YOU TELL THE SPENDTHRIFTS TO SHAPE UP, AND YOU CHEER ON THE SMART SAVERS
(MONEY Magazine) – What's in and what's out with MONEY readers as 1996 begins? According to our mail, lavish spending is out, saving is in; complaining about debt is out, taking action to reduce it is in; and living beyond your means when you should be investing for the future is so far out it's almost beyond range of the Hubble telescope. Those observations are drawn from reader reaction to several recent MONEY articles, most notably December's "Save 15% and Still Live It Up," which reported on supersavers like Roy and Sharon Setzer (pictured at right) of Golden, Colo., and "How to Teach a Teen the Value of a Buck," which covered the Burris family of Los Angeles. A sample of that mail leads off this month's Your Letters, along with a saver's personal report on a penny-ante New Year's resolution that has paid off big for him.
CONGRATULATIONS TO ROY AND SHARON Setzer, who save 33% of their joint annual $78,000 income. As Roy noted in December's "Save 15% and Still Live It Up," his father certainly passed on good advice when he said, "Use it up, make it do, wear it out." A landlady of mine in Goshen, N.Y. took that saying one step further, always advising my husband and me to "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." And we listened. When we didn't have it, we didn't spend it. Today we're happily retired and are even able to help our children with the money we saved. MARY G. LOWN Kingston, N.Y.
I FIND DECEMBER'S "HOW TO TEACH A Teen the Value of a Buck" most disheartening. How can Pamela and Richard Burris provide their 15-year-old daughter with a $30,000 bat mitzvah party, expensive clothes and trips, rather than plan and contribute financially for her education? With their indulgent spending and skimpy saving as an example, how do they expect her to become financially responsible? It is frightening to see the importance of a good education, saving and charity overwhelmed by a need for immediate gratification. NAME WITHHELD BY REQUEST Tucson
THE ADVICE YOU GAVE IN "FACING 20 Years of Debt," the November article on the burdens of student loans, was right on the money. As a 1991 law school graduate, I owed in excess of $60,000 in student loans. Initially, my monthly pay- ments exceeded $800. However, I recently consolidated most of the loans through the Federal Direct Consolidation Loan program, as you advised. Now my monthly payment has been reduced to a manageable $540 a month. One caveat: It took dozens of phone calls, letters and more than eight months of pestering the federal bureaucracy to get the loans consolidated. Tell your readers to be persistent. SCOTT L.B. MCLAUGHLIN San Jose
NOVEMBER'S YOUR MONEY MONITOR offered a variety of suggestions on what to do with your pennies, including the worthwhile idea of donating them to charity. Whatever you do, though, don't minimize their worth. On New Year's Eve, 1936, I made a resolution that I have kept to this day. I resolved never to spend any pennies when I got them but to save every one. With my first 100 pennies I opened a savings account with the National Bank of Detroit. As the account grew, I began investing my penny savings in stocks, starting with one share of American Natural Gas. Today the market value of stocks and mutual funds I purchased exclusively from my penny collecting is $33,057.11. Saving pennies is a great way to get kids on the road to market. And, by the way, do I belong in the Guinness Book of World Records? Who else has kept a New Year's resolution for 60 years? RICHARD E. OSGOOD Farmington Hills, Mich.
KEEP WATCH OVER YOUR WILL
NOVEMBER'S "THERE IS NO EXCUSE NOT to Have an Up-to-Date Will" says you should leave the original of the will with your attorney for safekeeping and easy access for your heirs. However, this past year my mother died, and the law firm could not find her will. It seems the lawyer she dealt with had died and they didn't know his filing system. If you do leave a will with a lawyer, be sure to check periodically to make sure that the will is accessible. And tell your heirs that even though the law firm has possession of the will, you are under no legal or moral obligation to hire it to help settle the estate. RONALD D. MYERS Southampton, Pa.
REGULATE FINANCIAL PLANNERS
DECEMBER'S "THE BIG BAD NEWS ABOUT Fee-Only Financial Planners" warned readers that "some are wolfing down commissions on the products they recommend," creating potential conflicts of interest. As a fee-only financial adviser, I would like to thank you for writing this article. To help consumers understand how much they are paying for financial advice, Congress or the SEC should require a planner to disclose to the client all compensation he or she receives on the account. JOHN J. COSTELLO Greenwich, Conn.
HELPING THE ELDERLY MANAGE AT HOME
YOUR NOVEMBER ARTICLE "ELDER FRAUD" wisely advises adult children of elderly parents to stay in touch with them and help oversee their needs. But that is difficult when parents and children live in different cities. One way to overcome the distance problem is to employ a geriatric-care manager. Geriatric-care managers are professionals who can assess the needs of elderly people, find services for them and visit them in their homes as often as necessary to make sure all is well. Geriatric-care managers are usually registered nurses or trained social workers. Most have a college degree in their field, and some have a master's or doctorate degree.
Fees vary from $40 to $150 an hour, depending upon geographical location and the level of education and experience of the employee you hire. In Illinois, where I work in the business, you can expect to pay from $60 to $100 an hour for a geriatric-care manager. For help in finding one near your loved ones, you can call the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers in Tucson (520-881-8008). CYNTHIA HALGARD Chicago
YOUR FUTURE FIRES UP HIS FUTURE
I WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW WHAT A difference you have made in my life. Last spring, at the age of 28, I read Your Future, MONEY's new magazine for people who are just starting to manage their finances and their lives. The Job Bank article reported that N.F. Smith & Associates, a Houston distributor of computer chips, needed an operations manager. I wrote directly to the president of the company, as your article suggested, and eventually got the job. I would not have known about this opportunity had it not been for your article, or been as fully prepared for my interview without the information you provided about the company. Most consumer finance magazines seem to be aimed at people who are more established than I, a bit older and wealthier. Yet we young people need help as we face a bewildering array of financial options that our parents never had to deal with. Your Future embraced my ignorance without being condescending. It was full of information. It was real life. And it made a profound difference in the fortunes of my young family. ROBERT T. DURAND Houston