Q.: I am drowning in debt. It has gotten to the point where I don’t know what to do. I got laid off last year. I have been able to work part-time jobs here and there, but it’s not enough money to even pay for my rent and food. Never mind that I have all kinds of debt I took on by using credit cards too much in order to survive.
It’s horrible. I have no idea what to do. I cannot pay right now. I feel like hiding. But that’s ridiculous. – Ready to Hide, Washington, D.C.
A.: Resist the temptation to go underground. I promise that will not work. Instead, be proactive. Contact all of your creditors and tell them your story. Trust that they want to recoup as much of what they are owed as possible. Ask if you can get a reduction of your debt and establish a payment plan that will allow you to pay small amounts while you are working to get on your feet.
Depending on your financial circumstances, you may qualify for public assistance. While it may be difficult for you to consider getting help from the government, I hope you will see that a little help can go a long way as you work to get on your feet. To find out your eligibility, go to www.tanf-benefits.com.
Q.: My uncle gave me quite a few shares of stock as a graduation present. I’m sure that’s a great gift, but I don’t know anything about the stock market. He is a big-time broker with a bit of an attitude. I want to ask him about the stocks and to teach me about investing, but I’m afraid he will laugh at me because I know so little. Should I just read up on stocks by myself, or dare I ask him to teach me? – Young Investor, Washington, D.C.
A.: I like both ideas. Begin your research so that you can show a kernel of interest in this generous gift from your uncle. Look at Money, Kiplinger’s and Forbes magazines and at SmartMoney in The Wall Street Journal for starters. (Local readers can check out Motley Fool in Tuesday's News-Sentinel) And by all means, contact your uncle to thank him for the gift and to ask him to schedule an appointment to talk about stocks.
Have a notebook at the ready and ask as many questions as you can. Sincerely express your interest in learning about money, finance and stocks. Tell your uncle about your initial research, and ask him to recommend books to read, online sites to visit, etc. Ask if he will give you a tour of his office and introduce you to other people in the money-management world.
As you move into the next phase of your life, it is surely helpful to learn about building wealth. Perhaps your uncle can help lead you on that journey.