Over the years, I’ve had many wonderful opportunities to address audiences large and small, at all kinds of event from retreats to conventions, college chapels, and conferences throughout the U.S and abroad.

It’s one of the best things I get to do and I am always honored to be invited. The part I enjoy most happens when I’m done and it’s time to take questions from the audience. I value the trust my readers have in me, whether at a live event or right here on the blog.


A Gift You’ll Never Regret Giving Yourself

Dear Mary: We owe about $200,000 at 4 percent on our 15-year mortgage, and have the money to pay it off now. If we do this, we lose the tax benefit of the mortgage interest and the possibility of being pushed into a higher tax bracket. One way to avoid this would be to purchase a second home, get a mortgage and rent out the house. We’ve heard that the rental market is good in our area. What do you think of our idea? Alex

Dear Alex: My advice depends a lot on your age. If you are nearing retirement, I recommend you bite that tax bullet and pay off the mortgage. That will assure you a rent-free retirement—a gift you’ll never regret giving to yourselves.

If you are not ready to do that, your idea of buying a second property may be a good one. But first, you need to speak with a competent tax professional who can look at your entire financial situation and advise you accordingly, especially in light of recent changes to the U.S. Tax code. I recommend a fee-only financial advisor. You can find a reputable fee-only personal financial advisor in your area HERE.

Once you rent out a second property it becomes an investment and that is treated much differently than a second residence or vacation home when it comes to tax reporting. Expenses on an income property, which include but are not necessarily limited to interest and depreciation, offset the rental income resulting in either a net profit or net loss.


Itemizing Charitable Donations

Dear Mary: For years now, I’ve ordered the “Money for Your Used Clothing” workbook from your website that helps me value items I donate to charity throughout the year. I’ve been watching for the Tax Year 2018 edition, but have not seen it. Is it available yet? Mollie

Dear Mollie: I regret to let you and all my readers know that the publishers of that wonderful resource made the decision to cease publication with the 2017 edition, due to the massive changes in the U.S. Tax code.

For most people, it’s a good thing. With the significant increase in the standard deduction, most people who have filed for Tax Year 2018 have learned it no longer pays for them to itemize their federal tax return because their new standard deduction exceeds their itemizations.

If your situation is unique and you have donation receipts that exceed your new standard deduction for your 2018 Tax Year filing, I suggest you follow the Tax Year 2017 Money for Your Used Clothing valuation guidelines. We do have a few copies of that edition remaining, which you can order by calling (800) 550-3502.


Deik Cordless Stick Vac Review

Dear Mary: Per your recommendation, I ordered, and have been using, my Deik Cordless Stick Vac for well over a month now and I really love it. It does a great job on the dark kitchen floor. It hasn’t solved the growing problem of all the little white things that magically appear out of nowhere but it does pick them all up. I didn’t realize it came with a light and that was really a nice and very helpful bonus. The charge lasts longer than my floor requires and it’s a big kitchen. Your help in my deciding to make this purchase was greatly appreciated and I thank you.

… and Shoe Repair Shops

On another topic entirely, I just read your column where Bob W. told how to buy inexpensive belts and have them resized by a shoe repairman. My question is where do you find a shoe repair shop in this day and age? We had one once in this small town but they went out many years ago in this era of sneakers, disposables, and molded one-piece shoe soles. Robert

MORE: A Shoemaker Can Save Your Sole—and More

Dear Robert: Thanks for your feedback on your new Deik. Reviews are pouring in from hundreds of your fellow readers who share your high regard for Deik. Some are sending photos to prove their astonishment for how well and how much it picks up. Maybe I’ll share some in an upcoming post.

Deik is a fabulous lightweight, inexpensive workhorse that is like a broom, dust mop, and dustpan all in one. And yes those headlights! I use my Deik daily, as I too have dark wood floors. Just think of how much dust and debris would build up over even a few days if we couldn’t see it so well. It’s always been there, just not so visible!

As for shoe repair shops, you can find a national store locator at the Shoe Service Institute of America website. Just type in your location and you’ll be on your way! (I checked your zip code and see there are at least two shops within 20 miles of you.)


Dealing with Disabilities

Dear Mary: I read your posts and emails faithfully, and admire you for being able to get your own debt under control. However, I struggle with how a young family with huge permanent medical bills for two children can ever become debt-free. How can we do this? Gail

Dear Gail: I am at such a disadvantage here because I have no idea what these “huge permanent medical bills” are for your two children. If your children are disabled, you need to seek out the benefits that are available to you through the Social Security Administration. If your kids are just sick all the time and it feels like their medical bills will be permanent, you need to find good health insurance that will shoulder a lot of the cost. A group plan through an employer will offer the best option there. Or if you are not employed, you can apply for state Medicaid benefits.

If I were you and my children were permanently medically challenged, wild horses could not stop me from learning about every possible organization and hospital committed to helping sick kids and their families. I would start with Shriner’s Hospitals and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and not stop until I knew of every possible way to get help.

There’s no doubt that the hand you’ve been dealt (if indeed your children have long-term disabilities) is going to be costly until the children reach adulthood. However, using this situation as a license to fall deeply into debt is a choice you have, but one I hope you will not make.

I wish you well and thank you so much for your kind words!

Question: Do you have a question you’d like to ask Mary? Ask it here and there’s a good chance you’ll see her answer in a future post. 

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