Helping them budget

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

My husband and I live on a budget and are getting out of debt. Our daughter is in high school, and we've been teaching her about your plan. Is it realistic to expect a 16-year-old with a part-time job and a hand-me-down car to make and live on a budget?

Marcie

Dear Marcie,

Anyone who has an income can make and live off a budget. Your daughter is at a great time in her life to learn how to prioritize spending, saving and giving — and making her money behave!

Even in her situation, when she's still living at home with you guys, there are plenty of things she can include in a budget. Think about it: She needs gas for the car, basic maintenance and insurance ... things like that. She'll also want a little spending money, and she might even have ideas of going to college. So sit down with her and show her how to make out a budget to figure out the upcoming month's expenses before the month begins. Make sure she knows how to properly balance and reconcile her bank account, too.

Of course, at this point it's still your responsibility as parents to provide her with the basic necessities. But I love your attitude and your willingness to teach her how to handle money intelligently. The sooner she learns some basic money management principles, the sooner she'll be able to handle her finances in the real world responsibly.

Dave

Saving is doing something

Dear Dave,

I know you're all about getting out of debt, and I agree with your stance on that. I started college last month, and scholarships and Pell Grants will pay for everything. But is saving money really that important if you're young and have a good income? What good does money do you if you don't use it for something?

Tim

Dear Tim,

Congrats on beginning college! I'm glad, too, that you understand how I feel about debt. But it worries me that you seem to think that you're not doing anything with your money when you save. Saving money is one of the most important things you can do with your money, because when you save you're planning for the future and the unexpected.

Retirement may seem long way off right now, but think for a second how it would feel to have worked your entire life only to end up broke at age 65. If that thought doesn't scare you, it should. Have you ever seen someone that age, or older, wrangling shopping carts in the rain or flipping burgers at a fast food joint? In most cases, it's not because they love the job and being around people. They're doing it because they have to, because they failed to plan for the future and save some money.

Let's talk about something a little closer. You said you agree with my stance on debt. Okay, so how are you going to buy your next car without going into debt if you haven't saved anything? How will you survive if you get laid off from your job if you haven't saved any money? Bad things happen when people are foolish enough not to save money.

Saving is doing something with your money, Tim. It's one of the most important things you can do with money — for yourself and those around you!

—Dave

It Takes Two

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

I've spent most of my marriage not being a good husband and not being involved in our family finances. After being introduced to one of your programs at work, I realized how irresponsible I had been and went home to apologize and tell my wife about it. During this conversation I learned that we have about $80,000 in debt I didn't know about, plus $45,000 in debt on a new car and motorcycle I did know about. We also have a mortgage on our home. My wife apologized for making a mess of things, but it wasn't all her fault. She wasn't sneaking around spending and taking out debt, she just made mistakes and was afraid to tell me. Together, we make about $100,000 a year. Can you help us?

Curtis

Dear Curtis,

I'm really glad you've made the decision to man up. That's a big step in the right direction for you and your marriage.

To me, what you described is a lot different than her completely lying, hiding stuff, and actively having a financial affair — so to speak — on the side. You weren't plugged in and she wasn't doing a good job, but she didn't have anyone to talk to about it. Things got worse, then she probably felt ashamed about how ugly it got and didn't want to tell anybody.

Not counting your house, you've got about $125,000 in debt. You've got to look at all this with a $100,000 income and say, "What is the fastest way to clean up this dadgum mess?" That's going to mean beans and rice, rice and beans. That means a scorched-earth lifestyle and living on a budget, which also means you're not going out to eat, not going on vacations, and you're going to start selling so much stuff that the kids think they're next.

I'd probably sell the car and the motorcycle. Get into a couple of basic cars, and spend about two years of crazy intensity getting debt free except for your home. You can clean this up that fast, but you're going to have no life during that time.

The two of you have some relationship work to do also. It sounds like you've already started on that with you owning your part and her owning hers. The thing is not to blame. From this point forward you need to sit down together and make all of your decisions — financial and otherwise — together.

Trust me, if you're both willing, you can heal the math problem, the debt problem and the marriage problem all at the same time. It will be an amazing thing!

—Dave

No need for professionals

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

My wife and I moved to Washington, D.C., about a year ago, and we'd like to put our old place in North Carolina that we've been renting on the market. We'll be asking around $140,000 for it, so do you think we should consider professionally staging the home?

