Ask the Readers $200 Giveaway: What is Your Top Question About Personal Finance?

By Ashley Jacobs on 13 September 2016 246 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to our winners Cindy, Stacy W., and Mary B.!

Personal finance covers a lot of ground—from budgeting and saving, to managing debt and dealing with insurance, to investing for the future and more. With such wide-ranging topics, it can be hard to master them all. And if you’re like most people, you probably have questions.

What is your top question about personal finance? Are you confused about investing? Not sure how much you need to save for retirement? Looking to figure out how to save more money for a vacation, your child’s college education, or in case of an emergency? Or is there another area of personal finance you are looking for information on?

This week, to celebrate the new look and enhanced functionality of SchwabMoneyWise.com, a financial education site created by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., Charles Schwab is sponsoring $200 in prizes for our Ask the Readers giveaway! Make sure to tell us about your number one financial question and we'll enter your name into a drawing to win a $150 or one of two $25 Amazon Gift Cards!

Win a $150 Amazon Gift Card or 1 of 2 $25 Amazon Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways — here's how you can win!

Mandatory Comment Entry for a Chance to win a $150 Amazon Gift Card:

  • Post your answer in the comments below. One commenter will win a $150 Amazon Gift Card!

To win one of two $25 Amazon gift cards:

  • You can tweet about our giveaway for an extra entry. Use our Raffle copter widget for your chance to win one of two $25 Amazon Gift Cards:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, September 19th at 11:59 pm Pacific. Winners will be announced after September 19th on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
  • This promotion is not sponsored, endorsed or administered, or associated with Facebook.
  • You must be 18 and US resident to enter. Void where prohibited.

This week, our Ask the Readers giveaway is sponsored by Charles Schwab to celebrate their newly updated site, SchwabMoneyWise.com!

Here is a message from our sponsor:

At Schwab, financial education isn't just about learning to manage money. It's about opportunity and a brighter future. That's why providing people with the tools to take hold of their finances and help improve their lives—whether they're just starting out or facing retirement—is our primary focus.

For a teen on the verge of independence or a senior struggling to make ends meet, financial education can mean the difference between poverty and prosperity, between feeling helpless or hopeful. Through a variety of public-service initiatives, including our collaboration with Boys & Girls Clubs of American on MoneyMatters and the Schwab Moneywise programs, we work to give people tangible ways to take action—and control – of their money.

We’re excited to share an updated SchwabMoneyWise.com, filled with tools and resources to help you achieve your financial dreams, whether you’re a new grad just getting started on the path to financial freedom, a parent saving for your kids’ college education or a recent retiree planning your next adventure. For more financial education information, follow Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz at @CarrieSchwab or on LinkedIn.

©2016 Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (Member SIPC) All rights reserved.

Amazon is not a participant in or sponsor of this giveaway and is not affiliated with Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.

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Guest's picture
Amanda

My top question is this: what's the best way to invest my 403b funds? Right now, they're in a target date fund, but I'm not convinced that's the best strategy.

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Julie Wood

I have some money saved, How can I make high interest on my savings? How can I make my savings work for me?

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Julie Wood

I have some money saved, How can I make high interest on my savings? How can I make my savings work for me?

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Donna Johnson

If a personal investor is contributing to a 401(k) at work, what type(s) of retirement vehicles should they contribute after-tax money to -- the stock market?

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Guest

How can I save for retirement when I'm barely surviving with my current paycheck? I know eventually I will have a bigger paycheck, but I also know I'm losing some good years of interest.

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Leah Althiser

My burning question: Is it wise to save for retirement/college if you are also trying to pay down debt?

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Mami2jcn

My question is: What is the best way to save for my kids' college educations?

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Elena

My top question is what is the best way to invest my money

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Matt

My biggest financial question is if I can (or should) open an IRA in addition to my 401(k). At what level of household income does it not become worth it (I think any tax benefits phase out at certain income levels)? Is it better to just open an investment account that doesn't have any financial restrictions? I have tried a lot to read articles about this, but it has been confusing for me.

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Monique Hubert

Are there any new options for help with paying off student loans? For example, have any new professional categories been added to loan forgiveness for people who work in lower-paying community-serving jobs? Or are there new options for loan consolidation?

