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Deal with Your Debt: The Right Way to Manage Your Bill$ and Pay Off What You Owe

Book Description

Most people carry debt for most of their adult lives. Yet, most books on debt focus mainly on how to pay it all off, and live forever without it. Too often, following that advice leads only to failure. People either give up, or pay off the wrong kinds of debt. They strand themselves with too little flexibility to survive a financial crisis -- and land in bankruptcy court. They neglect saving for retirement, homes, or college, and end up poorer than they might have been. For most people, it’s more realistic -- and smarter -- to control and manage debt effectively, rather than eliminating it completely. Debt Smart shows how. Award-winning personal finance columnist Liz Weston explains the rules and explodes the myths surrounding debt. Discover the crucial role debt can play in a portfolio, identifying debts that actually contribute to  wealth and flexibility, while avoiding or eliminating “toxic” debts. Weston presents effective strategies for evaluating, monitoring, and paying every form of debt, from credit cards and mortgages to student and auto loans. She offers practical guidelines for how much debt one should take on.  Find realistic (and often surprising) guidance on everything from home equity loans and 401K borrowing to small business loans.

Table of Contents

  1. Copyright
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. About the Author
  4. Introduction
  5. Isn't Debt-Free the Way to Be?
    1. Debt Isn't the Enemy
    2. When “Good Debt” Isn't
    3. Which Debts Should You Tackle First?
    4. Why Debt Management Sounds Strange
    5. When Debt Repayment Plans Go Awry
    6. Addressing the Ants as Well as the Grasshoppers
    7. Debt-Free Is the Way to Be—Eventually
    8. Summary
  6. Your Debt Management Plan
    1. Get Intimate with Your Debt
    2. Assess Your Financial Situation
    3. Save or Pay Off Debt First?
    4. Case Studies
    5. Create Your Game Plan
    6. If You're Already Drowning
    7. Summary
  7. Credit Cards
    1. Our Love Affair with Credit
    2. The True Cost of Carrying a Balance
    3. Gotchas for Those Who Pay Their Balances
    4. The Right Way to Pay Off Credit Card Debt
    5. Getting the Right Reward Card
    6. Summary
  8. Mortgages
    1. Myth #1: Real Estate Prices Always Rise
    2. Myth #2: A House Is a Great Investment
    3. Myth #3: Buying Is Always Better Than Renting
    4. Myth #4: Homeownership Comes with Great Tax Breaks
    5. The Right Reasons to Buy
    6. How Much House Should I Buy?
    7. What Kind of Mortgage Should I Get?
    8. How Do I Get a Good Mortgage Deal?
    9. When and How Should I Refinance?
    10. When Should I Prepay a Mortgage?
    11. Summary
  9. Home Equity Borrowing
    1. The Dangers of Home Equity Lending
    2. Home Equity Loans Versus Lines of Credit
    3. Questions to Ask Before You Borrow
    4. Summary
  10. Student Loans
    1. So What's the Good News?
    2. How Much Should I Borrow?
    3. Where Should I Get My Loans?
    4. What if It's Already Too Late?
    5. What About Paying Off My Student Loans with Home Equity Debt—or Credit Cards?
    6. Summary
  11. Auto Loans
    1. How Cars Cost Us
    2. Why It's Bad to Owe More on Your Car Than It's Worth
    3. How Often You Buy Cars Matters, Too
    4. The Proper Role of Cars in Our Spending
    5. Ways to Keep Costs Down
    6. Summary
  12. 401(k) and Other Retirement Plan Loans
    1. Types of Plans That Offer Loans
    2. The Real Cost of Retirement Plan Loans
    3. Cracking Your Nest Egg Early
    4. The Hidden Cost of Withdrawals
    5. Summary
  13. Loans You Don't Want to Get—or Give
    1. Three More Loans to Beware
    2. Why You Don't Want to Cosign a Loan
    3. The Right Way to Make a Personal Loan
    4. Summary
  14. Dealing with a Debt Crisis
    1. Dealing with Your Creditors
    2. Dealing with Collection Agencies
    3. What if Your Creditors Won't Budge?
    4. Summary
  15. Putting Your Debt Management Plan into Action
    1. Lower Your Interest Rates
    2. Track Your Spending
    3. Trim Your Expenses
    4. Look for Cash
    5. Review Your Priorities
    6. Stay on Track
    7. Some Final Thoughts
  16. Index