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Money Blogger: Help Me Find Some Money...

Today I needed to buy gas. I paid at the pump, but I thought and thought some more about going inside to invest in a couple of lottery tickets.

I don’t know what I’d do if I won a couple million let alone 50+ million, but I would love to try.

You see I’m frustrated. I know the corona virus is shaking up the world, and I know people are dying. But in my life, I keep plugging along. I don’t look for a knight to save me, and I don’t live in a socialist country where the government is supposed to take care of me.

I live in a news vacuum of sorts. I’m older, and I like watching news on the telly. Where I live now, there’s no free TV, so I listen some to the radio, but it’s not the same.

I’m aware of the masks, the plexiglass shields, and higher grocery prices.   

I’ve heard that people are receiving $600 a week for unemployment. I, too, have heard that it has been discontinued. To bring home that kind of money, I’ve had to earn a master's degree and work in the same profession for 10 years.

My daughter thought about quitting her job to collect unemployment because she would have made more money. She didn’t because she has a job, and although she lives paycheck to paycheck, she survives. And she’s still drawing a paycheck now that the “free” money is drying up.

We as a nation and a society need to put our hands back in our own pockets while we go to work. If you’re sick, stay home so you’ll have a job to go back to when you’re better.

If you have shelter, food and clothing can be found. Working doesn’t mean you can’t go to a food bank until you find a better job. Your goal should be to make your life better.  

When I look for a place to live, I make sure that I find a place I’ll be able to afford even if I lose my job and have to find a new one. Or, you can make sure you have been saving and have an awesome emergency fund so you can stay in your nicer digs. It’s tougher to do, but possible.

I’m a single mom and don’t live where there is public transportation. A vehicle is a must. If I can’t get to work, it all falls apart, so a well running vehicle is almost as important to me as a decent place to live.

My two major necessities are housing and a vehicle.

No dishwasher, no garage, no w/d. No eating out and no cable TV. Those are all bonuses, not necessities.

There are good days and bad days. I want more like most people, but my nose is above water, so I’m still breathing.

Let’s talk about making life better. I’ve read column after column about how to save money. Consistently, I’m told to give up my $5 a day coffee habit. I don’t like coffee, and I couldn’t afford it if I did. That tip didn’t save me any money.

What do I do? I drink a lot of water. I don’t drink soda much anymore because of the sugar. Avoiding the extra sugar is good for my health. Unless my job provides affordable health insurance, I don’t have it, so I have to try to stay healthy.

I do get tired of water. Then, I go to tea. If I have to have sweet tea, I can now make a 2 qt picture of tea and only add ¼ cup of sugar. Reducing sugar in my entire diet makes the tea seem sweeter.

Even though the coffee tip fell flat for me, let’s pretend I can squeeze $25 a week out of my budget. What do I do with the money? Number 1, I’ve got to have that emergency savings account. If my car breaks down, I’ve got to be able to fix it. If I get sick enough for the doctor, I’ve got to be able to pay an urgent care.

Many gurus say you’ve got to have an emergency account equal to six months of your income. That might take some time, and there are some who will give up before they get there. Save what you can. Add to it whenever you can. Don’t get caught up in the 6 month requirement.

Interest rates for savings accounts are in the toilet, so don’t plan on making a great deal of earnings on your savings account. Even so, have the account!

If you work at a company with a 401k and you can save just 1% of your income, do it especially if there’s matching. If there’s matching and you are able, save the percentage that’s being matched. The matching is “free” money if you do it right.

Every 401k is different. Some offer loans. Some require vesting. Some are Roth, and some are traditional. However, the money you invest is yours even if you quit the job. Beware this is a method to save for retirement. Taxes can be ugly if you don’t follow the plan’s rules. The key is to check into the rules.

Call the plan servicer. Can you take out a loan? Can you use the funds to buy your first home? Can you use the money for college? There are hundreds of plans out there. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. My 401k from an old job is earning more than the .05% my savings account is paying. It’s also earning more than a CD at 1%.

As a disclaimer, you should know that 401k values can fluctuate. You can lose money. Check into the plan. Look at its history and look at what and how it lets you invest.

Although less well-known, maybe you have a universal life insurance policy that you can work with. These plans have an investment component, and some allow loans. If you need life insurance, you might want to look into them. They are more expensive than term life but offer different benefits.

The cash value in my life insurance policy is paying a guaranteed 4%. While that return is not phenomenal, it's more than savings accounts have paid in years.

Finally, if you’ve been saving all along, you might want to buy a house. If I knew I wanted to stay where I am for several years, I would buy a house. I can find a house with a lower mortgage payment than my rent. With 30 year fixed rate mortgages currently around 2.5-3%, it’s time to consider buying if the payments for the house are right.

Remember if you’re thinking of buying a house, there are insurance premiums, taxes, maintenance, and other bills that you may not pay in a rental. Entering a few numbers on a mortgage site may not give you the whole picture. Talk to a professional before you commit.

In truth, the pandemic hasn’t changed what you need to do. You should save some money for an emergency. If you do it right, maybe you’ll make some interest or earnings.

I have $5 of fun money left for the month. Should I save it? Probably, but that’s not “fun.” How will I feel if I waste money on another losing lottery ticket? I’m undecided. It’s so hot outside that this will have to be a decision for another day.

I really would like one of those big cardboard checks…

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