It Doesn't Have to be a Deal Breaker

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernew2Dear Dave,

One of my relatives just graduated from college with $20,000 in student loan debt. Her boyfriend graduated, too, and he has over $100,000 in student loan debt. They want to get married, so she's looking for a job. He wants to go to graduate school, and take out more loans to remain a full-time student. The idea of even more debt hanging over their heads really bothers her. Do you have any advice?

Denise

Dear Denise,

You don't throw away a great, potentially lifelong, relationship just because of debt. Things like laziness, dishonesty, and irresponsible behavior are deal breakers, though. Those are flaws that usually don't go away.

I'm glad she's looking for a job, but her boyfriend needs to be working, too. There's no excuse for either of them being full-time students with more than $120,000 in combined student loan debt hanging over their heads. Lots of people hold down real jobs, save money, and further their educations on a part-time basis.

If she were my niece, I would encourage her to have an open and honest discussion with her boyfriend about their future, and how he plans on paying for graduate school. She also needs to be very real about her feelings in this situation. If, after that, he still wants to just borrow more money and not work outside of school, then she might have a difficult decision ahead.

However, if he realizes how damaging additional debt could be to their relationship, and he's willing to work while continuing his education, I think their future together looks much brighter.

Dave

You skipped one!

Dear Dave,

My husband and I heard about your plan, but we're not sure what to do next. We have between $400,000 and $500,000 in a 401(k) for retirement, but we don't have any other savings. We're both in our forties, and the only debt we have is our house, so what should we do about Baby Steps 4 and 6?

Mary

Dear Mary,

Overall, you two have done a great job with your money. Let's go over the Baby Steps you mentioned. Baby Step 4 is putting 15 percent of your income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement plans. Baby Step 6 is paying off your home early.

The thing that worries me is you've completely skipped Baby Step 3, which is having three to six months of expenses in an emergency fund. This is money set aside strictly for emergencies. The problem right now is if you have a real emergency, you may have to cash out your 401(k). If you do that, you'll be penalized 10 percent, plus your tax rate. That's a real kick in the teeth just because you didn't do things in the right order.

My advice is to temporarily stop your 401(k) contributions until you get a fully funded emergency fund in place. By temporarily, I mean six to eight months at most. That way, you'll be covered when life happens without having make a big dent in your retirement savings!

Dave

Get rid of the Cards

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernew2Dear Dave,

We're trying to get control of our finances, and my husband wants to close all our credit cards. I want to keep one and use the bill-pay option for monthly stuff like utilities, so we can keep earning rewards points. I look at my way as a method of just re-routing the money and paying it off each month. Am I wrong in looking at it like this?

Cheryl

Dear Cheryl,

Yes, you are. Life never goes as planned. You can have all the well-reasoned and best-intentioned ideas you want, but sooner or later something will go wrong.

Why not use a debit card that has a rewards system attached? Lots of debit card programs offer the same kinds of rewards programs that credit card companies do, with one big exception — you don't have to go into debt!

Studies have shown that the vast majority of people never redeem their credit card airline miles. Other studies show that people spend more when using credit cards as opposed to cash. That extra money you spend on things you don't need is money you could have been saving and investing.

So, where's the reward?

Dave

Collections and creditors

Dear Dave,

We were very late on one of our credit card bills, and now it has been turned over to a collection agency. The collection company has offered us three or four different payment options. Does the original creditor accept the agreement, too, if we accept one of the collection agency's options?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

In most situations of this type, the collection agency owns the debt outright or they're directly representing the original creditor. It's pretty much standard operating procedure when someone has defaulted on a loan.

My advice would be to accept the deal they've offered that makes the most sense for you and your current financial situation. It'll ding your credit report, and show a settlement on the defaulted credit card, but that's not the end of the world. There's already a mark against you for it being turned over to collections.

If you want to keep things like this from happening in the future, you need to get control of your finances. Stop playing with credit cards!

