Q: I have a lot of credit card debt and am just able to make minimum payments. I feel like after doing this for four years now that I am not getting ahead. I will be 61 this summer and don't have much saved for retirement. My rent keeps going up along with other expenses. I have an 11-year-old car that is in need of maintenance but don't have the funds to do it. My question is, what would happen if I walk away from the credit card debt? Will I be facing garnishment? A: Yes, you could be sued and face wage garnishment if you simply stopped paying your debts.
Q: A friend of mine received a 2016 tax refund of over $9,000 even though this person did not pay nearly that amount in taxes over the course of the year. My friend has a fairly low-paying job with no benefits, is a single parent of two young children and receives no support from the children's other parent. Given this scenario, is it possible to get a tax refund in an amount greater than what you paid in taxes?
Q: I got scammed by a magazine company a year ago. I thought the call was about two magazines I wanted to stop as I was moving. The woman talked fast and took me through the steps with my bank card (which was stupid of me, I now know) as if she was helping and at the end she said, "Oh, those are not our magazines." Two weeks later I was receiving about eight magazines I do not want. I changed my bank card so the withdrawals would stop, but I get so many collection calls. I hang up and block that number, but then I get more.
Q: I recently received a $38,000 windfall. I have a student loan balance of $37,000. I want to buy a home, but I can't decide if I should have a large down payment and continue paying down student loans slowly, or make a balloon payment on my student loans and put down a smaller amount on the home. The mortgage rate would be around 4 percent while the student loans are at 6.55 percent. The price of homes in my area is at least $250,000 for a two-bedroom house (which my income supports). I want to make a smart decision.
Q: I have an airline credit card but I find it really hard to use the frequent flier miles I get. The "free" flights have gotten more expensive (they take more miles) and harder to find. I'm getting sick of paying an annual fee for nothing. Would I be better off with a cash-back card?
Q: When I changed jobs, I rolled my 401(k) account into an IRA and took it to a financial planner. He invested it initially and now has a management company watching it. So now I am paying quarterly fees to him, the management company and the IRA custodian. The fees average about $2,000 a year. I am thinking about moving my account to my current 401(k), which has lower fees.
Q: If you have never written about the new reverse mortgages, please consider it. I'm nearly 90 and this Home Equity Conversion Mortgage sounds too good to be true. Is it? I've talked to a broker and a direct lender and attended a two-hour seminar on the subject.
Q: As a recent retiree, I opened an IRA with a well-reputed, independent financial planner. I was assured of our fiduciary relationship and told "besides, it will soon be law" that advisers will have to put their clients' interests first when offering advice about retirement funds. I guess that whole "soon to be law" thing is out the window along with many other consumer protection regulations. My question is, should I ask my adviser to reaffirm our relationship formally and if so, is there a mechanism available to me to assure this relationship?
Q: I worked for a company during the late 1990s. When I left, I had a 401(k) worth approximately $10,000. I recently found an old 401(k) statement and called the plan administrator. I was told my company's accounts had been transferred to another plan administrator in 2008. I called the new administrator and was told they also could not find my 401(k) using my Social Security number. How do I proceed? What are my options? A: Get ready to make a lot more phone calls.
Q: I have a few credit cards with very high interest rates — in the mid-teens. My FICO has improved (805 to 830) and I carry little or no balance on the credit cards. I have contacted the issuers asking for lower interest rates but they won't budge. I have other credit cards with single-digit interest rates. I would like to close the credit cards with the higher interest rates and understand that I may see a drop in my FICO score. How long will take to get my credit score back in the 800s? Is this a wise move?