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Ask Dave

Concentrate On Husbands and Babies

Michelle's 6-year-old needs brain surgery and will need chemotherapy. She will be out of work for three or four months. What do she and her husband do now?

QUESTION: Michelle in St. Louis adopted her daughter and son from the foster care system about a year ago. She also got married, and they’re on Baby Step 1. Their 6-year-old needs brain surgery and will need chemotherapy. She will be out of work for three or four months. What do they do now?

ANSWER: Call the student loans and put them on hardship deferral. If they won’t put you there, just tell them you aren’t paying them. The credit cards are going to go bad. I’m not sure you can hold on to this house on $22,000 of income and no money. Call your landlord and have a meeting. Ask to be set free. Go find something for half as much that you can afford. Can you move back up later? Yeah, but I’m trying to avoid bankruptcy. We’re going from a $57,000-a-year income to $22,000 for six months. You can’t afford $1,200. I’m not sure you could afford it before—especially when it’s a rental. It’s very high.

You’re going to be in a place that’s uncomfortable, but you’re in a place that’s uncomfortable called your life right now. We’ve got to minimize the damage. If you can get the rental released and get you a smaller rent that we can pay on his income… Depending on how the child does, the extent of the chemo, how much hand-holding you’ve got to do, and that kind of thing… I’m not trying to be cold. I just want you to get some income so we minimize the damage while you still get to be supermom, because you’ve got to be supermom right now. This is just heartbreaking and really scary.

Husbands and babies come first. Stuff is way down the list. Below stuff is credit. Who gives a crap in a situation like this? You’re going to get back into a mess, and then you’re going to have to dig your way back out of that, but that’s an okay thing and that’s a choice you make on purpose—and it’s the right choice to make, by the way. When you have to choose, you take care of your baby. That’s the first thing you do. Don’t feel bad about that, and don’t pay the student loans a dime. And don’t pay the credit cards a dime. Get yourself into a cheaper rental.

Hopefully, the student loans will give you a hardship deferral, and that way you’ll only have about $15,000 in credit card debt that you’re behind on. Hopefully, you can get a little income here and there if the baby’s health permits you to work a little bit. A little bit of income in this situation is going to go a long way. That and I think hubby’s going to be delivering pizzas. You need that extra $1,000 or $1,500 a month he can make delivering pizzas right now. You’ve got to be the caregiver in this situation. He’s got to be the income producer. That combined with the adoption subsidies, maybe you guys can keep your head from getting too far underwater. Then we get to the other side of this chemo and get this beat, then you’ll be able to stabilize and get on your feet again financially.

Don’t let the money thing be your motivator. Just pray on and love on this kid. Just be okay with the fact that you’re probably going to get behind and get further dinged up. That’s okay. You’ll work your way out. It’s just a matter of when and how bad it is and all that. We don’t know. There’s nothing as bad as a 6-year-old with brain tumors. Credit card debt that’s behind versus that—they don’t even show up on the same scale, do they? We’re going to prioritize our life properly by what we really value. That’s babies and marriages.