now with the economy, housing prices, gas prices, etc....these are opportunities to bring your children into a conversation about how being on top of your finances is very important - especially, during times like these. There are ample opportunities to talk about money when you go to the grocery store, look at a restaurant menu, even running to your local department store and comparing prices...
Washington, D.C.:"What federal officials put before Congress at the beginning of this process isn't fair."
I absolutely agree with that statement, from the end of today's column. However, it is also beside the point. The government can't afford to be concerned with and remedy each individual taxpayer's situation, however much we all would like to to be. Federal funds must be spent where they will do the most good for the whole financial system - and unfortunately, it appears that the system will most benefit from institutional assistance, not individual assistance. The unhappy outcome is that many of the homeowners (many of whom bear far less culpability than the Wall Street financiers) will not receive direct assistance.
Michelle Singletary: You know you are right and wrong. You are right that our Congress will probably punk out and go along with this crazy thing. Although I have one word for them all: IRAQ.
Didn't we get dire predictions on that issue too? And didn't those predictions turn out not to be true?
Anyway, it's outrageous that we are forgetting that at the core of this issue are the individuals. Help them and those bad debs/assets/loans/mortgage-back securities will be worth something in the future. Leave them out and what the taxpayers get is junk and the bill for it.
Washington, D.C.: My daughter goes to private school and sometimes feels like she can't keep up with her classmates, in terms of expensive hobbies. Do you have any suggestions?
Jessica Blatt: One great way to help her feel like she's not missing out on things is to guide her to fun community resources--local Ys, JCCs, museums, and libraries often have legitimately cool programs that teens don't know about (from crafting to dance to yoga). Also, an after-school job at a place that hires teens (like a store or restaurant) is also a great "double-whammy": She'll get to meet other teens (who are possibly in similar financial situations and have the same work ethic) and she'll start earning her own money.
Laurel, Md.: Michelle, are the experiences of Dawn Weaver typical of mortgage delinquencies and by extension the whole housing crisis? If the problem is that people can't pay 10.375% mortgages, the next question becomes: why is anyone's mortgage that high? Could we make AIG and Lehman solvent simply by re-structuring every mortgage at no more than 7.5%?
Michelle Singletary: Yes, Weaver is typical. And yes, we could work this out by lowering the interest rates and in some cases the underlining mortgages.
Say, why aren't you in Congress? Clearly you are smarter than the people up there now.
Columbia, Maryland: No question but a comment.
A woman is also not a financial plan.
Michelle Singletary: True!
Atlanta, Ga.: I don't understand people who make comments like: well, we MUST include such and such in this bill.
Is $700 billion not enough? Each and every new thing in the bill will cost more. Even if someone says: this will cost the taxpayer nothing, it WILL cost something. If profits are down at a company because they are making concessions, then they pay less in taxes, or they go out of business, or people lose their jobs, or whatever. It seems no one thinks of consequences of actions any longer. It's just the here and now, and the long term isn't really given any thought...as if these people know nothing about economics. So yes, another provision WILL affect taxpayers.
And I'm unsure why $100 billion wouldn't be enough to start...and we could add more money as needed. Why do we have to start out with a number that is almost a trillion dollars? It's insane (I am for passing no legislation, if the choice is that vs. a panic and passing legislation that no one seems to have thought enough about...given it's only been a few days).
Michelle Singletary: I told you guys I would let you vent.
And I like your last choice too.
Atlanta, Ga.: Just a simple comment. It seems that we are conditioned to accept that when we drive a car off the lot, it will drop in value (sometimes $10k if the car was expensive enough). And we accept this without any questioning of it.
However, now that prices are dropping in housing, people are outraged. And there are people who are walking away from mortgages because they are less than the house is worth (and more are contemplating this). I understand that (most of the time...) houses are a bigger dollar amount than a car, but still. People seem to think that they have a right to an increase in their housing price no matter what.