—Dave

Beware of overspending

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

I know you're big on bargains and saving money. How do you feel about warehouse clubs, like Costco and Sam's Club?

Jessica

Dear Jessica,

We have both of those in our neighborhood, and I'm a big fan. There are definitely some good buys and great bargains to be had in places like that. To be honest, my wife is probably a bigger fan than I am. I suspect we save more money from her trips than mine to those spots.

I will advise you to watch your spending carefully in warehouse clubs. Most people overbuy in situations like that, especially those of us who are spenders by nature. Believe it or not, I'm a spender by nature. To this day, if I'm not careful, I'm still bad about buying things I don't need – or too much of the things I do need – in warehouse clubs.

Have fun in there, and make sure you find some steals on smart things you can stock up on. Just don't go crazy and wreck your budget by overspending!

Dave

No magic number

Dear Dave,

I'm 26, and I've been running my own business as sole proprietor for a year and a half. My gross revenues are about $94,000, and my personal net worth is around $68,000. Is there an asset level you recommend reaching before moving to LLC status?

Meghan

Dear Meghan,

There's not really a magic number for this kind of thing. In your case, I wouldn't go to the trouble for an LLC right now. You don't need the hassle of extra paperwork and the expense of processing and filing fees. Just make sure you have normal, liability-type insurance in place. That shouldn't cost a lot of money.

The main reason you would consider shifting to an LLC is if you had reached a point in life as a business owner where you were afraid you might have a target on your back. By that, I mean you would want protection in the event of a lawsuit if your company had grown to sizable proportions and you had begun to accumulate substantial personal assets.

At this stage I don't think anyone's going to bother you.

Dave

What Will Won't Work?

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernew2Dear Dave,

When it comes to making a will, would it suffice to sit down and write it all out on a piece of paper, then have it notarized?

Joyce

Dear Joyce,

I would never advise someone to write their own will, unless, of course, they're an attorney in that state. Laws can vary from state to state, and some states may not look upon a document like that as being official under law. Some even require witnesses, and a notary might not be good enough.

If you're trying to save money by doing it this way, I would strongly urge you to look at involving a lawyer as an investment. In most cases, having a reputable lawyer draw up a legally correct, state-specific will doesn't cost a lot of money. At the very least, go online to USLegalForms.com. They have all kinds of state-specific legal forms, including wills.

Your last will and testament is one of the most important legal documents you'll ever be part of. Please don't try to do this yourself, Joyce. I've run into so many families who, in the midst of grieving the loss of a loved one, were handed a handwritten piece of paper that wouldn't hold up in court. That kind of thing just adds more stress to an already heartbreaking situation.

Dave

Not ready for a house

Dear Dave,

I'm thinking about getting a secured credit card to help rebuild my credit score, because I'd like to buy a house. Do you think this is a good start toward getting my credit back on track and taking control of my finances? I make $50,000 a year, and I have $3,500 in debt and $2,100 in savings.

Maria

Dear Maria,

No, getting a secured credit card is not a good idea. Let me tell you a couple of things. Number one, your income is your most powerful wealth building tool. If you don't have any payments, you have the ability to build wealth and be generous. When you have debt, all you do is send money out the door to make payments. So, being in debt is a guaranteed way to stay broke.

Number two, you can get a home mortgage with no credit score through a manual underwriting. Just make sure you have a good, long history of paying other things, like your rent and utilities on time. You would also need to have all your debts paid off completely, and the accounts closed for at least six months.

I want you to become debt-free before you buy a home, Maria. I also want you to save an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses and a down payment before you buy a home. Buying a house when you're broke and in debt is a really bad idea.

Dave

A good marketing idea

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernew2Dear Dave,

I'm a small-business owner with a lawn care franchise. It's common in our industry, after the season is over, to send out pre-pay letters for the upcoming season. If we send out these letters offering a five or 10 percent discount for early payment on next year's services, is that too similar to borrowing money from our customers at five to 10 percent?

