Buy Leased Building?

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

I've operated my own small business for a couple of years. In that time, I've been leasing the building that houses my company. How do you know when the time is right to buy a place and stop leasing?

James

Dear James,

I'm a big fan of leasing the first few years after starting your own business. It's even better if you can work out of your home, but I understand that's not always practical.

In my mind, you should only buy a building when you have a good idea what your building needs will be from a solid track record. Growth is a good thing, but in some cases you may want to hold off buying a building if you're growing too rapidly. Don't make the mistake of focusing too much on real estate and not enough on generating revenue and managing your growth intelligently. You would also want to make sure you're going to be in anything you buy for a while, because you don't want to be stuck with a residual value. A residual value is the remaining value of an asset after it has been fully depreciated.

In the first three to five years of starting your business, you should lease. After that, you can choose to lease with an option to buy or, in the right situation, buy a building — debt-free, of course.

Dave

What's your priority?

Dear Dave,

I work weekends while attending college full-time. My parents have been generous enough to pay for most of my school expenses, and they let me live at home while I complete my degree. Still, I'm trying to figure out how to move out and continue working, while continuing my studies full-time and attending career-related events. We live in an area where the cost of living is high, so I'm not sure how to handle all the facets of this situation.

Joel

Dear Joel,

I think out of three things – school, work, and where you live – you need to decide which is your number one priority. If it were me, school would come first.

In order to go to school without borrowing money, you're going to have to work. Getting out of school on time, and attending some of the events that will take you toward your career, will pre-empt work. You'll have to work enough to pay for things, but if you can finish school and hit your academic and graduation goals while staying at home a little bit longer, that's a pretty good deal. It's a nice thing your parents are offering, but I can understand your desire to be out on your own.

I want you to be out on your own as soon as you can, too. But if you do that right now, you're going to have extra bills and be forced to work even more. That's going to disturb your entire school process. Guess what your number one priority was in that scenario? Moving out! If it's the tail that's wagging the dog, it has become the number one priority. If it's disrupting work, and thereby disrupting your academics, then you've put your priorities on the wrong thing.

In my mind, the number priority should be finishing school on time, and attending as many connected events as possible. Meanwhile, you're working so much that you're able to continue doing all this debt-free. If that means you're staying at home a little bit longer to pull it off – do it!

—Dave

Midlife Adjustments?

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

My husband and I are in our 50s, and we have just $12,000 to pay off before we're debt-free. We've paid off almost $70,000 in debt in the last two years. We would like to buy a house soon, but we know we also need an emergency fund. It would take us almost a year to build up an emergency fund, so should we make adjustments to the Baby Steps since we're getting older?

Dawn

Dear Dawn,

No! It shouldn't take you two a year to build up an emergency fund considering the rate at which you've been paying off debt. You need a fully funded emergency fund or three to six months of expenses set aside before you start saving for a down payment on a home.

You've been making great progress, and you obviously have a good income to be able to pay off debt that quickly. Maybe in your case you could lean a little more toward the three-month side with your emergency fund before you start saving for a house. Then, after you're all moved in, you could revisit the emergency fund and beef it up to six months.

Just stay on course and stick with the plan, Dawn. Fifty isn't old. You two have plenty of time to get your finances in order, find a great home, and look forward to many great years ahead!

Dave

Skipping to the altar

Dear Dave,

My wife and I make good money, and our daughter's college education is pretty much paid for through pre-paid tuition and scholarships. We just started your plan to get out of debt and take better control of our finances. When we get to Baby Step 5, which is saving for college, can we substitute that with saving for a wedding?

Bob

Dear Bob,

That would be fine. I'm glad you're thinking ahead. It's always a good idea to save toward a wedding if you have the financial resources to do so, because weddings are real and they're coming.

The average wedding in America today runs around $35,000. Of course, you don't have to pay anywhere near that amount to make it a beautiful occasion. Your household income, debt, savings and other factors will all play into how much you can afford.

Just remember to pay cash for the wedding, Bob. If you have to go into debt to make it happen, then you're talking about too much money. It's as simple as that. Crunch the numbers with your wife, and see what you two can handle.

