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Is accountability the key?

Dear Dave,

I’ve been working the Baby Steps and doing a budget most months. But how does someone who is single stay motivated and focused with something like this? It feels sometimes like it would be easier if I had someone holding me accountable.

--Rick

Dear Rick,

The first thing is to make sure you do a written budget each month. Not once in a while, not most months -- every single month. If you don’t draw the out-of-bounds markers, there’s no way to know when you’ve stepped over the line, right? A monthly, written budget becomes your self-accountability tool, especially when you’re single.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with introducing a little accountability into your life. You don’t have to be married to be accountable to someone other than yourself. Ask a good friend or maybe even your pastor to have a look at your plan and see what they think. Just make sure this person is someone who knows a little something about money and finances.

Honestly though, Rick. I think doing the Baby Steps and following my plan can be easier for single people. Think about it this way: You don’t have to talk someone else into coming along for the ride. You also don’t have to come to an agreement with someone else on everything financial. All you have to do is get serious, look in the mirror, and say, “Quit being stupid with money!” In other words, you just have to do it.

Admittedly, you don’t have the built-in accountability in a singles situation. But on the other hand, you don’t have someone calling you a doofus when you mess up.

--Dave

Don’t pay it

Dear Dave,

My brother was killed earlier this year, and my mom is finalizing his estate. He had a couple of federally insured student loans through Sallie Mae totaling $8,000 at the time of his death, and the attorney probating the estate says mom now has to pay off those loans. Is that correct?

--Callie

Dear Callie,

I’m so sorry to hear about your brother. But no, your lawyer is not correct. Payment for federally insured student loans is not due upon the borrower’s death. They are waived.

I’m going to give you two pieces of advice. The first is to fire your attorney. We’re talking about basic knowledge when it comes to probating an estate here. If he got that wrong, there’s no telling what else he’s told you that’s off the mark.

Second, you can take care of this by sending a copy of the death certificate to Sallie Mae. I’ll warn you ahead of time that it may take a while to jump through all their hoops. I mean, you’re dealing with the federal government. They’re not exactly known for getting things right the first time. But once you’re declared permanently disabled or you pass away, federally insured student loans are discharged and not held against the estate. Don’t pay it.

--Dave

Dave Ramsey is the author of four New York Times best-selling books: "Financial Peace, More Than Enough," "The Total Money Makeover" and "EntreLeadership." The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 5 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

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