Kevin

Dear Kevin,

Not at all. I definitely would send pre-pay letters. It takes some of the seasonality "ouch" out of your financial equation, and it gives them the opportunity to take advantage of a bargain. It's not a bad plan from a marketing standpoint for your business, either. You might even be able to add some new customers with an offer like this.

You obviously have to be really secure and confident in your ability to provide the service. Otherwise, you could end up in a really bad situation. Your equipment, staffing and track record in the business will all come into play. But if all this is strong, and you've been in the business for a number of years and plan on staying in the business for years to come, then this is something I'd definitely do.

Dave

Girlfriend debt account

Dear Dave,

I'm 29, and I have no debt. I've gotten a good start on my savings and retirement, too. My girlfriend and I plan to get married in the next couple of years, and she has about $90,000 in debt. I'm not paying on her debt yet, but I think together we can save up enough to pay it off by the time we're married. Should I temporarily slow down saving for a house and start saving toward paying off her debt?

James

Dear James,

Yes, I would have a "girlfriend debt" account. That way when she becomes your wife, you two can write a check the moment you get back from the honeymoon and be debt-free — or at least knock out a huge portion of the debt. After that, the two of you — as in WE — resume saving for retirement, a house and so on.

That, James, is exactly what I would do. You're right in line with my thinking on this, brother. Best of luck to you both!

Dave

Fighting fear

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

After listening to your show, I want to try to get control of my finances, but I'm afraid to open up the bills. I make about $60,000 a year, but it's a real struggle just to keep my head above water financially. My checking account is always overdrawn, and I don't know where to start in catching up. Can you help?

Gail

Dear Gail,

Trust me, I know it can be scary. But the easiest way to attack this thing is by taking one slow, sure step at a time. Try not to let worry consume you in the process, either.

First, sit down, take a deep breath, and open all the unopened bills. Throw away any duplicates, and keep only the most recent statements and notices. The unknown is always scarier than the known, so facing the bills and cutting that stack in half right off the bat will help reduce a lot of your initial anxiety.

Next, let's start a debt snowball. List all the debts you owe, from smallest to largest, making one column for the payoff balance, one column for the amount you need to get current on that debt, and one column for the single payment amount when you get current. Total each column — the payoff balance, the amount to get current, and the single payment. I promise it won't be as bad as you think.

Finally, make a monthly budget. Prioritize your needs, starting with food, utilities, house payments and transportation. When it comes to your debts, pay as much as you can on the smallest one while making minimum payments on all the others.

You can do this, Gail. If you'll follow my plan, I think you'll see improvement in several areas of your life and you'll feel good about the progress you're making, too!

Dave

Use an insurance broker

Dear Dave,

My mom is 73 years old, and she's dealing with depression and a few other mental issues. Is it too late for her to get long-term care insurance?

Julie

Dear Julie,

It wouldn't be a big problem if she were healthy. But given her age, and the other struggles you mentioned, I'd check with a good insurance broker to see what's out there for her.

In the insurance world they call this "making a market." Will they be able to find a company that will write her in that situation? I can't give you an accurate answer off the top of my head, because this is a difficult thing. It would probably depend on things like the extent of her depression, how long it's been manifested, and what it has done in her life.

That's one of the reasons I'm advising you to see an insurance broker. A broker doesn't represent just one company; they represent several companies. They can shop around in a given situation, and find someone to write something you might not get written otherwise. They can also shop around for the best possible price, and you get the efficiencies of the marketplace working for you.

God bless you both, Julie.

Dave

Husband's business is dying

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

My husband and I have four kids, and I make $50,000 a year. He runs a small business that has been floundering for a while now, so we're basically living off my income. Part of that income is going into the business. Plus, we don't have much in savings, and we're behind on our house payments. Do you have any advice?

Paige

Dear Paige,

First of all, you and your husband have to get on the same page financially. Sit down together, and do a household budget and a profit and loss statement on the business. A profit and loss statement will tell you the money that comes in minus the money that goes out.

