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January 20, 2013

Be tight-fisted until the crisis is over

Recently, my husband had to quit his job due to an old back injury. We have $25,000 in debt, but I’ll be receiving a $38,000 inheritance in a couple of weeks. Should we use the money to pay off our debt, or hold on to it in case he needs surgery?

Now is the time to keep the cash piled high. You’re in the middle of an emergency , and that means you push the pause button on your Total Money Makeover and stop paying extra on debt.

Surgery is a possibility at this point, plus you may need some of that money to live on until his job situation improves. Then, the moment he returns to work and things are stabilized, you jump back into getting control of your finances. Use whatever is left of the $38,000 to pay off debt that very day.

But right now you don’t need to worry about becoming debt-free, only to turn around and be in a mess in the event he has trouble finding another job.

Let me give you a warning, too. Thirty-eight thousand dollars is a great gift. If someone handed me a check for that amount, I’d cash it in a heartbeat. But it’s not $380,000 or $3.8 million. It’s easy to develop a false sense of security if you’ve never received a check of that size. This kind of money is enough to keep the wolf away from the door for a while, but it’s nothing to retire on.

This little nest egg is a real blessing. Just make sure you handle it wisely, and take into account all of the possibilities over the next couple of months. In a best-case scenario your husband won’t need surgery, he’ll find a job pretty soon, and you guys won’t have to dig in to the inheritance money. Hang on to as much as possible, though. This sounds like a time of personal and professional transition for you both, and having that kind of extra cash around could be a lifesaver.

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