Sense and Sensibility: Credit card bills keep piling up
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been paying the minimums on a pile of credit cards for years. I don't seem to be getting anywhere. I barely keep my creditors at bay. I have never had a high-paying job, and I have needed credit in order to make ends meet. I will not be able to work forever. I am worried that I will be paying these bills for the rest of my life. Do you think it is wise to go to one of those credit consolidators for help? I don't know what to do. — Drowning in Debt
DEAR DROWNING IN DEBT: You are wise to be thinking about what you can do to consolidate your debt at this time. Do your research to figure out what is best for you. There are several things that consumers do when they get into financial trouble. My research shows three key options. 1) Debt settlement allows your debt to be negotiated to a lower interest rate or principal. 2) Debt relief is when you convince a debtor to forgive some or part of what you owe them. 3) Debt consolidation occurs when you take out a loan that pays for all of your debt and then you pay off that one bill.
You can call around to learn how each of these options works, but before you make a choice, get professional input. You can talk to a financial adviser at your bank — for free. Figure out which option works best for you to help you become debt-free within a particular period of time.
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DEAR HARRIETTE: My teenage daughter has been having significant mood swings of late. One day she comes home with a pleasant attitude. The next day she is super snippy. We have always been close, but I worry that it is changing. I want to stay connected to her, but I can't allow her to talk to me any way she pleases. To that end, she actually apologized to me yesterday and admitted that she had been in a terrible mood the day before. I thanked her for noticing and told her that it sometimes is hard for me when she is so snippy. Is there anything else I can do? — Teenage Blues
DEAR TEENAGE BLUES: Medical experts say that mood swings are common among teenagers due to hormonal changes, lack of sleep, poor eating habits and social stressors. While you should not allow your teen to speak to you disrespectfully, experts suggest that it is smart for you to resist reacting immediately to mood swings. Instead, attempt to show compassion. Let your teen know that you understand that waves of emotion can sometimes make them behave in extreme ways. Continue to keep the lines of communication open so that you and your daughter talk as much as possible about everything. In this way, when touchy subjects come up, you have created space to discuss them comfortably.
One note for parents: If your teen's moods seem too intense, look for warning signs of a bigger problem: prolonged irritability; extreme feelings of highs and lows; feelings of unworthiness; erratic behavior; failing grades; suspected substance abuse; refusal to participate in activities previously enjoyed; and talk of self-harm or suicide. For more support, go to aha-now.com/cope-with-teenage-mood-swings.
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DEAR HARRIETTE: I am working with an independent contractor on a fundraising project. He seems to be good at what he does, but he does a lot of traveling to get to meetings. I feel like he spends more time driving to and from appointments than actually getting the work done. In this day and age, it seems like plenty of meetings could be handled by telephone or Skype, FaceTime, Zoom or some other interactive technology that is more efficient than jumping in a car to drive for a couple of hours. How can I get my point across to this man? He is kind of old-school and likes meeting face to face, but we have deadlines we are dealing with, and I worry that his travel is getting in the way of meeting them. — Park Your Car
DEAR PARK YOUR CAR: Speak up, express your concerns and share your suggestions. Since this man is accustomed to the personal touch of meeting in person, he may think he's not being professional to switch to making a call — even if it does include video. Here's your chance to educate him on the way many people conduct meetings these days.
You may want to guide this man through the process to ensure that he knows how to facilitate such a meeting with ease. Since you are proficient with this technology, it may seem like a piece of cake to you. Some of these commonly used technological features seem daunting for people who have yet to engage them. Make it easy for him to learn how to step into the future.
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DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother told me that we should always share with those who have less than we do. To that end, I give to my church, and I occasionally give to people who beg on the street.
The other day, I was walking on a street near my home when two different men seemingly came out of nowhere begging for money. One of them was loud and insistent. I had just completed a meeting with a client, and I had no money in my pocket to spare. Well, the loud man got louder and started yelling at me for not giving him money. I thought this was excessive. He may have been mentally impaired. What should I have done in that situation? I just kept on walking. — Paying the Homeless
DEAR PAYING THE HOMELESS: You are not obliged to give money to people who ask you for it. Sadly, there seem to be more homeless people on the street these days, and yes, many of them are mentally and emotionally challenged. That is likely why that man was so belligerent. In situations like that, it is probably safest for you to ignore the person. Engaging someone who is loud and aggressive is not a safe option.
In general, though, when someone asks you for money on the street, even if you choose not to give them anything, you can acknowledge them. I will say, "Good morning. Have a good day," or something similar. If they press for money, I say, "I'm sorry. Not today." Recognizing the humanity in others is an important part of life. I believe that some people who find themselves living on the street or otherwise in dire straits often feel invisible because passersby don't even see them.
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DEAR HARRIETTE: A woman I know from a social club I belong to complained all last year about her husband in graphic and rude terms. Now they are divorced — no surprise. What is odd is that she has started talking about how mean he is and how he doesn't give her all the money that he promised. She calls him ungrateful and on and on with the negativity. I can't help but wonder what she expected. She talked about this man like a dog. Now she's acting like the victim. I'm not so sure. I do know that I don't want to get caught up in the discussions about their marriage. I don't want to take sides, especially since I doubt that I would take hers. What can I say when she starts complaining about him? — Messy Divorce
DEAR MESSY DIVORCE: It is never good to get involved in the details of other people's divorces. Rarely is the uncoupling handled in a loving, respectful way. Typically, hurt feelings run rampant and nasty words are flung about. When your friend asks your opinion, tell her you do not want to be involved. Even if she urges you to take sides, tell her you want to remain her friend; therefore, you plead the fifth. No comment on her marriage. Period.
Harriette Cole is a lifestyle writer and author, nationally syndicated advice columnist and motivational, wife and mother. She founded Dream Leapers, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com.