Here's the thing. If you're putting other money into a business account, that's a clue that you're not making money on the business. Put his rent, supplies and any other business expenses on the profit and loss list, and write out — step by step — what it will take for you to break even in the business each month. If you don't at least break even, then it's time for him to do something else for a living.

I'm an entrepreneur and a business owner. I get the allure and excitement that goes along with running your own business. But family and your financial responsibilities come first. You don't need to put any money into the business account, except for the income he creates. And while you two are sorting this out, use your income to get current on your house payments and attack any other debt!

Dave

Keep it simple

Dear Dave,

I'm looking for a good accounting program for small business. Do you have any suggestions?

Julie

Dear Julie,

The best one I've seen is called FreshBooks. I like it so much that we're actually endorsing it on some of our podcasts and a few other places. It's a cloud-based program for small business, and it's a pretty simple accounting system.

Honestly, you don't want anything super complicated for small-business accounting. You just need something that allows you to write out invoices and keep up with your expenses while categorizing them. It's important you know what's going on in your business — to be able to continually analyze what's happening — and have the ability to look in your rearview mirror and see if anything's coming up behind you!

Dave

Run from that guy

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

My husband was recently laid off, and he has $229,000 in a 401(k). He has been told that he should roll it into a hybrid annuity. Is this a good idea?

Durnae

Dear Durnae,

Absolutely not! It sounds to me like he's been talking to an insurance agent instead of an investment advisor. There's no reason to put a 401(k) into an annuity. Annuities are there to protect money, as it grows, from taxes. Well, guess what? The 401(k) is already protecting it from taxes.

I would roll it into a traditional IRA in a series of growth stock mutual funds. You'll have half the fees, the advisor won't make anywhere near the commission he'd make on an annuity, and you'll get much better results in the end.

Yeah, I definitely wouldn't go the annuity route. I don't have a single annuity, and I've got a lot of investments. One of the reasons so many "advisors" push annuities is because they wind up with bigger commissions. Annuities aren't evil or anything, but they're definitely not the proper product for you in this situation.

Get away from the guy who gave you this advice, and find a good financial advisor — not an insurance guy — with the heart of a teacher. You need to talk to someone who's interested in helping you two plan for your future, not theirs!

Dave

Jobs from home?

Dear Dave,

I'm 37 years old, married with two great kids, and I was just diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I'm trying to plan for the future, and I was wondering if you have any suggestions for work at home or self-employment ideas for people with disabilities.

Chris

Dear Chris,

I'm really sorry to hear you're facing this. You're a smart, brave young woman to be looking ahead and making plans for the coming years.

I suggest you read a book by Dan Miller called 48 Days to Creative Income. Dan is a friend of mine, and he also wrote a popular book titled 48 Days to the Work You Love. The issue you're talking about is very close to his heart, and I think his books will be a great help to you.

There's also a book by Richard Bolles. It's called Job Hunting for the So-Called Handicapped or People Who Have Disabilities, and it's full of ideas to help you work around the issues you'll be facing.

There are lots of people out there — well-known, highly successful folks — who have disabilities and still make good money and have rewarding lives using the principles found in these books. Another great piece of news is it sounds like you have a wonderful support system around you.

God bless you all, Chris. I'm praying for you.

Dave

His wife's final gift

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

My wife and I have been married for 12 years. Last month we found out she has terminal cancer and only six months to live. We've been fortunate enough to become fairly wealthy during our lives together, and she wants to buy me a boat. We always went fishing together, and her last wish is for me to have the boat I've always wanted. Even with this prognosis, I'll be okay financially when she's gone. Still, I can't stand the thought of this. It's just too painful. Do you have any advice?

Andrew

Dear Andrew,

Buddy, I am so very sorry. I hope you realize that you have the sweetest woman on earth for your wife. Even with all she's going through, her thoughts are of you and your happiness. That is one amazing lady.

The first thing I'd tell you both is to make sure your faith is intact. Hug her a lot, and keep talking to, praying with, and loving on each other. Be there for her all you can, and keep in mind that doctors can be wrong. It happens a lot, believe it or not, so don't give up hope.

