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Dear Liz: I have three credit cards that are in my name only, plus a small loan at my credit union. My husband did not sign for any of these, nor does he know the extent of my debt, which is about $10,000. If I should die before I can get them paid off, will he be responsible for my debt?
Answer: Your debts become an obligation of your estate when you die. That means creditors will be paid out of the assets you leave behind. The extent to which creditors can make a claim on jointly owned assets — such as, say, your home — varies by state. In a community property state such as California, debts are generally considered owed by both people in a marriage, so a jointly owned home would be fair game. In other states, creditors could go after assets co-owned by your husband if the debts were incurred to benefit you both.
That’s not the only reason secret debts are a bad idea. Every day you hide these debts, you’re lying to your spouse about your true financial picture, both as an individual and a couple. Even if you keep your financial accounts strictly separate, you should have a clear idea of each other’s assets and obligations so you can plan your future together.
If you’re keeping mum because you’re worried your spouse will get violent, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799−SAFE (7233) for advice and help.
Otherwise, it’s time to come clean so that the two of you can work out a plan to pay off your debt and prevent you from incurring more.
Dear Liz: I want to see all three of my credit reports with scores and fix some things on there that could be in error. What site do you recommend to get all three with scores?
Answer: You have a federally mandated right to see your credit reports once a year, and you can access those reports at http://www.annualcreditreport.com. That is the one and only federally authorized site. There are plenty of look-alikes, so make sure you get to the right place. Each of your three reports will include links that will allow you to dispute errors.
When you access your reports, you may be offered credit scores either for a fee or as an inducement to sign up for credit monitoring. Typically, these scores are not the FICO scores that most lenders use. If the word “FICO” is not in the name of the credit score being offered, it’s not an actual FICO score.
To get your FICOs, you’ll need to go to MyFico.com. Currently, you can buy two of your three FICOs — the ones from Equifax and TransUnion — for $19.95 each. Experian has announced it will soon offer FICOs through MyFico.com as well.
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About $23,000, according to this post from Insure. com:
Insure.com’s 2013 Father’s Day Index puts Dad’s household tasks at $23,344 a year, up from last year’s $20,248. The increase is largely due to higher mean hourly wages for drivers, teachers, coaches and plumbers, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Moms will likely feel slighted this year. Although Mom’s 2013 value is higher than Dad’s at just under $60,000, mothers have been seeing their value drop every year.
These surveys have to be taken with a grain of salt. The ones that put Mom’s value in the six figures need a whole shaker, since they typically value Mom’s contributions as chauffeur, cook and event organizer at the same rates you’d pay a top-ranked professional–rather than the amount you’d pay a nanny or other caregiver to perform the same functions.
But still, they’re kind of fun to read, and they could remind you that life without Dad (or Mom) could be expensive, which is why you want life insurance if others are financially dependent on you.
There’s no way to completely protect yourself from identity theft, but here are some ways to boost your financial immune system.
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Financial advice that stands the test of time.
If you want to see your work in print, become an advertiser, not a reporter.
Including tips on how to improve your credit score.
Growing your own vegetables is a great idea. Spending $3500 on a vegetable garden is not.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found overdrawing their accounts cost customers an average of $225 per year.