DEAR BRUCE: My husband and I, both in our early 40s, just received a $10,000 inheritance. We make $55,000 a year, and have accumulated $14,000 in credit card debt and $30,000 in school loans. Our take-home pay barely covers our monthly expenses. I am looking for a part-time job to supplement our income while teaching school full-time. What would be the best thing to do with the $10,000? -- T.G., Pennsylvania
DEAR T.G.: I would reduce the credit card debt. You are currently getting a decent rate but that can't go on forever. Also, paying interest on the types of things we buy with credit cards over a period of years makes no sense. Why you can't get along on your current income is another story. There are many families of four that are living comfortably on $55,000 a year. Be that as it may, you might find it helpful to sit down with your spouse and your children and write down every expenditure that is paid out of your pockets, then go over a budget. I am sure that you will find some leaks that could be plugged up.
DEAR BRUCE: My wife and I are 28 and 31, respectively. We have an infant daughter, own a business and have seen our income grow considerably. We have climbed out of debt except for our mortgage, and we are looking for some planning help. There is a fee-based planner an hour's drive away. He is expensive but I like what he has to say. Everyone nearby, from the big-name brokers to independent offices, may be helpful and fee-free, but they all have something they sell, and that can be a motivation for advice. Any thoughts on which way to go? -- Reader, via e-mail
DEAR READER: There are many honorable people in the financial business who live on generated commissions, and they will do the best for you regardless of self-interest. There are also less honorable folks out there. One way to avoid the latter type is to, at first, use a fee-based planner. All they will do is give you advice, and you will have to go to a trusted broker to put that counsel into effect. If fee-free advisors make you uncomfortable, then I would opt for a fee-based adviser.
DEAR BRUCE: I hope that you can help us and the millions of others who fell into the time-share trap. Are we destined to pay $300 a year for maintenance fees for the rest of our lives? Is there any way that we can get rid of this condo? -- D.R. in Michigan
DEAR D.R.: As you intimated, you are a member of a large fraternity -- people who have purchased time-shares to their regret. There are legitimate companies that resell time-shares on a national basis with the average being 15-20 percent on the dollar. Say you paid $10,000: if you are very fortunate, you could get $1,500 to $2,000. You might be able to find a charity to which you could donate the time-share and then claim your entire $10,000 as a gift. They, in turn, could use the time-share to make money, offering a weekly stay as a prize in a raffle, for example. Aside from that, the only other alternative is to just stop paying. They may fuss a little at first but ultimately they will foreclose, and that will be the end of it. There is no guarantee, however, that they won't pursue any legal action if they think they have a possibility of collecting.