Finance

Dear Dave,

davernewI have a 5-year-old daughter, and I want to start a 529 for her. However, I’m concerned that the government might seize the 529 assets in order to pay off debt and give people treasury bonds instead. Do you think this might happen?

Barry

Dear Barry,

I think there’s less than a one percent chance they’d seize the actual assets. Really, I don’t believe they’re any more likely to come take investments away than they are to come take your home. I mean, we’re really talking about private property here. If you have $100,000 in a retirement fund, and they say they’re going to take that away from you, it’s like taking a person’s home. I just don’t see that happening.

The big question, I think, is this: Are they likely to take away some of the tax benefits — like the 529 plan’s ability to grow tax-free? As in, they just come in and say they’re making it all taxable to pay the bills they’ve accumulated up in Washington, D.C. from all their stupid behavior. That kind of thing actually could happen.

—Dave

Sell the rental and reinvest?

 

Dear Dave,

I’m retired, and my husband plans to work for several more years. We have $130,000 in savings accounts, plus a rental property. The rental property has a $150,000 mortgage, but we have no other debt. Should we sell the rental and reinvest in the stock market?

Barbara

Dear Barbara,

If I were in your shoes, I’d be investing in mutual funds and paying off the rental property as fast as possible. That would be my game plan.

When it comes to mutual funds, you shouldn’t be jumping in and out. The key is to find good ones with long track records of success and stability. Then, leave the money alone for several years and let it do its thing!

—Dave

Settling with Sallie Mae

Dear Dave,

Is it possible to settle the debt on a student loan?

James

Dear James,

Sallie Mae student loans, or federally insured student loans, are insured by the government. Translation, the bank is going to still get paid 100 percent by the taxpayers, because the government is guaranteeing the loan. They have no reason to settle with you.

They’re not going to settle with you on the principal amount or the interest, James. You might be able to talk them down on the collection fees. They jack those way up. But the original amount you borrow, plus the actual interest that hasn’t been paid, is guaranteed by the government. They’ll get it from one of you!

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Dear Dave,

davernewWhat’s your advice on asking for a raise at work when you have more responsibility than a co-worker but the same title on paper? After being with my company four years, I feel like I should make more money and I have the right to complain about this.

Vanessa

Dear Vanessa,

Sorry, no. You don’t have a right to complain. You agreed on your pay, and you are doing your job the way your character and integrity tell you to do the job. If someone else is a slacker in the same position, that doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of your personal compensation.

I’ve got several people at my company who hold similar positions and make similar money. Some of them have been here for years, while others are relatively new. I don’t pay people for how long they’ve been in the building, and I don’t want anyone on my team who doesn’t give 100 percent. Now, that may be a different issue than pay, but at the same time I don’t want someone who gives 50 percent and I pay them 50 percent. I want everyone at 100 percent, but that kind of thing isn’t your problem. It’s the company’s problem, because she works for them and not you.

If you honestly feel like you deserve a raise because of your effort and performance, that’s fine. Sit down with your leader and make a logical and reasonable argument for why you deserve more money. But don’t bring up your co-worker and what he or she makes in the discussion. That’s just not relevant. What is relevant is your worth and the value you bring to the organization.

But a comparative analysis with someone else on staff just isn’t a good idea. I’d stay away from that, Vanessa.

Dave

Paying the insurance penalty

 

Dear Dave,

My wife and I live in New York, and we’ve had whole life insurance for several years. There’s a seven percent penalty if we cash out the policies now. If we wait a few years, we won’t have to pay into the premiums anymore. Should we cash out the policies anyway?

Brian

Dear Brian,

The reason you won’t have to pay into the premiums anymore is because you built up enough savings, and they are not paying you enough on the savings to amount to anything. The amount they should have been paying you versus the way they were ripping you off will buy the life insurance.

It’s not like you can pay for it because you still have probability of death. As long as there’s a probability of death there’s a cost to life insurance. The only question is whether you’re paying out of your savings account or your checking account. In this case, you’re paying out of savings.

