Ask Stacy: Answers to the Most-Asked Money Questions of 2015

Here are some of the most popular categories of reader questions from 2015, along with answers. Odds are you’ve probably wondered about some of these things yourself.

Better Investing

As regular readers know, my normal “Ask Stacy” column typically involves a detailed answer to one reader question. But for my first column of the new year, I instead provide short answers to multiple questions in some of the most popular personal finance categories of the preceding year.

So here we go: Here are some of the most-asked questions of 2015, along with brief answers and links to additional information.

Questions about timeshares

Ever since I started answering questions in this column six years ago, the subject of timeshares has been consistently one of the most popular. I received dozens of questions about timeshares in 2015, many along these lines:

I would like to know if there’s any way on earth to get rid of a timeshare? I was swindled into a timeshare when I was very young and have not been able to find a way to get the thing out of my life. I never use it, but of course continue to pay for it. Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated. — Ginger

Answer: We’ve done a lot on this topic. See Timeshares: Fabulous Opportunity or Financial Trap? and Ask Stacy: How Can I Get Out of My Timeshare Without Being Robbed?

The short answer to Ginger’s question is to try selling, or at least renting, her timeshare at some, or all, of these sites:

Ginger should approach a sale with very low expectations. Most timeshares don’t have an active aftermarket, which means buyers are scarce. If you borrowed money to buy your timeshare, you might have to pay off your loan to get out of it. While you might start by talking to the developer you bought it from, don’t be surprised if they tell you they can’t help you.

The most important thing to know about selling a timeshare: Never pay a big upfront fee. Fraudulent resale services commonly say they already have a buyer for your unit — all you have to do is pay an upfront fee ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Don’t bite. Odds are that the buyer doesn’t exist. The FTC has been warning of these scams for years.

And when it comes to buying a timeshare, the most important thing to know: Timeshares are very easy to get into and very hard, if not impossible, to get out of. If you like the idea of a timeshare, buy it for pennies on the dollar from a private seller at one of the sites above. Never buy from a developer and never borrow the money to do it.

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  • Mark

    Hi Stacy. Over the years I’ve accumulated credit card accounts for varying reasons (for instance; to receive 50K airline miles once). I’ve heard I shouldn’t close an old account because that causes the average age of my cards to shrink (which apparently is a bad thing when talking about credit scores), so right now I have six active accounts. I only use two of the accounts though…one because I get miles on a specific airline (has an annual fee but I’ve gotten it waived the last few years) and the other only for gas since I get 5% cashback on gas (and no annual fee). The other cards (none have annual fees) are in my wallet “just in case” but it’s been a long time since I used any of them. I always pay the balance in full every month on the two cards I do use. So, my total credit limit is a bit over $50K which puts my debt-to-credit ratio around 1%-2%. Anyway….I recently got some mail from one of the banks noting I hadn’t used their card in a while and urging me to use it. It made me wonder a few things… Is there any reason to occasionally use the cards I haven’t been using? Or to cancel one or two of them? Is there a point where debt-to-credit ratio is too low? My credit score really hasn’t been something I’ve worried about but I will likely be in the market to buy a home (first time) in the next few years so I want to make sure I do whatever I can to keep it strong. Do you have any advice for my situation?

    Thanks, Mark

    • Hi Mark,
      If the cards don’t charge an annual fee, it’s fine to keep them open. Just use them once or twice, pay them off in full, and you’ll keep everyone – including your credit score and utilization ratio – happy.

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