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Michelle Singletary
Washington Post Personal Finance Columnist
Thursday, May 13, 2010; 12:00 PM

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 was online to offer her advice and answer your questions on Thursday, May 13 at 12 p.m. ET.

This Story

Michelle recently released a book called "The Power to Prosper: 21 Days to Financial Freedom. Find out more about the book and download budget templates and journal activities from the book.

Read Michelle's latest columns, check out her Color of Money Book Club selection archive or sign up for her weekly e-mail newsletter.

A transcript follows.

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Michelle Singletary: Welcome. I'm so glad you all could join me again today.

Here's hoping we have a great discussion.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Michelle, I love your practical advice and would appreciate your input.

I'm 26 years old, my debt is student loans, and I have never defaulted on my loans or missed any bill payments. I also have never had a credit card.

I have applied for a credit card in the past, but was rejected due to my high debt-to-credit ratio, as I have only paid down a small portion of the loans. I don't need a credit card--in fact, all things being equal, I don't want a credit card. However, any time someone finds out that I don't have one they tell me that I am going to have a hard time buying a house, etc. in the future.

FWIW, I am at least 5 years away from being able to buy a house. I plan on buying a car this summer, but in cash.

I've considered getting a secured credit card, as I don't think I qualify for a normal one. Is this worth it? Or, can I continue credit-card-less, which would be my preference.

Thanks for your insight!

Michelle Singletary: Thanks for your kind words.

I'm liking you already. Cash for a car?

So great.

You have some time to build up your credit history before you get a home. In fact, those student loan payments are contributing to your credit history in a positive way as long as you make the payments on time.

In a few years, check with your bank or a credit union and apply for a secured credit card. It's not that hard really. You deposit money in a bank account -- say $500 -- and that becomes your credit limit. You charge something. Pay if off right away and then don't do anything else. That starts the building of a history in that area of credit.

In about six months or a year, you will start to get offers for a regular card. Then you can get it, charge something, pay if off and put the card away.

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Fairfax, Va.: This may be more suited for Carolyn Hax, but... In a few weeks, my spouse and I are flying cross country with our newborn son to introduce him to his dad's family. My father in law is very controlling and uses money as a bully club (Do what I say, get cash. Ignore me, you get bupkiss). This has been his MO for decades. I know that when we are there he will likely give us a large (and by that I mean five figures) cheque, act like a magnanimous pr-ck, and then either threaten to take it back or pick a fight and say "My way or highway". Thing is, we don't NEED the money (we're very well off). We don't want his money, we want him to spend time with his grandchild. He offers money and we say, "Can you fly out to see us instead?" But he comes up with excuses about being "too busy". Money is his way to be both generous and controlling. So, what do we do? Graciously accept the cash and deal with the strings or politely decline the gift (which will upset him) and be gracious guests?

Michelle Singletary: I'm sure Carolyn could tackle this question but let me try.

The thing is your father-in-law can only financially bully you because you let him.

Don't take the money.

Period.

Politely decline and be a great guest handling over his grandchild to play with.

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Oakland, Calif.: I graduated from college last year and joined an AmeriCorps volunteer organization. I will be with this organization for one more year before (hopefully) heading to graduate school. After doing some looking, I discovered most of the grad school programs are about $30,000 a year in tuition for the 3 year program. I was wondering if you had advice on how to pay for such schooling, especially since there are fewer scholarship options in grad school.

Michelle Singletary: Get a job.

Seriously.

You can pay for graduate school with actual cash.

Work, live like a college student again and save up for grad school.

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Randolph, Mass.: Hello Ms. Singletary. First, I would like to say thank you for all of your advice. I heard you speak at St. Paul's Baptist Church in Richmond, Va. a few years ago and your advice has made a tremendous difference in my finances and the way I look at money. Before I heard you speak I was a college student who had already taken out student loans. I am still paying on those now and I am about to start grad school in the fall. I will not be working while in grad school. Do you think it is a good idea to take some money out of my savings account to pay off as much of it as possible before school starts? Or would it be best to do a deferment and finish paying them off once I graduate? I have about $9000 left to pay and I hopefully will be getting the GI Bill to pay for school and living expenses. Your help is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Michelle Singletary: I loved teaching at St. Paul. The group was so wonderful.

If it were me, I would pay off as much of the undergraduate debt before going back to school. Do you have to go in the fall? Could you defer that plan?

When you put off paying on the loans you have, you increase what you owe.