The seven percent figure is just your surrender charge, so I’d get out of that policy soon. Here’s the problem, Brian. If you die today, do you know what they’ll pay? Face value. They won’t pay face value plus the savings you paid for. In other words, you’ll lose your savings.

I’d get term life insurance in place by the end of the week. Compare prices on term, because you’ll be surprised at the difference some companies charge for term insurance. Make sure you get good 15- to 20-year level terms policies valued at 10 to 12 times your annual incomes.

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Dear Dave,

davernewI make $30,000 a year. I’ve just started Baby Step 2 of your plan, and I’m paying off my debts from smallest to largest. I have $55,000 in debt, including $15,000 on a car loan. I recently picked up a part-time job to help pay down the debt, but sometimes I’m working 70 hours a week. Do you have any recommendation for staying motivated during this process?

Brandon

Dear Brandon,

I understand, man. We can all get tired and run short on motivation from time to time. There’s an old saying that fatigue makes cowards of us all. I know sometimes, when I’m traveling a lot, I can lose some boldness, strength or compassion when I get tired. So fatigue is a real issue if you’re working long hours and facing additional pressure.

The balance on your car is awfully high. My general rule is that you don’t want to own vehicles equaling half or more of your annual income. If I’m in your shoes, I’d sell that car and move down to a little beater for a while. I’m not talking about a rattletrap piece of junk, just something lots less expensive. You can find a decent used car to fit the bill, and that would get rid of a big chunk of debt in a hurry.

At this point, I think you just need to feel like you’re making some measureable progress. Sometimes, that means throwing a stick of dynamite into the middle of your life. Also, try keeping your debt snowball list where you’ll see it on a regular basis. I knew one lady who kept in on the fridge, so she could look at all the little red lines drawn through things she had paid off. It was a visual reminder of the progress she had made, and it provided motivation to keep working hard and become debt-free!

—Dave

 

Freezing Your Credit Report)

 

Dear Dave,

Do you recommend a credit freeze in order to protect against identity theft?

Eric

Dear Eric,

I absolutely recommend doing that, especially if you’re not borrowing money anymore. However, putting a freeze on your credit report only provides partial protection against identity theft.

Identity theft is where someone, for example, signs up for a credit card in your name. If Joe Crook signs an application with your name and address, and the credit card company issues the card without checking —they blind-issue cards about seven out of 10 times — then the card will be issued to the thief. Having your credit frozen does nothing to stop that from happening. Still, if they check your credit and it’s frozen, chances are they won’t issue the card.

I’d also recommend having a good identity theft protection program in place. I have it on myself and all my team members at the office. If you don’t have this, and someone gets a card in your name, the credit card company will demand that you pay the bill. You can insist it’s not you, but that won’t do much good. Then, you’ll have to go through the hassle of filling out affidavits and police reports.

You may get out of paying for it in the end, but you’ll still have to spend dozens, if not hundreds, of hours dealing with the credit card company trying to get the whole mess straightened out!

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Dear Dave,

davernewDo you think it’s unreasonable to ask my 76-year-old husband to have a will drawn up? He had one made when we lived in Florida, but we moved to Georgia. He won’t do it, because he says wills aren’t recognized in Georgia.

Cam

Dear Cam,

Wills aren’t recognized in Georgia? Where did he get his legal advice, in a bar or pool hall?

Okay, let’s straighten this out. The will he had drawn up in Florida wouldn’t be recognized in Georgia, but he could have one made in Georgia that would be absolutely valid and legal. Everyone: No matter where you live, you need a will. If you die without a will in place, your family has to go through the court and jump through all sorts of hoops to settle the estate. The process can take several months. No one should leave their loved ones in that kind of predicament, when having a will drawn up is such a simple an inexpensive process.

Everyone needs a will, Cam. Human beings have a 100 percent mortality rate, okay? No one is getting out of this thing alive. You need a will, a full estate plan with specific instructions on what to do with all your stuff after you die!