Ben

Dear Ben,

It would make a lot of sense if you were talking about a million-dollar house, but with a less expensive home like that I'd just make sure it's really clean and neat and nice — especially the front area with the sidewalk and bushes. We're talking curb appeal here. Make sure the front door, trim and porch area are all cleaned or painted, too. All this is like a first impression on a job interview.

There shouldn't be any bad smells in the house, and everything inside should be crisp and clean as well. You can stage it yourself with a few pieces of nice furniture and such, if you have it available. And try this old realtor's trick to make things a bit more homey: Put few drops of vanilla extract on an eye of the stove while it's heated. It will make the whole house smell like you've been baking cookies.

But no, I wouldn't pay to stage a $140,000 house.

Dave

Going to extremes is unhealthy

Dear Dave,

I've heard you talk about extreme spenders and extreme savers. Exactly what do these terms mean?

Marianne

Dear Marianne,

Some people have a tendency to live in the moment, while others think more about the future. Financially speaking, those who live in the moment tend to be spenders, while the other type tends to be savers. When you take these kinds of behaviors to unhealthy extents, you have extreme spenders or extreme savers. Either one can be an unhealthy thing.

Extreme spenders may need to slow down, grow up and learn the value of money by living on a budget, setting savings goals and working to meet these goals. Extreme savers often operate out of fear and uncertainty. In some cases, they may have an even worse spirit in their lives — greed. They have to learn that it's okay to have a little fun spending and to give generously.

When it comes down to it, there are only three uses for money: spending, saving and giving. You have to do some of all three in order to have a truly happy and healthy life!

Dave

It doesn't erase your credit history

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

I recently tried to cancel a credit card, and the customer service representative told me that doing this would cancel out my entire 14-year credit history. Is this true?

Keri

Dear Keri,

No, it is not true. The rep you spoke with is either a moron or a liar.

Canceling a credit card doesn't erase a person's entire credit history, and it doesn't erase their credit history with that company or their card, either. And by the way, your credit history doesn't last 14 years. It lasts seven years, but all the information on your record that is older than that — except for Chapter 7 bankruptcy — comes off your credit bureau report. A Chapter 7 filing stays on your report for 10 years.

So, you don't have a 14-year credit history. Sorry, it's just not there. And if you talk to this company again, you really need to find an educated rep to speak with. This one doesn't have a clue!

Dave

Simply prepare

Dear Dave,

With all the economic problems in the country today, what can college students do to avoid money problems in the future?

Eric

Dear Eric,

There are always three or four things smart things you can do to protect yourself financially. One is to live on a budget. When you give every dollar you make a name, and write in down on paper, it helps you know what your money is doing instead of wondering where it went.

Two more good ideas are staying out of debt, and saving as much money as possible. Your money is your biggest wealth-building tool, and when you're saddled with debt, your money goes to creditors instead of into your pocket. Saving money is what prepares you for the good and bad things life throws at you — whether it's putting money aside to buy a car, a house or handling unexpected things that always happen.

Another thing is investing. I know you're young, but a little bit invested now could make you a millionaire when you're ready to retire. These are all simple things, Eric. But they'll make a huge difference in your financial situation now and in the years to come!

Dave

Road warrior rule

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

I'm trying to get out of debt. I make good money and do consulting for a living. I put about 4,000 miles a month on my car. It's a 2012 model, and I currently owe more on it than it's worth. I've considered selling it, but I'm concerned about reliability since I'm on the road so much. Do you have any advice?

Chantel

Dear Chantel,

Rule of thumb number one when it comes to your finances is you don't want too much of your financial picture tied up in things that are going down in value. Specifically, no one needs to have more than half of their annual income tied up in things that go down in value.

You're a road warrior, so whatever you drive you're going to destroy. From a business perspective, you need a relatively low-mileage vehicle with good gas mileage that's reliable and safe. You also want something that's reasonably comfortable. Having said that, I would advise doing a lot of research and getting the least in car that meets all those criteria.

Since whatever you drive is going to be worth nothing in about 20 minutes, I'd start setting aside some cash every month as part of a monthly budget for a newer, better car. That way, when it comes time to put the old one down, you'll have a pile of cash to go along with your trade-in.

But even in your situation, Chantel, I would never advise buying a brand-new car or leasing a vehicle. From a financial standpoint, either of those moves would be just about the dumbest things you could do!

Dave

The buying decision

Dear Dave,

I live in Pennsylvania, and I'm accepting a new job out of state. My wife and I will be in this new area for at least two years, and we're not sure if we should rent or buy a house.

Ron

Dear Ron,

Most of the time, as long as you're financially ready for such a big investment, buying a house is a good move. But if I'm in your situation, and I'm not sure if it's a long-term thing, I'm going to rent until I see what the future holds.

It seldom makes a lot of sense to live in a place for two or three years and sell it, unless you get a ridiculously good buy at purchase and are able to sell for retail without any trouble. Even though the economy is finally, slowly turning around somewhat, I'm not sure that most properties in the current marketplace would go up enough in value in only two years to offset your cost of sale.

You're in a situation similar to lots of military families I help. Often, they'll be stationed somewhere for just two or three years. They'll buy something, they can't get it sold, and they end up with rental properties all over the country. Believe me, that wasn't their initial plan. Playing long-distance landlord is a pain in the rear!

Rent for now, Ron. Then, if you two decide you like the new job and new surroundings — and it turns out you're going to be there for a good, long while — start checking out the area for a nice home.

—Dave

The best medicine

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

I've worked in a hospital as a nurse for 10 years. I make good money working long hours. The problem is that it seems to disappear, and I'm left trying to stretch those last few dollars to the end of the month. I know I eat out a lot. I grab quick meals between shifts and on the way home because I'm too tired to cook. I think I spend more than I should on other things, too. Do you have any tips for someone who wants to get control of their money, but has very little free time?

Amy

Dear Amy,

Sometimes the medicine that works the best tastes the worst. This is true for both physical and financial health.

That's why, no matter how tired you are or how little free time you seem to have, you must make time do a written budget every month. This is essential, and it really doesn't take long. When you sit down and commit a plan to paper, giving every dollar a name before the month begins, you're taking control of your money instead of allowing a lack of it to control you.

Start with the income you know is predictable. If this isn't possible, look back over the last several months and find the minimum amount you brought home during a month over that period of time. This will be the basis for your budget. Once you've established a baseline income, you can prioritize expenses. But remember, restaurants are not a priority!

When you start telling your money what to do ahead of time, you'll have more ability to do what's needed with what you've earned. It's empowering and energizing, and it gives you the chance to make your Total Money Makeover a reality!

Dave

Money and behavior

Dear Dave,

Why do you say that personal finance is 80 percent behavior? I thought money was more about math and keeping track of things.

Gerald

Dear Gerald,

Keeping your checkbook balanced and things like that are an important part of what I teach. However, behavior plays an even bigger role for several reasons. You can add, subtract, multiply and divide all day. That stuff's easy. But until you learn to control your behavior, stick to a budget and spend less than you make, you're always going to have problems with money.

One of the keys to being a success in personal finance is realizing work comes before play. This is a behavior issue. Let's say your car needs new brakes. You know this, and you know you have a limited amount of cash, but you still walk into a store and buy a big, fancy television instead. That is not mature behavior. As long as you behave that way, your money will always slide right out of your hands.

And this means you'll never have enough for important things like saving, investing and giving.

Dave

Don't argue about it

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

My wife and I really got serious about your plan. We even sold our house to become completely debt-free. Now, we're trying to help my mom and dad. They liked your plan at first, and even taught Financial Peace University (FPU) at their church. Then, everything changed. They went out and leased a new car, bought another one on payments, and picked up a bunch of credit cards. They're trying to tell us that you really do this stuff too. How can we help them?

Michael

Dear Michael,

What you're describing is so inconsistent it's hard to grasp. I mean, how do you go teach FPU and then come back and claim Dave uses credit cards and does all those other dumb things? How do you do that then go lease a car and buy a new car and argue against what you've been teaching in a class? I don't know. But I do know that I don't mess with any of that stuff!

They're not really asking for your opinion. So, I don't think they can be helped until there's some kind of an opening. It's like the old adage says: "Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still." I'd just tell them you're on different pages about this stuff. Let them know you love them, but that you're in complete disagreement on this topic and you're not going to argue about it with them.

