5 Questions: Debt Consolidation, Combining Finances, and Long Distance Moves

Updated on March 23, 2020 Updated on March 23, 2020
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Table of Contents  
  1. 5 Questions From You
  2. Show Notes

We get dozens of emails from listeners each week asking really thoughtful financial questions. When a question needs a detailed answer or is of interest to a lot of people, we turn it into part of a 5 questions episode.

Today we have 5 questions about debt consolidation, saving money on a move, combining finances, living paycheck to paycheck, and capital gains.

5 Questions From You

Question #1 Debt Consolidation

Do debt consolidation companies actually work, or are they just a scam?

Simone Via Facebook

Like many other industries, there are scammers among debt consolidation companies, so if you’re considering using one, be sure to do your research and find a legitimate one.

The concept of debt consolidation, though is not a scam. It’s similar to a refinance. You take out a loan and use the money to pay off your debts. The benefit is that the loan has a lower interest rate than the credit cards. You save money when the interest rate is lower.

But if the consolidation loan drastically reduces your monthly payments and stretches the loan out over a long period, you may end up paying more in interest. Some companies charge fees as well, including an origination fee. Be sure you understand all of the fees you’ll be paying.

A way to avoid the fees a consolidation company charges is to do your own consolidation by taking out a personal loan with a company like Earnest or Lending Club.  

Debt relief companies are different from debt consolidation companies. They are for those who are drowning in debt and have such poor credit that they won’t be approved for a personal loan. A debt relief company will negotiate with your credit card companies to get your balances reduced. The credit card companies often agree because the borrower is in no position to pay anything close to the whole balance, and getting something is better than nothing.

A legit debt relief company won’t charge unless they get your balances reduced. But they are charging for something you can do yourself for free. Call up your credit card companies and tell them you’re considering bankruptcy which means they won’t get anything. But you have $X you can pay right now if they agree to accept that as payment in full and close the account.

Question #2: Long-Distance Move

First off wanna start by saying that I absolutely love your podcast. In fact, I’ve been able to cut back my bills by over 300 a month, and that’ll be even lower in a few short months. You changed my whole mindset financially, and I’m forever grateful!

Recently, I was offered a move from upstate New York to Kentucky through my job at General Motors. They give us a $5,000 moving allowance. I’ll get a raise, and I have been trying to leave New York for some time.

My question is, are there any tricks or tips to make moving long-distance cheaper? I’m trying to make the best choices I can to maximize the moving allowance set up a realistic budget.

Thanks for your time.
Your fan!! Brianna

Unless you have very new or costly large furniture like a sofa or bed, sell them before the move. If your old couch is going to cost $500 to move, it’s better to sell it or get rid of it and buy a new couch in your new location.

Especially in a place like Kentucky that has a low cost of living compared to New York. Sell everything else you don’t need or want while you’re at it. You’ll make your move cheaper and make some money.

If you get the whole $5,000 whether you spend it or not, make the move easy, hire movers. If you have to provide receipts for your moving expenses, you can make it less expensive by renting a U-Haul, packing, driving, and unpacking it yourself or with the help of some friends.

You can rent an Airbnb really inexpensively in your new city. Rent one by the month to make it even cheaper. During that time, get to know the city.

You don’t want to rent an apartment sight unseen over the internet, move in and find you hate the place or the location. Moving is expensive even if it is intracity so you don’t want to move into a new place, hate it, and move again in a year.

And here’s a tip that has nothing to do with moving expenses. If you’re moving to a place where you don’t know many people or don’t know anyone, say yes to every invitation. The more you say yes, the faster you can make new friends.

Question #3 Combining Finances

I recently got engaged and will be getting married next July. I’m already thinking about how combining finances will work. I receive a paycheck every week ($72,500 before taxes) while my fiancé owns his own successful landscaping business ($300,000+ in revenue).

At the beginning of 2019, he converted the business into an LLC and receives a “paycheck” every week. However, he really only pays himself enough to cover the mortgage every month for tax purposes, and honestly, he doesn’t really have any personal expenses that he can’t just write off for the business. Eating out, utilities, gas it all gets paid through the business.

What do you think the best way for us to get on some sort of spending/savings plan? Does the business need to get on this plan too?


Taylor from Boston

We get a lot of questions about combining finances and for good reason. 