I guess the car companies have done a great job of marketing...
Michelle Singletary: Great, great point!
Virginia Beach, Va.: Any advice for me will be helpful... Currently ill due to weight loss surgery, on leave w/o pay since Nov. 07, $80,000 in credit card debt, divorce pending, where can i find info to help me survive?
Michelle Singletary: Oh you poor dear.
I hope you are applying for whatever state benefits you are entitled to.
As for the debt try www.debtadvice.org, which may be able to help put you on a debt repayment plan or hold off the creditors until you get well.
Bowie: Through no fault of their own, children have a limited time horizon. How do you teach them that the memorabilia from This Month's Hot Movie will be boring in six months; or that the newest electronic gadget with be twice as powerful for half the price in a couple of years.
Variny Paladino: Great question! Kids do enjoy immediate gratification. But, this is where the role of the parent is extremely important. This is the time to let your children know that money does not grow on trees and we all have to work to make money. As hard as it may be, parents have to learn how to simply say, "No," when a child wants something. It is hard at first, but after a while, your kids will understand that they cannot always get what they want. If you give them an allowance or they have gift money from someone, this is an opportunity to talk to them about budgeting - what they can spend, save, and perhaps give to charity! Good luck! I have a four-year-old and the it is tough!!:) But, it is working...slowly...
Dallas, Texas: Without a bail out who's going to die? Other than Paulson, of course.
Michelle Singletary: LOL.
state of panic?: Was it just me, or did George Bush last night do the most impossibly un-presidential thing imaginable? He basically threatened the American people that if we don't go along with his plan, as he's laid it out, there will be panic in the streets? If the markets were fundamentally sound, wouldn't this kind of rhetoric create chaos? Geez.
Michelle Singletary: It wasn't you. I felt it too. I just sat there with my mouth open. And wasn't it the administration (and McCain and his advisers) who just a few weeks, months ago saying:
"It's all in your heads."
"The economcy is good."
"It's not as bad as it seems."
Bowie, MD: What are the most common problems that teen girls have when it comes to money? Is it mostly that they have to face their spend-happy peers? Or are there other problems, like nobody tells girls they should save for college or a house?
Jessica Blatt: Both, really: There is so much temptation to consume (from friends, from the media...from trying to figure out your identity and trying to stay confident), that saving in both the short-term and long-term is a huge challenge. That's why encouraging girls to work is such a fantastic, hands-on "lesson"--girls start to appreciate for themselves the value of money (and what it takes to earn it), without having to be preached to, and they start to think on their own about what they *really* want, now and in the future.
Alexandria, VA: I have a 23-year old daughter, a 2007 College Grad, headed into the Peace Corps in Africa. Is there any way for her to contribute to a Roth IRA even though she won't be "working" for two years?
Michelle Singletary: Here's a good link from the IRS to answer your question
But the short answer is no. To contribute to a Roth IRA, you must have taxable compensation (e.g., wages, salary, tips, professional fees, bonuses).
Marion, SC: Will the economy go into a recession without a bail out? How can we, average consumers, trust the info that we are getting from these guys at the top, who may have contributed to this financial crisis?
Marion County , SC is a small, rural community which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the State @ 12%. How will this bail out help the people who live here?
Michelle Singletary: I'm not sure how the bailout will help you in your state.
And more people should be asking if we can "trust" what we are being told.
Ellicott City MD: While I agree it is important to teach children about money, I can honestly say that my kids (twins age 12) have much anxiety about the future. I share with them the statements from their 529 accounts and the grim reality is that we've lost a lot of money. I cannot calm their fears, I'm worried too. I gave both of them a budget for their birthday party and presents. It helped them determine what kind of cake to buy, how many friends to invite etc. I think that really helps them see how far $$ can go (and seek out bargains) and to learn how to make choices so that you stay within your budget.
