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Listener Questions


And every Tuesday we listen to financial advice from Michelle Singletary. Michelle writes the syndicated column The Color of Money for The Washington Post, and she is DAY TO DAY's personal finance contributor. Michelle talked about a few of your money questions with our colleague Madeleine Brand.


Our first question--it's from a young man. He writes, `I have amassed a student loan bill that totals about $120,000. At 31 years old, I'm unable to pay even the full interest on that loan, even though I'm working in the field I've been trained for. My loans have been consolidated through the Department of Education, and I am on a payment plan based on my income.' And he asks, `Is there any possibility of getting some of this debt forgiven?'--even though he realizes he will have to pay taxes on that forgiven part of the loan.

MICHELLE SINGLETARY (Personal Finance Contributor): This is such a hard question. There are lots of people out there in this exact same situation. There--under some circumstances, you can get some of your loans canceled, part or all of it, but it depends on you doing some volunteer work or, in some cases, going into the military. I would strongly encourage this listener and others who are in this position to go to this Web site, F-I-N-Aid.org, so that's FinAid.org. It has a whole list of organizations that you can work for that will either partially or fully forgive your loan. Now again, it may mean moving to an area and teaching in districts where the income level is low. It may meaning working at--if you're in a medical field, in areas that are badly needed for doctors. There's not a lot of ways if you're not in those particular fields. But, again, go to this Web site, and there's a long list of organizations, like, for example, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, where you may be able to get some help with some of that student loan debt.

BRAND: All right. Our next question comes from a listener concerned about bank fees. This listener says that, `Because a check was not deposited on time, my bank charged for 12 overdrafts at $30 per check. My spending equaled approximately $100 while the fees were $360. I would like to contact the two consumer groups you've mentioned on this program to complain. Could you please provide me with their names and contact info?'

SINGLETARY: Sure, I'd love to. The two groups I was referring to was the non-profit Center for Responsible Lending and the Consumer Federation of America. These two groups did a study that found that some overdraft fees often result in consumers being charged as much as a thousand percent interest. So you need to be very careful when you're writing checks to make sure that money is in the bank.

BRAND: OK. Finally, we have this question about fuel costs. `Having experienced the gas shortages of the 1970s, I've always been curious about speed and mileage. And in a recent story Ms. Singletary mentioned that driving over 55 reduced mileage efficiency. Where did she'--where did you, Michelle--`get the data, and is the study published and available to the public?'

SINGLETARY: It is definitely available to the public. I got it from the Alliance to Save Energy. And they, you know, looked at the data and showed that, you know, when you drive over 55, 60, you're going to pay more for your gas. So if you want more information about that and other ways to save on gas, you should go to their Web site, the Alliance to Save Energy. They've teamed up with the Department of Energy on a Powerful Savings campaign--is what they call it--to help consumers lower their energy bills. And you want to go to ase.org.

BRAND: Michelle Singletary writes The Color of Money column for The Washington Post. She's also our regulator personal finance guru.

Thanks a lot, Michelle.

SINGLETARY: You're so welcome.

BRAND: And if you want Michelle to answer your personal finance questions, please go to the `contact' page at npr.org, and be sure to include `Michelle' in the subject line.

ADAMS: That interview by our colleague Madeleine Brand.

DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Noah Adams. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michelle Singletary
Michelle Singletary is the personal finance guru for NPR’s Day to Day, filing commentaries that can be heard every Tuesday. In conjunction with her work for NPR, Singletary writes the award-winning, syndicated “The Color of Money” column for the Washington Post and is a regular contributor to Howard University's evening news radio program, Insight, on which she discusses personal finance issues.