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I was speaking to a young adult relative yesterday, and in the course of the conversation, learned that her finances are far worse than I had imagined them to be. She had chosen to "eat from what we have here," instead of going to the store, which led to a longer conversation.

She has been out of work for medical reasons for several months. She lives in a house owned by a parent and currently does not pay rent. But she does have a car payment, utility bills, co-payments from doctor visits and physical therapy (she has endometriosis, back trouble, and several other related issues), plus food and gas and probably other bills.

It turns out that she has $11. Yes, that is all. And $6,000 in medical bills, a maxed out credit card with a $5,000 limit, and a $14,000 car loan.

She just started working again and gets her first paycheck this Friday. She'll be paid, before taxes, $132. (She worked 12 hours last week, having started on Thursday.) That two days of work also caused flares in all her medical conditions, which is not surprising. She slept most of the weekend and even on Sunday was just feeling drained.

And did I mention that she has a second-grader? She is a single mom and had him when she had just turned 17. So they were both children for a while and are still pretty much growing up together. The dad is in the picture, sort of, in that the second-grader spends time with him on alternating weekends. But the dad has been out of work for his own health issues, and was just diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. So there is no child support.

Although we knew money was tight, my husband and I had no idea just how tight things were. Our young relative puts on a brave face, and only yesterday finally told me how scared and angry and desperate she is.

I believe that the second grader gets free breakfast and lunch at school, which helps a little for him. I talked to her about food pantries and applying for SNAP and TANF. She was not willing to walk into a food pantry. "I have pantry food here!" So there is education to be done there. She was willing to let me help her with the applications for SNAP and TANF, so we stayed on the phone for an hour longer than I had expected to and did that on the spot.

She is obviously not in a position to pay off any of her debts right now. The first step that I see is to just get herself back to being able to work at all, and then work enough to pay her bills.

Her medical stuff is really to that happening, so our first thought was to help pay those bills, particularly the co-pays for her physical therapy. I also know that there are a lot of meds that she has to have in order to be able to function. (Pain meds, for example, and no, not opioids. Those don't work for the nerve pain caused by endometriosis.) Much of the credit card debt is also medical -- that's how she pays the co-pays, and for things like MRIs and CAT scans, those can add up. (And of course, I'm sure her NetFlix subscription is in there, too. And yes, we will talk about all those small expenses with her. Just not quite yet.)

She has also applied to have some of the largest bills associated with surgeries forgiven. I hope that will happen.

I considered talking to her about a different vehicle. However, she lives in a rural area where there are 6-foot snow drifts across the road multiple times a year. She lives alone, and the nearest house is a half mile away. The reliability of the vehicle is actually pretty important. And even some of the $14k is medical debt, because when she financed it, she borrowed against the entire equity of the vehicle to pay for one of her surgeries.

The other thing we maybe should think about helping with is a disability application. Though she is determined that she wants to work, her body is really, really messed up. It may well take a while before she can get back to the point of going to a job and doing it every day.

So anyway, I am wondering what your thoughts are about ways that we can help, whether it is financial or something else.

ThyPeace, sigh. Tough, tough times.
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Unfortunately, a case study in why teen age sex is not recommended.


Seattle Pioneer
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LOL, SP.
I saw a case study for why we USians need universal health care. But, that's another instance where my opinion differs.

The comment "some education"... Reminded me of the adage "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear". ThyPeace will teach some things, the main teacher, though, is "life and the school of hard knocks".

Perhaps a go-fund-me effort might collect enough funds to relieve some of the immediate finances pressure?

I saw health issues that are based in physical issues, but exacerbated by stress. Perhaps learning to meditate, and/or using the techniques taught in PTSD clinics, etc, might help decrease the stress, and alleviate some of the physical symptoms? Obviously there are Drs/nurses involved, but is/are there counselors also working with her?

Change the names, location, a FEW other details, and the story describes several acquaintances of mine, here in Texas.

Life's lessons are especially tough when overlain with health issues.