Variny Paladino: First, congratulations on being so proactive and involved with teaching your kids about money. As "grim" as this may feel right now, you are doing the right thing by giving your children "money mindfulness." They are aware of the changing economy and how that might affect them in their personal life. As hard as it is to imagine today, things will get better one day. One of the lessons of investing is that you are in it for the long-term. Your kids are ahead of the game by being so aware of finances. They and you should feel re-assured that as hard as it may be, you are giving them the tools, skills, and knowledge to be financially responsible adults. Good luck!
Michelle Singletary: I'd like to add one thing however. In teaching your kids about money don't share so much that you do scare them. I think they should know they have a college fund but I'm not sure I would show them how much it's down especially if there are YEARS before they go to college.
You want to teach your kids about money but not involve them in the worries about what needs to be paid or how much thier 529 is losing.
Anonymous: Today: "WE GOTTA GIVE THIS MASSIVE BAILOUT OR (MY FRIENDS) WE ARE ALL GONNA GO BANKRUPT!" Cost: 700 Billion
Yesterday: "WE GOTTA INVADE IRAQ! HE HAS WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION, AND HE WILL KILL US ALL!" Cost, several thousand American kids dead.
Michelle Singletary: Vent people. Vent.
Owings, MD: I haven't read this book yet, I have requested it from the library and it hasn't come in yet. Based on what I have read here and in Michele's commentary, we will be purchasing this book for the young girls we mentor at Fairmont Heights high school in Prince George's County through Project Encouragement, Inc. Thank you.
Jessica Blatt: Thank you--we'd love to hear what the girls think. Please keep us posted, and have fun with it!
Michelle Singletary: I love it. They will love it.
Baltimore, Md.: Hi Michelle, I plan to give this book to my nieces for Christmas. I have a question concerning allowances. What is the appropriate amount for a young teen?
Variny Paladino: Thank you! Hope your nieces enjoy the book. Determining an exact amount for an allowance can be turned into a "family affair" discussion. How much can you afford to give your children from your own budget? How much do your children say they may need for spending money? What chores/items do you agree is a fair exchange for the allowance? In a way, this can give your kids an opportunity to articulate how they can contribute to the household while also negotiating a "salary" for themselves!
Michelle Singletary: I agree there isn't a "normal" amount. Every family is different. We give our oldest an allowance but make it a teaching tool rather than just money she can burn.
So far it's working out.
For Bowie....: Yes, it's true in Maryland. My mother was told to take off her political button before voting in the primary. I know in Virginia you're not allowed within 100 yards with political material. (Worked election day once while I was in college.)
Hope this helps!
Michelle Singletary: More on the election day thing.
Arlington, VA: Michelle,
Re Bowie's question about wearing partisan messages at polling places:
You are correct that the laws vary depending on the state. In Virginia, one may not wear such clothes or materials (hats, T-shirts, buttons, stickers and so on) in the polling place. If you have them on, election officers will ask you to remove what can be removed, turn the T-shirt inside out or cover them with a jacket. You will only be turned away if you refuse to comply with the law. Please call your local election board for information on your state's laws.
Chief Election Officer in Virginia
Michelle Singletary: Thank you so very much. And ooh, very important people in my chat.
Confused, MD: Where is this $700B going to come from??
Michelle Singletary: DEBT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
San Francisco, Calif.: Hi Jess- I heard there's a new urban catch phrase for saving money... called "The Frugal Gourmet". It's strategic ways to promote saving money. For example, when going out with the girls if you just order appetizers and share... it's the Frugal Gourmet... seeing matinee movies and sharing a large tub of popcorn... the Frugal Gourmet.
Do you have any other suggestions that I might be able to put to use?