And remember, there's absolutely no correlation between the cost of a wedding and the success of the relationship!

—Dave

Mortgage for the Deduction?

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

My wife and I are looking at buying a new home. We've been really blessed with our finances, and we're at a point where we can pay cash for a new house and still have plenty of money in the bank. Should we do this, or is it a better idea to get a mortgage for the tax deduction?

Brian

Dear Brian,

I think the real question is this: Why wouldn't you pay cash if you have the ability to do so? I would never advise someone to get, or keep, a mortgage just for the tax deduction, because these tax deductions are never 100 percent.

Let's pretend you had a $200,000 mortgage at five percent interest. That would be $10,000 a year in interest. If you take a $10,000 tax deduction and you're in a 25 percent tax bracket, that would save you 25 percent of $10,000 on your tax bill — or $2,500. So, you would never send $10,000 to your mortgage company just to avoid sending $2,500 to the IRS. You don't keep a mortgage just for the tax deduction. That's trading a dollar for a quarter, and you don't want to do that. Everybody thinks losing the tax deduction is an awful thing, but you could give $10,000 extra to your church — something you don't have to be in debt to do — and get the same tax write-off.

There are numerous positive aspects to staying out of debt. One big thing it does is change your risk level. It gives you a level of peace and security you'll never have when debt is hanging over your head. All that money that was going out the door to the bank can be used to build wealth and give like never before!

Dave

You can't fix it for her

Dear Dave,

I paid off my house a little over a year ago, and I'm completely debt-free. That's a good thing, because I recently had some large medical bills and I don't have quite as much cash as usual on hand. My younger sister recently received a tax bill from the IRS for $30,000. I love her to death, but she's extremely irresponsible with money and in debt up to her eyeballs. I know how you feel about debt, and I've tried to teach her how to handle money, but considering her situation — should I take out a home equity loan of $30,000 to help her?

Toni

Dear Toni,

Absolutely not! Does that mean you don't love her and care about her? It does not. But you told me she won't behave with money. You don't give money to people who won't behave with the stuff. That kind of behavior doesn't help anyone, and it doesn't fix the problem. It's like giving a drunk a drink.

"Help" would be aiding this lady in changing her ways when it comes to finances. If you just give her a fish, it will stink and go bad. You have to teach her to fish. That attitude is not about being mean to her, it's just where she is in her life. She needs to be educated, not enabled. And it doesn't mean she's a bad person, either. It just means you can't endorse negative behavior or participate in her denial.

Keep trying to teach her, and pray for her. Make sure, too, that she's in contact with the IRS about a payment plan. I know she's your little sister, but you can't fix this one for her. Sometimes the best help you can give someone is to help them change their behavior. That way, they will hopefully learn how to carry their own weight.

Dave

Giving Wisely

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

Our son is 13, and he wants to give half the money he received for his birthday to the nursery at our church. They need new baby toys and things like that. Should we let him give that much, or should we tell him that maybe 25 percent is enough?

Kyle

Dear Kyle,

I hope you're proud of this kid. He's a got a good heart, and it's probably a reflection of the way his mom and dad are raising him. I like this a lot.

I would very gently, and without any commanding or control verbiage, use some examples from the Bible when talking to him. There are several things to be learned about money from Scripture, and the concepts of generosity and giving are in there. There's also a verse that says we need to take care of our own households first. Another one says in the house of the wise are stores of food and oil.

We need to do all of these things with money — in balance. Thoughtfully and prayerfully decide what your giving amount will be, so that you don't destroy your ability to save and do other important things. Talk to him about these concepts, then ask him to wait two or three days and think about his decision.

If he comes back and says he still wants to give half of it, I would encourage him to do so. But slow things down a little, and make sure this isn't a knee-jerk reaction. You need to be a wise giver, not an impulsive giver!

Dave

Bad advice from a bad friend

Dear Dave,

My husband and I are currently in Baby Step 2, and paying off all our debt except for our home. A friend recently told us to pay off everything except for the credit card debt. She says we can then settle for a far less amount and not have so much money going out the door. This feels a little unethical to me. What are your thoughts?

Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

There's a good reason this idea feel unethical to you — it is unethical! Would a good friend, a smart friend, encourage you to do something as dishonorable as not pay a bill you're morally and legally obligated to pay? I don't think so.

If you're able to pay your bills, you pay your bills. It's as simple as that. Now, if you honestly can't pay the bill, and you have to settle upon a mutually agreed upon amount with the creditor or collector, then it's okay at that point to try and reach a settlement.

Otherwise, it's a simple question of ethics. Pay the bill!

Dave

Crowdfunding Real Estate?

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

I'd like to get involved in real estate investing, but I don't have a lot of cash at present. What do you think of the idea of crowdfunding as a way to invest in real estate?

Adam

Dear Adam,

I've got a bunch of real estate, and I love it. But I wouldn't go the crowdfunding route as a way to get started in real estate investing. I wouldn't give someone money to buy real estate in a crowdfunding scenario, either.

The late Beverly Sills had a great saying: "There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going." Investing in real estate is wonderful when you do it right. Get out of debt first, pay cash, and find great bargains. When you get in a hurry, and do dumb stuff like go into debt or get mixed up with partnerships in the process, real estate's a horrible investment.

I admire your ambition, Adam. But I would advise you to follow my lead on this one. You'll be glad you did!

Dave

How late is too late?

Dear Dave,

How late is too late to get life insurance?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

It's pretty easy to get term life insurance – the only kind of life insurance I recommend – up until around age 70. Depending on your overall health situation, there are a few affordable policies available past that point. But once you get into your seventies and beyond it can be difficult to find reasonably priced coverage.

I recommend that most people have 10 to 12 times their annual income wrapped up in a good, level term life insurance policy. But honestly, you shouldn't need life insurance at 70 or older. If you've been wise with your money, and saved and invested, you should be self-insured by that point. This means having plenty of cash in the bank to cover burial expenses and enough for a spouse to live on after you're gone.

—Dave

Don't compromise your emergency fund

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernew2Dear Dave,

My wife and I are debt-free, and we're ready to start building our first home. We're a little short on cash to make the 20 percent down payment you recommend, but we do have a fully funded emergency fund in place. Would it be okay to take a little out of our emergency fund to make up the difference?

Chris

Dear Chris,

Well, you didn't give me exact numbers here. I don't know how short a little short is, and I don't know how big your emergency fund is. If you use a little of your emergency fund to round off the 20 percent and then you have an emergency, where are you going to be?

I recommend always having three to six months of expenses set aside for emergencies. If you've got $50,000 in your emergency fund and you use $10,000 of it, you'll be fine. But anything that leaves you with less than three or four months of expenses stashed away would worry me. That's the way you've got to look at it. Just use a little common sense with the numbers.

I'd love for you to put down 20 percent because you'd avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), which runs about $75 a month per $100,000 borrowed. It costs you a lot of money if you don't put down 20 percent. You should try to do that if possible, but don't be irresponsible with your emergency fund in the process.

Your emergency fund, when it's there, tends to keep emergencies away. When it's not there, you have a tendency to attract emergencies and your life starts to sound like a sad country song!

Dave

Ethics and integrity

Dear Dave,

I'll be getting out of the military soon, and I want to open a coffee roastery in civilian life. I had planned to work at an established place like Starbucks for a while so I can learn the business. Recently, I've become concerned with this idea from an ethical point of view. Can you give me some guidance?

Wayne

Dear Wayne,

First, thank you for your service. The fact that you have enough integrity to even think about this means you're a conscientious, honest person. I think you're going to be okay.

Making and serving coffee is not a proprietary set of information. It's done all over the world by lots of people, so you're not violating any ethics by doing that. Now there would definitely be something wrong with you stealing another company's exact recipes or logo, but I think you already knew that.

There's nothing wrong with learning how to make different coffee drinks that are made all over the world. Starbucks doesn't have a corner on that. There are coffeehouses all across America these days, so there's no ethics breach. Just understand what's proprietary about a company or a brand, and don't duplicate that.

Best of luck to you, sir!