If she brings up the boat again, just smile and let her know it's all about her right now. Remind her that she did the nicest thing possible many years ago when she agreed to spend the rest of her life with you. If she's really stubborn about this idea — something tells me she is, and in the very best way possible — promise her that whether you win or lose this fight you'll buy that boat someday and name it after her.

In other words, just tell her the truth and be real. If she goes home to be with the Lord, there might come a day down the road when the pain you'll feel has dulled just a little, and you find yourself sitting on that fishing boat that's named after her. That would be okay. I'm sure she would be smiling at you while you reeled in a big one. But you've got more important things to take care of right now — namely her.

God bless you both, Andrew.

 Dave

Trashing your truck

Dear Dave,

My husband has two trucks, one of which is a work truck at his construction site. It's in really bad shape, and he wants to take $16,000 out of savings to buy another one. We only have $17,000 in the account. What should we do?

Caroline

Dear Caroline,

Your husband wants to drain your savings to buy a $16,000 vehicle and roll it up to a construction site? I think this guy has been watching too many macho-man truck commercials.

In the real world, some hard hat will run into it with a piece of heavy equipment or drop a load of bricks off center and put some big time damage on this truck before he puts 1,000 miles on it. He wants to buy way too much truck. This kind of decision will wreck your finances and spell bad news for the business, too.

You can buy a perfectly good work truck for $6,000 or $7,000, and that's what he needs to do. This truck is going to get destroyed, and trashing an inexpensive truck is a much better idea than trashing the family finances!

 Dave

Wife Wins

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

We just started following your plan, and we have $39,000 in debt. We make $55,000 a year, and two of our smaller debts — one car and a credit card — are both $7,500. The credit card has a higher interest rate, so my wife thinks we should pay it off first. I look at the car as a necessity, and for that reason I think we should pay it off first. Who's right?

Pat

Dear Pat,

When the rules of paying off debts from smallest to largest don't apply, I look at things this way: If you have two debts that are of equal amounts, I would attack the one with the larger interest rate first. In your case, that would be the credit card debt.

I get what you're saying about the car. You guys might be in a bind if something happened and you lost one car. But it's also something you could work around if you had no other choice. So yeah, knock out the credit card first then move on to the car. Going this route will serve two purposes: First, it will save you some money. And second, I've got a feeling it will fire up your wife and get her on board with the plan even more than she already is.

She's taking this seriously if she's eyeballing interest rates, Pat. So use this momentum to work together, and knock out that debt!

Dave

IRA to gold? Bad idea

Dear Dave,

What are your thoughts on transferring an IRA over to gold?

Sandy

Dear Sandy,

Honestly, I think that's about the dumbest thing a person could do. I hope I wasn't unclear.

Gold is going down like a rock right now as people start to believe in the economy and the economic direction of this country again. The stock market indicates this is true, and in the process, gold becomes worth less and less. Gold is essentially a fear-based product, and the less fear that's out there, the cheaper gold is.

That's not how you want to fund your IRA, Sandy. You want to fund it with something that has a long track record based on growth due to the performance of the companies involved — not someone's greed or fear. Gold is a horrible investment, and I don't own any except for one nice watch and a pair of cufflinks. That's it!

Dave

Dying car or kill the student loan?

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

I'm 38 years old, and I've got $12,000 in student loans still hanging over my head. It's the only debt I have. I make $30,000 a year, and I've managed to save $12,000, but I'm also driving a junky, old car that will have to be replaced soon. Should I split the money I've saved and buy a $6,000 car while paying off $6,000 of the student loan?

Phil

Dear Phil,

If I'm in your shoes, I want that student loan out of my life as quickly as possible. At the same time, I don't want you living life without some money in the bank.

If you've followed me for very long, you know I teach the Baby Steps when it comes to getting out of debt and saving money. Baby Step 1 is to save a beginner emergency fund of $1,000. Baby Step 2 is to pay off all debt, except for your home, using the debt snowball method. The third Baby Step is to build a fully funded emergency fund of three to six months of expenses.

