Now Boarding the 'Money Train'

If you've been with us from the beginning, you might remember our first series, Hip Hop: Under Fire. We talked about the post-Imus focus on hip hop lyrics — the role of the "video vixen," how white folks (the majority of hip hop consumers) engage the music... Now, we've got another one on our agenda and this time we want your help. Or, rather, we want to help you...

"Money Train: How to Get (And Keep) Your Finances on Track."

Consider this a call-out. We're looking for participants in three distinct areas: we're looking for someone who wants to start a business, we're looking for someone who wants to buy a first home...and we're looking for someone who struggles with "all things budget" For the latter, we're talking debt, overspending, name it.

This summer, one of our coaches, best-selling author Alvin Hall, will "drive the train" and walk a select group (chosen from our blog) through the ins and outs of their greatest financial challenges. Tell Me More and our listeners will keep track of the progress through weekly check-ins with Alvin.

The goal is to help put you on the road to fiscal responsibility and freedom. (Uh, no, we won't be paying your bills...still paying our own). Personal attention can be hard to come by these days, so consider this opportunity knocking at your door!

We're standing by to read your stories. The more descriptive you are, the better your chances at being selected to participate.

Let the submissions begin!

Added note: please remember, your experiences will be featured on a national stage (our show and blog), so don't sign up unless you're comfortable with your story being immortalized by our program. We're looking for details.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.


First of all Michele I must say that I'm huge fan of your show. Your thoughtful and insightful dialogue helps to keep me informed and updated on world and domestic issues. As I was listening to the show on Monday, I heard you talking about Alvin Hall and getting on the money train.

As an African-American male that lives and works in rural Northeastern North Carolina at a Historically Black College (Elizabeth City State University). My wife and I have a lovely family that consists of our three lovely kids,Tayla (7) and our fraternal twins Trent and Trevor. They all have the same birthday (may 29th)

My family is the most important thing to me in the whole world. But financially things have been tough. My wife and I would like to buy our first home but we have some problems. First of all we have debt from college and our day care expenses for the twins is almost a mortgage. We also live in an area where our utilities rate is one of the highest in the state.

My wife and I both make ok money but it seems as though it is not enough. I often sit up at night and wonder if home ownership will ever be something that we as a family will experience. We currently live in three bedroom apartment that we are rapidly growing out of due to limited space.

I really would like to get on the "MONEY TRAIN" for my family and my piece of mind. My dream is to one day own a home that we can call ours. Please help us get out of debt and get on the right path to homeownership-THE AMERICAN DREAM

Sent by Randy Jones | 8:26 PM | 5-21-2007

My wife and I have been dedicayed NPR listners for years and both heard the idea and said that is what we need for our family. We live in northeast Mississippi we have two children 14 and 6 we fell into the credit card trap after college and a few years ago entered into a debt consolidation which turned out to be a bigger mess. It has seriously hurt our credit we have not charged a thing in four years and still have bills not to mention student loans. We just can???t seem to get ahead much less save anything. I am a social worker and my wife works for a timber company so we have a very modest income but live as though we are broke all the time. We can???t even properly insure our home because of our credit rating. We stay frustrated particularly when we think of people who have gone to file bankruptcy seem to be doing better and we have paid or debt down and continue to suffer. I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to change our situation and be able to relax a little and not feel like we are making all the wrong decisions. Please help.

Sent by Jason Collins | 12:50 PM | 5-22-2007

First, let's demand a national transportation/ energy policy that redevelops our railroads and transit systems and gives more of us the option to leave the car keys behind and truly reduce (jeez, I hate this media cliche') "pain at the pump". Face it, with the cost of operating a motor vehicle second only to that of keeping a roof over your head, more passenger rail and better local transit should be Solution #1 for "Getting our finances back on track."

Great idea for a show, Michelle! Keep it up.

Sent by Stu Nicholson | 1:10 PM | 5-22-2007

How ironic is it that day in and day out I work for one of the world's largest financial institutions and yet I am in such a financial mess, I can't even get a credit card! Now for some people this would be a good thing but in my case, you can't rebuild credit without any... I am a young person (26) who fell into the credit card trap when I made my first attempt at college and am still trying to dig out almost 7 years later. And what's so ridiculous is I know better! I've been working for what I want since I was 15 but, low and behold, I have nothing to show for it save a crappy 1996 Honda Accord. My other issue is my complete inability to make a budget and stick with it. I make relatively decent money for someone who has few monthly expenditures and no children but I am ALWAYS broke. It's like the second the money hits my bank account it's gone a day or so later. So what I would love is for someone to help shed some light on how to be a productive member of society who has savings and isn't always begging to borrow money. Not to mention that I would like to be able to retire at some point (only 30 years or so left) without having to live at the poverty line. I want to be able to pass on money smarts to my children so they don't end up like me- 26, broke, and living pay check to pay check... If you can offer the opportunity, I will deliver the story to your listeners- of which I happen to be myself. I definitely think that the 'money train' needs to make a stop at my house so I can get on it!! Thank you!

Sent by Kelly Shelton | 5:59 PM | 5-22-2007

Ever get the feeling that you're doing everything right, but you still can't get ahead? I have no doubt that my situation would be familiar to many listeners; and in the ways that it might not be familiar it will be incredibly instructional about current national trends. I wanted to become a college professor but had to borrow for every year I was in school. I succeeded in getting a great job at a large state university but my monthly student loan repayments are seriously hurting my ability to payoff credit cards, live the junior faculty life and saving is almost laughable. Additionally, I ended up marrying a man in a civil union in Vermont. So in addition to the struggles of achieving financial security, we often don't fit into standard planning strategies. Exploring how to get ahead in my particular situation would help many listeners better understand the conundrum that many same-sex couples face, i.e., many people don't know that we have don't have tax benefits and that we must pay an attorney to provide the protections that come instantly to heterosexual marriages. And regardless of same or opposing sex marriages, I am in that stage in life where my partner and I (with wildly different incomes) are determining how to best take personal responsibility with our respective debts, start merging our finances and jointly plan savings and investments. In our wildest dreams, we'd even have4 a vacation account set up so we can get away once in a while and enjoy our successes. I look forward to tuning into your show and learning much, regardless of who you choose.

Sent by David Shorter | 7:13 PM | 5-22-2007

For the most part, our financial life is stable. I'm a community college professor in California and a member of the State Teachers' Retirement System. We own our own home and will have it paid off before I retire. However, because I struggled to find a job for nearly ten years, I will only have 22 years into the system before I retire, which means that our payout won't be particularly large. In the meantime, we aren't able to set aside much every month for IRAs because we're a homeschooling family of five. We also built a room onto our house a couple of years ago, and our income is eaten up by the mortgage payments, health care costs, and bills in general. I'd welcome some advice and look forward to following your show.

Sent by David Holper | 8:28 PM | 5-22-2007

The attempts by my wife and myself to close a recent credit card account made the Odyssey look like a picnic. Despite dozens of phone calls, threatening letters and voice mails, and even the the likelihood of bringing the Better Business Bureau to bear on the matter, the statements kept appearing. Small charges for inactivity, the occasional $1.62 credit for being "good customers," ...the bank would go to any length to keep a transaction on the books. It wasn't until a phone call where I cautioned the representative (and 3 subsequent supervisors) that the call was being recorded, was I able to actually shut down the account.
The moral? Credit cards are much easier to get than to get rid of.

Sent by Michael Kline | 9:31 AM | 5-23-2007

After putting in place a plan to put my personal finances in order, eliminating the credit card debts, and maintaining a stable financial situation for my family over the course of several years, I am about to take the most financially disrupting step of my life: I plan to start my own business.

Why would I do such a thing? Why would I risk the past ten years of developing great credit and a history of paying every bill on time and eliminating all of that debt? It's because everyone I seem to know says I should start one up. It's like everyone knows something about me that I don't, and after being asked by so many people why I don't start up a shop of my own, I eventually realized that I have no valid excuses not to..

..except, there's the risk.

I'll need to get a loan larger than any loan I've ever gotten before, and it scares the heck out of me. I'm writing a business plan and a budget right now, hoping it will reveal some glaring reason not to do this that appears in the process. The more numbers I crunch, however, the more apparent it becomes that I would be stupid not to do it.

But the fear is no less overwhelming. Will I have the guts to do it?

Sent by Erick Veil | 9:48 AM | 5-23-2007

First-time home buyer? $800,000 mortgage in the Bay Area? NO WORRIES AT ALL.


