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Thursday, October 21, 2021
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Dave Ramsey Says

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Live like the money isn’t there

Dear Dave,

I’m 24, single, and I make $60,000 a year. I’m also debt-free and live in an apartment, plus I have about $550,000 in a brokerage account that’s made up of 75 percent mutual funds and 25 percent single stocks. The money in the brokerage account was originally an inheritance of $280,000 that has grown since I received it in 2007. Am I putting my money toward the best investment possibilities right now?

Drew

Dear Drew,

You’re in a nice place! I’m glad you’re taking your finances and your future so seriously.

First of all, I don’t play around with single stocks. There’s just too much risk there for me. Since I don’t invest in single stocks, I don’t recommend others do it, either. I look at two things when it comes to investing—real estate and mutual funds.

I always pay cash for income-producing real estate. And when it comes to mutual funds, I invest in good, growth stock mutual funds with a solid track record of at least 10 years. Now, I don’t get mad at people if they want to dabble in single stocks a little, but I wouldn’t recommend having more than 10 percent of your investment portfolio wrapped up in them. The numbers on playing single stocks are just not that good for the individual, and besides that, I don’t like losing money!

If I woke up in your shoes, I’d move the 25 percent you have in single stocks into good mutual funds. And I wouldn’t use a brokerage account. I’d stick with a quality financial advisor, one who has the heart of a teacher. I think you’ll end up doing better with your money in the long haul this way. It might be a little boring, but boring is good when it comes to stuff like this. Exciting means you stand a good chance of losing a lot of money.

You’ve got a good income, especially for a single guy who’s 24, so I’d make those adjustments and live like the inheritance money wasn’t there. Stay away from debt, live on a reasonable budget, and make sure you’re putting 15 percent of your income away for retirement. Then, when it’s time a few years down the road, use some of that inheritance money to pay cash for a nice home.

If you can manage to do all that, the money you inherited—even with buying a home—will likely grow to millions of dollars by the time you’re ready to retire. Pretty cool situation, Drew!   

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is a seven-time #1 national best-selling author, personal finance expert, and host of The Ramsey Show, heard by more than 18 million listeners each week. Hehas appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Today Show, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business, and many more. Since 1992, Dave has helped people regain control of their money, build wealth and enhance their lives. He also serves as CEO for Ramsey Solutions.

Dave Says

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Push the pause button

Dear Dave,

I’ve been following your plan, but recently I experienced a medical emergency. I’m about halfway through Baby Step 2 and paying off my debts using the debt snowball system. Considering the circumstances, should I stop doing the debt snowball for now?

Brooke

Dear Brooke,

That’s exactly what you should do. But make sure you’re only pressing the pause button on paying off debt. I’m talking about temporarily stopping the debt snowball, and making only minimum payments on all non-mortgage debt for now.

Cash is your umbrella when it rains, and you never know just long the rain will last. Even if you have great health insurance, you might end up paying a chunk out of pocket. That’s why it’s important to save up and have plenty on hand.

Things like this are often just a bump in the road, so don’t get discouraged. They can be expensive, and they’re part of life, but taking care of these kinds of issues doesn’t have to mean giving up on getting control of your finances. Emergency issues, especially a medical emergency, come first. Then, go back when things are better and pick up where you left off knocking out debt using the debt snowball system.

You can do this, Brooke. God bless you!

—Dave

You’re just not ready

Dear Dave,

My husband and I just bought a small business with cash. My sister let us live with her while we saved up the money for it, but things are starting to get a little cramped for everyone. The other day, my sister offered to co-sign on a house for us. Do you think this is a good idea?

Cari

Dear Cari,

Ok, so you just bought a business. I love your entrepreneurial spirit and the fact you saved up and paid for it with cash. But at this point, you don’t know if the business is going to be successful or not. On top of that, you told me you’d need a co-signer for a home. If you need a co-signer for anything, it means you’re not financially ready for that purchase.

I know you don’t want to hear this, but you guys need to just forget about buying a house for a while. If I were in your shoes, I’d find a decent, inexpensive place to rent, and spend two or three years getting the business up and running. Pay off any debt you have, while saving as much money as you can in the process. 

I want you and your husband to have a nice house someday. But right now, it would be a burden instead of a blessing.

—Dave 

Dave Ramseyis a seven-time #1 national best-selling author, personal finance expert, and host of The Dave Ramsey Show, heard by more than 16 million listeners each week. Hehas appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Today Show, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business, and many more. Since 1992, Dave has helped people regain control of their money, build wealth and enhance their lives. He also serves as CEO for Ramsey Solutions.