—Dave

Giving Beyond Your Means

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

My wife and I are debt-free except for our home, and we’re on Baby Steps 4 and 5. Recently, we were asked to make a large donation to a charity we already support. We don’t have the full cash amount they asked for on hand, and after hearing that, they said we could make monthly installment payments until the donation amount was paid in full. We’re hesitant to do this because it seems a bit like debt to us. What do you think?

Ben

Dear Ben,

Well, it’s not debt. There would be no repercussions, other than guilt, if you couldn’t make the full donation. So, it’s not debt. To be honest though, I don’t engage in that kind of stuff when it comes to giving.

My wife and I do all our giving — except for our tithe to our local church — through our family foundation. Sometimes we’ll do this giving in a couple of installments, but it’s not because we don’t have the money. It’s generally a situation where we’re walking with the charity or ministry throughout the year, and we’re observing and assessing the need.

I’d be hesitant to give a gift when I don’t have the money. Most of the time, approaches like this fall under the heading of manipulation. You’re being pushed beyond your means. Most giving of this type, biblically speaking, would be from surplus. And right now, you don’t have the surplus.

I’m kind of uncomfortable with this, Ben. I don’t engage in making gift promises beyond what I have. It’s not debt, but it kind of starts to feel like it, and it’s not so much living beyond your means as it is giving beyond your means. That’s just another reason it doesn’t strike the right chord with me.
Dave

Know where to go

Dear Dave,

I am 18 years old and homeschooled. I want to continue my education this fall, and my dad works at a college near our home. I would get free tuition, but there’s another college farther from home that I like just as much — but it’s more expensive. On the plus side, it is a Christian school, and my faith is important to me. What do you think I should do?

Braden

Dear Braden,

Free tuition is a major plus in my book. At the same time, I can understand your desire to get out from under mom and dad’s wings a little bit. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that a school, church or anything else is completely Christian. You’ll meet some of the wildest characters ever at a Christian school, just like you would at a public university. However, you would have the advantage of a built-in spiritual support network.

All things considered, and since you mentioned your faith specifically, I’d probably choose the Christian school. But I wouldn’t go into debt to make it happen. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t work and go to school at the same time. Pay it as you go. I did it, and I finished with good grades in four years. It’s a little bit harder way to go, but it’s a lot better than ending up with a ton of student loan debt when you’re through!

Dave

Family and business

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

My husband and I own a small business. One of our relatives asked for a job recently, and we both have reservations about hiring him because there are several dysfunctional relationships and personalities within our extended family. Are we being mean? We're not sure how to respond.

Becky

Dear Becky,

Having a small business doesn't give relatives a free pass to employment. As entrepreneurs, you have the right and responsibility to do what's best for your company. And you don't have to hire anyone — even a relative — who's not a good fit.

There are situations where hiring a family member can actually be a plus. If a relative is qualified and the kind of person who understands they'll have to bust it every single day and perform at a level equal to or above your other team members, that can be a special and productive thing. A relative who is a problem child, however, can be a nightmare in both your professional and personal lives.

Ask yourself a few questions: Would you hire this person if they weren't part of the family? Would you hire this person because they would make a good team member? If the answers are no, then you don't hire them — period.

Be kind about the situation, because there may be some bruised feelings. But the bottom line is you have to do what's best for your business, your immediate family, and your team.

—Dave

Don't be house poor!

Dear Dave,

I read where you recommend having your house payment or rent at an amount that's 25 percent or less of your monthly take-home pay. Does this figure include property taxes and insurance too?

Mark

Dear Mark,

Yes, it does. I'm trying to keep you from being "house poor." Did you know you can qualify for a house payment, with taxes and insurance, that's close to half of your take-home pay? That's ridiculous! When you don't have room in your budget to do anything else that matters because your house payment is so large, that's what we call house poor.

When your income minus your basic living expenses equals almost nothing, it means your basic living expenses are way too high. Being in this kind of situation keeps you from saving for really important stuff like investing, retirement, and college for your kids. I'm trying to position you where you can get the house and everything paid off so you can become wealthy. Remember, your most powerful wealth building tool is your income.

When we talk about driving a crappy car, not going out to eat, or not going on vacation — those are temporary things. It's all about living like no one else, so that later you can live and give like no one else!

