Don't raid retirement account to pay off debt

DEAR BRUCE: We have about $15,000 in credit card debt. We have two loans through a bank for about $9,000 each. We have a family of six, with one child being a first-year student in college.

We both work and we both have a retirement of $66,000. We are 47 and 44 years old.

We live paycheck to paycheck. I was thinking of taking money out of my retirement account to pay off the credit card debt. Is this a good plan or not? — Greg, via e-mail

DEAR GREG: You indicate you have more than $30,000 in debt — a substantial amount of money. You also indicate that you live paycheck to paycheck. I don't believe that you should ever raid a retirement account to pay off debt, unless it's a question of foreclosure.

I think you would be better advised to sit down with a debt counselor and see whether some type of longer terms and lower-interest settlement can be worked out. I am not talking about these people that run advertisements that scream that the credit card companies are giving billions and billions and now it's your turn.

Companies like Consumer Credit Counseling Service would be your best shot. Further, you mentioned that you have four children and the first one going to college. With all due respect to kids, I believe that they have to find their own way. You cannot afford to pay for college. I believe you have to give your kids roots, wings and standards, and then they should be on their own.

I wouldn't consider raiding my retirement account to help with college expenses. You didn't indicate, but community college should be very seriously considered by families with limited income, such as yours.

DEAR BRUCE: Our local attorney has been disbarred. This attorney was the one who drew up our trusts. We have no idea what happened to our records or if we need to contact another attorney to update our documents. Please advise. — Jerome, via e-mail

DEAR JEROME: Unhappily, some attorneys go bad. I would not be looking for records from this fellow unless there is something that absolutely has to be retained. I would assume your trusts are revocable. Start out with another attorney and have them redrawn.

Send your questions to: Smart Money, P.O. Box 2095, Elfers, FL 34680. E-mail to:

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