Dave Ramsey Says

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Save up to get out of the rust bucket

Dear Dave,

I let my fiancée use my car to get back and forth to work, and it has a lot of miles on it and a few mechanical issues. The money we’ve put into the car to fix the issues is about the same or more than the car is actually worth. We just started your plan a couple of months ago, and we’ve almost got a beginner emergency fund saved up. We also have very little consumer debt to pay off. I’m afraid, though, if we get into a second $1,000 to $2,000 car, we’ll just experience the same kinds of issues and it will turn into another money pit. I bring home about $5,000 a month, and she works part-time and goes to school. How do you think we should handle things? 

Thaddeus

Dear Thaddeus,

Well, if you’re serious about following the plan, you don’t really have a choice right now. But you’re bringing home a nice paycheck, man. You ought to be able to buy a better $1,500 to $2,000 car with cash in a month or so, just to give you some relief. Then, stick some money aside each month until spring and get something that’s a big step up in the $5,000 to $6,000 range.

Listen, I don’t want anyone driving around in a rust bucket longer than they have to. And it sounds like you really need to get up out of the junk. But if you do some research and buy wisely, you can get a good year or two out of a $1,500 car. The car may not look like much, but you’re not trying to catch a girl’s eye. You’ve already got a fiancée. If you find an old Honda or Toyota that’s still mechanically sound—and yes, they’re out there—it’ll get you by while you save up for something a lot better.

But remember, you and your fiancée don’t need to own anything together until you’re married. The kind of arrangement you have now can cause real problems. If you guys get married and combine your resources and dreams, it’ll be better for everyone relationally and financially. You’re playing house already, so you might as well go ahead and get married and combine your lives on every level.

It’s time to paint or get off the ladder, dude!

Dave Ramsey Says

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Refinance in Baby Step 2?

Dear Dave,

My husband and I are on Baby Step 2, and we’ve paid off about $30,000 in consumer debt since March. We were wondering if we should refinance our mortgage. Our current rate is 4.875%, with 28 years remaining on the loan. We found a 15-year refinance at 2.5%, which would raise our monthly payments about $200, but we can handle that. We have $150,000 in equity in our home and about $207,000 left on the loan. What do you think we should do?    

Raye

Dear Raye,

You two have done a great job this year! I’m so proud of what you’ve accomplished and that you’re looking to the future.

Baby Step 2 wouldn’t be affected, except that your monthly mortgage payment will go up a little. I wouldn’t pay the refinance costs out of pocket, though. I’d roll them into the loan. You’d be saving more than 2% by locking in this crazy-low interest rate, and you’re knocking the whole thing down to a 15-year loan. I love all that. It’s definitely worth the extra $200 a month to make it happen.

Think about it this way. You’re going to be saving more than $4,000 a year with the interest rate reduction. You’re not going to see it in cash flow because of the $200 increase in monthly payments, but over the scope of the loan, you’re going to be charged between $4,000 and $4,500 less per year for interest. All that money is going toward paying back the closing costs and reducing the principal built into the move from 28 years to 15 years.

Yes, you should do this!  

—Dave

Which comes first?

Dear Dave,

I just saved up my $1,000 beginner emergency fund, and I’m looking at paying off my car and credit card debt—a total of $3,400—by the end of January. Before I started your plan, I took out a $7,500 student loan to pay for my fall and spring semesters. I still have a year of school left, which will cost about $10,000. Should I save up the money for my final year before attacking my student loan debt, so I don’t have to take out another one, or go ahead and begin paying it off?  

Emma

Dear Emma,

Well, it doesn’t make much sense to pay off the current student loan, then turn around and take out another one. Your first goal—after you get the credit cards and car paid off—should be saving cash to finish school. Once you’ve done that, start paying off the student loan.

Long story short, you’ve got to stop borrowing money. The idea of saving up to pay for things should be the default setting in your brain, Emma. Otherwise, you’re going to spend the rest of your life with car payments and other debt hanging around your neck. That’s not being responsible with your money, and it will keep you from saving for stuff that matters and becoming wealthy.

Stop. Borrowing. Money. I hope I haven’t been unclear.

—Dave   

* Dave Ramsey is a seven-time #1 national best-selling author, personal finance expert, and host of The Dave Ramsey Show, heard by more than 16 million listeners each week. Hehas appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Today Show, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business, and many more. Since 1992, Dave has helped people regain control of their money, build wealth and enhance their lives. He also serves as CEO for Ramsey Solutions.