—Dave

Roth over Pension

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

My wife and I are both 25 years old, and we're working on Baby Steps 4, 5 and 6. I have a 401(k) through my employer, and she has a pension. Currently, we're falling short of the 15 percent of income you advise putting toward retirement. Should we get IRAs, or start stocking money away in her pension?

John

Dear John,

I wouldn't put money into a pension. For one thing, when you die after putting money into a pension, in most cases it dies with you. Number two, when you put money into a pension, you're going to get about a six percent rate of return in the current environment — maybe even as low as five percent. You're not making much on it while you're alive, so I don't advise putting money in pensions. We let employers put money in pensions, if they want to. That's a nice benefit, but I wouldn't add to it.

I would do a couple of Roth IRAs, and max those out. Then, max out whatever you've got at work that you own. Of course, when you're vested in a pension, you own it. That much is true. But still, I don't advise adding to pensions, buying years up, or any of those kinds of things.

There are a few examples out there where that kind of thing works mathematically to your benefit, but they're very hard to find. Out of all the years I've been in this business, I can count on two hands the number of times I've seen it work out.

So no, I wouldn't do more with a pension where you add to it yourself, especially at such a young age.

Dave

Why the smallest debt first?

Dear Dave,

I'm new to you and your plan. Why do you want people to pay off the debt with the smallest balance first, instead of the one with the highest interest rate?

Courtney

Dear Courtney,

Simply put, because personal finance isn't all about math. Personal finance is only about 20 percent math. The other 80 percent is behavior.

We list debts in the debt snowball in order of the smallest to the largest balance, putting as much as possible toward the smallest while paying the minimum payments on the others. The reason, as I mentioned earlier, is behavior modification. It helps you see yourself making a dent in your debts.

It's easier to change bad habits when you see quick results from your efforts to eliminate negative behaviors. Paying off the smallest debts first, instead of the debts with the highest interest rates, will give you quick wins that will help keep you motivated. It provides proof that you can succeed and become debt-free!

Dave

Do the Manly Thing

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernew2Dear Dave,

My wife and I argue a lot about finances. We're trying to get more control over our money, and she has been listening to you. That's helped a lot. She's also a lot more frugal than I am, and our biggest point of contention right now is how we handle our spending money. Whenever I work overtime at my job, I feel like I should be able to put the overtime pay toward my spending money. What are your thoughts on this?

Josh

Dear Josh,

No way, dude! You don't work overtime for your little boy wants. You work overtime, and rake in that extra cash, for the good of your family. That's the manly thing to do.

Now, that's not to say you both can't have a little spending money. It also doesn't mean that you can't treat yourself once in a while if you're working your tail off. I mean, if I'm working 70 to 80 hours a week I may give myself a little inexpensive treat in the midst of all that. So, my spending money should reflect that. But it shouldn't reflect a sense that I get to play more because I work extra, while the rest of the family suffers.

Sorry, man. I think you knew what I was going to say. Step up, be good to your family first, and then your good times will come. If you haven't learned it already, you'll soon discover that those good times are best ones!

Dave

Teens and checkbooks

Dear Dave,

My daughter is 15, and she's had jobs around the house and been on commission and the envelope system for years. She's very good about saving and not spending on silly things. We recently opened a checking account for her, and I was wondering what bills you think we should assign for her to pay on her own?

Suzanne

Dear Suzanne,

This sounds a lot like we did with our kids. She's obviously bright and motivated, so the first thing you do is explain to her the seriousness and responsibility associated with a checking account. The next step is for her to balance the checkbook with you looking over her shoulder. Do this with her for several months, while you keep one on the account, too. After that, I want her to do it alone and show you her work. Her balance should match yours and the one at the bank.

As soon as she demonstrates competency, and you feel comfortable that she can handle things, I want you to start putting her clothing budget in the account. You know, the weirdest thing happened with our girls at this stage. They suddenly started shopping at less expensive stores. It's amazing when they see that the dollars associated with these purchases can run out. My bet is you'll see some changes in her value choices.

Just take it step-by-step, a little at a time. The more they exhibit competence, wisdom, and confidence, the more you can release them.

Dave

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

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