Dear Dave,

I’m 28, single, and I just became debt-free. In addition, I make $70,000 a year and have the equivalent of six months of expenses set aside for emergencies. Should I save up to pay cash for a house, or is mortgage debt OK? I’d like to keep the price of a new home between $200,000 and $225,000. Since I currently live in a nice apartment, I think I can save about $20,000 a year. What do you think?

Kathryn


Dear Kathryn,

It sounds like you’re in great financial shape. Congratulations on becoming debt-free!

Let’s take a look at both scenarios. If you can save $20,000 a year, that means you’re about 10 years away from a nice, paid-for home, and you’re still debt-free. That’s one option. At the same time, I don’t yell at people for taking out a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage, where the payments are no more than 25 percent of their monthly take home pay. In this situation, you could save like crazy for a couple of years and make a big down payment on a home in the price range you’re talking about. Then, you could pay off that house in just 15 years.

I honestly don’t have a problem with either solution, Kathryn, but think about this. Wouldn’t it be great to have your own home, and still be completely debt-free, at 40? It’s something to think about!

Dave


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Stand up to them!

Dear Dave,

A debt collection agency started calling my office a few weeks ago. I gave them an initial payment and made an agreement to pay off the debt in monthly installments. This morning, they started calling me at my office again wanting payment. Can I legally demand they not call me at my place of employment?

James


Dear James,

Absolutely! You have a legal and moral obligation to pay your debts, and I’m glad this is something you recognize. But collectors have rules they must follow. They’re governed by law just like everyone else.

Be certain to keep your end of the agreement. Make your payments on time, or early, whenever possible. Then, if they call you at work again, remind them of your initial payment and the terms of the agreement already in place. Be polite, but firm, and demand that they never call you at your office again.

In addition, send them a certified letter, return receipt requested, so you’ll have proof you sent the letter and they received it. In the letter, let them know that – according to guidelines set forth in the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act – you are demanding they not call you at your office again.

If they call you there after receiving this formal demand to stop, they’ll be in violation of federal law. If that happens, let them know you’ll talk to a lawyer and sue them.

Dave

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