Get out of debt, building your savings up again and then go back to school. That way when you go back you won't have that debt hanging over you.

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How to designate a trustee?: Hi Michelle. I hope you have a simple answer to this question. I don't have a will or anything of that sort because I currently live paycheck to paycheck (or halfway there actually). However, my job has amazing benefits. If something were to happen to me (knock on wood), my son would receive 2x my salary. That's 92K based on this year's salary. Plus they donate money to my retirement fund. So my son (who's 2) would receive quite a bit. The problem is there are 2 people on this planet I would trust with that money. My mother is the first choice--she is impeccable with her money and would probably keep the whole amount intact until he was old enough. My sister is the second choice--she's fairly trustworthy and I know she would actually use the money to care for my son. All other immediate family members-- this includes his father, my father, my brother, and 2 aunts on his father's side-- are not to be trusted with any amount of money under any circumstances whatsoever. I don't have strength in my fingers to type out how absolutely irresponsible and detached from reality these people are. Just to help you out, his father and I are not married and do not live together, and I would hope the powers that be would judge clearly that my mother is the most sane person left in the equation after my passing (knock on wood). Is there anything I can do to ensure that my mother or sister become the trustee? Thanks, Michelle.

Michelle Singletary: You actually do have a will. It's just one drawn up by the state.

You are stressing too much about this because the answer is really simple. Take the time as the mother of a young son and get a will done. Today. Tomorrow. But soon.

You can then designate who will control the assets for your son. Pick your mom and then your sister as a back-up. You should also express your wishes for a guardian, although that may still fall to the father of your child.

And by the way, $92,000 may not be that much when you consider that if you died today (God forbid) the person taking care of your son has 16 years of child care, clothes, food, etc. to care for him and that's before adding the cost of education. You may want to consult with an insurance agent to determine just how much life insurance you may need to leave for your son.

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Living without an ATM card: I have been doing it for over 10 years. I use a local bank where the folks know me and it is a convenient stop for me from work. I stop once a week to get cash and use cash for most of my transactions. I do write checks and use a credit card.

It is possible to live without an ATM. Writing a check and using cash makes me think twice. I use the credit card for major items.

washingtonpost.com: Today's Color of Money: PIN Technology won't necessarily thwart ATM robberies

Michelle Singletary: You have to read my column today to catch up with this comment.

But you are right. You -- we -- can live without an ATM and possibly reduce our chances of becoming a robbery victim.

You are also right that when you use cash, you tend to spend less than when you use plastic -- debit or credit.

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Thank you!: Michelle! I love your columns and have been following your advice for years - as a young, single, just-out-of-college person. Well, I coupled up and found out that it's easy to spend more money and lose track of what you're spending when you're not alone all the time. After months of being ashamed of falling off the path, I finally sat down and made a budget a few weeks ago. I couldn't believe how bad I felt, even while I was still saving a bit, just not knowing what I was spending and where. Now with my budget (with projected annual expenses for -everything-), I'm not only spending less and saving more, but I'll pay off my car loan at least two years early, have enough to pay through grad school as I go, and I still have all sorts of money to spend on things I want and need. Funny how much more money you seem to have if you just keep track of where it goes! (Highlight of my budget? Setting aside money from each paycheck for airfare to visit my family throughout the year and annual projections for utility bills based on last year's costs, inflated 20% for a cushion.) Budgets are a lot like pants: everyone needs them; if they're too tight, you act like a freak; if they're too loose, you just look like a fool. Anyway, thank you for your continued guidance!

Michelle Singletary: LOL!

Love, love the pants analogy. Got to use that!

But you are so right. A budget gives you financial freedom so good for you for sitting up and flying right.

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Paying off my mortgage: Michelle, is there any reason not to pay off my mortgage? I'm about to receive a small inheritance that will give me enough to do it. I have no other debt. The mortgage company said, "Don't you want to keep the deduction?" Are there implications for my credit rating or anything else that should stop me from cutting off further interest payments to the big bank? Thanks.

Michelle Singletary: Of course the mortgage company wants you to keep the mortgage.

That's how they make money.

Shed that burden and pay off that debt and see how much better your financial life will be.

So no the home mortgage deduction is not the only reason or a good reason to keep a mortgage. That's something people say but have no idea how dumb it is.

To make things simple, let's say you pay $1 in mortgage interest every year. And let's say you are in the 35 percent tax bracket. The deduction -- in simple terms -- returns back to you 35 cents of the $1 you pay in interest.

