TODAY | November 09, 2011
AL ROKER reporting: Time for TODAY'S MONEY 911, where our crack team of financial experts take on the big financial questions. Financial editor Jean Chatzky , the author of "Money 911." Farnoosh Torabi is the author of "Psych Yourself Rich" and a contributing to Yahoo! Finance . And Stacey Tisdale is a financial journalist and the author of "The True Cost of Happiness ." It's good to see you guys.
Ms. JEAN CHATZKY: Nice to see you, too.
Ms. FARNOOSH TORABI (Author, "Psych Yourself Rich"): Good to see you, too.
Ms. STACEY TISDALE (Author, "The True Cost of Happiness"): Good to see you.
ROKER: All right, we're going to start off with Skype . We've got a question from Christy from McKinney , Texas . Good morning, Christy .
CHRISTY (McKinney, Texas): Good morning.
ROKER: And your question?
CHRISTY: Both my husband and I have recently had our positions eliminated from our previous employers. We do have one credit card that has a 15 percent interest rate and a balance of about $13,000. Should we use a portion of his company profit-sharing to pay off the credit card , or simply roll the entire amount into the existing IRA ? And being unemployed, would we still have to pay the 10 percent penalty?
ROKER: All right. Jean ?
Ms. CHATZKY: You would have to pay the 10 percent penalty if you're not 59 and a half. And what I want you to do, actually, is I want you to make sure that you don't pull the money out of your retirement accounts, because that money is safe if you -- if you end up going down a financial slope and ending up in bankruptcy, which we hope doesn't happen to you. We hope you end up back on your feet immediately. Make sure that you call the credit card company, tell them what's going on in your life, ask them if they can do anything for you in terms of a repayment plan that's a littler bit easier. But by all means, don't raid the retirement accounts.
ROKER: Thanks so much, Jean . All right. And good luck.
CHRISTY: Thank you.
ROKER: Good luck, Christy . Now let's go to an email. This is from Shirlette in Maryland . She writes, "I'm trying to finance my daughter's college education. The school offered a loan for the full amount at 7.9 percent fixed, also approved for personal student loan at 3.9 percent but not fixed. Both loans due six months after she finishes school, which will be December 2013 ." So which should she choose, Farnoosh ?
Ms. TORABI: It sounds a little crazy because, you know, just on the surface it seems lower interest rate is better, but not necessarily. I like the loan with the higher interest rate because it's fixed.
Ms. CHATZKY: Mm-hmm.
Ms. TORABI: More security. Remember, a student loan term is typically 10 to 20 years. You don't know what's going to happen between now and then .
Ms. TORABI: Another reason I like the 7.9 percent rate is because it sounds like it's a PLUS loan , it's a federal loan, which means that in the event of a financial hardship the mother will have a better chance of -- there's more flexibility.
Ms. TORABI: She can, you know, stretch out the loan terms. If she loses her job, she may have her loan payments suspended.
ROKER: And you like the 7.9 percent?
Ms. TORABI: Yeah, a lot more flexibility.
Ms. CHATZKY: Absolutely.
ROKER: Now we're going to go to the phone. We've got Sharon from Kansas City , Mo. Good morning, Sharon .
SHARON (Kansas City, Missouri): Good morning.
ROKER: Your question?
SHARON: I'm selling my house in California because it's becoming difficult to rent it out so far from Kansas where I live, and I'm afraid if I wait as it becomes more rundown I won't get the best price for it in this unpredictable economy. Should I invest in another rental property -- and you can keep in mind capital gains -- in Kansas City ? Or do you have any other investment ideas with the maybe $250,000 I might have after paying off my mortgage here in Kansas City ? It's my only income now, although I'm looking for work. I'm 56 years old, divorced and supporting my partly disabled 19-year-old daughter on my own.
ROKER: OK, wow. All right, Stacey .
Ms. TISDALE: Wow. Well, Sharon , if that's your only income, you need to nurture it and you need to invest it in yourself. Let's think for a minute what rental income won't do. It's not going to provide you coverage for medical expenses. It's not going to allow you to build up your retirement. It's not going to give you diversification. And then there's so much hope and prayer. You know, 'I hope the tenant pays. I pray they don't leave.' And then there's all the trouble of maintenance and all the effort there.
ROKER: So you don't like the rental thing?
Ms. TISDALE: Not if this your only income, because you really have to invest that money in yourself.
Ms. TISDALE: You need to invest in a job training program with a good placement record. You need to invest in emergency savings. I'd love to see you take some of that and put enough away to cover at least nine months worth of monthly expenses, provide financial security in your retired years for you and your daughter, invest that money in yourself. This is about providing security for you and about your daughter.
ROKER: All right, Sharon .
SHARON: Great, thank you.
ROKER: Yeah, you're welcome. And then finally, we're going to go to one last email. This is from Jennifer in Fort Collins , Colorado . "I accumulated approximately $30,000 in Stafford student loan debt getting the PhD. Couldn't afford paying the 600 per month payment; switched to a mostly interest-only payment plan with Sallie Mae at 4.5. I've been making these payments for 25 years now, only reduced the loan to 20. I heard the president has a student loan debt forgiveness plan for loans 25 years old."
Ms. CHATZKY: Right. This loan program doesn't apply to her. It's really only for people who took out their loans after 2008 , which is unfortunate. Dig into your budget. You've got a very good interest rate . See if you can come up with some additional flexibility just to pay back a little more money every single month and you'll get out from under a little bit faster.
ROKER: All right.
Ms. CHATZKY: But unfortunately that great program not for everyone.
ROKER: OK. Not for everybody. OK. Jean Chatzky , Farnoosh Torabi , and Stacey Tisdale , thank you so much . For those of you hanging on the East Coast , Farnoosh will be hanging as well, sticking around to answer your questions live in a Web chat . Just go to today.com. Up next, dangerous rescues caught on camera in one of the coldest and harshest environments in the world. Then later, feeding your family on a budget by using one recipe for four different meals. But first, these messages.