Color of Money: Testimonies of financial triumph

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- I don't know about you, but I need some good news.

I've been so worried about the financial destruction facing Hurricane Harvey victims -- many of whom won't have their losses covered because they didn't have flood insurance. And now Hurricane Irma is barreling through northeastern Caribbean islands and Florida.

Almost every day since writing about a face-cream scam, I've received emails from women -- mostly elderly -- who are upset over being charged hundreds of dollars on their credit or debit cards for what they thought was a free sample. It's a devious scheme, and it breaks my heart that many of the victims are on a fixed income. What kind of person would take advantage of folks like this? Just evil.

So this week I'm sharing the positive. During my weekly live chats, I encourage people to post testimonies of financial triumph. Their stories are always a welcome source of inspiration.

One 30-something reader recently agonized over whether to bail out a parent.

"My mother has never been financially responsible," the person wrote. "It's part of why my parents divorced. At the start of high school, I was in the physical custody of my father, but she provided almost nothing for me financially. When she did start sending support two years later, it was the bare minimum. About two weeks ago, she asked me for $7,000 to prevent her home (paid off but dilapidated) from being put up to auction for overdue property taxes. I felt bad about her situation at first. My mom is approaching 70 and is healthy/able-bodied. But she also told me years ago that she only worked enough to make ends meet. I'm saving for a house of my own and want to secure my own financial future."

Does this story resonate with you? Keep reading because it ends well.

"I re-read some columns of yours about when to bail folks out and when to let them stand in the consequences of their bad financial decisions," the reader said. "I finally told my mother I couldn't give her the money. And what do you know? She found a way to stay in her home, although it will take some extra work on her part. Sometimes 'no' is the best answer."

By always stepping in as someone's personal ATM, you may be getting in the way of his or her financial breakthrough.

Lots of folks share about how it feels to get rid of debt.


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