Tuesday, 06 March 2012 16:37

Leave the 401(k) Alone

Written by  Dave Ramsey
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Question: My husband has been transferred again in his job. Right now, we have three houses and about $60,000 in other debts. He just found out that he can borrow against his 401(k) without hardship at the beginning of the year. Is this a good idea?


Answer: Three houses? Do you buy a new house every time you move? You guys need to stop doing that. The “other debt” isn’t the problem. It’s those houses that are killing you!

I would never recommend that someone borrow against their 401(k) just to pay bills. It might be a different story if you were facing foreclosure or about to file bankruptcy, but that doesn’t sound like the case here. I think you’ve just made some really bad decisions, and these decisions are following you around and messing up everything else.

Most of the time in situations like this I have to say: “Sell the car!” In your case, it’s: “Sell the houses!” I know the market isn’t great in some areas, but these things are eating you guys alive. You’ve got to put some effort into getting rid of them. Then, start living on a really tight budget and clean up the other debt!

Question: My boyfriend has a lot of debt. The other day a creditor called, and he wouldn’t answer the phone. Then, he told me it would be easier for him to pay off his debts if we were married because I could act as his accountability partner. I don’t want to be the money cop, and I wonder if he would truly be more motivated. What do you think?

Answer: Someone who isn’t making any headway in getting out of debt while they’re single probably isn’t going to do a complete turnaround just because they get married. You can act as his accountability partner if you want, but you don’t have to get married to help him. In fact, dating is probably a better way to do this, because you can determine whether he’s really changing, or if he’s just trying to get you on board to help pay the bills!

Don’t misunderstand. Debt, in itself, doesn’t keep someone from being marriage material. But you’re definitely not marriage material if you don’t work, you’re irresponsible, you haven’t taken control of your life, have no character or can’t manage your own behaviors. These kinds of people are going to stay in debt and not be able to pay their bills for the rest of their lives.

I’d say date this guy a little longer, just to see if he’s serious about changing. But don’t get engaged yet, and don’t pay one penny of his bills for him!

Question: My son is a sophomore at a local college, and he wants to transfer to a very prestigious university. If he did this he would incur more than $100,000 in student loan debt, and that’s with us picking up half of the cost. What do you think I should tell him?

Answer: I’d have a hard time telling anybody that one school is $100,000 more valuable than another one. The fact is unless he has $100,000 lying around somewhere, he shouldn’t go to that other school for one very simple reason – he can’t afford it!

We hire people every week at my company, and where they attended college is a very minor deal. There will always be a few corporate types out there who play games and try to turn the office into some kind of snooty country club, but the fact is most employers don’t care where you went to college.

It’s what you learn and being able to use that knowledge in the marketplace that’s really valuable. Knowledge is king, and we live in a knowledge-based economy. If you can’t retain and apply what they’re teaching, then the only thing more worthless than a college degree is a college pedigree!

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