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Wong

What's your advice on P2P lending? Seems you can earn a bit more in interest, for money that's just sitting around.

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Candice

I want to start saving for my child's future, but am not entirely sure that he will go to college or will perhaps seek another path in life, such as a trade school or the military. What is the best way to invest in his future given the many paths available for young people today?

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V

I put away 10% of every paycheck into a savings account. I'm almost done funding our emergency fund. What do I do with this 10% once the emergency fund is complete? Do I use this savings as my sinking fund for recurring expenses, such as auto insurance?

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Marsha'l Gilliam Hines

I left my 1st employer where should I roll over my Roth401k and after tax contributions? I now work for local government and contribute to a pension.

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Sonja Johnson

My top question is how to take advantage of a health savings account without employer support.

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Guest

What are the best options for retirement savings/investing if you do not have access to an employer-matched 401K? I have a Roth-IRA account, however I am unsure how best to handle additional retirement savings after I have maxed out my yearly $5,500 contribution.

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Gina

My top question about personal finance is: How do you kickstart retirement savings when you're getting a late start? How can you catch up and save enough for retirement when you're so far behind?

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Eric

What is the best way t stash "emergency" funds? Right now we have it in savings but the interest rate is terrible, but it if I put it in a mutable funds and have to take it out for an emergency then I can lose a lot too.

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natasha

I would like to know where is the best place to invest money that will benefit my families future?

nlamore79 at gmail dot com

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Lisa

My question is: I am 48, single, no kids, and have no debt but behind in my retirement savings. Is it wise to invest a portion of my emergency fund? I feel like I'm losing opportunities by letting so much money earn so little.

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RxAaron

My biggest question in personal finance is about passive income streams. When is it ok to invest in rental properties in relation to other debt? I live in an area with an expensive medical school, so rental properties are still good business here. My only debt is my mortgage, and I owe less than my annual salary. Is it time to pick up a property where the rent will more than cover the loan on that property? Do I want until I am completely debt-free, but miss 7 years that the property could have paid itself off and be generating income? Am I already behind and should have invested years ago?

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Elena

I'm an average saver. I'd like to force myself to save even more than what I have now. I'd like some ideas or tricks that could help me save even more than I do now.

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April

Most of us have a lot we want to do with limited resources. What's the best way to prioritize?

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DRossi

Closer to 50 than 40, $20K in credit card debt, partially disabled but not enough to qualify for help, no assets to speak of and don't make enough to cover monthly expenses. What to do?

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Selene Montgomeery

IS it necessary to have a will in Florida where the state will distribute our property they way we would do if we had a will? We have no property, house and anything else that would be pass on to spouse or divide up equally among our 5 children.

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Emily S.

My top question is, how do I start saving for children's college prior to actually having them? Most tax-advantaged accounts require you to already have a child.

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Suz_Glo

My top question has to do with the timing of stock sales. I am getting more comfortable with the research behind choosing stocks but I still worry about when to sell to maximize my investment and minimize any losses.

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Alan Steinborn

How can I stay in action doing things that give long term results, but without short term gratification.

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Joe Kelly

My number one financial question (right now) is about Roth IRAs. I would love to dabble and open up an account, but I"m not sure if my money would be more useful elsewhere. My family and I have a little bit of extra money, but not a lot. Would a Roth give us the most bang for our buck, or are there better options? 401k from my job is already being maxed out. I'm new to the investment game so suggestions would be appreciated!

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Kari

Is it better to use a credit card convenience check or a home equity line of credit?

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Elle

What is the best way to save, invest and plan for retirement?

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Jessica N

My number one question is about credit. My significant other hasnt ever had a line of credit. He thinks it is better this way. He is a money saver and uses cash for everything. Is this a bad or good? Should I keep trying to convince him to open a line of credit?

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Jenny D

My husband and I have regular health insurance, but so far we haven't opted for vision and dental. We're in our mid-50's...would it pay to buy these two extra forms of insurance or should we continue as we are?

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steve weber

My question is: What is the best way to save money for my grand kids grand kids?

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Karen Patterson

What is the best age to collect Social Security?

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Mary W

Are there times when it is better to pay cash rather than take out a loan? I think it's better to use a car loan to purchase a new vehicle but my spouse prefers to pay in full with a check. With loan interest rates so low and returns on investments are better - who is right?