😐
ralph
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She just started working again and gets her first paycheck this Friday. She'll be paid, before taxes, $132. (She worked 12 hours last week, having started on Thursday.)

Does she have other income this year? Filing Head of Household with 1 dependent and having an $11/hour job for the rest of the year, it is likely that she will be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), depending on her other income. You might want to go through this IRS Publication with her https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p5334.pdf

How did she fill out her W-4? You may want to go over that with her, because if she can claim exemption from withholding, it will help boost her paycheck.

If she was eligible for EITC in 2016, 2017 and/or 2018, but didn't claim it, she can file an amended return for those years. (If she just didn't file for any of those years, she can just file an original return.) Here is a webpage from the IRS that can help figure those years out https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/individuals/earned-in...

To get help with EITC issues, I would suggest that she go to TaxAide. Because it's no longer tax season, they don't have any sites open at this point. However, by submitting a question about how to file for EITC in prior years here https://taxaideqa.aarp.org/hc/en-us/requests/new she may be able to get in contact with someone who can help her with any prior returns.

When she needs to file her taxes for 2019, she should definitely use the TaxAide locator https://secure.aarp.org/applications/VMISLocator/searchTaxAi... - she will be able to get her taxes done for free, and they may be able to point her to additional services in her area.

I believe that the second grader gets free breakfast and lunch at school, which helps a little for him.

Is he on CHIP for health insurance? Is she eligible for Medicaid in her state for insurance, and if so, is she already on it? If she's not eligible, is she eligible for subsidized ACA coverage?

AJ
- TaxAide volunteer who helps many people claim EITC, including for prior years
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Before helping with medical bills or cost, see how the TANF application goes. If she's not eligible for some reason they should still look at eligibility for Medicaid. Definitely help with encouraging her to gather paperwork, respond to letters, etc. during the process (which can be daunting). If she plans (or will need) to file for disability, she'll need quite a bit of documentation, or at least starting points for an agency to request records, so encouragement and/or follow-up on gathering medical info in one place would be a good thing.

In the immediate situation, establishment-specific gift cards (grocery store card, gas card) may be better than money or a Visa/MC gift card and shouldn't be counted as income or assets.

Good luck,

cm

Note: google her state's TANF regs on "are gift cards income?" The USDA says no, if establishment-specific, for SNAP, but doesn't cover what a state's TANF program does
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Unfortunately, a case study in why teen age sex is not recommended.

Seems to me that the 2nd grader is the least of her problems. The biggest issue is her health, because it is the cause of much/most of her debt and it's an ongoing issue potentially impacting her future earnings potential.

Fuskie
Who would recommend working with a consumer debt advocate to help that weight on her shoulders a little easier to bear, and to work on replacing that pride with looking for and taking any financial, mental or other support she can get...

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<<No. of Recommendations: 4
Unfortunately, a case study in why teen age sex is not recommended.

Seems to me that the 2nd grader is the least of her problems>>


Actually, I'd say that the child is a major part of the problem, since the child is the one party who didn't contribute to the mess being described.


Still, cobbling together various aid programs is probably the best that can be done, and the advice on how to do that is probably helpful.


The young woman might be expected to be overwhelmed with her difficulties and barely functioning.


Seattle Pioneer
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LOL, SP.
I saw a case study for why we USians need universal health care. But, that's another instance where my opinion differs.



That doesn't mean your opinions differ. It just means you had different first reactions. In order for your opinions to differ, you would have to think teenage pregnancy is a good idea.

xtn
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Thanks, all, for the thoughts and suggestions. A few questions are answered below:

Does she have other income this year?

Yes, some. She worked part time for roughly the first 3-4 months of the year. Prior to that, she had worked full time for the previous 4 years and had even been given increased responsibilities in that time.

How did she fill out her W-4?

Good question. I will ask her about that and have also asked her about the EITC from previous years. I'm pretty sure she filed her taxes each year. I'm not sure if she did them herself or had help. I'll point her to TaxAide when it's time to do her taxes.

