Dear Mary: My husband and I have been out of debt for approximately five years. It's great. The problem is we now seem to spend a lot of money needlessly just because we can. We have so much money over and above our living expenses that it is easy to be reckless.
We keep just enough in savings ($2,000 or so) for emergencies but never get beyond that goal. I feel guilty about this. In a way, it seems like it's always harvest time for us, but we're not gathering for winter.
I just can't seem to control my spending. Any advice? — Colleen
Dear Colleen: Getting out of debt was a great accomplishment, but quite frankly, that only got you to the starting line. You're stuck. Your wheels are spinning, but you're not going anywhere.
I suspect the two of you have not decided on the guidelines that will determine disposition of your impressive income.
Whether you make $5 or $500,000, you need a mutually agreed upon plan for managing money that flows into your life (and seems to be gushing out as quickly as it comes).
I believe the 10-10-80 formula is the answer. You give away 10%, save 10% and live your life on 80% of your net income. Once you establish the criteria, you may determine that 10-20-70 is where you need to be. Or some other plan. The point is you need a set plan.
I think you might have some errant belief that, because you are well-off, you can spend with abandon. That's not true at all. Even the most wealthy cannot live as though money is of no concern. If they do, they're not wealthy for very long.
The cold hard truth is that, even in your cushy condition, you are living paycheck to paycheck.
If your income were suddenly snatched away through unemployment, a health disaster or another calamity (you should read my mail), you'd be in a world of hurt with only $2,000 in savings.
You need at least six months of living expenses in your emergency fund. That is your first goal.
As for your spending problem, put yourself on a strict allowance that you and your husband agree upon. Pay it to yourself, putting that amount of cash into an envelope you carry in your handbag. When your allowance is gone, no more spending until next month.
You are in a most fortunate position, and I hope you will take immediate steps to get yourselves unstuck and into high gear with managing your resources in a better way. You have all the tools you need to build a solid base and a bright future.
Believe me when I say this: More money will never be enough until you learn how to take care of what you already have.
Dear Mary: My in-laws have been deeply in debt and in poor health for years. When they pass on, will their children be expected to absorb their debt? How should we plan ahead for this? They have refused all offers of counseling or help with budgeting. — Kelly
Dear Kelly: Generally speaking, unless your husband and his siblings are co-signers on their parents' mortgage, credit card accounts or other obligations, they cannot be held legally liable for those debts.
Upon the death of the first parent, the joint debts and assets, if any, will pass to the surviving parent. And when he or she dies, the creditors will look to whatever assets remain in the estate to satisfy all outstanding debts through a process called probate.
If there are not sufficient assets to satisfy their debts, the creditors lose. They cannot go after relatives or children.
Of course, the creditors get paid before children when it comes to handing out inheritances. In your case, it sounds as if your husband is not counting on an inheritance anyway.
So, love them, and do what you can for them now — but don't worry about getting stuck with their debts.
Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
Photo credit: PhotoMIX-Company at Pixabay