Not because we're rich...nor have we borrowed a single penny from our parent. Instead my wife and I (newlyweds) did something very old fashion: We postponed our gratification (especially during the housing frenzy while everyone was clamoring for a place). We also saved, another novel idea in today's society. We cut costs (no cable TV), we buy second-hand whenever possible, and last year we spent about $10,000 for our wedding (dress and rings INCLUDED). Sure, we're both fortunate to have good jobs (I bet we're average when it comes to Bay Area incomes). But I have to beleive our sound financial situation has less to do with how much money we make and more to do with how we spend our money.

Sent by craig smith | 11:05 AM | 5-23-2007

Money has always been a constant struggle. I've been on my own since I was 16 - so my parents really didn't teach me much about budgeting, credit or how to save. I just worked hard and tried to make ends meet. I went to college (undergraduate and master's) - so I have student loan debt. But, I also have that dreaded college credit card debt that goes under the tite: Being young and stupid and trying to keep up with the Joneses (I hate that saying since my last name is JONES!). Plus, when I got married - my husband's family backed out of paying for their part of the wedding to the tune of $9,000 - which went on yet another credit card! Then, he decided to have an affair two years into our marriage and I'm now divorced. With all of that debt! The funny thing is I am taking great pains to educate myself and I feel richer than I've ever been. But, I'm still heavily in debt. I'm getting ready to turn 30 and am optimistic that things will continue to get better! I work a part-time job to pay down and to save. I'm on the road to better things - but any guideance or advice would be greatly appredicated!

Sent by Indi Jones | 11:46 AM | 5-23-2007

I'd like to board the money train please. I'm wondering if I fall into any of the categories that you're describing, but if not, perhaps my situation can be used as a comparison. I'm a single female, 38, owning my first home with a small mortgage, my income is good, and my dept is zero. But I have little wiggle room. I just re-roofed, and now my savings are very small. I'll need a new AC system and sewer system...oh, and a car, sometime soon, all within the next five years for sure. I'm not planning to have kids ever, but hopefully I'd like to have a boyfriend (then husband), but we wouldn't be able to live in this house, it is too small for two people. So given that my finances look 'ok', they are actually quite shaky. I've got my 401(k) maxed out, and I've temporarily put my Roth IRA contributions on hold so that I CAN pay for these items. I don't go out to movies or dinner at all anymore since I bought this house. I keep searching for free things to do, and I find them, but it sure would be nice to go out with my friends that I used to go out with. I don't have cable TV, but I've got internet service and a cell phone. I quit my gym membership and do yoga videos at home. So that is my situation. Hopefully I can be helpful to The Money Train.

Sent by Sandra van de Weerd | 12:10 PM | 5-23-2007

I'd like to learn how to be conductor of my own money train rather than be a stowaway in the caboose! I fit your ???first-home buyer??? category, and possibly also your ???all things budget??? category (no debt, but probably over-giving and definitely underplanning). I began researching personal finance a couple of months ago, with an eye towards buying a first home next year. Your call for participants is just in time!
I've been a graduate student for 10 years, during which time I have mastered many survival skills for living hand-to-mouth. I made about $12000 (total income) last year from part-time teaching and small consulting jobs while pursuing my doctorate, and I might make about twice that much this year. I expect to defend my dissertation and find a "real" job early next year, and I would like to start planning to buy a first home to go with the first real salary. I have about $25,000 of student loan debt (total) and NO credit card debt ??? I have built an excellent credit record. I grew up in a family of modest income, and my philosophy on money until recent years has been overly simplistic: ???I have no money, and therefore should spend as little as possible.??? This has served well during my stowaway years in graduate school, but this strategy will not take me very far towards more adult projects like, oh, saving for retirement, buying a home, and having and providing for a child. I am looking to get my financial health in order as I finish up this last year of dissertation work, so that I can make the most of a real salary, buy a home, and start planning a family. I???m starting late, but I???m good at mastering new skills, and I can drive this train if someone will just show me how!