—Dave

Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13

Dear Dave,

What’s the difference between a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

Claudia

Dear Claudia,

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is what most people think about when they hear the word “bankruptcy.” It’s total bankruptcy, almost like dropping an atomic bomb on your entire financial picture.

Virtually all of your unsecured debt (except student loans, child support and money owed to the IRS) is wiped out. These things are not bankruptable. About 98 percent of the time, creditors of your other unsecured debt — things like credit cards and alike — get nothing. Items that are secured debt, such as your car or house, are treated a little bit differently. If you’re behind on payments, you may be allowed to get current. In most cases, banks will allow you to re-sign in a process called reaffirming the debt.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a payment plan structured over five years. In it, you have to pay all of your secured debt. If it has a lien on it, you pay 100 percent to keep the item. You also have to pay a portion of your unsecured debt. Again — like in Chapter 7 — debt to the IRS, child support and student loans don’t go away. For any other unsecured debt, you can pay a percentage of what’s owed. An overall payment plan is developed, and you make those payments for five years.

I’m not a big fan of either one.

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Dear Dave,

davernewMy wife and I have $25,000 in credit card debt, $2,500 in medical bills and $89,000 each in student loan debt from when we each got our masters’ degrees. We make about $100,000 combined. Our son is 6 years old, and we have $18,000 in a 529 plan for him. Should we use that money to pay off debt instead?

Sean

Dear Sean,

I wouldn’t do that if I were you. You’ll get destroyed with penalties, because if you take money out of a 529 for anything other than college, you’ll be taxed at your current tax rate and hit with a 20 percent penalty. The other thing is you’ll have this weird feeling that you took money away from your kid.

Technically, it’s your money. You put it there. But when you did, it was in your child’s name. Plus, that doesn’t really solve your problem. You’ve got a ridiculous amount of debt, and that little bit won’t move the needle very much. Having more money in your hands isn’t the big answer here. What you both need is a behavior change when it comes to money.

My advice is to leave the 529 alone. Stop adding to it for the time being. Put any retirement saving you’re currently doing on hold, too. You guys need to start living on a budget, working a debt snowball plan and looking for extra income. Even tutoring would bring in some additional cash. I’ve got a feeling, too, that those masters’ degrees can provide you with more money than you’re currently making.

It can be done, Sean, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work and discipline. It may even take four or five years to get this mess cleaned up, but you can’t keep living without a plan!

—Dave

Finding 12 percent

 

Dear Dave,

Where can I find mutual funds with a 12 percent rate of return?

Jason

Dear Jason,

There aren’t a lot of them, but they are out there. Currently, there are about 8,000 different mutual funds floating around. You have to get online and do some serious research, or talk with an investing professional with the heart of a teacher, but I own several mutual funds that have an average annual return in excess of 12 percent over the lifetime of the fund.

Now, do they make that every single year? Of course not. The figure I’m talking about is an average. I own one in particular that has done that for about 70 years. But the stock market in general has averaged just under 12 percent a year since its inception. So yes, with solid research and due diligence on the part of the investor, it is possible to get that as an average annual rate of return!

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Dear Dave,

davernewMy mom is 71 and debt-free. She’s investing $600 a month in a universal life insurance policy worth $250,000 because she wants to leave something behind when she dies. What could she invest this money in, other than the life insurance policy, in order to leave an estate?

Steve

Dear Steve,

This is a good question. You don’t use life insurance to leave an estate. It’s a bad idea. You leave an estate by saving and investing. The only people who will tell you to use a life insurance policy to leave an estate are life insurance salesmen.

Unless she’s ill, I wouldn’t keep the policy. Instead, I’d do some long-term investing. It won’t take long to get to $250,000 with $7,200 a year. It’s the kind of thing that sounds like it’ll take forever, but you’ve got to remember you’ve got growth and interest in the equation. I wouldn’t put money into a life insurance policy at age 71, unless there’s someone being left behind who really needs the money — and it doesn’t sound like there is in this case.

It would probably take about 13 years for the money to turn into $250,000. Assuming she’s healthy, I’d rather do that and bet on her living. That way, she can leave an estate and avoid the expense and rip-off part of the universal life policy.