Dave Says

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Use non-retirement account to pay off debt?

Dear Dave,

I have $11,000 in a mutual fund account that is not a retirement account. My wife has a retirement account through her job as a teacher, but I do not have one at all. We’re in Baby Step 2, so should we cash out the $11,000 in the investment account to help pay off debt?

Chris

Dear Chris,

If this money is designated as non-retirement funds, I’d say go ahead and cash it out. Use the money to pay down debt, and continue to stay focused working the Baby Steps. Get that debt paid off, build an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses, then it’s your turn to start investing.

The quickest way to build wealth is to get control of your largest wealth-building tool—your income. When all your money is going out the door to other people, you don’t have that tool at your disposal when it comes to important things like saving and investing. There’s some math in there, but it’s also about behavior and being intentional. Getting out of debt dramatically shortens the distance between you and wealth.

A lot of people are having some major “never again” moments right now in the wake of COVID-19 and all the other stuff 2020 has thrown at us. They’re saying things like, “Never again will I be broke, never again will I have debt, and never again will I live with no savings to help take care of me and my family.”

You can do this, Chris. Get after it! 

—Dave

Zero-based budgeting explained

Dear Dave,

What exactly is a zero-based budget?

Dean

Dear Dean,

Simply put, a zero-based budget is income minus outgo equals zero. If you earn $4,000 a month, and you’re doing a zero-based budget, every item you spend, save, give and invest should add up to $4,000. It’s a method of knowing where every single one of your dollars is going. Most people don’t live on a budget. They just cash checks, write checks, then they look up and wonder where all their money went. Not having a plan, especially for your money, is a bad plan.

List all your income from all sources for the month. Next, list every single expense you have each month. Rent, food, cable, phones, and anything else you pay for gets added to the list. Your expenses vary from one month to the next, which is why you make a new spending plan each month.

Now, here’s where it gets real. Subtract your income from your expenses. Ideally, this number will be zero. It might take some practice, so don’t be discouraged if everything doesn’t balance out perfectly the first few times. All that means is you need to find a way to bring one of the numbers up, the other one down—or both. But whatever you do, don’t spend a dime that’s not accounted for.

If you have a problem with spending more than you make, make some cuts in order to equalize your income and your outgo. Using coupons, cutting back on groceries, or carpooling to work are great ideas to reduce spending. If you want to generate more money, get a second job on weekends or sell some stuff.

You’re the boss of the budget—in the beginning. Once it’s committed to paper, in a spreadsheet, or on an app like EveryDollar, the budget is the boss!

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is a seven-time #1 national best-selling author, personal finance expert, and host of The Dave Ramsey Show, heard by more than 16 million listeners each week. Hehas appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Today Show, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business, and many more. Since 1992, Dave has helped people regain control of their money, build wealth and enhance their lives. He also serves as CEO for Ramsey Solutions.

Dave Says

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A very generous offer

Dear Dave,

My in-laws have very generously offered my wife and I $250,000 to help with a down payment on a home. I know the amount exceeds the IRS’s yearly gift allowance, but they want to structure it as a family loan and have already told us they don’t care if we pay it back. If we accept, we technically owe them a lot of money. If we say no, they may be offended. What do you think about this and how it might impact the relationship?    

James

Dear James,

Well, it makes sense your wife would be onboard with the whole thing. It’s her dad making the offer, so of course she would be a lot more comfortable with the idea than you are.

 This is a big deal, and it’s something you two should have a very serious conversation about. Get on the same page in every regard. Also, I’d recommend making sure you get everything in writing. See to it, as well, that it can be forgiven at the maximum allowable annual gift rate.

In addition, in the event of death make sure it’s included in the estate, it’s forgiven, and there will be zero call on the note. In effect, that would make it an advance on your inheritance instead of debt. Under no circumstances should they, or any other heirs, have grounds to call the note. 

That’s a good question, James. And a nice gift!

—Dave

Keeping the side hustle alive

Word count: 272

Dear Dave,

I have a full-time job, but I also have a side job providing firewood to help pay off debt. I make $600 to $1,000 a month with this project. My log splitter went down recently when a hydraulic line burst, and the machine caught on fire. I’m not sure how much it will cost to get it going again. Should I invest in a new one that will increase my productivity and help me pay off debt faster?

Chris

Dear Chris,

If I’m in your shoes, I’m going to fix the old one. Even it means duct tape and glue, I’m going to try to find a way to repair it instead of spending a bunch of money or going deeper into debt.