Sent by Molly Embree | 5:35 PM | 5-23-2007

Husband works full-time, I work part time. We live in Northern Virginia (22124) and last year earned $88,422. We have two kids (almost 3 and 6 yrs old) own a small townhouse, and pay less than $500 a month in child care. Still we are drowning in debt. The checking account regularly goes down to the tens of dollars between paychecks. There is nothing in savings. There is lots of credit card debt. About $35,000 of it. We try very hard to keep one card cleared but just when we do make a big payoff, something comes up that is unavoidable and the credit card balance goes up. Case in point, one car needed $1100 dollars of work on it and we had just cleared the balance. We are able to pay our bills mostly on time and make more than the minimum on all the credit cards but that's it. There is no savings, no emergency funds, no college fund for the kids, nothing. We need help in getting a better control of this problem.

Sent by Elizabeth Dellavedova | 6:37 PM | 5-23-2007


Sent by bob | 8:48 PM | 5-23-2007

I've been toying with the idea of starting a business for the last few months. My husband and I are in our early 30s, we don't have any children, and we live in the Midwest. So our $135,000 combined salaries give us a comfortable lifestyle. We're very good about sticking to a budget and not creating excess debt. Our current debt includes our home, our cars, and student loans. We have our 6-month emergency fund in savings and put 18% of our income into our 401ks. I've come up with a few different business ideas, but have been afraid to risk our financial stability in order to pursue any of them. I thought about putting $1000 aside each month and tagging it for a future business venture. However, it would take me 10 years to save enough to feel comfortable to quit my day job and give it a go. I'd be very interested to see if there are any insights that Alvin could offer. If there was some way I could open my own business without sacraficing the comfort and stability that my husband and I currently enjoy.

Sent by Shannon | 2:55 PM | 5-24-2007

Buying a house is an intimidating endeavor. We have talked to banks, realtors and nonprofits that are supposedly out to help first time home buyers. We have been out bid many times, when I really don???t truly understand what that means. We are almost at the point of giving up. I know that the housing market is cooling, but for some reason that is not happening in Austin, Texas. People are outbid with cash, predatory lending seems to be rampant and the only places we seem to be able to afford are way out in the cookie cutter suburbs.
I haven???t always been this cynical about owning a home. My fianc?? and I, Owen, met in the Peace Corps and decided to move back to his home town of Austin. It is a happening city and I was lucky to find a job that I love with the university. Owen is working as an intern under an architect, hopefully soon to be an architect himself. We have tried many financial strategies to save for the down payment on a house. We have read many books, making spread sheets, having different bank accounts for different things (I think at one point we had three checking accounts and four savings accounts)???all to no avail. How do people actually save $20,000? We both have great credit, so no money down loans seem to be an option. But, even saving the $8,000 or so for closing costs has eluded us.
We will be getting married this summer and are constantly having to choose-down payment on the house, or nice wedding rings? Closing costs, or nice dinner for our guests? We have tried to keep the wedding as simple as possible, but somehow keep spiraling down a deeper and deeper hole. I really don???t know how people with children survive, which scares me about our hopes to have a family one day.
When we came back to the US from our two years in Jamaica, we were much better about not spending money. We were used to not having running water let alone fancy gadgets. But the longer that we have been back, the more enticing the market economy of the US has been. I could not go to the grocery store for the first few months I was back. I could not tolerate so many options and things just waiting to be consumed. Now, it does not even phase me.
We would appreciate any advice that you could give us, even if we are not selected for your show.

Sent by laurie berman | 11:05 PM | 5-24-2007

I guess I fall under the category of "all things budget." I am an overspender, overgiver, and undersaver. I have been married to an overspender, overgiver, and underspender for 22 years and (not legally) separated from him for 5. We purchased a home together in 1985 which will be paid off this year and is worth $600,000. Last year we bought a home for me and our daughter (14 years old, private schooled, etc.) for $575,000 and took a second on the first home for the down ($120,000). Neither of us have more than $100,000 in savings for retirement -- he is 65, I am 52. We pretty much live paycheck to paycheck. We both love good food and wine and spend way too much at the "delux" grocery store; we give our money freely too, and spend way too much on our daughter and pets ($5,000 on a sick Lab last year, put him down; I've already spent $1,200 on a sick Newfoundland this month and will have to put her down too in the next few weeks --- bad luck with dogs, I guess). My daughter leaves on a $3,000+ trip next week as her 8th grade culmunation. I just can't say no.

So, I ask, who better needs financial advise, but us.

We need help, and would love to share our experiences with you and your listeners.

