Columnist

Intro: This online feature allows me to highlight questions received during my live online discussion, answer the questions I couldn’t get to during the live chat or respond to questions you send by e-mail to colorofmoney@washpost.com, Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/michellesingletary). On this Labor Day, I wanted to highlight people who have labored hard to pay off their debts or make smart financial decisions for their life. They didn’t have a question, just a testimony.

A ‘pet happens’ emergency

Q: For years I have been following your advice and had a “life happens” fund and a six-month emergency fund. This year I have used up a lot of my savings on totally unforeseen and unbudgeted events! My pet has needed two surgeries and after years of just needing dental cleanings, I needed a root canal. Thank heavens I was saving for a rainy day so I was able to pay for these things without credit. I will likely have to work a year longer than I was planning, but no credit was used!

A: I can hear in your note the relief. Way to go.

Good news on mortgage rates

Q: Just wanted to say that my husband and I paid off our mortgage yesterday!

A: WOW! Love it. I bet that feels amazing.

You can buy a house when you’re young

Q: My husband and I are 25 and 24, and we bought a house! We were still able to maintain our emergency and “life happens” fund (which was great, because I had to have an emergency appendectomy). We both graduated from college with no student loans (he paid for his and worked throughout school. My parents are wonderful and paid for mine). The only debt we have is his car loan (which will be paid off very early.) To those right out of college thinking you can’t buy a house so young, you CAN! Just buckle down and save, save, save. Thank you, Michelle, for all of your advice. I’m a longtime reader.

A: Oh to be so young again and SO SMART!

Good for you. Have fun in your new home.

The right choice (though not an easy one)

Q: Here’s my testimony: My mom recommended your column to me as a teen and I’ve been a regular reader ever since (almost 30 now.) A few years ago, I was in a serious relationship that was heading towards marriage. Ultimately, I pulled the plug because of various irreconcilable differences, the second biggest being money. Despite earning ten times as much as I did, he had nearly $1 million in debt. (How is this even possible?)

Part of me still can’t believe that I chose my life as a small-town schoolteacher over something that looked so good on the outside -- being a prestigious doctor’s wife in a cooler city.

However, I know it was the right choice because I’m debt-free, saving money and living life on my own terms. I feel fortunate because I knew I had a lot to lose (family home, beloved job, etc.) and feel for women who don’t feel they have as much going for them as singles (they do!)

I hope to one day find someone to marry and have children with but I know I am already set on my own. Indeed, relationships take compromise but I won’t be compromising my fiscal values next time!

I want to thank you for all you do and also highly recommend your book, “Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich.”

— Sincerely, a Washington Post Reader in Virginia

A: Thank you so much for that wonderful testimony. And give your mom a BIG hug for me. She’s a smart woman :)

Follow me on Twitter at @SingletaryM, or connect with me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary.com.

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071 or michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to postbusiness.com.