Q. My wife and I make together about $100,000 a year, almost $50,000 in an IRA and have no debt except for our home. The problem is I’ve had several health issues lately, and we’ve diverted a lot of money we’d put into saving and investing toward medical bills. We also have two kids in high school who want to go to college. Do you think we should cash out the IRA to help send our boys to school?
A. You guys make $100,000, and expenses at a good in-state school would be roughly $17,000 a year. If I were you, I’d trim the household budget and make the kids get to work. Look around and see what you can sell, too. There’s no reason you all can’t pull together and cash flow an education for these guys.
Providing an education for your kids is a noble pursuit, but you’re low on money right now because of health problems and medical bills. You didn’t do anything wrong to create this scenario. It was just a case of life happening.
So, you shouldn’t feel ashamed to sit down with your kids and say, “OK, serious talk time. You guys know what’s happened recently, so if you want to go to college, you need find a good, affordable institution and start applying for every available scholarship.
You also need to plan on working after school and on weekends – now and when you’re off at college – and saving money like crazy. Your mom and I will help out some, but we all have to pull together to make this happen.”
There’s a better way to do this than borrowing money and going into debt. There will be times when it’s not easy, but walking around with student loans hanging over your head – or nothing set aside for retirement – is no fun, either.
Q. My mom has about $35,000 worth of debt from a $17,000 car and $18,000 in student loans. She makes $20,000 a year. How can she get out of this mess?
A. No one needs a car that’s worth nearly all of their yearly income. That’s just ridiculous. If you listen to me on the radio, I’m sure you’ve already heard me say what I’m about to say now – sell the car. That will get rid of almost half her debt, then find her a little $2,000 beater to drive until she can save for a better car.
Remember this simple rule: Never buy a car that costs more than half of your annual income. Also, never go into debt to buy a car. Automobiles go down in value like a rock, and you never want that much money wrapped up in something that’s depreciating.
We also have an income issue here. Your mom has to do something in the short term to get her income up and pay off debt.
A part-time job nights and weekends would be a really good idea. Then she needs to address her long-term situation with an eye toward a decent job. Whether it’s more formal education or technical training in a particular field, she needs to find a career that will significantly increase her income.
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