Ask Carmen: Lightning round listicle edition

Here at Marketplace Money we get a ton of questions, and we love to answer as many as we can. That's why we created the Lightning Round: 5 personal finance questions, 5 personal finance answers, in 5 personal finance bullet points.

This week, Carmen was joined by Ben Johnson from the Marketplace Tech Report.

1. Matthew from Yonkers, NY asks a question on the minds of many. What steps should I take to avoid identity theft?

Carmen says: “Don’t carry your social security card.” Also, check your credit card statements online everyday. One last tip, “don’t use your debit card to buy things online, please?”

2. Marion from Cincinnati, Ohio says her and her spouse are in their early 60s, and invested completely in stocks. They’d like to put all of their money in a total bond market fund. Should they?

Carmen says: “Any investment at a point in time can be a bad investment.” But being heavily invested in stocks close to retirement means you don’t have time to recover if another stock crash happens. “You should not be more than 50 percent in the stock market.” And diversify! Some stocks, bonds, etc.

3. Jill from Flagstaff, AZ asks, “What happens to the debt of a person that dies without a will? If a blood relative of mine dies, who is responsible for the debt they've accumulated such as a line of credit or mortgage?”

Carmen says: “This is one of my favorite questions of all time, since people don’t ask until it happens to them.” Whatever debt a person has gets taken out of their estate, which could affect your inheritance but “you are not liable for their debt.”

4. Mary in Tuscon, AZ wants to know: “What are the current tax laws regarding capital gains for a home sale?”

Carmen says: “You can make a sweet $250,000, tax free, on the gains on a primary residence.” if you own it as a couple, you’re up to $500,000.

5. And Christian in Duluth, MN decided at the end of this year (New Years resolution!) to contribute more to retirement. His employer 401(k) is already maxed out, should he look for another investment vehicle?

Carmen says: Yes, yes he should. Roth IRA ideally, if Christian is under the income limit, or check out irs.gov for other ideas.

Time's up!

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Regarding question #3- what if the person who passes away has debts but no assets/estate? Then who is responsible for paying the debts?

Sometimes a spouse is liable, especially if it's a co-signed loan or you live in a community propery state. But they can't be passed on to anyone else really.

Please get together with a voice coach and eliminate the middle school teenage delivery. The creaky, croaky ending to your sentences is very annoying. You do have a pleasant mid-range voice, but it is overrun by your giddy excitable style. I like the content of your pieces and would enjoy them more if presented with a mature voice. You can do it!
Al Morrison
San Clemente, CA

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