You don't have quite enough on hand for your idea and to have something left over. I recommend paying off $11,000 of the school loan now and then finishing it up as you go. It won't take much more time. Limp along in the beater for a little while longer and then, when you have no student loan debt, finish your emergency fund and start a car fund.

I talk to a lot of people your age who still have student loan debt. But you have the opportunity to punch its lights out in a hurry. If you pour on the coals, you should be able to save money and get a better car in just a few months!

Dave

The teacher was wrong

Dear Dave,

My daughter is in her first year of college. Recently, her math instructor walked students through the process of getting a credit card and building credit. We've always followed your plan and taught her to do the same. When she asked the instructor if no credit score was as good as a high credit score, the instructor said no. He told the class the only way to buy a home without a high credit rating is by having a huge amount of assets or savings. I think I know your answer, but how do I explain this to an 18-year-old?

Allison

Dear Allison,

Well, the first thing you explain is that college instructors — even tenured college professors — can be absolutely wrong sometimes.

A few years ago my daughter took a personal finance class in college, and on the first day the instructor went on a rant saying Dave Ramsey is stupid. He didn't know I was her dad, but she went through the entire class and never said a word. When she called home and asked what she should do, we told her to take the class and give him the answers he wants on the tests. We reminded her that she's just taking a class, and that doesn't mean she has to form her life opinions around what that guy thinks.

Sit down with your daughter and gently explain in this instance her instructor doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. Explain to her you can get a home loan even if you have no credit score. People do it all the time. There are places like Churchill Mortgage that would be happy to give her an example of this process. It's called manual underwriting. All you have to do is make a reasonable down payment, have two years at the same job, and provide two years of tax returns.

Hope this helps, Allison!

Dave

Do Both for Christmas

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

We have three preschool grandchildren, and they get tons of stuff for Christmas every year. We're in really good shape financially and would like to do something for their future this year instead of giving a toy that might get thrown in the corner. Do you have any suggestions?

Valerie

Dear Valerie,

I'd do both. You don't want to be those grandparents who only hand envelopes at Christmas to 4-year-olds. No, they need things to play with. They're kids and they should be allowed to act like kids and be happy at Christmas. The good news is you can do both without spending an arm and a leg.

In addition to a few special toys, perhaps you could work with their parents to launch Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) for them. This would get their college funds started, and it's what we do. We use mutual funds in their ESAs, where each child is allowed to have up to $2,000 contributed in their name per year.

The beauty of the ESA with the mutual fund inside is that it's growing completely tax-free. You have to name a custodian of the account until the child turns 18, and that could be you guys or their parents. Just make sure that together you don't over fund the ESAs and cause yourselves tax problems.

Merry Christmas, Valerie!

Dave

Snakes bite!

Dear Dave,

My wife and I are building a home, and we found a great entertainment center we both love. It costs $6,000, and the dealer said he would give us 10 percent off if we take out a store credit card. We have the cash to buy the piece, but we were wondering if it would be a good idea to get the card and use it for the entertainment center and Christmas gifts, then pay it off immediately.

Tyler

Dear Tyler,

I hate to burst your bubble, but I'm pretty skeptical about this idea. I know it sounds good on the surface, but the problem is the vast majority of people don't have the discipline to follow through on a plan like this. Another issue is a lot of places like this hit you with a fee when you pay off the card, the thing runs over, then you get another fee, and so on.

I'd just call the manager out of his office and let him know that unless he discounts the entertainment center $600 I'm going to his competitor. No, there's no way I'd take out a stupid credit card at this place whether I had the cash on hand or not.

Tyler, you need to learn right now it's a bad idea to play with snakes. Stop screwing around with debt products, okay? Everyone thinks they're the exception to the rule or they're somehow winning or getting rich by doing stuff like this, but it doesn't work. They're trying to hook you, man!

Dave

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