But if you didn't have the interest you may have to pay 35 cents in taxes but you get to keep 65 cents.

So which is more 35 cents or 65 cents?

Plus once you pay off the mortgage you can take that money and invest and build up even more savings. If you pay it off you would probably -- based on the average household -- be getting rid of 30 to 40 percent of your largest expense.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi! First, thank you for today's session. I have a question that I have been trying to figure out, but need to ask you for advice. I live in the D.C. area, so I take the Metro. I also have a car. I do not need my car, and I owe more on my car than what it is worth (about double). I know I cannot sell my car at a price where I can pay off the car loan in full, but it is an added monthly expense that I do not need. Do I sell my car at a loss or do I keep paying off a car that I do not drive?

Michelle Singletary: This is a tough question because you can't get released from that car unless you get a buyer and you add to the deal the difference in what you owe and what the car is worth.

So I'm guessing you rolled another car loan into the one you have?

I might take my lumps and save up, cut expenses and do what I have to do to come up with the difference and sell the car. It will hurt for a little while but then down the road you can realize the savings of not having a car payment, car insurance, etc.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: Hi Michelle, I'm hoping you can either give me the details on the new laws regarding student loans or direct me to a place where I can find more info. It seems everything I read is for students taking out loans going forward, but my loans are from years ago and are massive. (How I wish I had had you to advise me before I signed those docs!!) I pay nearly $900 a month and will do so until 2037. The monthly payments are more than 10% of my AGI so I'm wondering if the new laws offer any help/hope for someone in my postion? Thanks so much!

Michelle Singletary: You may still qualify for the new Income Based Repayment program or IBR.

The U.S. Department of Education recently posted a Q&As on the program. You should also contact your current student loan lender or lenders to see if you qualify.

For more information go to this site

http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/IBRPlan.jsp

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I agree: don't take the money: But if you feel like he won't take no for an answer say: "This goes in a College fund for Barry, it's Barry's money now."

Michelle Singletary: You can make him take no as an answer by not cashing the check.

But you do have a point, the parents could suggest although I doubt it will help that the money could best be used for college eduation.

However, in this situation this is just about control and frankly not worth the price.

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More on the will...: My husband and I are going to make retirement planning a resolution for 2011. Currently, we both contribute but have no idea how much or to where or if it'll be enough. In addition, we have no will and no plans for what should happen to our toddler if anything happens to us. Where to start? How much does creating a will cost? Does it have to be done by a lawyer? Thanks!

Michelle Singletary: Talk to a lawyer. A simple will doesn't cost that much, probably $1,000 or less.

You can certainly buy will packages on the Internet or in an office supply store. But my husband and I went to an attorney to make sure we got it done right.

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Washington, D.C.: I'd like to take advantage of the annual free credit report for the first time, but not sure who the reputable sources are. Is there someplace that I can get the free report that has info from all 3 reporting agencies? (In the past I've been burned by going thru Experian which doesn't provide data from Transunion, etc.) Thanks for the advice!!

Michelle Singletary: The only legit site is www.annualcreditreport.com.

And there have been some rule changes to make getting all three of the credit reports without the hassle of turning down offers for other products.

Also keep in mind you are NOT entitled to free credit scores. That you have to pay for.

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most of the grad school programs are about $30,000 a year in tuition for the 3 year program: Find a school that has TA (teaching assitant) postions for graduate students. IF you're in the sciences, you can even get a stipend.

Michelle Singletary: Passing along.

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McLean, Va.: Hi,

What are the fundamental differences between UGMA accounts and UTMA accounts? I've spent quite a bit of time trying to find a straightforward comparison of both types of accounts but without much success.

Thanks...

Michelle Singletary: Here's a link that should help:

http://www.finaid.org/savings/ugma.phtml

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Portsmouth, N.H.: Dear Michelle: My husband and I have always dreamed of building a screened-in porch so we can enjoy mosquito-free family time in our back yard. We have money in our emergency fund, money in our "life happens" fund, no credit card debt, no car payment and we're funding our retirement accounts to the max. Yet with this economy, is it unwise to consider such a project that's more of a want than a need? (We would be stimulating a local builder's economy, at least!) I would just like to enjoy that porch before I'm retired!! Thanks!

Michelle Singletary: Build your porch, my friend.

I built a deck last year right in the middle of the recession.

If all your financial ducks are in a row, enjoy the fruits of your hard saving.

