Dear Mary: A year ago, I emailed you about the mess I was in with payday lenders. Although I had been a member of Debt-Proof Living for years and knew better—and I am a professional with a masters degree and excellent job—somehow, little by little, I got caught up in the downward spiral into payday loan hell.
I was so desperate, I was planning to use one of the companies that advertise as “helping” a person pay these off these loan sharks. Thankfully, I contacted you about this first, and you warned me not to use them. I contacted NFCC.org, the organization you recommended, and found a CCCS office not far from my city (Graceworks CCCS in Dayton, Ohio).
It has not been easy, but I am thankful to report that I have paid off almost $10,000 in those loans and only have two more to go! I can’t begin to tell you the relief I feel.
Every time I drive by one of the lenders, I get a knot in my stomach and want to run into the store and shout a warning to the people who are borrowing. I keep my focus by remembering the horrible feeling at the end of each month, when I got paid, and then having to make my rounds to each of the companies, juggling my money so everyone got paid, and ending up with less money for bills every month.
Whether a new puppy makes your dreams of the perfect family dog come true or turns into a total nightmare could well depend on how well you’ve prepared for those first critical 24 hours.
Once you have established the kind of dog and size that is best for your lifestyle (Breed Recommender will help you match your lifestyle with the right breed and size) you need to decide where to get the puppy. From a shelter or reputable breeder? Take the time to research this thoroughly. The shelter of course presents the most affordable choice.
Now it’s time to set up a family meeting. Who will take the puppy to the papers or backyard and when? Who will be in charge of feedings 3- 4 times a day? Who will make veterinary appointments for vaccinations and de-worming? A new puppy should not be left alone for quite a few weeks, so make sure you have proper coverage.
I’ll never forget the day I asked one of my young piano students what he wanted for Christmas. It was a generic question, a pleasantry. I wasn’t looking for make, model, and serial number, but that’s what I got. He whipped out a 60-page list from his book bag. I gulped, checked to see if this child was serious (he was), and quickly proceeded with his music lesson.
I don’t know how many toys, electronics, and gadgets he had on that list, but at five things per page that would be three hundred entries. I’ll admit to participating in a few overly indulged Christmases in my foolish past, but even I cannot imagine what that child’s dream Christmas would look like.
I’ve made my share of school lunches over the years. And just when I got really good at it (which means the lunches were deviously nutritious prompting the kids to actually eat everything I packed) my boys grew up and left home. How could they?!
Actually, that’s pretty much what parenting is all about: You work really hard to get good at it, and then your job up and leaves home without you.
Back to school lunches. How can you pack healthy lunches the kiddos will actually eat, without getting sucked into buying pricey junk food masquerading as nutritious fare? You have to refuse to be tricked by labels that promise health benefits, or fun, colorful packaging that gets the kids’ attention.
Dear Mary: I am thinking of taking a loan from my 40l(k) retirement account to pay off my credit-card debt. I can repay the loan with payments taken directly from each of my paychecks, without any penalties. The interest rate is not too bad, and a lot less than I am paying to my credit card companies now. This seems like a great idea to me, but I’m worried I might be missing something. Sharon
Dear Sharon: I would not recommend you take a loan from your retirement account to repay your credit-card debt for these three reasons:
1. Uncertainty. If you leave your job for any reason before the loan is repaid, the entire balance becomes due and payable. That’s the law. You’ll have a couple of weeks to come up with that money. If you cannot, the balance owing will be converted to a withdrawal. You will be hit with early-withdrawal penalties and you will owe both federal and state taxes on the entire remaining balance. The penalties are stiff because you’re not supposed to have access to this money until you are at least age 59 1/2. The penalties and taxes could easily add up to half of the amount you owe. Ouch!
Today’s topic is not pretty, but unless you have $8,000 earmarked for dental care, it could prevent a lot of pain—both dental and financial.
Periodontal disease is an infection that affects the gum tissue around the teeth, the fibers that hold the teeth in the jaw bone and the bone itself.
Bacteria get caught between the teeth and also under the gum, forming a sticky substance called “plaque” that hardens to form tartar. This leads to infection known as gingivitis. As it spreads deeper into the bone it begins to decay and pus forms which causes swelling, redness and bleeding. If not treated, the teeth will become loose and fall out.
Do I have your attention? Great because there are relatively inexpensive measure you can take to prevent this ugly situation and all of the very expensive treatments required to treat and (hopefully) reverse.
If you remove the soft plaque from the gum margin around the teeth you will toughen the gum and prevent the disease. Here’s how to do that:
In the interest of full disclosure, let me say right up front that when I first heard about ordering prescription eyeglasses online, I scoffed. I rolled my eyes. What next? Mail order surgery? Online doctor visits? Not me.
But I’ve had an epiphany, a change of heart.
Up until the past decade, I’d never worn glasses, enjoying perfect vision. But life happens (perhaps you’ve noticed this). I was totally unprepared for the mind-numbing cost of prescription eye wear.
I went to a top-notch optometrist (I still do) and assumed that to take the best care of my eyes, I needed to purchase my new glasses from the little boutique there in his office. When the bill totaled over $750 for my designer frames, lenses, anti-scratch coating (don’t believe it), UV protection and the anti-glare option, I was shocked. And more than ready to consider other options.
For a good deal of my life I lived under a dark cloud of worry that I would end up financially destitute—a bag lady.
A survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Allianz Insurance Group reveals that I’m not the only one. In fact, most of us have felt that way at some point in our lives, not because we’re broke, but because we don’t have confidence that we know how to hang onto our money. And that makes us timid, worried and financially insecure.
Financial confidence is a choice. It’s a matter of changing bad habits and choosing to learn simple financial principles. Then by consciously applying them over and over those principles will become automatic responses—financial habits.
Here are four simple things you can do starting today to improve your financial confidence—and take control of your money.