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The Simple Dollar

Student loans: Pay them down or start an emergency fund?

Student loans are above $50,000, but there are ways to balance saving with paying down debt. See questions No. 2, 3, and 5 for advice on student loans.

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Q6: Time for a financial advisor?
At what point does a financial advisor become wise? I’ve never had the need of one before, but is there a certain point that someone should start thinking about consulting with one, if only to make sure they’re on the right track and not missing anything they should be doing?
- Jill

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The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money.

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I’m of the belief that given all of the amazing tools available to individuals online, most people don’t need a financial advisor. You would have to have a lot of money in the bank in order for the benefits that an advisor can provide to make up for the amount you’d be paying this person for advice.

For most people, particularly those without a ton of money in the bank, doing it yourself is a much better option.

What’s the dividing line? I think some of it comes down to your gut, but if you’ve got enough money that a percent or two of it is a significant amount of money itself, that’s when I’d get an advisor.

Q7: Polite hygiene advice
How do I politely tell a coworker that they have really bad breath? It’s bad enough that it’s distracting in the workplace. I don’t know how to properly approach it.
- Anna

Unless the relationship with that person is poisonous, I’d quietly bring it up with that person directly. There’s a very good chance that the person does not know this and the vast majority of the time that person will be very glad to have that advice as it helps their career chances.

If you have a bad relationship with this person, then you might want to consider going to their supervisor. I wouldn’t register it as a complaint, but instead encourage that supervisor to have a chat with the employee about it.

The purpose of all of this is to improve the office environment on the whole. Candor without negativity or snark is almost always a good way to go.

Q8: Wedding and financial planning
I am 28 and currently in the process of saving for a house with my fiance who is 25. We both currently work at the same company where I am a full time employee, and he started this year as an intern working 30 hours a week. We are looking to buy a house next year after we come up with the necessary 20% down payment for up to a $200k house. So our goal is to have $40k + closing costs saved by early next year.

When it comes time to purchase, unfortunately the mortgage will be in my name alone since he has bad credit; whereas mine should be immaculate by the time next year rolls around. I have no debt, and pay off my credit card balance every month. He has about $5.2k in subsidized student loans that are currently in deferment until he graduates at the end of 2012. All his other delinquent accounts have been more or less settled.

Right now we have $11k saved in our emergency fund and have $9.7k in the down payment fund. I’ve set the ambitious, but attainable goal to set aside at least $2.5k a month. We would be projected to have saved just about $30k by the end of the year. My mother has offered to additionally gift me $10k which I can use as my “new” emergency fund if I have to dip into my current one.

I earn just under $50k a year, and he is set to make $25-$27k depending on if he works the full 30 hours a week. So our net income is about $4.5k-$5k a month depending how many business days there are in a month. My company matches 75% of my 401k contribution up to 7% of my annual salary which I am currently taking full advantage of, but since he’s not a full time employee, he does not get the same benefit.

Right now all his income (lesser $200/month into another account that will be for when the student loan comes due) goes straight into the down payment fund, and we live off about half of my gross salary. We have a few things in the pipeline that would be advantageous for us to have a house by first quarter of next year. Our wedding is slated for the end of May 2012, and our goal is to have the wedding reception at home with just family and a few friends. This would be about 30 people at most, and the total wedding costing less than $2000 (I hope).

Should I set up a Roth IRA for him and myself now? I had planned on waiting until we purchased the house. But the best contribution for retirement is time, right? Starting a Roth IRA would set back the time frame of when we would purchase our house.

We likely will have additional expenses such as furnishing and/or appliances for the house. Should I use my emergency fund to buy appliances? Should I save for longer, so that when we close, we can pay for furnishings in full? Or should I live using our existing, aged pieces until we save up enough to buy those new furnishings later? My mattress is over 10 years old and is due for replacing.
- Jean

You’re currently contributing about 12% of your salary to your 401(k) including match, which is a very good number given your age. I don’t think you need additional retirement savings when you have other such pressing financial goals. It might be worthwhile for your husband to have one, which could just be routed from the money he’s contributing to the down payment fund. $500 a month would get him past the annual Roth cap. Given his salary, I would probably shoot for about $200 a month, giving him about 10% of his salary toward retirement.

When we bought a house, we used a lot of the furnishings we had at our apartment at first. Supplement that with whatever low-end furniture you need to fill out, then slowly begin replacing it as you need to. This is exactly what we did and we were quite happy about it.

If your mattress needs replacing, replace it, particularly if it’s interfering with your sleep in any way.

Q9: What are readers like?
Do you ever get visual images of your readers or add in more details in your mind than what they give you in their emails?
- Connie

I imagine details about readers all the time.

I usually do that so that I can see them as a person rather than as a dry question. I try to imagine the best picture I can of the person asking the question so that I want to help them.

Sometimes, that can backfire because I’ll put more positive details with the person than there really should be. Most of the time, though, I find that if you make an effort to look at a person’s best side, they’ll step up the plate.

Q10: 2012 predictions
What do you think 2012 holds in store for our world? Got any big 2012 predictions?
- Kenny

I think Barack Obama will win re-election, not because he’s done a stellar job, but because he’s done a “good enough” job compared to what the competition is. I think we will see a significant third party impact in this election, too, because the Republican party’s coalition of social conservatives and fiscal conservatives is becoming more and more frayed.

I think the American economy will show continued signs of rebounding and will look comparatively stronger (economically) than Europe throughout the year.

I think that December 21, 2012 will pass without any significance other than perhaps a few reactionary people overreacting to a quirk in the Mayan calendar.

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.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on

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