Road to Wealth

Road to Wealth Archives

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
- Benjamin Franklin

In this column, “A Wealth of Knowledge,” Michelle Singletary answers your basic personal finance questions every week. Put yourself on the road to wealth by seeking answers to financial questions that you don’t know.

Expert Advice

Q: For people who live on a budget and are now unemployed, what can they do, other than look for a job and cut unnecessary expenses, to make it through this horrible economy? Los Angeles, CA A: I’ve been working with a few folks who are unemployed, and it’s tough. It’s tough to watch them [...]

Q: I have an IRA, but I am not putting anything in it, because I changed jobs. The current job does not have an IRA or anything. What can I do to still continue to save for retirement? Are there any types of IRA plans that I can get? Please help me, because my husband [...]

Q: We have 15 to 25-year-old credit card debt now totaling $135,000. We are approaching retirement with five marriages between us (we have been married 20 years), but see no hope of eliminating this debt. We have closed all but one of 10 cards because we chose to opt-out rather than accept higher rates. Is [...]

Q: How do you determine if you are a millionaire? What items do you include in your analysis? A: What you are asking is what’s your net worth. That’s how you determine if you’re a millionaire. Interestingly, most people have no idea what their net worth is or even how to figure it out. The [...]

Q: I need ideas on how to develop a retirement budget. Do you have recommended Web sites people can go to and get information for developing one? Dumfries, VA A: One of the best retirement calculators is the Ballpark E$timate, created by the Choose to Save Program. This nonprofit aims to help people become better [...]

Q: Here’s my situation (deep breath). Due to surviving domestic violence during spring 2006, I made an emotional purchase two years after bankruptcy. I leased a gas-guzzling SUV and, by September 2007, I had to give it back, because I fell behind in my payments and could no longer afford it due to the gas [...]

Q: Would it be realistic to expect the average American to be a millionaire within his/her lifetime? And, if not, what is it we’re doing wrong, and how can we correct it? Landry Tientcheu, Madison, WI A: You might be interested to know the world’s population of high net worth individuals dropped 14.9% in 2008, [...]

Q: I lost my job and haven’t worked for 8 months. Most of my savings is gone. How do I prioritize my bills, house note and car payment? What is more important? What can you do if creditors give no slack to regular payments? A Visitor, Upper Marlboro, Maryland A: I don’t have to tell [...]

Q: We hope to sell our home as soon as possible, but we are not due to leave the area until June 2011. When is it smart and not smart to refinance our interest-only mortgage? A Visitor, Upper Marlboro, Maryland A: First, I highly recommend you talk to a real estate agent and find out [...]

Q: I currently have a medical school loan that is $200,000. I went into deferment because I went back to school. While in school, I was paying on the interest. What is the best way to pay on the primary loan now? A Visitor, Wadsworth, IL A: I thought I’d share this with the masses. [...]

Q: My husband’s drug and alcohol use is threatening our credit and ability to pay bills on time. He’s a ticking time bomb, and I could be paying the mortgage and bills by myself instantly. Should I forgo keeping my house, move someplace cheaper and take one hit to my credit report, or take several [...]

Q: In 2007, my brother was getting a divorce and did not know where he would live. He had no money to rent an apartment. I decided to purchase a townhouse for him. Now the house that he owned, and sold at the time of his divorce, is up for sale–with a significant price drop. [...]

Q: We paid off our house and received a letter from our mortgage company congratulating us. Aren’t we supposed to get a title or deed showing that we are now the owners of this house? A visitor, Cedar Park, TX A: Can I put this question in perspective of the times? Foreclosure filings–default notices, scheduled [...]

Q: I have been following the “7 Money Mantras” for three years now and have gone from $21,000 on my credit card to $0! I still owe a pension loan for $2,000, but what a great lesson you taught me. I listen to the book on my iPhone often, to remind me. My question is [...]

Note to readers: The following is a long question–although really, it’s someone venting. I’m posting all of it (except for some minor edits) with the thought that many of you may see yourself in this woman’s shoes. Q: I lost my job last May. Since January, I’ve been in grad school full-time, working on my [...]

Q: My sister opened an account in my name about four or five years ago, and now she’s lost her job and can’t make the payments, and I cannot afford to pay her monthly minimum, which is a crazy amount. Is there any way to negotiate with them without messing up my credit? I’ve worked [...]

Q: I am paying down several credit cards, as well as two auto loans. I received a bonus recently and thought it might be best used to pay off the collateralized auto loans instead of putting that money into my six-month savings. Please advise. A visitor, Ft Lauderdale, FL A: It’s always a good idea [...]

Q: I owe about $7,300 on two credit cards. I have two certificates of deposit maturing, for about the same amount of money. My question is, do I pay off those cards, or do I take a loan using those CDs as collateral and pay about 4% interest on the loan to pay off the [...]

Q: I was laid off six months ago. My health benefits with my former employer will expire soon. I was solicited by a contracting company, which traditionally does not offer benefits to a new contractor-employee. However, to bring me on board, they did offer me access to their medical and dental plan and sent me [...]

Q: I’ve been doing contract publicity work since experiencing a “reduction in force” in January. How do you recommend I handle earnings to avoid tax problems? I’ve never had tax problems, and I don’t need to start any. Tracey New, Dallas TX A: First, I’m sorry you lost your job, but it’s great that you [...]

Q: I love your show Singletary Says on TV One. I am learning a lot. However, I was unemployed for eight months. I’ve had a part-time job for the past year. I have just gotten a roommate, but I am having a hard time building my savings account back up, due to trying to “catch [...]

Q: My significant other just got approved for a home loan. I asked her to co-sign for a car for me. Would this affect the amount she was approved for? I don’t want it to affect her chances of getting the house of her dreams. So, I need some advice. Veronica, Houston, TX A: You [...]

Q: I’m a 52-year-old disabled lady on Social Security. When I was working, I was able to save around $30,000 in a retirement fund. Currently, it is still with the company. What is the best way to grow this money? I have lost several thousand dollars because of the stock market. Is it better to [...]

Q: Over the years, I’ve had bad luck managing my checking accounts. The “occasional” overdraft fee averaged $2,500 annually. I’ve since closed my accounts and gone with a pre-paid debit card company. These days, with banks collapsing without notice, how can I be sure of the integrity of this “new” industry and of a particular [...]

Our financial expert advises a first-time homebuyer with a large family.

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Last modified: April 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm