Get yourself out of it

Written by Editor in Chief on . Posted in Finance

davernewDear Dave,

I make $2,100 a month after taxes, and I have accumulated $46,000 in credit card debt. My husband makes more than I do, but he won't help me. He says I got myself into this mess, so it's my job to stop being irresponsible and fix it on my own. Do you have any advice?

Peggy

Dear Peggy,

You've got a load of debt hanging over your head right now, but I think you've got bigger problems than that. You told me you're married, yet it sounds to me like you two are living entirely different and separate lives. This seems more like a roommate situation than a healthy, loving marriage.

I don't like your husband's attitude, but he does have a valid point in one respect. You were irresponsible with money, and now you've got a pile of debt on your hands. My big question is this: Where was he while all this was going on? Were you hiding it from him? And where was the communication and decision making, financial and otherwise, couples should engage in? Married people can't live this way and win in their relationship or with money.

The two of you desperately need to seek marriage counseling together. This relationship is on the rocks. You and your husband obviously have no trust or respect for each other, and there's a definite lack of communication, unity and shared goals. I don't know what happened to bring things to this point, but the preacher didn't pronounce you guys a joint venture when you got married; he said you were now one.

A little maturity, extra work, and living on a simple budget will go a long way toward fixing most personal finance issues. But your marriage is in big trouble, Peggy. Please seek help!

Dave

Why save before paying off the mortgage?

Dear Dave,

I just read The Total Money Makeover, but I'm still unclear as to why you recommend saving for an emergency fund and retirement before paying off your home. Shouldn't a house be paid off as quickly as possible, since it's a liability?

Mark

Dear Mark,

I appreciate the fact that you're asking questions and thinking things through. But please don't fall into the trap of thinking of your home as a liability. That mindset is way off base, in my opinion.

Your house is definitely an asset; it's the mortgage that's a liability. Some folks may try to position a house as a liability simply because it costs you money. But the truth is your home will make you more money than it will cost you over time. Therefore, it is an asset.

Some of the saddest situations I've seen in all my years of teaching are seniors who have paid-for homes and nothing saved or invested. Money isn't the most important thing on earth, but it is a fact of life. That's why I encourage people to build an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses and begin saving for retirement before they tackle paying off their homes.

Then, after all that is addressed, take every dollar you can scrape together and put it toward paying off your mortgage as fast as possible. Good question, Mark!

Dave
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