Is he on CHIP for health insurance? Is she eligible for Medicaid in her state for insurance, and if so, is she already on it? If she's not eligible, is she eligible for subsidized ACA coverage?

She is covered under a parent's health insurance. I don't know if she's eligible for Medicaid or additional assistance, nor do I know how the second-grader's health insurance is covered. More questions to ask.

Before helping with medical bills or cost, see how the TANF application goes. If she's not eligible for some reason they should still look at eligibility for Medicaid. Definitely help with encouraging her to gather paperwork, respond to letters, etc. during the process (which can be daunting). If she plans (or will need) to file for disability, she'll need quite a bit of documentation, or at least starting points for an agency to request records, so encouragement and/or follow-up on gathering medical info in one place would be a good thing.

Yeah, I have been on the work side of disability claims when people had to leave work, and it has been really ugly. In one case, the person was literally unable to get out of bed with a rare autoimmune disorder and the claims were denied because the adjudicators had never heard of the illness. It took far too long to straighten that mess out.

In the immediate situation, establishment-specific gift cards (grocery store card, gas card) may be better than money or a Visa/MC gift card and shouldn't be counted as income or assets.

My read of the state rules is that they do count as income, but a payment of debt as a gift does not. DH and I are keeping an eye on that, particularly for her ongoing PT and meds. She is first going to apply for assistance for those costs as well, with the places that she is going to. So I'll help her with that and with reminders to get it done.

Who would recommend working with a consumer debt advocate to help that weight on her shoulders a little easier to bear, and to work on replacing that pride with looking for and taking any financial, mental or other support she can get...

Ah, this is a good idea. Now... remind me so that I don't steer her in the wrong direction. Debt consolidators are bad, I know. What's the name of a reputable good company that could help her for free?

Still, cobbling together various aid programs is probably the best that can be done, and the advice on how to do that is probably helpful.

The young woman might be expected to be overwhelmed with her difficulties and barely functioning.


Yup. This is a situation where unwinding the debt comes second to stabilizing the people's lives. I figure I'll be talking to her for a decade or more after her life is stable to get the debt taken care of. That's okay. I'm not going anywhere.

ThyPeace, she had PT yesterday. Her pelvis has been returned to a more natural position. Now we'll see how long that lasts while she's working. (They had gotten it to the point where it would last a couple of days before re-rotating, but that was with her doing much less activity.)
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She is covered under a parent's health insurance.

With a 2nd grader who's probably 7 or 8, if she had him at 17, she's likely approaching the time when she can't be covered under a parent's insurance - that typically ends on your 26th birthday. Something else to be aware of.

What's the name of a reputable good company that could help her for free?

You should refer her to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) www.nfcc.org to look for a credit counselor. NFCC accredits credit counselors.

AJ
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Yup, DH and I are aware she'll age out soon -- DH's sons are in that process now, and even when you are gainfully employed or in school, it's a challenge. It's already on the list to talk to her about.

National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) www.nfcc.org

Thanks. This is now on the list for our next chat, too.

ThyPeace, the next chat is on Sunday. Trying not to deluge her with stuff between now and then.
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SeattlePioneer,

You wrote, Unfortunately, a case study in why teen age sex is not recommended.

I don't know ... I recall teenage sex quite fondly and wish I'd had more of it. ;-)

On the other hand I would recommend being careful and using protection. Having a child at an early age can ruin your life, or at the very least derail your career path and set you back irreparably. (Unless you and/or your parents are quite wealthy and can use it to support you and your child.)

- Joel
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I don't know ... I recall teenage sex quite fondly and wish I'd had more of it. ;-)


Same. It think it's teen getting preggers and then going through with birth that should not be recommended.

xtn
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So anyway, I am wondering what your thoughts are about ways that we can help, whether it is financial or something else.

In addition to public assistance, she should also check into "Ministries" that churches in her area might offer, as well as any help the school counselor can provide.