—Dave  

No treating student loans like a mortgage

Dear Dave,

I have a very large amount of student loan debt. Where would that go in your Baby Steps plan?

Jade

Dear Jade,

Baby Step 2 is where you pay off all debt except for your house. The fact that it’s a large amount of student loan debt doesn’t change anything.

Hopefully, with your very large amount of student loan debt, you also have a very large income. Believe it or not, there are some really sad situations out there where people have gone $200,000 into debt for a four-year degree in a field where they make $50,000 a year. That kind of thinking and behavior is ridiculous, but it’s out there.

Whatever you do, Jade, don’t treat this student loan debt as if it were a mortgage. In other words, don’t let it hang around for years and years and years. You’ve got to get focused and intense about paying off this mess and getting on with your life.

Remember, your income is your largest wealth-building tool. You can’t save and plan for the future when all your money is flying out the door to pay back debt!

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Dear Dave,

davernewI have job offers from two tech companies. One is in San Antonio and pays $55,000 a year, while the other is in Silicon Valley making $100,000 a year. My friends are advising me to move to California, but I feel like I’d have more money in my budget if I moved to San Antonio. What do you think?

Aaron

Dear Aaron,

The good news about Silicon Valley is you’d be around a ton of really smart people in your industry. I mean, it’s the epicenter of the tech world, right? You’ll learn a ton and have lots of opportunities, so there’s definitely an upside.

The problem is that the Silicon Valley area is one of the most expensive places to live in the entire country. The real estate prices and cost of living are ridiculous! Still, if it weren’t for the cost of living argument, it would be a no-brainer for me. Then, it wouldn’t really be so much about the income and prices as it would be about the career opportunity.

Still, you have to consider the economic factors involved here. With that in mind, it’s not an exaggeration to say you might actually put more money in your pocket at $55,000 in San Antonio than you would $100,000 in Silicon Valley. That’s entirely possible!

I think things are going to come out pretty even — economically speaking — once you adjust for the cost of living. I’m a huge fan of Texas. It’s a great business market and tax situation down there. But really, in my mind the question comes down to your personal comfort level and quality of life. And that’s something you’ll have to answer for yourself!

—Dave

Playing with house money

Dear Dave,

My wife and I just became debt-free, and we’re saving for our first house. We have about $75,000 in savings, and we’d like to buy a home with cash in the next few years. Where do you think we should place our money so it’s working for us while we save?

Andrew

Dear Andrew,

I don’t advise playing the market on the short term. If I were in your shoes, and looking at possibly a two- to four-year window, I’d just pile the cash in a money market account or possibly a balanced fund.

I’m a big fan of growth stock mutual funds when it comes to long-term investing. The problem with that in this scenario would be the volatility of the market. By the time you’ve saved up more money and spent time deciding on a house, the market may be down. All you’re looking for in this scenario is a wise, safe place to park it and pile it up while you prepare.

Congratulations, Andrew. Debt-free is the way to be when you’re looking to buy a nice, new home!

Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Dear Dave,

davernewMy mom and dad took out a whole life insurance policy for me when I was born. The cash value is $2,500, and my husband and I want to cash it out and put the money toward paying off debt. We already have larger term life insurance policies in place, but I’m worried that doing this will offend my parents. What should I do?

Laura

Dear Laura,

I think the real question is how many toxic things will you do because you’re afraid you might offend them. Whole life policies are financially toxic. They’re a bad product, and keeping it for no better reason than it might hurt their feelings a little bit isn’t much of a reason — especially when the alternative is paying down debt and getting your financial life in order.

I know this is mom and dad we’re talking about, so you’ll have to be nice about everything. But at the same time, your parents have to realize it’s your life and you make the decisions. Try sitting down with them and gently explaining that while you appreciate and love them for their generosity, you’re going to cash it out and use it to get out of debt. Let them know you’re not wasting their gift, and that you’re using it to make a positive impact on your lives.