I love my deck and know it was worth every penny.

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Rockville, Md.: Dear Ms. Singletary, Love your chats! So I just gave notice that I will be resigning from my great federal government job. And now I'm very anxious about how we're going to make it financially. I resigned because we have a two-year-old and twins on the way. I want to stay at home with all of them for at least one year (husband would prefer that I stay home for about 3 years). What can I do now to make sure we make it financially? We have no loans but a mortgage, and about $40k in savings to help get us through my time at home. Thanks for any advice. I hope I didn't make a huge mistake, but emotionally, I need to do this. Am I being selfish?

Michelle Singletary: First, if you and your husband have done your homework and think you can manage this on one salary, stop stressing.

You are not being selfish. At times I wish I had made different decisions so that I could have stayed home longer before going back to work outside the home.

Here are two Web sites I want you to go to:

http://life.familyeducation.com/calculator/stay-at-home-cost/55187.html

http://homeparents.about.com/cs/familyfinances/a/workcalc.htm

Both address the cost of staying home. Remember you may have more room in your budget than you think when you consider you won't have daycare expenses, commuting costs, etc.

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Grad school funding: If you can't get a TA position, keep an eye out for jobs in your field--they'll sometimes have tuition repayment programs that will cushion some of the cost (it's a small per-year amount, but any little bit can help). Many businesses get a tax break for this. I haven't paid a single cent towards my master's, because I managed to stretch it out enough that my job paid for it all (without stretching it out so far that I'd be in school forever).

Michelle Singletary: Amen to that.

Got my employers to pay for my masters at Johns Hopkins.

My husband's job paid most of his grad school costs and we used savings to pay the rest.

It can be done without debt!

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"Don't you want to keep the deduction?": No, I would rather have that money and pay taxes on it than not have it but be able to deduct it on my taxes. You have to spend it before you can deduct it.

Michelle Singletary: Amen.

Amen.

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San Francisco, Calif.: My husband and I live in a small (3-unit) condo building. We don't have parking. We have the opportunity to add a garage in the basement. This would involve a $66K capital call for each unit. Each unit would get two spaces, adding about $100K in value to each of the three condos. The bid is the lower of two (only two contractors that do this in San Francisco) and is a complete turn-key bid finishing the basement and rebuilding our storage units etc. Our neighbors are really gung-ho to do this. I think it would be great to have a garage, and it would definitely make it easier to sell our place when we eventually move. However, we don't have $66K in cash, and do have a pretty large mortgage. One neighbor has offered to bankroll the whole thing with his home equity line while we pay him back. He wants to get paid back in 3-5 years. This means that we'd either pay him $1100 a month for 5 years, or get a loan of our own at some point to pay him back, or pay him in chunks with bonuses etc. What do you think we should do?

Michelle Singletary: If it were me and I wasn't ready to sell, I would take that three to five years that would pay and try to save up for it.

So much can happen and if you are already burdened by a large mortgage, don't take on more debt.

You have to base this decision on your needs, financial ability the rush of your neighbor to sell.

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Rockville, Md.: "Michelle Singletary: The only legit site is www.annualcreditreport.com "

And I'll add that the site will allow you to get one from each of the 3 services every 12 months. Instead of getting all 3 now, get from one company now, the second company in 4 months, the third company in 8 months (i.e. 4 months later), and back to the first in 12 months (i.e. 4 months later), etc.

This way, you get a free report every 4 months (versus waiting 12 months) and have a good chance of getting a jump on fixing any fraud.

Michelle Singletary: This is one way.

But keep in mind not all the bureaus have the same information in your files. So staggering them does not necessarily give you a jump on ID theft.

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Re: "Don't you want to keep the deduction?": Not only would I not, I'd also rather own the dang house.

Michelle Singletary: Dang tootin'

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Anyone with a child: Anyone with a child should have a good talk with an attorney about wills and estates and guardianship. The costs are not prohibitive and worth every penny for peace of mind. As well, one should not rely solely on current employer benefits. These days, jobs come and go and benefits packages can change. Just saying.

Michelle Singletary: Very true.

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Seattle, Wash.: How can I help my parents with their retirement? They are horrible with money (everything I know about money I learned by NOT doing what they did) and I really worry about their finances (whether or not my mother should retire is another question, my dad is disabled and can't work anyway). They are basically dependent upon Social Security.

Michelle Singletary: You should start by consulting some non-profits and certainly AARP for tips on talking to your parents about their situation.

