Pay Dirt is Slate’s money advice column. Have a question? Send it to Athena and Elizabeth here. (It’s anonymous!)
Dear pay crap,
Our cat is only 3 years old and needs to have some, if not all, of its teeth pulled. The cost of the operation is anywhere from $ 800 to $ 2,000, and we won’t know until the vet places him and takes the x-rays to see how infected things are. The vet said it will most likely be on the high end based on what she saw during the initial exam. The vet also said that if we don’t do anything, he won’t be able to eat as the pain and infection will get worse over the next few months. (I trust what this vet says.)
We told our two kids we’d handle this, but my husband and I are torn between spending that much money on a cat (it seems very elitist) and keeping our little buddy alive. It’s not going to break the bank, but it’s a lot of money. We adopted him after he was found on the street as a kitten and so far we have given him a really good life and lots of love. I don’t think I thought it would cost thousands of dollars to keep him alive at this stage of the game. At what point do people draw the line on what it costs to save a cat’s life? Are we terrible people because we think about not paying for it?
—Nine lives are dear
Love nine lives are dear
Let me tell you a story about a cat named Harrison George. He was found behind a grocery store and rescued because he had thumbs up. Little did its owner know that the cute cat she rescued would result in her spending thousands of dollars on vet bills over the next six years.
She’s also now on the hunt for daily medication and prescription cat food. I am the owner.
When you adopt an animal, you take financial responsibility. That includes their care – food, shelter, and yes, medical treatment. The fact that you are considering euthanizing a cat because you can afford a one-time expense that you can easily afford worries me. Your cat is only 3 years old and likely has at least a decade to go if you paid for teeth removal. This is exactly what you signed up for when you take in a pet.
If you don’t want to pay for your cat’s treatment, please hand her over to a rescue who will. The rescue will raise the funds you don’t want to part with to pay for his teeth and then adopt him to a new home that understands the responsibility of owning pets. I also advise you to stop adopting animals until you are ready to take on the financial obligations that come with it.
Dear pay crap,
I am in my mid-twenties, recently finished my studies and am looking for my first “real” job. I’m awful with money, to an embarrassing degree. Once it’s in my account, I’ll have to spend it. I tried to hide it by using apps to paste it into different accounts – it doesn’t matter. I grew up very poor, and now that I’ve finally got access to some money (I worked full-time through college) I’ve become a little bon vivant.
I recently got about $ 3,000 that I wanted to save so I could move later that year. A month later everything is gone. Some of it went to spending, but most of it went to vacation, clothing, and going out. Because of this, I also have a lot of credit card debt (although I paid off roughly half of the original $ 8,000 total). I just don’t know how to stop spending money. There’s definitely a mental illness I’m working on (unfortunately, it’s not as simple as “here, take this pill”), but the general idea of budgeting makes me unhappy. On Fridays I get $ 1,400 and on Monday I usually have $ 200 left. I thought running out of money and having to ask people to borrow money and defaulting on a number of bills would be my “low” and encourage me to stop spending, but here I am still shopping and go out to eat as if running out of style. How do I stop spending money as soon as it hits my account?
– Broke in Boston
Dear Boston broke,
A money script is a subconscious belief that you have about your finances. It can be positive or negative, and it plays in your head like background noise from a television. That affects you when it comes to how you perceive and trade your money. If you grew up poor, your mind may associate money with want. When something is in short supply, you either hoard it or use it as quickly as possible because you never know if you will get it back. Of course you make it rain with your paycheck. Your mind thinks you will never have money again.
I want you to sign up for an app called Mint that will track your expenses for you. This suggestion is not about feeling bad about yourself, but rather seeing where your money is going. By seeing exactly how you are spending your money, you can gauge what to do about it. You can’t budget or try to cut without knowing what to cut. I also want you to achieve small monetary goals. You won’t be in great financial shape if you start big, so next week try to make it to $ 300 instead of $ 200 on Monday. Or try not to borrow money from anyone for a week. These small, actionable steps are what get you where you want to be.
You also mentioned mental illness. You are absolutely right when you say that it is not as simple as just taking a pill. You know that therapy, good nutrition, sleep, and exercise can be just as helpful as taking time out for yourself and having a solid support system. Therapy can be expensive, but cheaper options such as Talk Space are now available. You are not alone on your journey – I applaud you.
Money advice from Athena and Elizabeth delivered weekly.
Dear pay crap,
My parents have taken out several life insurance policies for me since I was a child. My dad paid them for the whole time, but recently he said he wanted me to take the payments – about $ 100 a month. On the whole, it doesn’t seem like much, but it will affect my (somewhat tight) monthly budget. I told my father to keep paying the policies as he chose to take out the policies and can easily afford them as I didn’t ask about the policies or take the financial burden on them. Am I wrong here if I want him to keep paying?
—Insured, but unsafe
Dear insured but insecure,
Why do you need so much life insurance? If we don’t need to solve a murder puzzle, then you need to ditch these guidelines ASAP.
Sometimes our parents do random things to provide extra protection and this seems to be one of them. Unless you have a rare medical condition or history that affects your ability to find coverage, finding you as an adult can be fairly easy. There are different life insurance policies and prices to suit your individual needs and budget. Your employer can offer one as well as part of your service package.
If you don’t have a condition preventing coverage, tell your father to give up the policies. That way, neither of you will be hooked to pay $ 100 and it will no longer be a source of satisfaction. If he insists you pay, stop.
Dear pay crap,
With a lot of hard work, my wife and I are doing really well financially. We usually keep our finances separate and analyze the bills as proportionally as possible, and we both have a lot of savings. We also have a family foundation and went through the estate planning process before our children were born, but I feel like we are missing out on some financial opportunities that we may not be aware of. My question is, if I want to find a reputable or honest financial advisor, what should I look for? My biggest fear is that we will put our trust and money in an advisor and lose our shirts in the process.
—Search for expertise
Financial advisors get a bad rap because many of them make money off of you in the form of commissions. As a result, you may be coached into signing up for a service or product that you didn’t need! So I get tired.
I am embarrassed to tell my girlfriend the truth about my financial situation
My parents ruined my credit rating
My mother told my sister that she would make her the sole heir to her millions
My mother-in-law wasted all her money and now wants her children to support her
When looking for a planner, consider whether they are paid only, work with companies or alone, have the appropriate license, and can provide recommendations. If I were in your place, I would google “paid financial planner +” [ZIP code, city, or nearby suburb]“And see what comes out of it. I would pay attention to which accreditations they have (CFP, CFA and PFS are the ones to look for) and ask to arrange a consultation. There is no need to rush to use a financial planner – just like with dating, you can search until you find “the one”.
You can also do some homework to keep you feeling empowered before you go in there. For that I love Building Bread, especially with the investment content for newbies. Kevin Matthews II has a financial planner background that he shares for free to ensure you are ready and prepared when it is time for your appointment.
More advice from Slate
When I was a kid in rural Ireland, a fun day out for my family was brought to the local racecourse. My parents gave my sister and me tiny amounts of money to wager, and we carefully studied the race form, selected our horses, shouted our little hearts out to them, ate curry chips from the back of a van, and went home. I now have two children of my own and have also become much more aware that for many people, gambling is the exact opposite of a harmless childhood activity. My husband thinks that this is how we buy our kids an adorable baby kite and ignore its latent potential to burn down the house. Is there a way to repeat this experience with my kids, or should it just be a fun story from the past for them in the style of a dial-up internet?