If you can’t do that at a reasonable price out of pocket, I’d be in the market for a decent, used log splitter. And pay cash! I get your line of thinking when it comes to increasing productivity. Splitting wood is real work. But don’t try to justify buying an expensive, new piece of equipment when it’s just not necessary.

If you’re making that much with a side hustle, you can make your money back on a used splitter in a month or two—three at the most. Be smart about it, Chris!  

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books, including The Total Money MakeoverThe Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 16 million listeners each week on 600 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at daveramsey.com and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey.

Dave Ramsey Says

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Evaluating insurance needs

Dear Dave,

Last year I got a divorce. I’m 32, a teacher and a single mom. I’m on Baby Step 2 right now, and I was wondering about life insurance. My son is only two, and if something happened to me, he would go to his father. His dad is in good shape financially and responsible with money, so how much life insurance should I have?

Christian

Dear Christian,

Well, you probably don’t need the full 10 to 12 times your income like I recommend for most people. The only dependent you have is also dependent upon his dad. And from what you said, his father seems perfectly able to take care of him.

I’d get a good term life policy equal to the amount that you’d like to supplement your son’s care. The good news is you can get a couple hundred thousand in life insurance at your age for practically nothing.

If you get life insurance, make sure his dad—your ex—is not the beneficiary. The beneficiary should be a family trust, formed upon your death, and the money would go into that trust for the benefit of your child. You set the terms of the trust. It should not be controlled by your ex. In a divorce situation, I would never name someone I’m not willing to be married to the trustee of my money on behalf of my child. 

I’m so glad you’re thinking about these things, Christian. It shows you’re an intentional lady, a fine mom, and a good planner. Those traits will serve you and your son well!  

—Dave

Are utilities included?

Dear Dave,

I just received a formal job offer in law enforcement. I’m debt-free, single, and I’d like to move out of a roommate situation and into my own apartment. I’ll be starting out at $34,000 a year, then moving up to $38,000 after my probationary period. You have a rule that says to make sure rent or house payments are 25% or less of your take home pay. If I can find a place where utilities are included, do they figure into that amount? 

Josh

Dear Josh,

It’s really more of a guideline than a rule. The point of not letting your housing cost eat up more than 25% of your take home pay is to make sure you have money left over for other important things. It’s hard to save and invest for the future when a huge chunk of your money is eaten up by rent or a mortgage payment each month. But no, utilities are not part of the one-fourth of your take home pay guideline.

At this point, it doesn’t sound like you need anything fancy. Try to find a safe, quiet place to call home—somewhere you can relax and decompress when you’re off duty. And thanks for entering law enforcement. A lot of folks are leaving your line of work, and we need good men and women in that profession right now.

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books, including The Total Money MakeoverThe Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 16 million listeners each week on 600 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at daveramsey.com and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey.

Dave Says April 8, 2020

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Responsibilities come first

Dear Dave,

My husband runs a small business that has never done very well. We have three kids, and I make $55,000 annually in my job. Part of what I make has been going into the business for over a year to help keep it afloat, and we don’t have a lot of money in savings. What do you think we should do?

Stephanie

Dear Stephanie,

If you’re putting other money into a business account, that’s a pretty good sign you’re not making money in the business. You and your husband need to sit down together, and do a household budget and a profit and loss statement on the business. You’ve got to get on the same page financially.

Put all his business expenses on the profit and loss statement in detail, and write out what it would take for him to break even each month.  But honestly, with everything that’s been going on with your finances, if he’s not at least breaking even at this point, then it’s time for him to do something else for a living full-time.

I’m an entrepreneur and business owner. Trust me, I totally understand the allure and excitement that goes with running your own business. But your own household and its immediate financial responsibilities come first. The only money that should go into the business account is income the business creates.

—Dave

No free passes

Dear Dave,

I own a small business, and recently a relative asked for a job with the company. I hate to say this, but I’ve got reservations about hiring her. She’s basically a good kid, but not the most reliable person in the world. Do you have any advice on how to handle a situation like this?

Bill

Dear Bill,

As an entrepreneur, you have the right and responsibility to do what’s best for your company. That means you shouldn’t hire anyone who isn’t a good fit—even a relative.

If a relative is qualified, and the kind of person who understands they’ll have to bring it every single day, performing at a level equal to or above your other team members, that can be a special and rewarding thing. But if that relative is the kind of person who expects special treatment or is a problem child, that kind of situation can be a nightmare for you, your company, and the whole family.