Breaking down each:
1) Every year our school sends out - to every student - a list of ways the community can help, how to get in touch with the agency or charity that can help that way, and if you are unable to do that yourself, how to get in touch with the school's counselor to assist you. She should reach out to the school her 2nd grader is in, and ask the counselor what kind of help she can get. The list published at our school covers everything from clothing and food to free dentistry, for parents and students alike.

2) Churches (at least around here!) sometimes have an "X ministry" that helps community members, where "X" is whatever a Member is eager to provide or a church itself feels strongly about. Sometimes that's something like clothing/food, but sometimes it's a car ministry that helps with maintenance, or someone that's excellent at navigating local/state government assistance paperwork to go with and guide an applicant.

The hardest part on each of those is asking, and I'm not downplaying how hard that might be for her to do. But they are probably the most immediate way for her to get assistance.

I also feel obligated to mention that child support can and will be withheld from disability payments - if the child's father is receiving those, she should check with her county on how to get that withheld and sent to her. Yes, it will be a minuscule amount....but every dollar counts.

impolite
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ThyPeace, I know I am responding months late to your post, but I just wanted to say how lucky this girl is to have you as a relative and friend. You are kind and caring, and that deserves to be acknowledged.

I hope that, when you post an update about her, you have good news to impart.

- Pam
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Hiya, PipneyJane --

Thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately, it's been a rough few months for my young relative. I'll post an update in a new thread.

ThyPeace, life.
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<<I was speaking to a young adult relative yesterday, and in the course of the conversation, learned that her finances are far worse than I had imagined them to be.>>



I re read this thread to see if there were additional comments that might be helpful.


Most of the comments dealt with how to get more benefits from government. That's fine and appropriate, but I wonder if it is neglecting other options.


The second option discussed most often was obtaining aid from churches or other charitable organizations. That is an option that should certainly be maxed out.

The third option is the one that would be the most traditional one relied upon, and also the least discussed in this thread: assistance by the family, including the extended family.

The comment opening this post suggests that the difficulties of this family member are not well understood by other family members, and indeed are probably being hidden from other family members. I suggest that is a mistake.

Since the principle person is in extreme distress and bordering on being helpless, that suggests that one or more other family members ought to be pitching in on a regular basis to help this part of the family survive. That might include finding another family member to care for the minor child, for example.

It should probably include family members beating the bushes for assistance from government, churches, nonprofits and other family members.

Perhaps better situated family members should be asked or volunteer to take this distressed person into their home to care and succor her, just as the minor child should be cared for when the mother isn't capable of doing these tasks.

The idea that every young adult, even when in extreme distress, should be maintained in an independent living situation strikes me as bogus and foolish.

I suggest that the most important and dramatic improvements in the welfare of the young adult and her child is likely to come from family members stepping up to take charge of lives that these people in distress cannot manage for themselves at present.

WHERE are the other adults in this extended family?


Seattle Pioneer
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Thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately, it's been a rough few months for my young relative. I'll post an update in a new thread.

ThyPeace, life


I’m sorry to hear it, ThyPeace. Hugs to both of you.

- Pam
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The idea that every young adult, even when in extreme distress, should be maintained in an independent living situation strikes me as bogus and foolish.

I suggest that the most important and dramatic improvements in the welfare of the young adult and her child is likely to come from family members stepping up to take charge of lives that these people in distress cannot manage for themselves at present.

WHERE are the other adults in this extended family?


You make excellent points, SP. From what I can tell, her parents and longtime step-parents (parents divorced almost 20 years ago) are doing everything they can, and everything that she will let them do. The house is owned by one parent, and the daughter lives there rent-free. The only utility she has to pay is electricity. She is on another parent's health insurance, and I suspect they fairly regularly provide assistance in terms of meals purchased, gifts of clothes and food, etc. However, neither of her parents are particularly money-smart, and there is no one in the family who is the equivalent of a homemaker who could potentially step in and really get some things done.

So... I think they help when and where they can. I also get a variety of stories depending on who I talk to. I suppose that's always the case.

ThyPeace, family dynamics are a challenge.
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