Did I tell you I'm an devoted NPR listener? I live in LA and wake up to KPCC. When I get to work I switch to KCRW so I can listen to Mornings Become Eclectic and then in my care I switch between both. During the weekend it's KCRW... my fave is Car Talk; Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me; and Prarie Home Companion. NPR is my home page on my PC at both work and home! I love you!

Nellie Ruben

Sent by Nellie Ruben | 11:36 PM | 5-25-2007

All aboard... choo... choo... all aboard the money train...

At 25-years-old, I always assumed that I would already own a home. It was a constant childhood dream more prevalent each year that we were forced to move when my mother could no longer afford a NYC rent hike.

My fiscally irresponsible college years temporarily placed my dream on hold. However, after years of "buckling down" and "getting some damn common sense" I now have a dollar to go with my dream.

Unfortunately, in 2007, anything less than 200 thousand of those dollars cannot buy me a dream. In my search for a condo to purchase, I have come to the realization that 170 thousand of those dollars (what the bank has deemed that they can risk lending me) can't even buy me the pillow to lay my head on in order to dream.

During my pre-approval process I was free of credit card debt but almost $35,000 in student loans. At the moment, I am $600 in credit card debt and close to $45,000 in student loans.

It's becoming very difficult to "keep hope alive." I'm slowly chugging along and doing my best to maintain my vision of a future home. However, the more I search, the less hope I am able to maintain.

I need directions to figure out the best plan to move forward. I can either create a concrete financial plan for repaying my student loan debt in order to qualify for an increase mortgage or... Mr. Alvin Hall, please "drive that train" and help lead me away from a possible collision.

Sent by M. Michelle Derosier | 4:04 PM | 5-29-2007

All things budget:
Is this car full?
My story mirrors that of my contemporaries: I am 27 years old and financially/budget challenged. I financed my degrees on student loans (for $76K) and credit cards. When I left Grad School, I was unemployed for 9 months, but medical bills continued to accumulate. I managed to pay a large majority of them with my first job, but some did not appear on my credit report (and my memory) until recently and I am trying to pay them off now. Additionally, student loan payments have kicked in ($237 per month). Additional medical bills from the past 10 months ($1,000) have taken over my finances and one of them has been sent to collections ($2,991).

Recently, I???ve been taking baby steps toward fiscal responsibility. I want to walk in the near future. I have been delivered from bad habits (Like trying to help every family member in need, which jeopardized my own finances) and credit cards (mainly because of my score). With no children, no car payment and no credit cards, one would think that my financial outlook would be stellar. However, that is not my present reality, so I want to explore all avenues. I am open to your suggestions. Though I work erratic hours, I am considering a second job until I am able to make a major change in residence and employment.

I have ideas about budgeting, but sticking to the budget has proven arduous with recent increases in rent and autofuel (spending doubled, now hundreds per month). Things are so tight; I told my doctor that I could not afford to have another surgery this year. My car is on its way out and I know I will need to replace it in the near future, but honestly, the thought of a car payment irritates me.

What does one do? How can one effectively plan when some factors are uncontrollable (gas prices and utility prices)? How can I live with the money I have and meet my obligations? How does one save? I believe that my income could meet my normal living expenses, but things that come back from the past as well as unexpected incidents (surgeries and hospital stays) make it increasingly difficult.

Your assistance, even your opinion would be appreciated at this point. Thank you for exploring this topic.

Sent by Lakesha (please do not list last name) | 2:50 PM | 5-30-2007

Hi Michele,
I've enjoyed your entire show Michele and particularly Mr. Hall's advice here and on his own podcast from MSN Money. I look forward to his advice on tackling a budget. It is a real emotional battle in my home now and I'm ashamed to say that I may be the primary problem. Basic needs like food, gas and taking the kids wherever they wanted to go to play I took for granted. I grew up with that experience and had enjoyed this for the first 15 years of marriage. Then after my wife, a physician, became seriously ill 4 years ago and became unable to work and me on a college professor's salary it became painfully obvious that streamlining these and other things had become imperative. Did I do it...NO! After we ran out of cash and savings 2 years ago I began running out of money before the end of the month. I was often overdrawn or in debt to small high interest loaners. I reduce some expenses, closing my storage unit, moving my daughter from private to a public (magnet) school and other things. All the while I was keeping my wife in the dark in deference to my ego and her health issues that included anxieties about losing her practice. So after the other shoe dropped and I was about to lose my home we got help from family. I've now lost credibility and gained suspicion in handling and streamlining our expenses. Hindsight as they say is clear but my forward progress looks hopeless. I am cooperating with the family's recommendations but it has become difficult simply for me to do anything that has to do with spending money.