Check the local aging office for Seattle. Just gather as much information as you can and see what resources are available to help them especially if they have low income and few assets.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: Hi Michelle,

I want to say congratulations on your niece's graduation and you should be very proud of her. That is a wonderful accomplishment.

I also would have loved to have known about you earlier. My son, is scheduled to graduate in the Spring of 2011 from Delaware State with a double-major - Math and Math Education. His desire is to teach high school.

Our issue is that we both have student loans (his - Stafford and mine - Parent Plus Loans). Please share the advice you gave to your niece with us. He has two more semesters to go and I do not want to get another Parent Plus Loan. He also wishes to get is Ph.D. He is a great young man and his grades are A's and B's. That is why I can't understand why we had to get all of these loans to pay for college. He has received some grants and scholarships, but not enough.

Thanks for any advise/suggestions you can give.

Help Mom!

Michelle Singletary: Thank you so much. And in case you missed it, I was talking, or I should say bragging, about my niece in my eletter today.

She's coming out with no debt.

First, my husband and I helped the first year. Actually we paid for everything. Out of our own savings, which meant we had to have had savings.

Second, we advised her and her parents that she should go in-state. Much cheaper. Bowie was a great education for the cost.

Third, after her first year she began commuting, cutting her college cost in HALF.

Fourth, we looked at what she wanted to do and what she would earn and what schools costs and made decisions based on that. We didn't say, "Go to any school you want baby and we will figure out how to pay for it."

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Washington, D.C.: DOE's website can be hard to understand: try www.ibrinfo.org run by the independent Project on Student Debt.

My 2 cents on a grad program - try to find a job where your employer will pay for some of it. I WISH I'd done this. But it's so specific by field of study.

And Michelle, sorry, but few recent college grads are making enough money to sock away $90K at ANY standard of living. If you don't mind waiting until your own kids are in college maybe...

Michelle Singletary: That is a good site.

And I don't understand people. If people can't afford to save for grad school, what makes them think they can handle $90,000 in debt PLUS interest later?

For some, the grad degree pays off down the road. For many not nearly enough to make those monthly payments worth the debt.

I see DEBT PEOPLE all the time being buried under grad school loans.

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A simple will doesn't cost that much, probably $1,000 : Wow! I should pursue a career as an estate lawyer!

Michelle Singletary: You can get one for much less. I just put in the higher range.

But lawyers are having a hard pay day these days too folks!

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Don't you want to keep the deduction: Plus it doesn't last forever. At some point, your ratio of principal to interest on your monthly payment will be enough principal that the standard deduction is better than Itemizing. That happened to me this year. Surprised me, but there it is.

Michelle Singletary: Good point. Thanks.

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Arlington, Va.: To the person debating paying off the mortgage:

If you pay it off, you can donate the same amount you previously spent in mortgage interest to your favorite charity and get the exact same tax deduction. You be in the same place financially, but the money will go to a cause you believe in instead of to a big bank.

Michelle Singletary: Absolutely.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Just wanted to let you know that I will, in two weeks, pay my last credit card bill. Thanks for making me believe I could do it!

Michelle Singletary: You are welcome.

So come back and let me give you an official shout out when you get rid of that slavery debt!

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Washington, D.C.: Michelle,

I love your financial advice. I have a substantial savings account, but I don't know where to stop my emergency savings and start thinking of putting the money towards a house savings (I also have a life happens fund). I know its 6 months of something, but is it gross income, net income, net income minus what I typically save a month?

For reference, I currently have in savings what could be calculated in three ways: (1) 3 months of gross income, (2) 6 months of net income, or (3) 8 months of my net income minus what I put in savings a month (AKA - what I generally spend a month).

Frankly, my brain hurts thinking about it. And yes, I know this is a great problem to have.

Thank you

Michelle Singletary: Great problem to have.

Emergency fund: three months of ALL the expenses (not income gross or net) it takes to run your household (rent/mortgage, debt payments, car loan, cell phone, utilities, gas, etc.) Three months is on the low side. If you have a high-paying job, aim for six months of your living expenses.

Got a job that will take you a long time to replace go for a year.

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amen!: To quote you, "If people can't afford to save for grad school, what makes them thing they can handle $90,000 in debt PLUS interest later."

Oh, how I wish I knew this before I took out $135K (yes!) for law school.

Michelle Singletary: Should have said "think" but typing fast but you get my point.

