This is Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach. I'm writing you to offer some advice on how you can save your house. Not your 4-bedroom house in Southern California, but your entire financial house.
I know my advice is unsolicited. But just hear me out. If you take what I have to say to heart, then I promise your family will be happier, healthier and stronger in the long-run.
After all, I've been where you are, and I've been where your children are too.
As a child, my family was on welfare, as I understand you are -- now that your income has declined. When my mom -- who struggled to raise five children on her own -- couldn't make ends meet, we also got threatened with eviction from a Southern California apartment we rented, a situation I see you're currently facing with the threat of foreclosure.
As an adult, I've endured my share of financial struggles too, including having mountains of debt -- $100,000 in credit card debt alone.
So trust me when I say that I'm not some know-it-all "expert" who doesn't know what it's like to be economically down and out.
I also know what it's like to be a mother: not of 14 kids, granted, but I do have three children of my own. And I have to believe that you want what all of us mothers do: happiness, security and a better future for your kids.
Here's how to get it:
1. Sell Your Home and Get Cheaper, Rental Housing
I recognize that it's probably very tough to find an apartment that would accommodate a large family of your size. But I think you'd be way better off renting, as opposed to owning a home. There's no shame in renting. And frankly, you're just not prepared for the rights and responsibilities of homeownership, including the mortgage and the slew of ongoing expenses, maintenance costs and property taxes that must be paid on a home.
When I appeared as a guest expert on 'Oprah's Big Give,' I gave a check for $50,000, compliments of Chase Bank, to a woman named Shante. She had been homeless. But Chase representatives and I both knew that Shante wasn't ready to instantly become a homeowner -- even with that $50,000 to be used as a down payment. So my role was to teach Shante, for about a year, some basic money management principles and allow her time to get a job.
No one can sustain a home indefinitely without some source of earned income or a passive income stream. And because you're not regularly working, I fear that foreclosure is inevitable if you try to hang onto that home.
Once you exit your current home and look for a different place, keep in mind that whatever new residence you get should bear proper relationship to your income. TMZ has reported that your monthly mortgage tops $4,000. Ideally, your house payment should be no more than 31% of your income. That means you'd have to be earning about $12,900 monthly to make your current mortgage affordable. Don't make the mistake of getting such an expensive place the next time.
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2. Start Saving for your Kids
Did you see the recent Census Bureau data on poverty in America? Unfortunately, one out of seven Americans, about 44 million people, are now living in poverty. And the numbers are worse for children. Young people under 18 make up the largest percentage of those in poverty, with children accounting for 15 million of the country's impoverished.
You can give your kids a big head start in life just by doing a little bit now to save for their future. And don't think you'll do it later, when you make more money. If you don't develop good savings habits now, they won't simply appear from nowhere just because you happen to rake in big bucks later. Consider the case of pop singer Britney Spears. She has admitted -- in court documents when she was divorcing Kevin Federline -- that even when she was making $737,000 a month, or nearly $9 million a year, she saved and invested absolutely nothing. Not for herself. Not for her kids' education or their future.
Don't fall into the trap of overspending and failing to save. If you can only save $5, $10 or $20 a month for each of your children, do it. Something is better than nothing. Plus, it will get you into the habit of saving.
3. Get a "Regular" Job
Yes, I know that 15 million Americans are out of work. So it's not like you can just walk into an office and get any job you want. But what I'm really suggesting is this: forget about the stunts, the TV-based stuff, the so-called "reality" gigs and an-open-letter-to-octomom-from-the-moanything else that's designed to capitalize on your media persona. The people making those offers, if any remain, don't have your long-term best interest in mind. Even though the money can be good (when you can get it), fame is also fleeting, making a long-lasting career in TV or the entertainment field dubious.
A far better strategy is to work your way up the ranks in an industry you enjoy, one not reliant upon your being a celebrity or having the cameras rolling 24-7. I know you would try to protect your kids from Hollywood's harsh glare. But why take the risk of them growing up like that? No amount of money is worth it.
Lastly, on the job front, it almost goes without saying, but please stay away from some of the more outlandish "offers" that will come your way, enticing you to dance in a strip club, pose nude in some magazine, or star in porn videos for money. You may get a big chunk of cash upfront, but you'll lose your self-respect in the process. I think you already know this, which is why you just turned down a $500,000 offer to appear in an adult video.
4. Hire Financial Help
Another word of wisdom: Get some professional financial help. Hiring a money expert -- like a financial planner or adviser -- isn't just for the rich. On the contrary, I believe all Americans should have qualified, professional assistance to help them reach their personal financial goals. After all, nobody teaches us about money management in school. And chances are, we don't learn it from our parents either. You can change that cycle. Get educated about money matters yourself, then pass along some financial literacy to your children.
A good place to get started is the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. This is a reputable group of fee-only advisors who have very reasonable costs for their services. Can't pay $150 or so to a professional? Offer to barter. Swap some service you can offer in exchange for good, trustworthy financial advice.
5. Keep Your Head Up
And finally, Nadya, don't be ashamed about your current predicament, welfare and all. Believe it or not, even with the Great Recession being declared as officially over, more than 40 million Americans receive food stamps. Millions more are on other forms of public assistance.
You may have to go that route too. But you don't have to stay there. You can do better for your children. You have to.
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, an award-winning financial news journalist and former Wall Street Journal reporter for CNBC, has been featured in the Washington Post, USA Today, and the New York Times, as well as magazines ranging from Essence and Redbook to Black Enterprise and Smart Money. Check out her New York Times best seller 'Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom.'