There are always things you disagree about in families from time to time. But the truth is they went on a financial bender. When they wake up with a hangover, you might be able to help them, but right now they're drunk. They're financially drunk. They're buying everything in sight, and they're rationalizing it and justifying it.

Just pray for them, love them, and be in their lives. Continue to do what's smart, and try to avoid arguments. See where it goes from there. Maybe, when they sober up financially, they'll ask for some help.

Dave

Due diligence

Dear Dave,

I own a small business specializing in cell phone repair. Sometimes I buy phones and parts on eBay. I can make sure the phones are not stolen by running a check on the serial numbers. However, I cannot be certain about the individual parts. Is there a way I can ensure I'm not dealing with stolen parts?

Gordan

Dear Gordan,

I would try to deal only with reputable sellers. eBay, I believe, has a ratings system and you have power sellers and so forth. Try to find someone who has a steady stream of cell phone parts, someone who's a reputable, long-time seller and doesn't appear to be a fence. eBay doesn't tolerate that kind of stuff if they can find it.

I would also do a reasonable amount of due diligence in terms of research. But at the end of the day, you can't completely guard against that unless it's a serial-numbered item. I wouldn't say never buy anything on places like eBay, but I would try to use some common sense and judgment.

I used to say I had a bad gut feeling. Then, a pastor friend of mine told me not to call the Holy Spirit a gut. It's not a gut feeling; it's God's spirit — listen!

Dave

The best of the three

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

I'm 61 and on disability, but I'm completely debt-free and I have more than $1 million in assets. I even try to spend no more than four percent of the principal each year, so I don't dip into it. I need to buy a better car, and I realize that I have three options — pay cash, do a lease or finance the vehicle. What do you suggest?

Linda

Dear Linda,

There's no way I'll ever tell you to lease or finance a car. You have a nice, peaceful financial life, and you don't want to mess that up.

New car leases are one of the biggest rip-offs on the planet. Consumer Reports, and my calculator, both say leasing is the most expensive way to operate a vehicle. And why would you want the hassle of car payments when you're in such good shape with your money?

I'm alright with you buying a new car, because for someone like you it's such a small portion of your overall financial picture. I advise people to always buy good, used cars unless they have a net worth or $1 million or more, and you definitely fall into that category. Still, my advice is to pay cash or don't do the deal. You're more than able to do this every few years and not move the needle where your finances are concerned.

Go get that new, better car, Linda. Just don't go into debt to make it happen!

Dave

No, no, no!

Dear Dave,

My wife and I are recent graduates with advanced degrees. We also have about $300,000 in student loan debt. We're thinking about buying a rental property, and the plan is to get a mortgage with monthly payments of $400 and charge $800 in rent. We could use the extra to help pay off our debt. Do you think this is a good idea?

Jeremy

Dear Jeremy,

Are you serious? You're in a financial crisis, and you ask if it's okay to buy a rental property? No, no, no!

Right now, you guys are acting like Congress. You have a huge mess on your hands, and you're both going to have to work like crazy to clean it up. That means living on rice and beans for the foreseeable future. It means no vacations, and you should not see the inside of a restaurant unless you're working there to make extra money.

Again, no! You should not buy a rental property. Even if you did, this plan assumes that it's constantly occupied and the renter actually pays. Those are two pretty big assumptions. Use whatever money you have to get out of debt, and live simple, inexpensive lives until you get this behind you.

Stop trying to borrow your way through all of your dreams, Jeremy. Doing that will only turn those dreams into nightmares!

Dave

Need a side income

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

Dear Dave,

davernewMy wife and I are thinking about selling our home. I was recently let go from the military due to downsizing, and I've begun a job in real estate but things are starting slowly. My wife brings home about $3,500 a month as a teacher, and the only debt we have is our house payment of $1,616 a month. I was given a $35,000 severance package, but we need some advice to help bridge the financial gap. Any ideas?

Erik

Dear Erik,

Having little or no income is a lot harder than a variable income situation. Your wife is bringing home good money, but at the moment your house payment is almost half that amount. Are there some things you can do on the side while you're getting your real estate business going that will create income? If you could make even $1,000 to $2,000 a month, it would change the picture entirely. You guys would be able to keep your home and have a little breathing room while you get your real estate career off the ground.