I just wanted to add more fuel to this topic and hope Mr. Hall will have some more inspiring advice.

We have no credit card debt but tons of medical school debt and a lein on our home as a result of a lawsuit filed by the hospital my wife could not return to after becoming ill. (could this be another story Michele?..."Big Hospital, Little Doctor" me).

Not that anyone I know will read this or hear your show (although I encourage it) I think it best I remain anonymous if you address this issue. Thanks Michele.

Sent by Dr. Marion Carroll | 3:45 PM | 5-30-2007

Hello fellow bloggers, Alvin and Michel. I heard about the call out for people who want to get on the Money Train. I believe that my husband, Mike, and I are already on board. I watch our finances avidly down to the penny. I keep receipts. I used MSN Money Mgmt software to categorize our expenses, track our budget, determine our cash flow, manage our taxes, and print out monthly and quarterly reports. As a part-time worker and full-time stay at home mom, it is definitely a struggle to stay on top of our finances as much as I do, but I have to because my husband is self-employed and doesn't have time to stay on top of this stuff.

Home Ownership
We have a son, Myles, who just made 2 years old in May and began preschool. We have been looking for a house since I was pregnant in 2004-2005. We were married in 2004. Prior to our courtship, I had been pre-qualified for a home loan through NACA, but I didn't want to make my first purchase a home for myself, I was comfortable paying my $800 rent and wanted to buy rental property. I live in the Bay Area (Oakland, CA) where duplexes were going for $500k and 4-unit buildings were going for $900k. I was setting my eyes on making my liabilities an asset and by creating cash flow and not just a plain ole liability of having to cover the mortgage myself. I was priced out of the market during that time and when my finance (now husband) decided to throw his hat in the ring of real estate, he made out big with a purchase in 2004, and another in 2005, which are both being rented now.

I stopped searching, we married, and together we now own 2 SFH's in Oakland and 2 4-unit bldgs in Baton Rouge. However, we desperately want to own a home of our own now. We are still renting a 1 bdrm apt for $800 and have excellent credit (750+), and could likely come up with a down payment or even get 100% financing, but, we need to make sure we have a comfortable payment ($1500-1800/month), which is still, though the market has softened, next to impossible in the Bay Area. We are hoping the sell of the house we have on the market now will help us with a nice down payment.

Starting a Business
My husband does real estate flipping full-time, while I am a stay-at-home mom and work part-time from home. I do tutoring on the side (at night) to bring in extra cash, but it is my husband who brings in the chunk of our annual earnings, however, his paydays, though big, are very sporadic and there are large gaps in between pay dates. Because of this, we have contemplated several entrepreneurial adventures. We are planning to author a finance book for children ages 1-9. We also have several great ideas (inventions) and are now researching how to patent and develop prototypes for them; something very new to us. My husband's business is called Calvary Consultants, LLC ( and his motto is, "Improving neighborhoods one house at a time!" and I have a graduate degree in Organizational Development and have dreamed of starting my own consulting firm, which I have yet to get off the ground, but have incorporated it and it is called Meta Magnate, Inc. ( Meta means change and magnate means guru -- Change Guru.

We are part of a very active and growing church in Mountain View, CA and are involved in several ministries. I am involved in our finance ministry where I do budget coaching for people in our church with debt. I feel that I am in a position to coach because I too was once there. I owed IRS, student loans, car loans, credit cards, department store cards; you name it. Thank God, I am not in that boat anymore. We still have debt (about $1,141,092 worth), but only $73k of it is personal (student loans and car loan) the rest is real estate. We are keeping close tabs on it and watching interest rates, etc. We have the best possible rates on our car and student loans, so at this point; we just need to be consistent on paying down the debt. Any tips on how to get it paid of faster?...especially when you don't have a steady, predictable monthly income?

Sent by Theresa Wilkerson | 6:22 PM | 6-1-2007


Sent by Helen | 7:53 AM | 6-8-2007


My name is Shelley and I have credit card debt! (Whats new in America, right?) I also have some medical bills - not very high, but theyre still there. My question is this: is it better to keep stock that I inherited from my grandmother (around $5500 left), or should I sell it to pay off debt? I want to own a home someday soon, and I know Ill need to save for a down payment AND pay off debt, so Im torn over what to do with the last of my inheritance from my grandmother. I have sold off stock before to pay off debts and it seems like I get stuck in an awful cycle!

Id love to speak with Alvin Hall and Michel about this quandry!

Thanks so much

Sent by Shelley | 7:55 AM | 6-8-2007

I was listening to your show this am and was encouraged to hear that you may offer guidance in starting a small business. I live in Columbia, SC with my USMC hubby and our 3 kids. I currently work full time, cook every night, exercise 1+hrs a day, keepa clean housr and have all 3 kids on the honor roll. Many of my friends/neighbors wonder how I do it all. Organization...that is all. I want to open a home business where I can go into busy womens homes and help them organize: their closets, homes, menus, chore lists, schedules, etc... I am a Latina married to a black man in an upscale, large and very diverse neighborhood . I am thinking of starting small and maybe even opening up to a possible franchise. I have made up a business plan, and have some other great ideas...but I am still lost. Can you help me??

Sent by Bridgette | 4:45 PM | 6-19-2007

I am a doctoral student. I commute 100 miles for work. Planning to get married soon? I have a car that was repossessed. Now, that cars bill acts like a possessed object stalking my conscience. I am in the process of changing majors. I am a gym member but rarely darken the doors of the facility. I have school loans galore. I have a bachelor's in Computer Information Systems and master's in Management Information Systems.

I have a hard time following through with my budget and balancing my checkbook. I need advice for an expert. I am thinking about buying land and property before marriage. I will need a new car in a few years. Help me with my debt management!

Sent by Marie | 4:46 PM | 6-19-2007

Hi Michel,

I thought I would add my story in hopes to shed a little light on my financial troubles. I'm 27 year old female. I graduated college in 2004. I put myself through college and came out the other end in a world of debt. I have old credit card debt that is mostly beyond the statute of limitations. I now have junk debt buyers on my butt asking for money. As of now I have not corresponded with any of my creditors in hopes that in a few years or less this all will pass. It's very overwhelming. I am just making enough to where I can save money. I've have been living simply with no credit cards since 04. Since I have no credit cards I don't want to use my saved money to pay on anything except my student loans. I would like to buy a house and even start a small business in the future. I just would like to know if Alvin thinks I'm doing the right thing or if there is something better. Or really, what are my rights?

I really appreciate your podcast and look forward to any correspondance in the future.

Sent by Iann Clayton | 1:03 PM | 6-21-2007

Hey, its Erick, you read my comment on the air! You and Mr. Hall had me laughing in defiance at supposing I shouldn't proceed based on the key-hole sized snapshot I provided in my earlier post.

The answers that were provided did get me thinking, however. I am going to prove I can do it, and you can follow along in a blog I started to record this process, Titled "Proving it Hall Wrong".

It's going to either be a success story or a train wreck, but it should have plenty of ups, downs, mistakes, and good ideas along the way.

Sent by | 4:11 PM | 6-26-2007

I would truly love to get in on this. I am married, with an 11 year old step-son and recently the addition of a baby, now 5 months old. My wife and I both brought occured debts into the marraige and have accumulated more. I have had a spinal fusion and several other procedures, so along with credit cards and the like, the medical bills have accumulated.
I am in my 40's, my wife in her 30's. I have had little to no experience in managing finances and we pretty much live hand to mouth , both working, and I believe in a position to get out of debt and actually save money, but we lack the knowledge and pretty much freeze up when we try to figure out how or where to start.
This is not something that has worried me in the past, I have been content to live out of pocket,but I look at my baby and step-son, and factor that in with my age and declining health and worry about their financial security as well as my wifes in the future.
Our credit card debts are mostly in default, though we have a few we have kept alive. We have a checking and savings, though the savings seems to be more of a 'hide it til we need it' account that constantly goes down more than it goes up.

Finally..our home is in need of repairs and due to our 'inability' to get a handle on our finances, these repairs go unattended to and the overall well-being of the house continues to decline. Another concern.

If it is at all possible to join in this program, I would appreciate it. We truly could use the guidance and I would be willing to participate to whatever extent required to see it through.

Noah Hansell

Sent by Noah Hansell | 11:08 AM | 6-27-2007


NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from