Exactly.

I hear from people who go to law school or medical school and they don't make what they thought to service the $100,000, $200,000 or $300,000 in debt they collect.

And that's if they don't marry someone with the same kind of burden.

Just saying.

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Arlington, Va.: My husband I recently married. We got rid of one car to save on insurance/maintenance, etc. The other car is 10 years old, and we thought it would last us 2 years more so that we could save up and pay cash for a car. It isn't going to last, and we now must buy a car. We can pay about 5K down, and we'll have to finance the rest. Of course, we are buying a used car.

My question is this: We have a mortgage and student loans. We pay twice the minimum on the student loans already. When we finance the car, should we finance the remainder for 3 years or 5 years? Doing it for 5 would enable us to pay one of the loans (car or student) down faster. Doing it for 3 will allow us to pay the monthly payment only on both.

Thanks.

Michelle Singletary: Buy a $5,000 car until you can get rid of a lot of that debt.

Seriously.

And can you fix the one you have for less than the $5,000 you have save up for a car?

No debt.

Keep saying that to yourself.

But if you must, borrow as little as possible for as little time as possible.

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New York: "Bowie was a great education for the cost." Does your niece have a job lined up now that she is out of college? The reason I ask is that I am wondering if having a college education that "is great for the cost" will pay in the long run. Just a counter to those who say that community college, state college (I went to a state college) are just as good as a private college, but what good is a cheap education if it can't get you a job.

Michelle Singletary: Really?

She got a great education. And she's already been working.

Community colleges and state colleges can be just as good as brand name schools.

Like a pair of jeans. Does it really matter whose name is on your behind if the jeans are comfortable and fit well?

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Thank you!: To everyone who had advice on paying off my mortgage. I love the idea of giving to charity what I used to give to the big bank!

Michelle Singletary: You are so welcome.

See people care!

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For Rockville, Md.: "So I just gave notice that I will be resigning from my great federal government job. And now I'm very anxious about how we're going to make it financially. I resigned because we have a two-year-old and twins on the way. I want to stay at home with all of them for at least one year (husband would prefer that I stay home for about 3 years). "

Why resign? Did you look into taking an extended leave without pay situation? You could probably stay out a full year (and maybe more) and still have a position waiting.

Some agencies will do this and temporarily fill your position with a term appointment which can be extended (if you stay out longer) or changed to permanent if you later quit. It's costless to the agencies if you are in leave without pay status.

Michelle Singletary: Something to think about.

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Seattle, Wash.: Hi Michelle, Recently my relationship with my mother took a turn for the worse over money. I loaned her money last summer, not really thinking I would get it back. Then a few months ago, she told me she was buying a flat screen TV- which she cannot afford. I was of course upset that she would buy the TV without either saving or paying me back.

Over the years she has put accounts in my name without paying, ruining my credit. I finally got my credit back and put a fraud alert and she promised she would not do it again. Well, I found out a few months ago that she put a gas and a phone bill in my name without paying. I was deeply hurt by this and have not spoken to her since. I want to help her because I'm in a position to and she's my mom. But her utter lack of respect for my life and irresponsibility makes me see red. Any advice on how to help a family member without ruining your own financial well being? Besides just not talking to them.

Michelle Singletary: Love her, talk to her but don't help her with another penny.

She lost the ability to turn to you for financial help.

Don't be a sucker for her anymore.

Again, love her as your mom and keep your financial distance.

You may want to put a "freeze" on your credit files meaning she can't take out any more debt or phones. The freeze means the creditors have to contact you first before granting credit.

It may be a pain putting a "credit freeze" on and taking it off for what you want to do but clearly your mother can't be trusted.

Just do a goggle search to find out how to put a credit freeze on your credit files.

_______________________

New York again: "Does it really matter whose name is on your behind if the jeans are comfortable and fit well?"

To some employers, yes. Most big law firms won't hire anyone who is not from a top 14 law school.

Michelle Singletary: Yes, and everyone graduating from college wants to work for a big law firm.

NOT!

Not worth the debt and decades of debt.

And, my friend, plenty of big and small firms hire people who didn't go to brand name schools.

I got to the Post with my little old University of Maryland degree. Same as the guy who went to Harvard.

_______________________

Michelle Singletary: Man, look at the time.

I've got to go and just when the debate was heating up.

So sorry. But good questions. Good advice and come backs.

Take care and I'll see you right back here in two weeks.

_______________________

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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