You’re not doing anything disrespectful, Laura. Just be very clear about the reason and loving with your explanation. Then, if they chose to become a little emotional or resentful, that’s on them. If they get really upset and want the money back, you can do that too. But getting your financial house in order is much more important than hanging on to a bad financial product you don’t need in the first place.

Dave

Housing includes taxes and insurance

Dear Dave,

You recommend that no more than 25 percent of your monthly income go toward a house payment. Does this figure include taxes and insurance too?

Ryan

Dear Ryan,

Yes, it does. Your housing payment should not exceed 25 percent of your monthly take-home pay on a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage.

When it comes to buying a house, the goal is not to live in the Taj Mahal or have something so expensive you end up being “house poor.” When buying a home, especially for first-time homebuyers, you should look for something nice — in a decent area — that you can get paid off as quickly as possible.

It’s really not a big deal if you cheat a couple of percentage points one way or the other. But 25 percent is a good rule of thumb to ensure you’ll still have money left over to live on, save and invest!

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. His newest best-seller, Smart Money Smart Kids, was written with his daughter Rachel Cruze, and recently debuted at #1. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Dear Dave,

davernewI’m 24-years old, and just got married two months ago. We make $80,000 a year, and have our emergency fund in place with no debt. Plus, we’ve saved up for a 15 percent down payment on a house. I know you suggest 20 percent, but is 15 percent okay?

Tony

Dear Tony,

I don’t have a big problem with 15 percent instead of 20 percent. Chances are you’ll end up having to pay private mortgage insurance, but it sounds like you guys are in good enough shape financially to handle things.

I generally recommend, however, that couples wait until they’ve been married at least a year before buying a home. Buying a house is huge decision. That’s why I think it’s smart to wait and get to know each other even better, and on a day-to-day basis, before moving in this direction.

Take your time and don’t rush things, Tony. There will still be good deals on the market in a year or so. Plus, you’ll be able to save more money!

Dave

Where are you in your financial plan?

Dear Dave,

What things do you advise buying used versus buying brand new?

Amy

Dear Amy,

I’m afraid there’s not one good, across the board answer, because it all depends on where you are in your financial plan.

When it comes to cars, you should always buy good, used vehicles, unless you have a million dollars or more in the bank. New automobiles drop in value like a rock, so buy smart and let someone else take the hit in depreciation. You don’t become wealthy by investing in things that go the wrong way.

If you’re talking about clothing, and you’re broke or trying to get out of debt, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with shopping consignment stores — especially for kids. They wear things three times, and then they’ve outgrown them. “Experienced” clothing is a great buy for adults, too.

Of course there are other things, but here’s the deal. As your money situation improves, you’ll be able to buy more new things. The price of “new” will become a smaller and smaller percentage of your financial world.

But when you’re broke, deep in debt or don’t have a big income, the money you spend on anything is a big percentage. At times like this, a decent $50 washer or dryer in the classifieds can be the best deal on the planet!

Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. His newest best-seller, Smart Money Smart Kids, was written with his daughter Rachel Cruze, and recently debuted at #1. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Dear Dave,

davernewMy mom passed away recently, and she left behind three timeshares. I inherited them, plus I’m the executor of the estate. They’re all paid for, except for the yearly maintenance fees, which total about $1,500. I don’t think I want them, but I’m not sure what to do. Do you have any advice?

Joe

Dear Joe,

I’m really sorry to hear about your mom. I know you’ve got a lot of emotions going on right now, and taking on the task of overseeing the estate is a serious responsibility.

There are two issues here. One, as the executor you have to decide what’s best for the estate. Number two, do any of the other heirs want these things? I wouldn’t want them, I can tell you that. I realize they’re basically free things—all you have to do is pay the maintenance fees—but by the time you do that, you probably could’ve gone somewhere else. For that kind of money, you can stay in some pretty nice spots and not have the ongoing liability.

Right now, the estate has the responsibility for the maintenance fees. I would call the timeshares and tell them the estate isn’t going to keep them, and that you’re going to deed them back to the companies. The way I look at it, you can have a lot of fun for $1,500 a year. You can go where you want, when you want. You’re not roped into a specific place and date. Part of the appeal of getting away is being able to go where you like at a time that’s right for you.