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alicia szemon

I want to know how to save money. I am a full time student and it is hard to hold on to a job since i need to focus on school. How can i make money and go to school without being stressed out?

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Susan P.

To invest in an IRA, can you move stocks into it from another account, or do you have to sell the stocks and only put money in?

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Betty D

I have tried to follow all the rules for wise investing, but no one talks about when it comes time to spend! I'm nearing retirement, and plan to buy a small house. What is the best pot to withdraw from? My 457, Roth, savings accounts, CDs?

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Catherine Shaw

My top question is: in this era of virtually nonexistent savings interest, how can you maximize earnings when you're a timid investor (like me), someone who prefers to be as liquid as possible?

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Terry Poage

Mt top question is how can I pay off credit card debt ????

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Mitchell Goldstein

How do I know if I am on the right track? I have been saving in IRAs and work retirement accounts (without a match) and in taxable accounts. I have a spreadsheet to make sure that I am overloaded on a given fund either directly or through other funds. What I don't know is how much is enough and how can I figure it out.

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Tasha B

How do I prioritize paying off student loan debt and saving for retirement? We just finished school in our 30s and are starting retirement saving later, so how to we play catch up and balance this with loan repayment?

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Christina

My top money question is where is the best place to invest my money.

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Summer I.

My top question is about saving for retirement. I am a stay at home mom. We live on one income. I don't know even where to start. What are some options I have?

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C Hui

I would like to know what's the safest investments with least amount of risk.

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Donna D

If I leave my employer is it best to leave my 401K with them or take it somewhere else?

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Natalie

Should I put more money to retirement account or pay off my mortgage quicker?

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Margaret Smith

What percentage of retirement saving should we use/plan on once we retire at age 62?

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Kellie

Due to changing jobs, I now have a few different retirement accounts. My question is this: is it wise to merge them into one account, or leave them be?

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Jamie Martin

How can I even think about retirement when I have more pressing issues that need to be dealt with NOW?

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Lisa Coomer Queen

I am disabled and the company that holds my retirement is going bankrupt. Are these funds secure? And what will happen as in will I get the money and have to put it somewhere else?

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JANICE MURPHY

how can we meaning my husband we are in early fifty and helping with taking care of out granddaughter how can we put money away for our retirement

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Susan Smith

My question is What is a mutual fund?

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Megan A

How in the world can I save for a down payment on a house once I graduate if I have student loans to pay!?

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Liz

Should I put my extra money towards my mortgage or invest it?

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Lynne Meyer

My question is: My husband is an independent contractor, and we never know from year to year exactly how much he'll make -- and therefore how much of a tax hit we're going to incur. We pretty much live paycheck to paycheck, so setting aside savings AND money for his tax payment is difficult. Do you have any suggestions for how we can make the most out of the little savings we're able to set aside?

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Gina

My question is how do you decide how much money will be enough to retire if you will also eventually need to care for another family member?

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Hadley

Is it wise to have emergency funds of six months of expenses sitting in a high interest savings account in case it is needed or would it make more sense to invest the money in mutual funds so that it is growing?

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Rebecca Lock

Is there a good guideline as to how much should be saved by certain time periods in one's life?

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Dee

How much should you be spending on groceries/food for a household of two each month?

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Linda Bradshaw

I do not have any money saved and live one check behind. I wish I could save and invest.

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canadian_sadie

My biggest question is a two parter. In order to live a mundane, middle class lifestyle (much like the one I have now!) in retirement, how much do I actually need to have saved up by 65? Also, how much can I expect to receive from my CPP and OAS? (I'm in Canada...things are different here)

There is so much conflicting information that it's hard to hazard a guess as to what is right...and I'd just as rather not OVER save as UNDER save. I want to be Goldilocks! :)

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Ashley B.

My number one financial question is: What is the FASTEST way to raise your credit?

I am a mother of two boys, wife of a great guy (who wrecked his credit at the ripe age of 18) and we'd love to buy our first house if possible!

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Saegan Anderson

i'm 24...how do I start saving for retirement?

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Sam

As a Millennial with an entry level salary I'm often torn between the cost of living independently and enjoying a modest lifestyle. Being saddled with student loans and having set sacrosanct savings goals I want to learn "Tried and true ways to keep living and lifestyle expenses in check while still living life."

