Tuesday, 02 September 2014 18:50

Debt and Identity Theft

Written by  Dave Ramsey
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Q. My wife and I have $25,000 in credit card debt, $2,500 in medical bills and $89,000 each in student loan debt from when we each got our masters’ degrees. We make about $100,000 combined. Our son is 6 years old, and we have $18,000 in a 529 plan for him. Should we use that money to pay off debt instead?

 

A. I wouldn’t do that if I were you. You’ll get destroyed with penalties, because if you take money out of a 529 for anything other than college, you’ll be taxed at your current tax rate and hit with a 20 percent penalty. The other thing is you’ll have this weird feeling that you took money away from your kid.

 

Technically, it’s your money. You put it there. But when you did, it was in your child’s name. Plus, that doesn’t really solve your problem. You’ve got a ridiculous amount of debt, and that little bit won’t move the needle very much. Having more money in your hands isn’t the big answer here. What you both need is a behavior change when it comes to money.

 

My advice is to leave the 529 alone. Stop adding to it for the time being. Put any retirement saving you’re currently doing on hold, too. You guys need to start living on a budget, working a debt snowball plan and looking for extra income. Even tutoring would bring in some additional cash. I’ve got a feeling, too, that those masters’ degrees can provide you with more money than you’re currently making.

 

It can be done, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work and discipline. It may even take four or five years to get this mess cleaned up, but you can’t keep living without a plan!

 

 

Q. Do you recommend a credit freeze in order to protect against identity theft?

 

A. I absolutely recommend doing that, especially if you’re not borrowing money anymore. However, putting a freeze on your credit report only provides partial protection against identity theft.

 

Identity theft is where someone, for example, signs up for a credit card in your name. If Joe Crook signs an application with your name and address, and the credit card company issues the card without checking —they blind-issue cards about seven out of 10 times — then the card will be issued to the thief. Having your credit frozen does nothing to stop that from happening. Still, if they check your credit and it’s frozen, chances are they won’t issue the card.

 

I’d also recommend having a good identity theft protection program in place. I have it on myself and all my team members at the office. If you don’t have this, and someone gets a card in your name, the credit card company will demand that you pay the bill. You can insist it’s not you, but that won’t do much good. Then, you’ll have to go through the hassle of filling out affidavits and police reports.

 

You may get out of paying for it in the end, but you’ll still have to spend dozens, if not hundreds, of hours dealing with the credit card company trying to get the whole mess straightened out!

 

Last modified on Sunday, 14 September 2014 18:53
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