Smart Money

DEAR BRUCE: I recently got married to a wonderful man and we are working together to combine our finances and plan for our future. In the past, he has been reluctant to invest in his company's 401(k) and instead has earmarked $60,000 in a savings account for retirement. I have convinced him, and he has agreed to start maxing out his 401(k) instead of earmarking money in his savings account.

We would like to invest his $60,000 in a better way to save for our future retirement, but we are not sure what the best way to do this is. Anything has to be better than a savings account. Can we add to his 401(k) after the fact? Should we invest it in mutual funds?

We are in our mid-30s, make $190,000 combined, have no debt other than our very reasonable, low-interest mortgage, and already have an emergency fund, if that matters. Any guidance you could provide would be greatly appreciated! -- L.M.

DEAR L.M.: The one thing that sticks out at the end of your letter is that you're both in your mid-30s. Frankly, with the numbers in your investments, I would have expected you to be older.

I don't see where there is a whole lot to change except to increase the amount of money -- in interest, dividends, etc. -- your investments are earning. You have plenty of time to do that. You can make some of the moves you mentioned, and adding to your 401(k) after the fact is not a problem. Move slowly and carefully.

The fact that you make $190,000, have no debt except your reasonably low-interest mortgage, and an emergency fund, speaks well of your ability to maintain your monies. Live well and enjoy.

Finding better ways to invest means putting money in the market. Why not take a course or two on investing? You have many years ahead of you, and this would be a wonderful investment in your combined future.

DEAR BRUCE: It seems like I have been in medical debt all my life. I am about to turn 58 years of age and still have the same problem.

I work full-time and have a part-time job. With the two jobs I am still going to be short on funds to pay the medical bills and living expenses in order to keep my apartment.

I have made attempts to work with the medical groups I owe money to, but they say it's not enough. I do send money, but not the amount they want. I am sure I can pick up additional hours at my part-time job, but I am already falling asleep during my day job and don't want to jeopardize it.

Do you have any suggestions for additional income for someone my age? I am really in a financial bind and need all the help I can get. -- V.M.

DEAR V.M.: I sympathize with your circumstance, but I don't know any way to get around it. You mentioned you work two jobs and you are getting worn out. But I think you're going to have to get a little more sleep and work a few more hours. You might also want to look for a part-time job that pays more than the one you currently have.

I know it's not what you want to hear, but I don't see any other short-term answer. The big thing is, if you're falling asleep at your day job, you could be jeopardizing your primary source of income and that would be a crime.

(Send questions to Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)

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