Looking at it from a long-term perspective, if you're selling a bunch of houses a year or two from now, you're in the clear. You could easily stay in the house. But if you don't find extra income while you build your business, if you're not willing to work extra hard and sacrifice in the meantime — even if it means just delivering pizzas — then you probably need to sell the house.

It takes about six to nine months to start making a living in the residential real estate business. So look at it this way: the more houses you sell, the less time you spend delivering pizzas. All this really hinges on is how badly you want a career in real estate and how much you guys want to keep your home. If you want it enough, you'll do what it takes to get there. And for the time being that's going to mean supplementing your income with something on the side while you grow your real estate business!

Dave

Pay off debt first

Dear Dave,

We've made an offer on a house we really like through a first-time buyers program. Now, after looking over our budget and debts again, my wife and I are having second thoughts. We haven't signed or turned in any paperwork yet. What do you think we should do?

Craig

Dear Craig,

I wouldn't go through with the deal. I advise people to be debt-free before buying a home, because you want a home to be a blessing, not a curse.

Homeownership when you're broke is never a good idea. And basically, that's the situation you're describing. You have debt, and you're trying to squeak into something with a first-time buyers plan. The translation? You have no money. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. That's Murphy's Law, and he'll move into your spare bedroom along with his three cousins — Broke, Desperate and Stupid.

Get your debts paid off, build up an emergency fund, and save up a good down payment before buying a home. I know that's not the popular answer, but it's the smart one!

—Dave

Your wake-up call

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

Dear Dave,

davernewMy husband and I are both 50, and we make about $50,000 a year. We have a little bit of debt, and recently my mother-in-law moved in with us due to health issues. We've always gotten by, but now we're struggling with the additional expense of having her with us. We love her, but we're unsure what to do financially. Do you have any suggestions?

Jen

Dear Jen,

Anytime things get tight and something like that happens, it's your wake-up call. It's the phone ringing, so I'm going to tell you to pick up the phone. It's telling you that you've been kind of sloppy and disorganized with your finances in the past, but you've made just enough money to get away with it.

Her moving in tightened things up, and that's understandable to a point. But it has shone a spotlight on the fact that you're going to have to start doing a written plan and behaving. Chances are you're going to have to cut back on some stuff, because you've chosen to take care of her. This is an honorable choice and a wonderful thing you're doing, by the way.

With this added responsibility you've taken on — and many Americans are facing the same thing — you're going to find yourselves on one end of the Sandwich Generation. They're sandwiched between taking care of their parents and taking care of their grown kids. And the way you handle it is with a written budget.

The good news is that with a detailed plan, you can analyze whether you need extra income, if you need to cut some expenses or both. You've got to create a little margin to have a clear picture of your future. If you just wander along without a plan, you're going to make a mess out of this, and it's going to get bad fast.

Dave

What percentage?

Dear Dave,

What percentage of your total net worth should your personal residence be during retirement?

Sue

Dear Sue,

Honestly, I don't have a set percentage for this kind of thing. The larger your net worth, the smaller the percentage would be. Let's say you're worth $5 million. In this scenario, you wouldn't want to have 50 percent in your home. But if you're worth $150,000, you're probably going to have more than 50 percent in your home.

So, the smaller your net worth is, the larger the percentage your home will likely be. That's very reasonable, and it's one way you can look at. If you're in the million-dollar range of net worth, I don't think I'd want to have half or more of it in my house.

But I think you see how I'm looking at that. You want to try and have as small a portion as possible, but you also have to have a home that's suitable for your needs.

—Dave

Thinks he's a dreamer

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

We're debt-free including our home. My husband is a man of faith, but a bit of a dreamer. He has written several inspirational books that haven't sold, but he feels this and public speaking are his calling. He wants us to sell the house, and live on the proceeds for a year, while he pursues this dream. What do you think of the idea?

Christy

Dear Christy,

It sounds to me like your husband has a good heart, but I think it would be a huge mistake for you guys to sell your home when he hasn't proven that he can sell anything he writes or says. I understand where his head is at right now. He wants to help people, and that's a noble cause. But being a motivational writer and speaker can be an addictive thing. For some folks, signing books and being on stage are almost a high; they can make you feel alive. But the whole idea can draw you into the land of financial stupidity if you're not careful.