Would you hire this person because they’d make a good team member? Would you hire this person if they weren’t part of the family? If the answer to either of these questions is no, don’t hire them. It’s as simple as that.

The bottom line is you have to do what’s best for your business, your immediate family, and your team.

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books, including The Total Money MakeoverThe Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 16 million listeners each week on 600 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at daveramsey.com and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey.

Dave Says February 4, 2020

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Tighten up!

Dear Dave,

I’m beginning to think we got in over our heads with our house. My wife and I make about $125,000 a year combined, but we’ve never been able to put anything aside for an emergency fund. Our mortgage payment is 35 percent of our take home pay each month. We have two young children, so we eat out a lot, but we have no debt other than our house. Do you think we should refinance our home?

Jeff

Dear Jeff,

You two are making good money, and you’re debt-free except for your home. You can’t tighten up your budget enough to save up an emergency fund? Stay out of restaurants, dude! There’s no law stating you have to eat out a lot just because there are kids in the house. I mean, you’ve got no emergency fund. That’s a pretty basic thing.

You guys need to get on a written, detailed plan, and start hitting your goals. I’m talking about a strict, monthly budget. Now, I’ll admit your mortgage payment isn’t exactly what I would’ve signed you up for. Your house payments, or rent, should be no more than 25 percent of your monthly take home pay. But your house payment isn’t what’s holding you two back. What’s holding you two back is the fact that you haven’t been willing to tighten up the finances in other areas of your life to offset biting off more than you could chew in terms of a home.

No, I wouldn’t refinance. You’re fairly close where the mortgage payments are concerned, so I think you can make it through this by looking at ways to increase your income and selling stuff you don’t need to build an emergency fund. You two have been smarter than some, but you’re really going to have to buckle down and rearrange your priorities to make this happen!

—Dave

Cash out my Roth IRA?

Dear Dave,

I have around $15,000 in a Roth IRA. I just recently started studying your advice, and I was wondering if it would be a good idea to cash it out and put the money toward debt.

Sarah

Dear Sarah,

I teach people to stop investing temporarily while they attack their debt. So, I wouldn’t add anything to it at this point, but the worst thing you could do is cash it out. If you do, taxes and penalties will steal a huge chunk of that cash. The only time I take money out of a retirement account to pay off debt is to avoid bankruptcy or foreclosure. 

Start working the Baby Steps from the beginning. Baby Step 1 is saving up $1,000 for a starter emergency fund. Baby Step 2 is paying off all debts from smallest to largest, except for your home, using the debt snowball method. This will free up a ton of money! Then you’re ready for Baby Step 3, which is increasing your beginner emergency fund to a fully-loaded emergency fund of three to six months of expenses.

Now you’re ready for Baby Step 4, which is 15 percent of your income going into retirement!

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books, including The Total Money Makeover.The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 16 million listeners each week on 600 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at daveramsey.com and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey.

Starting off on the right path together

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Dear Dave,

I’m getting married next summer. My fiancé and I are in agreement about how to handle money, and we both follow your plan. Do you recommend pre-marital counseling? If so, what do you feel are some of the important areas of agreement for couples before they get married?

Allison

Dear Allison,

Congratulations! I’m glad you’re both on the same page with your finances, too.

I’ve worked with thousands of couples and numerous marriage counselors over the years. In that time, I’ve learned fights over money—and the resulting problems from those disagreements—are probably the biggest cause of divorce in America. In my opinion, in-depth pre-marital counseling is an absolute must. The idea of entering into something that’s supposed to be a lifelong commitment, without thoroughly addressing all the issues—and potential issues—is a really bad idea.

With that said, it’s been my experience that couples have a high probability of a successful marriage if they agree on four things, in detail, before the big day—kids, money, religion, and in-laws. With kids, the big question is do you want them? If so, how many and when? Are you going to let them run wild, or are you going to provide structure and make them behave?

When it comes to money, something it sounds like you two are already in agreement on, get all your cards out on the table, and construct an intelligent game plan for your finances that you both agree on. Staying away from debt, living on a written, monthly budget, and saving for the future are important parts of this. 

Also, be in agreement on religion. Statistically speaking, two people from the same faith have a better chance of making a marriage work. And finally, when it comes to your future in-laws, you need to learn who they are and what you’re getting into. What are they really like? What are the boundaries when it comes to their influence on your lives?

All these topics should be discussed at length, dealt with, and agreed upon before the rings are exchanged. God bless you two, Allison!

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books, including The Total Money MakeoverThe Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 16 million listeners each week on 600 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at daveramsey.com and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey.