Reader Mailbag: Baseball Playoffs

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. Different hobbies than wife
2. Eliminating credit card debt
3. Handling comic book collection
4. Retiring overseas
5. Finances and relationships
6. Establishing credit
7. Personal belongings after death
8. Which debt first?
9. Pressured into change
10. Quinoa source

I’ve been a baseball fan all my life. One of my earliest memories involves watching the Cardinals in the World Series on the lap of my ailing grandfather. My childhood is filled with remembrances of listening to games on the radio or watching playoff games in the evening with my father.

Watching the baseball playoffs (or, in some cases, listening to them) is kind of an October rite of passage for me. I don’t watch nearly all the games, but I usually watch several of them and I follow the results inning by inning.

It’s something that feels natural to me. It’s both a pastime and a connection to my own past.

Q1: Different hobbies than wife
When my wife and I were first married, we used to play golf and ultimate frisbee a lot, but then she started developing MS and I hurt my knee badly, so we don’t engage in these activities anymore and have had to take up more sedentary activities. Problem is that our preferred hobbies are very different. She likes to read or watch television, while I like to build things or play cards. This seems like it’s going to eventually become a divide in our relationship. What do you think?

– Andrew

It really depends on the rest of your relationship. If you spend a lot of time together doing non-hobby things, then you’ll be fine. If you fill a lot of your time at home with your hobbies, it might add a strain.

My suggestion is that you set aside two nights a week for shared things. On one of those nights, you pick what the two of you do. On the other night, she picks what you do. Then, you do those things together.

Sarah and I have enough hobby overlap that shared activities often come naturally, but if that weren’t true, I’d sorely miss doing things with her in the evenings.

Q2: Eliminating credit card debt
My husband and I have racked up quite a lot of credit card debt. He, unfortunately, had to do a debt consolidation with his credit cards, but mine aren’t quite as high as his. I would like to pay mine off and heard from a neighbor that he called the credit card companies and told them that he was getting ready to file for bankruptcy and that he could offer them a certain amount of money and that was it. After much deliberation, they took his offer! I was wondering if this is normal. For example, if I owe $5000 on one credit card and offered to pay them $3000 outright and threatened bankruptcy, do you think that they would take it? I am at my wit’s end and really need to get my credit card debt out of the way so that we can pay our other bills. I am a stay-at-home mom and while I do some work on the side every now and then, it’s not enough. Any help you can offer in this matter would certainly be appreciated!:)

– Leon

It really depends on the specific credit card company and their business model.

Most likely, they would pull your credit report and assess whether or not you’re actually in danger of bankruptcy. If your report looked bad, they’d probably take the buyout. Otherwise, they’d reject it.

The exact standards and policy that each company uses in this situation is likely somewhat different.

Q3: Handling comic book collection
I have an extensive collection of comics that I’ve accumulated over the past twenty years. I have a lot of first issues and other things that have extensive value. I’m interested in selling off some of them, as the collection doesn’t hold my interest any more though I do still love reading trade paperbacks. How would you go about selling a large comic collection?

– Roger

I’m assuming that you already know the values of these issues and are just looking for the best “bang for the buck” in terms of selling the comics.

If you want to just sell it as a lump, you’re probably going to have the most success with an eBay auction that clearly lists all of the valuable items in that lot. Make sure you promote your listing in places online where people discuss comics.

You’ll probably get significantly more than that if you peel off some of the most valuable issues and sell them individually, then just get rid of everything else in one lot. However, you add significantly to the work involved doing things this way.

Q4: Retiring overseas
I am curious what you know about or think about retiring in a foreign country with a very low cost of living. I was looking at some websites and got interested in this idea.

– Claire

If you’re familiar with the local culture and the language, it should be fine. I would be very hesitant to move to an area where I could not speak to anyone there or if I had unrealistic expectations about the culture.

I know a person who moved to rural Mexico after retirement and she seemed to love it. She could speak Spanish fluently, though, and she knew what the area was going to be like before she moved there, so the culture shock was lower.

If you prepare yourself adequately, this could be a great move.

Q5: Finances and relationships
I’m thirty five and single. I spent my twenties getting myself into great financial shape. I paid off all my debts, sold the small business that I started, and now work for a charity doing work that I love. I have a significant amount of money in the bank that I’m trying not to touch and I’m living off the money I earn as my small salary.

I’ve been dating a woman for about a year and a half now. She works for a similar charity and has a similar income level, but she’s still struggling with student loans. I have not mentioned the money I have saved up because I’m scared to. At what point should I do it?
– Dennis

I would not mention financial specifics like this until you’ve reached a point where a long-term commitment is established, but not set in stone. For example, I wouldn’t bring it up until after an engagement, but before a marriage.

The thing is, for many people, a significant amount of money changes the equation. She may see her charity work as something that she’s stuck doing because she doesn’t have the financial resources to make other choices, and if she sees that you have such cash available, she may see it as a ticket to another life.

You clearly want the situation you have now, so such a radical change in a potential partner could be disastrous. You need to know her well before telling her, but you need to tell her before you’ve made a lifelong commitment to her.

Q6: Establishing credit
I graduated from college in June 2011 and I’ve never had a credit card because I only recently found a full-time job that will allow me to become financially independent. I need to start establishing good credit history, but I am always declined when I apply for a basic card. I’ve even tried starting with gas station cards or retail store cards, but I can’t even get approved for those. How am I supposed to establish credit history if I can’t get approved for a single card?

– Maxine

Your first stop should be your local credit union. Stop in there and explain your situation. Credit unions are often the best place to go to get financial products that help you to begin establishing credit.

If you open an account there (savings or checking), that will often give them the positive sign needed to give you a credit card. They also usually offer a secured credit card, which is one where you pay a deposit before getting it.

If there’s a significant problem with your credit report, they’ll often help you figure out what it is.

Q7: Personal belongings after death
When my parents died, there was a huge fight among my siblings for some of the personal belongings in their house. There were several items that we all wanted and the fight over them damaged our relationship for years. I’m now in my late fifties and I don’t want this to happen with my own kids. How can I prevent it?

– Chloe

Sit down with them the next time they’re all together and tell them exactly that. The big reason people want such items is for sentimental reasons – they want to remember the person that passed away.

I’d start a discussion about the sentimental items each one of them would want, and I’d expect that different children will want the same item. When that happens, resolve it now. My suggestion is to have a “draft” of some kind, where the children take turns picking items. The results need to be clearly recorded.

If they’re chasing after items with significant financial value, have those items appraised and then make sure that the value of that item is trimmed away from the other items they receive in the estate. So, if someone wants a $3,000 ring, they would receive $3,000 less from the sale of other assets.

Q8: Which debt first?
My question is about paying debt. I am about 2-3 payments away from paying off my lowest amount on a credit card, so I have 5 others that have very high amounts. Here are the list of them below (w/ interest rates):

Credit Card 1: $4,313.27 (0%, until the spring when it jumps up to 19%)
Credit Card 2: 3932 (19%)
Student Loan: $7,649.05 (3.375%)
Loan 1: $3,190.43 (7.99%)
Loan 2: $2,426.36 (15.75%)

Needless to say, I’ve accrued a lot of debt in my young life, but I’ve been reading books, blogs, and putting my plan into action about paying off the debt. I put all my mileage checks into paying off debt among other things and have been budgeting.

So, seeing those numbers, which should I tackle first after I finish paying off this card? I know Ramsey would say Loan 2, but Suze Orman would say Credit Card 1 or 2. So, I want to know what ol’ Trent thinks :)
– Alvin

I’d take them in the order of their current interest rate. So, I’d start with credit card 1, then move to loan 2 if the first credit card still hasn’t adjusted. When the credit card adjusts, I’d move to that one.

All of these debts have an impact on your credit report. I don’t know whether there is collateral involved on “loan 1” or “loan 2.” If there is collateral there and a repossession would strongly impact your life in a negative way, then those loans might get priority over the credit cards.

Given what I know, though, I’d start hitting “credit card #2” as hard as I could.

Q9: Pressured into change
I’ve been working hard at getting our financial life in better shape, but my wife simply resists it. Whenever I suggest that we’re spending too much, she gets very angry and then seems to willfully spend more. What can I do?

– Mark

Pull back on the pressure.

She’s probably feeling as though you’re pushing her into a big lifestyle change that she’s just not ready for right now. If someone pushes you down a path you don’t like, you’re going to fight it, and that’s what she is doing.

Take a softer approach. Talk a lot about big goals you have for the future and how much you need to save each paycheck to get to that goal. Start automatically setting aside that money. Be very positive whenever you achieve those savings or debt reduction milestones. Seek out enjoyable things for you guys to do that are low cost.

If you have a strong relationship, the ideas will begin to rub off over time.

Q10: Quinoa source
Right now I’m focusing in my diet and getting fit at a slow but steady pace. I want to try quinoa as a replacement for pastas or rice, because carbs is a bomb for my weight control. Can you recommend preferably with a link to amazon a good brand/type of quinoa taking in account the price/flavor/quality?

– Andrea

I’m really partial to Bob’s Red Mill organic quinoa. It’s the best quinoa I’ve found, and it clocks in at about $0.35 per ounce on Amazon. If I can find this on sale, it is the brand I will always buy.

Another very good brand of quinoa is Earthly Delights quinoa, which comes in at about $0.25 per ounce.

My most common source of it, though, is from our local food co-op, which sometimes has sales on their bulk quinoa that gets the price down in the $0.16 per ounce range. That’s the best bang for the buck I’ve found. You won’t go wrong with either of the quinoa brands above, either.

Got any questions? Email them to me or leave them in the comments and I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag (which, by way of full disclosure, may also get re-posted on other websites that pick up my blog). However, I do receive hundreds of questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

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