Invest in Your Debt


Dear Mary: Soon I will receive an inheritance that is almost equal to the amount remaining on my mortgage. I am a widow, age 55 with no dependents. I have 25 years with the same employer and have been participating in the company’s 401k plan for the past 15 years. I plan to work until I am 65. Should I use the inheritance to pay off the mortgage or, as friends suggest, invest it in a variety of stocks and bonds and keep my mortgage because the interest is tax-deductible? Eleanor D., Iowa


Dear Eleanor: You need to check with your tax professional because, as you know, I am not one. However, If I were you I’d pay off that mortgage so fast the lender would get dizzy. Investing in your debt is always a wise decision because you cannot lose and your mortgage should be the last debt you pay off—after you have a healthy emergency fund and you have paid off all of your unsecured debts. Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Dear Mary 1 Comment

Hurry! HARP 2.0 to Expire Soon


At first you might mistake it for a large, stringed musical instrument. It’s not, but the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP 2.0) could be music to your ears if your home mortgage is still underwater.

First announced in March 2009, the federal government program designed HARP to help underwater or near-underwater homeowners refinance into a fixed loan with a lower monthly payment.


The first HARP was not that successful. It was difficult to qualify to refinance under the terms of the program and contained too many roadblocks for the typical homeowner who needed the service so badly.

The program was revised in 2011 to be much more successful and available to many more needy homeowners. Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Home & Family 2 Comments

An Ounce of Prevention is Cheaper than a Pound of Cure


If the terms Snowden, NSA and “top secret information” ring a bell, it’s possible that you follow the national news and understand the issues of privacy—both national and personal.

I’ll be honest. I find it a bit creepy to think that someone out there may be monitoring my emails, phone calls and financial history. That’s one thing, but should that “someone” actually make a move to harm me in any way because of that knowledge? Well, that’s where I know I can do something about it. And I would much rather choose prevention than face the daunting task of repair.

Here’s the problem:

How can I prevent someone grabbing my Social Security number, using it to open a credit-card account and running that baby to the moon—before I know what’s happening?


How can I prevent someone from financing a car in my name using my identity—then crashing it and causing all kinds of damage and personal liability for me, before I can even figure out what on earth happened? I can’t. I wish I could, but I just do not have the resources, network or ability to track and monitor my personal identifying information to stop someone from stealing it. And you know what? No individual does. That would be logistically impossible. Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Best Inexpensive, Home & Family, Mary's Perspective 4 Comments

Apples of the Fall


I love autumn. And I mean everything about it—the colors, the smells, the feel in the air and the food. Oh, the food. I’m talking apples—apple cider, applesauce, apple pie and apple cobbler. And who could possibly leave out the caramel apples?


Now look at that list again. It’s all fabulous, but all sweet. I know what you’re thinking: How about savory apple dishes? That’s what I’m thinking, too! Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Food & Recipes 5 Comments

Of New Books and Baby Elephants


I am so excited. In just a few weeks my new book will be released. The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement has wormed its way into my heart and become very precious to me for two reasons:

First, the entire process turned out to be a very hard-fought battle and I don’t mean so much with the subject matter, but with myself. But more importantly, this book changed me in ways that have been stunning to the point of breathtaking.

I will tell you more about that in coming weeks. But for now, just imagine what this book may do for you as you are facing your own future. While our lives may be very different, the challenges we will face are very similar. If you do nothing to start planning for your future now, as a woman, you have a 50-percent chance of living in poverty in your retirement years. Should you be worried? Only if you don’t start doing something about it now.

Being willing is the first step. The second step is to get the book. Then we can get this conversation started and the “doing” will follow.

With only a few weeks to go to the Nov, 5, 2013 release date, I find myself recalling what it’s like to give birth. I’ve done that twice and it feels a little bit like I’m about to do it again.

However, this gestation as been far longer than nine months. In fact, now that I think about it, I’m identifying more with elephants who take 22 months! Instead of my babies weighing in at about 7 pounds, I’m hoping for something in the thousands for this baby. No. Wait. “Million” sounds so much better, doesn’t it?


You know that I don’t often ask you for favors. Today is different. I’m asking you to pre-order this book. Like right now when you finish this column. Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Mary's Perspective 2 Comments