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MelodyJ

How to handle your finances when you are unemployed ?

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Donna

Do you really need $1 or more for a secure retirement?

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Donna

Whoops! That should have been, "Do you really need $1 MILLION or more for a secure retirement?

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Rachel Beltz

I want to know what is the best way to save my money without feeling like I'm living on the bare minimums!

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Michelle D.

My question is what's the best way to invest money that is just sitting in the bank?

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Michael K.

Is it better to save money or use that money to pay off debt?

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Shannon Baas

How do I make ends meet.

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Ashleigh Swope

What is the best way I can refinance my student loans?

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Jennifer W

Are there any other options for building a retirement fund other than a 401K and a Roth IRA?

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Guest

My question is Is it better to pay off a home loan or keep the mortgage for a write off?

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Rich

how much money do I really need to retire comfortably?

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Cindy Merrill

Someone I know (at an assisted care facility) has just qualified for disability (DSSI) is she still obligated to repay student loans she defaulted on?

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Jose Rodriguez

Is it good to save money when you just make it paycheck to paycheck

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Jose Rodriguez

Do i save money when you just make it paycheck to paycheck

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Sharold

What can a person do insure they have enough saved for retirement?

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Cynthia C

How can you find a financial advisor who doesn't move your money around to collect commissions? It seems like they all like to do that.

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Cynthia C

How can you find a financial advisor who doesn't move your money around to collect commissions? It seems like they all like to do that.

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Tracey L

I'm wondering if I should open bank accounts for my kids to put all of the money that they get as gifts in or should I be putting the money into something else such as a college fund, ect.? Where would they benefit most but still be able to have access to it?

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Lori

I'd like to know how we can improve financial literacy skills for teens and college students. As a college professor I see many students who have very little in the way of financial literacy. In some cases their parents have poor money skills or there was no emphasis in high school on this topic. Many finance magazines offer minimal to no articles for college students. Even their covers and story titles would have no interest for people in this age group. We need a finance magazine just for teens and twenty somethings! Many in their late teens and early twenties have poor understanding of debt management. I have seen some of them funding college with credit cards. Others try to work multiple jobs and end up doing poorly in their classes. Some have worked themselves out of the major as a result. More needs to be done to keep them from spiraling downward into massive debt.

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Tracy

My husband and I are looking to retire in a few years when we turn 55. Our biggest concern is healthcare. What financial strategies/savings are necessary to cover the 10 year gap before we would reach Medicare age?

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Connie Tucker

I financial question is ...I want to invest a portion of our savings, but don't know anything about investing, what are the basics and where do I start?

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Pamela Gurganus

My question is how can I save money for an emergency fund and how much should I have?

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Sarah Phillips

I'm already living on a tight budget. How do I start saving money when I can barely make ends meet as it is? Are there any extra tips for saving money while on a lower income?

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Annmarie W.

What's the best way to save for both kids' college AND retirement at the same time?

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Chanel

My question is: where do I start?? I am a young adult with very little financial knowledge but I would like to begin saving

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Guest

What is the most realistic rate of inflation to factor in when forecasting cash flows for retirement years?

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Nate

I may have a a portion of a MERS pension and Roth IRA when I retire, Roth IRA is fully funded at $5500 a year. What else should I be doing to prepare for retirement?

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Kelly D

How often should I reallocate the funds in my retirement plan to make sure it has a good risk ratio?

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Emily Endrizzi

What is the best way to save money for my children's college education?

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Sandy Klocinski

My husband passed away in July. I will have my social security as well as a VA survivors pension which is enough for me to live on barring any unforeseen circumstances. I also have a IRA, the life insurance money and a substantial savings account. My question is how to make my money last as long as I do!

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Patrick

My biggest question is what are effective ways to stick to a budget. How do you effectively track spending against multiple categories in the moment, during the month, so you know before you go over budget?

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RedFox

Do I pay off my mortgage as quickly as possible, or do I invest in some stocks and pay the house off slower?

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Michelle Hill

My question is, how does someone who became disabled at the age of 32 plan for a future in light of the question as to their continuing to receive social security benefits or if the administration lets it fall through.

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Gabrielle

What is the best way to avoid amassing credit card debt?