I understand there may be some sentimental value attached to these, Joe. But timeshares are a horrid, inconvenient product. My sentiment would be, “I’m out of here!”

—Dave

Take the Roth

Dear Dave,

My current employer offers a regular 401(k) and a Roth 401(k). I’ve got several years before I retire, so which one should I choose?

Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

Take the Roth!

If you put your money into a Roth 401(k), and by retirement age there’s $1 million in there, that money is yours tax-free. By comparison, if it’s in a regular 401(k), you’ll pay taxes on that $1 million, which will come out to about $300,000—maybe $400,000 at the rate things are going now. You’ll lose 30 to 40 percent of your money.

My personal 401(k) is a Roth. And in this situation, yours should be too!

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. His newest best-seller, Smart Money Smart Kids, was written with his daughter Rachel Cruze, and recently debuted at #1. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Dear Dave,

davernewWould it be okay to go on a tenth anniversary honeymoon while we’re working on our debt snowball?

Karen

Dear Karen,

I don’t think so. I mean, it’s not against the law or anything like that. I just don’t think it’s a good idea. I wouldn’t do it, and I wouldn’t suggest taking the trip then rolling it into your debt snowball either. I know this probably sounds mean, but I’m just not a big romantic when it comes to people who are deeply in debt.

A rare exception may be a situation where you have a really small debt snowball and a nice, fat income. But most people in your shoes have average incomes and mountains of debt. On top of that, they want to take a big celebration vacation? I would say no.

At some point you have to stop the spending and concentrate on getting your finances in order. Besides, you’ve got a lifetime together to take romantic vacations and celebrate your marriage. Just wait until you can afford something like that. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it even more!

—Dave

Roll the money

Dear Dave,

How should I handle my 401(k) when moving from one job to another?

Tracy

Dear Tracy,

I would roll it to an IRA. Your new company, if you move it there, will have limited choices for your 401(k). You’d also probably have a lengthy waiting period for verification and the potential add-on fees and taxes.

Plus, with an IRA you can cash it out if something really bad happens. But I rarely ever advise people to cash out their IRAs. The only exceptions are extreme cases, like to avoid bankruptcy or foreclosure. Even then, hardship withdrawals are very difficult to get. And again, this kind of thing should never be done except in an absolute, worst-case scenario.

Just roll your money into a traditional IRA, Tracy. It’s called a direct transfer IRA, and that way there will be no taxes on it. You want the money to go directly from the 401(k) to the IRA. Then, you’ll have the freedom to choose from about 8,000 mutual funds and move the money around, if you like.

In other words, you’re in control. That’s the way it should be when it comes to your money!

—Dave

It all evens out

Dear Dave,

We have three children, ages 15, 10 and nine. With our oldest starting high school and just being a teenager, we’re spending lots more money on her than the others. It’s almost like she’s the favorite child. Should we spend more on the other kids to make things seem a little more fair?

Julie

Dear Julie,

I don’t think so. In five or six years, it’ll be their turn and you guys will be spending that kind of money on them, too. That’s the way it is with teens.

Here’s a question for you. When the 15-year-old is 23, and you’re buying prom dresses and all the other teenage stuff for the younger kids, are you going to turn around and give the older child extra money just to “even things up”? Of course not—that would be silly. She had her moment in the sun, and now it’s their turn.

Just make sure you hug on all of them equally, and let them know you love them!

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. His newest best-seller, Smart Money Smart Kids, was written with his daughter Rachel Cruze, and recently debuted at #1. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Dear Dave,

davernewMy husband died several years ago. He always worked very hard, and we did very well financially. I am now 48 and have $3.8 million in assets. I’ve found a wonderful man who is very stable and loving with a good job, and we’re considering getting married. Do you think I need a prenuptial agreement?

Heather

Dear Heather,

For years I told people never to do prenuptial agreements. I always said if you love your money more than you love your spouse, then you’re too immature and selfish to be married.

