Dear Mary: Mary, thank you for your service to America. I’ve enjoyed your column and books for more years than I can remember. Unfortunately, I overlooked your advice on parents’ paying for a college education and we jumped in. Our daughter finished in 2007 and we’ve been paying ever since. She is working but not making much. We currently owe $26,000 on her education and are paying $347 a month, which will repay the debt in 10 years. Other than continuing the long haul, do you have any suggestions? Barbara B., email
Dear Barbara: I wish I had a great solution for you that would wipe out this debt much sooner and save you a lot of money. Had you written before your daughter enrolled in college, I may have suggested that you steer her into a school that offers loan repayment assistance for graduates when they come out with student debt but cannot find a job earning at least $38,000 a year. Houghton College and others are now offering this kind of safety net for both the student’s and parents’ college loans. And I’m a big fan. My best advice is that you do everything you can to increase your monthly payments on your loan. There is no prepayment penalty on parent (PLUS) loans. If you can possibly pay yours off faster, you’ll avoid paying a lot of interest. I wish you and your daughter well.
Dear Mary: I have been approached by debt consolidation for them to consolidate all my credit card debts into one lump sum with the promise to possibly be out of credit card debt as soon as two years. Is this a good option? Is it something to pursue? Karen D., email
Dear Karen: Run, don’t walk, away from anyone who approaches you offering debt consolidation. These are scam artists. They will make all kind of promises, tell you to stop making your monthly payments and instructing you to send those funds to them instead. They’ll promise to hold the money and use it to negotiate with your creditors. Do not believe this! They’ll disappear and you’ll be left with holding the bag—and in default with all of your credit card companies. This is not a good option and it is not something you should pursue.
Dear Mary: I made the detergent you posted several months ago and just love it. I’ve shared samples with my friends and have many of them making their own. Thanks again for your wonderful column. Valla C., Louisiana
Dear Valla: I’m so happy to know that you and your friends are enjoying the homemade laundry detergent. Isn’t it just the best? And it’s so cheap to make—only about five cents a wash load! Here’s a link to the recipe and photo tutorial in case there is a reader anywhere who has not given this a try. Thanks for your kind words.