Dear Mary,
My husband has been handling our finances, but he was recently diagnosed with dementia. I feel so overwhelmed with everything. He has already forgotten to pay some bills, so I have gotten involved with our finances. My husband wants to sell our home, but houses aren’t selling in our area and I really don’t want to sell. We’re looking into refinancing. We need to get out of debt. I don’t know where to start with all this. Rhea, email


Dear Rhea,
It’s time for you to step in and take over the household finances. If you have not been involved all along, just plan on it being daunting. Make an appointment with a fee-only financial advisor, who will charge you a flat fee based on an hourly rate, rather than try to sell you financial products to earn a commission.

Once you have this appointment, gather together all of your financial information that you can find or know about, and take it with you. Go alone to this meeting so you will be free to speak openly with this counselor. You may also need to speak with an attorney who can work with your husband’s doctor to give you power of attorney over future legal and financial matters.

I am so sorry that you are facing this situation, but now is not the time for a pity party. You need to move into the role of family decision-maker, diplomatically and lovingly. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors has a list of fee-only advisors in your area on its website,

Dear Mary,
After my children left for college, I decided to go back, too. I am getting my education paid by financial aid, but I also qualify for student loans at a very low interest rate. I don’t need the loans for tuition, but wonder if I should use them to pay off my car, and then use the car payments to pay off the student loans? It makes sense to me, but what do you think? Pamela, email

Dear Pamela,
This might look like a good idea on paper, but be very cautious. Unless you have demonstrated a high level of financial maturity and personal discipline in the past, you could be stepping into a trap. Will you really make the same car payments you’re making now to your student debt, even though not required? Should something happen that prevents you from working now (I assume you have a job), finishing school or working in the future, how will you make those student loan payments?

A traditional car loan could be repaid or discharged through a variety of methods, from selling the car to voluntary repossession or even bankruptcy. If you move that debt to a student loan, you will lose all of those options. Before you know it, you’ll be tempted to consolidate the student debt to a 10-, 15- or 30-year payment schedule, which would be a terrible mistake. I wish you well in making this decision.

Do you have a question for me? Get in touch by using the contact form, the comments section, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.

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