Smart Money: Tough times despite smart budgeting

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DEAR BRUCE >> I have been unemployed for the last year and am subsisting on a small settlement I received in my divorce. I have two chronic diseases and a whole laundry list of other issues that require 17 different prescription medicines daily. I have currently completed some job training and have the prospect of new employment starting in January.

I pay cash for everything, and if I don't have the cash, I don't buy it. I live in a small apartment where the rent is about 25 percent below market. I have a bare minimum flip phone, no cable, don't eat out, don't have a Starbucks habit, and shop in second-hand stores. My sole luxury is Netflix at $7.99 a month.

I have a car payment and student loans (currently on hold). I am also five years past my divorce and am still paying off my lawyers. I have looked into bankruptcy, but have been told that since student loans can't be included, I don't owe enough to file. I don't know what else I can do to cut living expenses. Any ideas?

— J.D.

DEAR J.D. >> All I can do is offer my condolences on your sorry situation. It's obvious that you have a good handle on how to cut your expenses to a minimum.

Your student loans and car payments are on hold and I suspect they are going to remain that way. The fact that you're still paying for your divorce after five years is a whole other program. You've been told bankruptcy is not going to be helpful because most of your debt is in student loans, which cannot be included, and unfortunately, you don't owe other monies that would be large enough to justify filing.

I am sorry; all I can do is sympathize, but I will compliment you on your management of money. I wish I was as good as you are.

DEAR BRUCE >> I am trying to teach my 15-year-old daughter how important it is to start putting away money for her future. Do you have any input?

— Jill

DEAR JILL >> You ask a very good question. There is no way to overemphasize the importance of putting money away for the future.

The first thing I would do is suggest that your daughter begins to put away 20 percent of her net check (however small) from whatever regular source of income she has, be it a straight allowance, an earned allowance or a part-time job. If she has other income outside of that, the same percentage should apply.

I cannot overstate how important the value is of establishing this habit. Your daughter is fortunate to have a parent who cares.

Send questions to bruce@brucewilliams.com.


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