Although technology has evolved to help simplify our finances — and our ideas about who should earn more have, too — we’re still reenacting many of the same money fights our parents had. And money is still cited as the number one cause of divorce.

There are generally three schools of thought on combining finances:

  • All In: All money is shared in joint accounts.
  • Separate: Both partners keep all money separate.
  • Yours, Mine, Ours: Each partner keeps some money separate but have a joint account for shared expenses.

Whatever method you choose, the key to successfully combining finances is communication. Money has to be an ongoing conversation in your relationship. You and your partner have to be on the same page financially, and that should happen well before you move in together or get married. When things start to get serious, it’s time to get financially naked. 

In cases where one partner vastly outearns the other, it’s not fair to split expenses 50/50. Instead, each partner should be paying the same percentage towards joint expenses, not the same dollar amount.

It’s easier to be on the same page when you have shared goals. If you long to buy a home and your partner is happy living in an apartment, it’s going to be tough to convince them to curb their spending in order to save for a downpayment. 

There are a lot of things a couple can compromise on, but financial issues aren’t one of them. If the two of you have vastly different outlooks and spending/saving habits and you can’t find a way to come together, you are going to have a lot of fights over money.

Question #4 Living Paycheck to Paycheck

I want to learn how to stop living check to check. I’m a teacher, my wife stays home with our toddler, and there is never enough money. We’ve made the responsible choice to not have another child due to money issues.

Mortgage, school loans, car payments, etc….it all leaves us with an inability to save. We have no savings, which is a scary place to be. All of the financial advisors lead with what to invest in. But how can I get the  $5,000 actually to need a financial advisor?!??!

It should be noted we have poor credit and no longer use credit cards. It’s cash only, and it goes quickly!!


You don’t need a financial advisor but what you do need is an emergency fund. If you have no savings at all, start with $1,000. That means you have to save just $2.75  a day for one year. But you want to invest, which is good. Everyone should be investing. So let’s find a way to get $5,000, which is about $14 a day, or $420 a month.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

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Here’s how to find that money. First of all, your wife needs to be bringing in some money. There are plenty of jobs a stay at home parent can do from home. In the position the two of you are in, she doesn’t have the option of not earning any money at all.

Secondly, you need to go through all of your monthly expenses. You can use Mint to make this easy, but for the first month, it might be better to list them all at by hand. Having to write them out can make them seem more real than staring at them on a computer screen.

There is almost certainly some fat you can trim. Speaking of Trim, you can use it to find and cancel recurring monthly expenses you should be cutting like streaming music services, gym memberships (anyone can work out at home for free), or subscription boxes. You can also use Billshark to negotiate better rates on things like your internet and cell phone bills.

Once you have a number for the total, you’ll be saving each month after making these cuts, set up a Betterment savings account. You can set up an automatic deposit each month that will send that money to the savings account, so you don’t have to do it manually.

Once you have your emergency fund and money to invest, you can learn how to get started here. 

Question #5 Capital Gains

Hey guys! I absolutely love your show. It is life-changing, and now I am sharing with all my loved ones.

I have some questions about investments. I’m 31. I was about to start buying GOLD ETFs for my portfolio, but then I found out there is a 28% tax on its capital gains once it’s sold. Does that mean I am not supposed to sell it until I retire/become financially independent?

When creating a portfolio like the Golden Butterfly or All-Weather Portfolio am I suppose to sell parts of it throughout its life cycle or do I just buy at a constant rate averaging gains and losses until I retire/become financially independent?



We detailed both the Golden Butterfly and All-Weather Portfolios in a previous 5 Questions episode. Since March 2019, Andrew and Laura’s portfolio has shown high returns for the more conservative investments. The Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund returned 3.6%. Bonds returned 3.71%. Gold returned a whopping 23.34% and long-term bonds about the same, 23%.

The purpose of both the GB and AW portfolios is that it gives you a holistic asset allocation; when one thing is doing poorly, something else is doing well enough to make up for it. Gold is a vital piece of this. Yes, there is a tax but only when you sell. These are meant to be long-term investments so if you want to minimize taxes; you can buy gold or create the GB or AW portfolios inside your Roth IRA. The money is taxed going in, grows tax-free, and can be withdrawn after age 59 1/2 tax-free.

Show Notes

Lightful: A German-style wheat beer from Tired Hands Brewery.

Yule Smith: A double hopped IPA.


Candice Elliott - Senior Editor
Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.
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