However, I’ve changed my tune on this subject a little bit recently. When one or two wealthy people get married, the problems that can arise usually have nothing to do with those two people. The problem is that it can invite a lot of crazy into your lives from the outside. Whether it’s a parent, cousin or child, sometimes people start feeling a sense of entitlement when wealth is suddenly thrust into the picture.

You both sound like mature, functional people with good values. In most cases, that’s a pretty good indication that crazy isn’t in the immediate vicinity. Still, there’s a lot on the line. So while I would advise a prenup, you might keep an open mind to revisions somewhere down the road. Make it pretty solid and protective for the first five or 10 years. But then, after you guys have built a life together, you’ll hopefully reach a point where you’ll feel safe looking at it as all ours.

So, the only reason I’d ever suggest a prenup is when two parties are bringing really unequal amounts to the table. Yours is an extreme situation, Heather, so I’d give it some serious thought. Let him know you want to do this to protect the relationship, so that there’s never any hint that the money is a problem or will create problems. If he’s as kind and thoughtful as you say, I think he’ll understand.

Dave

AAA or self-insure?

Dear Dave,

What do you think about auto club memberships like AAA?

Jeremy

Dear Jeremy,

I’ve got nothing against AAA. But honestly, I tend to self-insure through savings for these kinds of things. I’ve probably used, or had need of, a tow truck twice in the last 20 years. When it comes to this kind of product, I always look at it from the perspective of, “Where does it leave me if I don’t sign up for their service?”

Again, I don’t think AAA is a big rip-off or anything like that. It’s just a type of insurance, if you will, for which I have no need. I guess it could be a handy thing to have if you were in a situation where you were using their services a lot. But if their average customer were like that, they’d probably end up losing money on you.

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. His newest best-seller, Smart Money Smart Kids, was written with his daughter Rachel Cruze and recently debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Dear Dave,

davernewI know you recommend that no more than 25 percent of your take-home pay should go toward rent or a mortgage payment. Should taxes and insurance be figured into this amount?

Kayla

Dear Kayla,

Yes, they should. Mortgage companies will qualify you for twice as much house as you can realistically afford. They’ll try to put you on a 30-year, adjustable-rate mortgage and leave you in debt up to your eyeballs for half of your life. Payments like that can easily equal 36 percent or more of your take-home pay. That’s just nuts!

I see so many people who can’t take a decent vacation or save anything for retirement or their kids’ college fund because their mortgage payment is through the roof. That’s called being “house poor.” And I’ve even seen it push people into debt just to buy groceries.

It’s fine if you want to follow my guidelines. But what I’m really trying to do is get you to think. Engage in some critical thinking when it comes to your finances. There’s so much more to life than that building we call a house. I want you to think about your future and your family’s future and make smart money decisions that will change your family tree for years to come!

—Dave

More than one life insurance policy?

Dear Dave,

Can you have more than one life insurance policy, and is there ever a reason to do this?

Chad

Dear Chad,

Sure, you can. And there are several different reasons you might choose to do this.

One, like in my case, I have lots of insurance regarding our business, our estate plan and those kinds of things. In some cases, I’ve reached the limit on the amount of a policy a company will write on me. Most life insurance companies will only write so much in coverage for one person. So when this has happened, I’d go to another carrier for additional coverage.

Another reason people do this is to feel more secure from a company standpoint. If one insurance company goes out of business, they’ll still have another policy, or policies, in place. Usually, that’s not much of an issue. Most insurance companies are financially stable or have insurance to back them up with the state.

The only real problem with having more than one life insurance policy is that it complicates your life a little bit. You’d have two or three premium checks or withdrawals to worry about each month and possibly even additional policy fees. So generally speaking, it’s cheaper to have just one policy. And I’d recommend having 10 to 12 times your annual income wrapped up in a good, level term policy.

But no, there aren’t any rules against having more than one life insurance policy.

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. His newest best-seller, Smart Money Smart Kids, was written with his daughter Rachel Cruze, and recently debuted at #1. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

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