Coping With The Latest Financial Struggles How will the latest bailout bill impact your home? Is it sensible to keep a home as an investment? Our personal finance contributor answers listener questions about the current economic situation.
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Coping With The Latest Financial Struggles

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Coping With The Latest Financial Struggles

Coping With The Latest Financial Struggles

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Michelle Singletary is back with answers for Day to Day listener questions on personal finance. Michelle, welcome back.

MICHELLE SINGLETARY: Oh, thank you.

CHADWICK: So, here's Jason from Cedar Springs, Michigan. I owe well more on my house than it's worth. I'd like to ensure that this mortgage relief effort will include me. Is there a Web site or some other source to check if my loan is eligible?

SINGLETARY: Well, I hate to tell him this, but the recently enacted bailout bill, which is basically called the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, that's a mouthful. But it really doesn't include a provision that specifically helps homeowners. What it does say is that the Treasury is authorized to help negotiate with loan services or lenders to do something with their loan. But there's nothing in that that passed that says that they absolutely have to renegotiate these folks' loans. So for him, I would suggest that he look into the Hope for Homeowners program, which is run out of FHA, so that he would go to fha.gov to find out about that program.

CHADWICK: OK. Here's another question from a listener in similar circumstances, and I think there are, unfortunately, way too many people like this. It's Kiren(ph) from Canoco Park, California. Owing more than Kiren thinks the house is worth, quote, "I have a 30-year fixed loan and made a 10 percent down payment. I'm still able to keep up payments, but is it sensible to keep this house for an investment?"

SINGLETARY: Well, at this point, you cannot look at your home as an investment. Listen, she can afford the payment, it's reasonable, and so right now, unless you're going to sell anytime soon or you absolutely need to refinance, what your home is worth right now should not matter to you. It only matters at the time that you're about to sell. So if you are comfortable in your home, this is a place that you like and you can afford the mortgage, you should stop sweating what your home is worth. Because all of us, or I should say many of us, have seen our home values go down. Mine has gone down, but I couldn't care less. I'm going to live with it with my family and my kids, and it won't matter until I'm ready to sell. So, I wouldn't worry.

And you know, there's a lot of homeowners who are asking this question, and they have no intention on selling. You know, and we all now have learned that we can't count on our home as being an investment, so you shouldn't have all your money tied up in this asset. So, as long as you're out there investing and saving, you shouldn't worry about the value of your home.

CHADWICK: OK. Finally, this question from Debra in Indiana. I'm 55 years old, a single woman, limited financial resources. I've got $6,000 in credit card debt and no money left to purchase health insurance. What is more important, pay off debt or buy health insurance?

SINGLETARY: In her case, I would definitely try to stop paying as much of that debt on that credit card and try to get health insurance. One of the top reasons people file for personal bankruptcy is medical expenses. So, if something happens to her, she falls, gets in an accident and is not covered, she could find herself hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. So, I would - really would encourage this person and anybody who doesn't have health insurance to try to find a way to get it. If you're self-employed, you can go through a trade association or your local chamber of commerce. They often have group rates. If you can't go that route or your employer doesn't offer health insurance, you can try to get an individual policy. It's going to be expensive, but it's worth it to try to find some minimum level of coverage. So my answer is, try to do both, but definitely make health insurance a priority.

CHADWICK: Day to Day's personal finance contributor Michelle Singletary. She writes The Color of Money column for The Washington Post. And if you would like Michelle to answer your questions, come to our Web site, npr.org/daytoday, click Contact Us, and be sure to put Michelle in the subject line. Michelle, thank you again.

SINGLETARY: You're welcome.

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