All By Myself Budgeting

Dear Dave,

My husband and I recently finished your classes on personal finance and we’re having a dilemma. We’re creating a monthly budget, but it doesn’t include the taxes and insurance on our house. My husband has taken over doing all of the finances and I’ve asked him why he’s not including that information in the budget. I think he’s just creating a new type of debt when he’s not planning for all of our expenses like this.

Our pay is strictly commission and he wants us to hold off paying these things until we have 3-6 months of expenses saved up for an emergency fund. He’s concerned that if we have a slow month during the summer, we won’t have enough money to live on.

We’ve now gone for six months without putting any money aside for the property taxes and insurance. We sold our Suburban and bought a Saturn for cash to stop making those $500 a month car payments. However, we’ve had setbacks in saving up money with things like the $1,000 a month occupational therapy for our son.

Sherry in Austin

Dear Sherry,

You’ve just recently finished the class and yet you’re not doing what you were taught. We don’t teach couples to have one of you do the finances and the other just go along. We teach couples to work together. It’s the only way you can win with money. When he doesn’t give you a vote in how you handle your money, he’s revealing a marital issue with which you need to deal.

If the issue is that you’re just going along with what he says, you need to step up and be more assertive. If the issue is him being hard-headed and just forcing you to go along, it’s time for you to call him on it. This would never fly in my house. I’ve got the sweetest, most easy-going Southern belle of a wife, but if I were to not let her have a vote – she wouldn’t stand for it.

If you’re not planning for those property taxes, when tax time comes you’re not going to have the money to pay them. That’s a form of denial. Then you’re stuck with borrowing money or not paying your taxes. There is no problem with some give-and-take when it comes to creating a budget. If you’ve taken a look at your financial landscape and you realize that you may have to put off handling something for a short period of time to take care of another need, that’s understandable. Still, you can’t just avoid the issue of these taxes and insurance indefinitely. They’ve got to be addressed because they’re not going to just go away.

-Dave

Landlord wonders how to protect her own assets

Dear Dave,

I’m a new landlord and I’m wondering, in the event of a lawsuit, what is the best way to protect my personal assets.

Carrie in Oklahoma City

Dear Carrie,

I recommend a liability umbrella policy of two million dollars. This picks up where your liability leaves off on your car, homeowner’s and rental property fire and extended coverage policies. It will cost you about $200-300 a year for that much liability coverage.

There’s another thing you can do if you start to build a substantial portfolio of investment real estate, such as houses. For every five or so properties you buy, put them into a separate corporate entity. The best entity to use for this is an LLC, or Limited Liability Company. An LLC is a kind of cross between a sole-proprietorship and a corporation and has some of the best characteristics of both kinds of business forms. It’s a great form for a real estate holding company. Each LLC is a separate company with its own checking account. If you do all of the paperwork properly and an LLC entity owns a property where someone trips, falls and sues you, they can only sue for the assets of that company.
They can’t sue for your personal assets or the assets of one of your other companies.
In the meantime, until you get a whole bunch of investment properties, a simple umbrella liability policy will go a long way.

-Dave

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