Jessica Blatt: What a fun nod to the legendary TV chef, Jeff Smith! Some other great ways for girls to save-without-sacrificing are to give each other manicures and pedicures (instead of paying to have their nails done), to hold clothing swaps with their friends (instead of running out to buy new clothes every time a shopping-pang hits), to host movie nights at home (a DVD + home-popped popcorn are far cheaper than going to the theater...plus the girls can watch in their jammies!), and to agree with friends to swap either homemade (or home-baked!) gifts for birthdays and holidays. The main thing to drive home to girls is that saving doesn't have to mean depriving yourself of things you love--it just means being a bit more creative and investing a bit more time in planning ahead.
Variny Paladino: There are also so many free and fun activities offered in local communities (e.g., concerts, movie night at the park, fairs, etc.). The lesson is that you don't have to spend big bucks to have big fun!
Laurel, MD : Michelle,
Just a suggestion here. Everybody needs to write, email or call your representatives in Congress ASAP and ask them to please consider carefully what there do here. Remember one word: IRAQ. Don't get us into another mess.
Michelle Singletary: Good advice. Voice your position whatever it may be. But voice it.
Pasco, Washington: If the bail-out is all about keeping our economy from crashing wouldn't a $1 Trillion stimulus package do that no matter who got paid? Why not let the investment community that knew exactly what risk they were taking fail? If that causes the economy to start to falter use the $1 Trillion to stimulate the economy and build stuff for the future generations of value ... like new power plants, new infrastructure, education, R&D. By putting the $1 Trillion to work the economy will be fine the bad guys get there lumps and the future generations paying for all of this will have long lasting value for the cost. Wouldn't that work much better?
Michelle Singletary: Honestly, I just don't know. And that's the point. Nobody really knows.
Washington, DC: It's times like these when I really wish MY representatives had a vote on the floor...
Michelle Singletary: Amen!!!
Washington, D.C.: Laurel, MD had a great idea. We should all write our congressmen and congresswomen. Let me just pick up my phone and call my congres...oh wait, that's right. I live in the nation's capital.
Michelle Singletary: Yup. No voice.
Falls Church, Va.: How about our government doing things the old fashioned way, NOT spending money that we don't have, and quit borrowing from other countries? I do hope that whomever our next president is, that he will be adamant about stopping ridiculous government spending, and at least make a decent attempt to balance our budget. I don't see it happening in four years, and maybe not even eight. But give it the good old college try.
Michelle Singletary: Rah, Rah.
Greenbelt, MD: Michelle, I would very much like you to be a overseer of the bailout. At least then I know every decision would be made with care.
Michelle Singletary: You bet it would. And trust me we wouldn't be borrowing $700 BILLION dollars to bail nobody out.
Washington, D.C.: Hi! Given the current state of the economy, I'm having trouble deciding what to do. My husband and I are both in stable jobs with a combined income of approximately $140K. We rent, put 10% into retirement funds, have no kids, have about 40K in stock market/mutual funds (well, as of last month), and 20K in FDIC insured accounts. No credit card debt, but significant medical school student loan debt. Given what is going on, is it worth selling any of our stock and saving the cash? I know we will be in the market long enough to ride out the coming recession, but I'm just so worried!
Michelle Singletary: It would be worth it to pay off that student loan debt.
Washington, DC: Michelle, would you please personally send a copy of the chat transcript today to Senators Obama and McCain? Not that they aren't hearing it already (I hope), but don't you think they oughta hear it as many times as it takes to sink in?
Michelle Singletary: Obama told me personally her reads my stuff.
He never got back to me.
Bethesda, MD: Vent & Question --
For those who are debating the $700B bailout, please also consider that we/US is/are already $11 trillion dollars in debt because AMERICA borrows $$ from other countries. We borrowed money for the stimulus package that people were raving only filled their gas tanks a few times. So who are we gonna get the next 700 from? IRAQ is still costing us $10 per month. Stay aware, please register & VOTE! --------------------------------------- Secondly, Michelle I need help, there's a bit of drama involved. I am 2 wks away from marrying a man who was recently laid off [3 months now], we also discovered I'm pregnant -due March], and I'm trying to evaluate if I should eat the cancellation fees re: our honeymoon, and stay at work instead. My savings which equal my debt, his savings are tied up in his retirement. We're so scared w/the economy & the job market that MAYBE we should keep the cash handy. Of course, my $6K debt will continue to earn 2.7%, but which is really worse?
I spoke to my mom about postponing it and she says there's too much money invested already.
You're married. Any suggestions?
Michelle Singletary: If you can't afford the trip I would cancel. With a baby on the way and a soon-to-be husband out of work you need every PENNY.
You have to consider not just the fee but the total cost of this trip. You don't have the money if you have $6,000 in debt.
You are in debt.
You have a baby on the way.
Your honey has no money.
Stay home. Celebrate in a free way. Be responsible. That's what being a wife and mother means.
Morganton, NC: Going off of the "frugal gourmet" trend... Cooking at home is way cheaper than going out to eat. It's fun to try cooking something new, invite a few friends over and host a cooking show or have a tasting party. It's not uncommon for my husband to comment, "Hey this is so good, I bet people in restaurants are paying way more for something half as yummy!"
Jessica Blatt: So true! And in terms of teens, there's both the financial AND health benefit of encouraging them to cook (instead of eating out). Get your teen a cute apron, and invite her to cook by your side the next time you're whipping up a delish dish!
Washington DC: Michelle: I so echo you on Bush's statement yesterday. We are supposed to be a strong, brave nation and yet our elected officials are about to be bullied again into a questionable decision by people who have already proven untrustworthy. And the pols shouldn't assume that I'm not willing to make a sacrifice and take some unpleasantness to see a proper and just outcome.
Michelle Singletary: Oh this really deserves a big AMEN!
Smart?: We are closing on our first house on Monday. Is this the smartest or the worst decision we could have made? We stayed within our budget and will be able to build up our savings again in a couple of months, but all this upheaval in the economy is pretty scary. Thoughts?
Michelle Singletary: If you have faith in your finances and you've done ALL the right things, have a cushion of cash that isn't the downpayment, then don't fear.
Purcellville, Va.: Hi Michelle,
My husband and I make it a point to carry no debt other than our mortgage and a car loan. The current financial crisis and bail out anger us because we bought a house we could afford and contribute the max to our employer 401k's as well to Roth IRAs and a 529 for our son. Even though we feel like we make a solid middle class living we struggle beyond these contributions to save money. We could really use some guidance in setting up a budget and learning how to cut costs at home, ie: groceries, etc. Do you have any suggestions on where we could go to get help w/creating a budget, etc? I would love to take a class or have someone guide us. Thanks for your assistance. I always read your column on Sundays. Karen Apfeldorf.
Variny Paladino: There are lots of very specific questions about what is happening this week. I just want to stress that as "complicated" as issues can get, this is the perfect opportunity to talk with your kids about what is happening. They need to know what is happening in the world so they can be prepared to address these issues in the future. There is a very simple budget tool in the book that works for adults, too! Back to basics..
Michelle Singletary: In our business section I have a budget template. Start there.
Manhattan, NY: I too have heard of the Frugal Gourmet!! And in fact, I use it.
When we want to go out for a fancy dinner, instead of getting gussied up and blowing our whole paycheck, we get dressed to the 9's, put on music, light candles, dim the lights and order in (so it's like our own little restaurant). We get Indian food so it's not too expensive, seems exotic and we all get to try many different dishes.
We also do fancy potluck dinner parties.
It's the real Frugal Gourmet!!
Jessica Blatt: That sounds like so much fun! Teens can totally play off the same concept--a themed "feast," where everyone brings a different dish, lets everyone try a range of yummy foods without having to blow the bank.
Los Angeles, Calif.: Can a 40 year old woman benefit from the book?
Jessica Blatt: Sure! It offers a good overview of the basics of saving/spending/investing--or a good refresher for those who may know more. In the spirit of saving money, it's not too expensive, either--but you can always check it out from the library to see if it's right for you (without having to spend money on it).
Midwest: Hi Michelle,
I appreciate the chats and columns. I'm a 26 year old woman and debt-free. My parents did a good job of teaching me about money management, and two of their techniques were particularly effective. Every week, 10% of my allowance had to go into the collection plate at church. They also opened saving accounts for my brother and me when we were quite young. A good portion of holiday and birthday checks went into the savings account, and every month we had to record interest earnings in a ledger. This wasn't a lot of fun at the time, but it certainly came in handy when I went to college!
Michelle Singletary: Kiss your parents and praise them til the day they die.
Madison, WI: Can I just say that McCain's proposal to cancel the debate, and hence squander the $5 million the host university spent in preparations, is perhaps not indicative of sound financial judgment?
Michelle Singletary: Really, $5 million?
But I hear you.
Silver Spring, MD: Re: IMF and the World Bank?
Oh, the money would be nice. Our politicians would not be able to swallow the requirements for oversight and transparancy that come with the money.
Variny Paladino: This is a great way to talk to kids about politicians and Congress....as well as exactly what roles organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank play in the world of finances.
Wilmington, N.C.: good afternoon .. can you please explain to me what the rush is re: passing this bill ?
Is it to hurry and restore confidence in the markets , the scheduling of congress , or the number of other undisclosed financial institutions in difficult situations ? Thank you so much !
Michelle Singletary: The powers that be say it's to restore confidence.
Arlington, VA: I'm sorry to say I missed Bush's speech last night. I'm no fan of him, but I'm interested in what he had to say.
That said, SOMETHING has to be done. Forget about the little guy for now -- clearly there has to be some reforms to enable mortgage holders to renegotiate the terms of the bad mortgages out there.
And comparing this to Iraq is really inaccurate. Bush LIED about WMD. He needed an excuse to go after Saddam because he wanted to be big guy and go to war. This financial situation is real. Your first answer, Michelle, said it all: Bring your first-born child, etc. to the table to get a mortgage. No mortgage, no house. No new house, no furnishings (not even nice used ones like you'd like). No jobs for those who build the houses, fix them up (like fix roofs and furnaces -- not just the guys who install granite and stainless steel), or sell you stuff to put in them.
Really, this financial crisis has all the hallmarks of the Japanese real estate bubble that burst in 1989. And what did the Japanese do? NOTHING. Well, they let the banks hide all the bad loans while the Japanese economy got sicker and sicker. By the time a new prime minister stepped in with government money in 2001, the economy had been languishing for years. That is what the Bush administration, and everyone else wants to avoid. Our mess started with subprime mortgages and foreclosures, but it has spread now to what had been considered decent financial securities.
Reforms should happen for those in need (and I agree all those forms when you sign the papers are ridiculous), but something must be done to inject liquidity into these credit markets. And the fat cats in New York won't be able to wheel and deal as before, since I think many of them, having lost money on many securities, will be a bit more careful (and hopefully the SEC will check the books more carefully).
Variny Paladino: Once again, encourage your kids to watch the news conferences and upcoming debates with you. Engage them in conversations where they can also learn to express their views and opinions.
Anonymous: Michelle, This posting from a blog called "Angry Bear" pretty much sums up my response to the administration's Iraq-war style attempts to build up hysteria. Don't forget, this bail out would require massive administration--from a the same people who brought us the "response" to Hurricane Katrina.
There's no way I could put this better: "Dear American: I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude. I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you. I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transaction is 100% safe. This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred. Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to email@example.com so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds. Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson"
Michelle Singletary: Love this!
60062: We haven't been "technically" in a recession for the past year. Are we now "technically" in total economic collapse? Yeah, right! Why didn't they do any thing before the "technically" non-recession.
Michelle Singletary:"Technically" you are right.
Fairfax: My younger son couldn't keep a dime in his pocket when he was a little kid. Spent it as soon as he had it. Once he went to college and had to live off his summer earnings, he learned to get more out of a dollar than you could imagine! Taught friends to cut hair, and they shared the tools, so never paid for a haircut. (He still doesn't - he taught his wife to do it!) Lived in Paris during semester abroad (on pasta and cheap wine, i think) for very little. He and wife and kids own a home and enjoy what they have, but stay within their means and don't waste a cent.
Variny Paladino: Sometimes, it seems like it takes a life event such as death in the family, a divorce, or plain having to live on your own to teach you the value of saving and money. Sounds like your son has done very well for himself and his family!
Fairfax: I was at the store with my pre-teen daughter showing her how to decide which brand was the most cost-effective (sounds better than cheapest) by reading the little tags on the shelf. I noticed a woman my age listening and then following my instructions - apparently no one had ever taught her this. Then, an elderly woman stopped me and commented that it was SO important to teach young ones how to save money in every day ways. Amen to that!
Jessica Blatt: That's so great and raises a good point about bringing girls into the dialogue--instead of subjecting them to generic brands against their will (or to their embarrassment), you can empower them with the info/facts, then let them realize that the smarter choice is often the generic one...plus, it means their money can go further. So, instead of a girl spending all her money on, say, a brand-name lip gloss, she can get a generic gloss AND eyeliner for the same price.
Variny Paladino: It is never too late to learn how to comparison shop!
Hard to get a mortgage these days: I would like to respond to your comment about how hard it will be to get a mortgage now: GOOD. It's about time we saw the return of underwriting standards. I scrimped and saved to buy a modes home, and now I will have to pay for the excesses of others, and yes, I RESENT having to do that. I would prefer to spend the money on myself. So, please forgive me if I am happy that mortgages will be harder for the financially irresponsible to get.
Michelle Singletary: I'm happy too.
Bethesda, MD [again]: Thanks, my fiance' wants to take the potential gift money and use it on our honeymoon -i.e. take the cards, open them, expect cash, spend cash] I'll eat the airline charges, but all else can be cancelled.
Looks like we'll be here.. -sniff/sigh/now save!]
Thanks as ALWAYS
Michelle Singletary: You are doing the right thing. If you get money, etc. you need to save it because child you will NEED it.
You have plenty of time to honeymoon when your finances are better.
I wish you the best.
Washington, D.C.: This whole thing is just discouraging. Here I am, doing all the right things. I take the metro, no car. I bring my lunch to work, no eating out. We rent movies, don't go to the theater. No summer vacation.
And we're getting really close to have enough money (in addition to our emergency fund) to put 20% down on a house. That way we don't need any fancy loan, or second mortgage.
And then this happens. and it'll be impossible to get a loan, or we'll get an impossibly high interest rate.
At the risk of sounding childish, it just doesn't seem fair.
Michelle Singletary: You are doing the right thing and you will be rewarded.
It's hard to get a loan but not impossible.
El Segundo: With banks such as WaMu on the brink of collapsing, those of us who have their mortgages with these institutions (and I have a great deal with WaMU) - when should I look else where and should I look else where when the you know what hits the fan?
Variny Paladino: Another perfect opportunity to talk to your kids about banks and what they do...especially if the name of the organization is something they recognize in their daily lives.
Atlanta, Ga.: My question: How do you set aside cash (free from any expenses) while gas prices and food costs are rising on a daily basis?
Variny Paladino: Just the act of saving something is key. Decide on an amount (even a small amount per week/per month)...then stick to it.
Michelle Singletary: Well folks I have got to run. Doing an update for Sunday on the military families taking part in my color of money challenge.
Thanks to all who participated. Great comments. Clearly you guys are staying on top of this all, as you should. I appreciate always the time you take to join me in this chat, whether you agree with me or not.
Don't forget some leftover questions will be answsered in my eletter or print column. If you're not signed up for the eletter please do.
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