My advice would be for him to keep his day job, and work his tail off nights and weekends to try and make this dream a reality. Let's draw up an internet strategy to get some exposure for the books he has already written. He could contact local civic groups, and offer his services as a speaker for their meetings, too. In the process he might sell a few books from a table in the back of the room, and I know he'd get lots of valuable experience while building his name.

It may take longer than he'd like, but that's a much better idea than the one he has now. It allows him to work toward a goal and not put his family in financial danger. Then, once he's making a nice income on the side from writing and speaking engagements, you guys can look at the numbers and see if it's feasible for him to dive in on a full-time basis!

—Dave

Stand up to them

Dear Dave,

I have a debt with a collection agency and they have started calling my office. Last week, I made an agreement for monthly payments, along with an initial payment. All of a sudden, they were calling me again this morning at my office. Can I legally demand that they not call me at my place of employment?

Joelle

Dear Joelle,

Yes, you can. I'm glad you're keeping in mind that you have a legal and moral obligation to pay your debts. But collectors have rules they must follow, also. They're governed by law just like everyone else.

If they call you at work again, simply remind them of the terms of the payment agreement already in place and demand that they never call you at your office again. Also, send them a certified letter, return receipt requested, so that you'll have proof you sent the letter and they received it. In the letter, let them know that according to guidelines set forth in the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act you are formally demanding that they not call you at your office again.

If they call you at your office after you demand that they stop, they'll be in violation of federal law. And if that happens, let them know that you'll be talking to a lawyer and you will sue them!

—Dave

Paying "Stupid Tax"

Written by Dave Ramsey on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

My husband broke a few ribs and his collarbone a couple of years ago when he flipped our ATV. He's fine now, but we still have about $20,000 in medical bills because we were both between jobs and didn't have medical coverage when the accident occurred. We also have two credit cards, one with a $1,000 balance and the other a $7,000 balance. We only have $200 a month we can put toward debt, so where should we start?

Sandy

Dear Sandy,

Not having health insurance at any time of your life is not smart, regardless of being between jobs or not. Ouch, what a mess! You didn't tell me what you guys make, but I can tell you a few things.

Number one, you're probably going to have to get your income up. You may have to take on a couple of part-time jobs or work some overtime. My grandmother used to say, "There's a great place to go when you're broke — to work!" If you only have $200 a month to put toward your debt, you've got to create some margin, and that may be on the income side of things.

The other thing I've found is this: Most people seem to be able to magically find money when they feel it's a life or death situation. "Magically" means that you do a budget. You make a written game plan where every dollar has a name before the month begins. When you write down every dollar, and you and your husband sit down and agree on where every dollar is going to go, you're going to have an ah-ha moment that feels like you got a raise. If you're normal, you waste a bunch of money because you don't budget and have a written plan. And normal pretty much sucks!

So, here's the drill. Start living on a written budget, extra work, start working the debt snowball and pay off those debts from smallest to largest and don't even think about a vacation or anything else that's not necessity based until you clean up this mess. When you start living with a scorched earth idea — beans and rice, rice and beans — I'll bet you're going to find a lot more than $200 in your budget to put toward killing off this debt!

Dave

Help and wisdom

Dear Dave,

Recently, I met a young man who was put out on the street when he turned 18. He lives on food stamps and $10 a week. My wife and I are on Baby Step 7 of your plan and have a great income, and our whole family feels called to help this kid — maybe even taking him into our home. Do you have any advice?

Mitch

Dear Mitch,

You guys obviously have loving hearts and are doing great financially. But let's take a look at few important factors in a decision like this.

If you're thinking about actually taking him in under your roof, you need to remember that your first responsibility is to your family. You have to make sure they're safe, and that would include finding out everything there is to know about this guy. Talk to his past teachers, coaches or even family members if you can find them. Spend some time just talking to him, too, and find out more about his background, attitude, habits and goals. Then, if you still feel led to open your home to him, make sure everyone involved signs an agreement with really clear rules and guidelines about what is expected, what will not be tolerated and the rewards and consequences of each.

Helping him with food and clothing alone would be a generous act, but what you're considering is absolutely amazing. Just make sure, if you go this route, to do it not just with love, but with lots of forethought and wisdom.

—Dave

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