Behind on Your Mortgage? There is Hope.

Seems like there’s a story in the news just about every day about how unemployment is down and the economy is improving. I’m sure that’s happening somewhere, but in my house (and those of many people I know), the economy is still floundering. Unfortunately, in uncertain times like these, honest, hardworking people sometimes have trouble making their mortgage payments. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Ad Council, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development want you to know that real help is available to families who are behind on their mortgage payments, or worried about how they will make the next one. Nearly one in 17 homeowners nationwide has fallen behind on his or her mortgage payments, putting them at a higher risk of foreclosure. Homeowners should not feel alone, but many do.

That is why the Making Home Affordable® (MHA) program provides free resources and assistance for distressed homeowners who are working hard at juggling expenses to makes ends meet. Many of these homeowners may be unaware that MHA has expanded its options, and may have a solution available to address their particular financial situation. Moreover, the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) – available in 18 states and the District of Columbia — also helps real people get back on their feet and on the road to financial stability in states hit hard by the economic and housing downturn.

Across the country, more than 1.5 million families have already benefited from MHA. Through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), homeowners have been able to reduce their monthly mortgage payments by approximately $500 each month. That’s real payment relief.

Homeowners across the U.S. need to know help is available now. If you or anyone you know are having a tough time making mortgage payments and don’t know where to turn, here’s some ideas:

    • Check out these video testimonials. These are genuine success stories from real people who have used the MHA resources. These homeowners were able to overcome potential foreclosure and save their homes. Their stories are a true testament to Making Home Affordable. Listen to their mortgage stories and witness their MHA journeys so that any homeowners may learn about the free resources and assistance available.

  • Visit to learn about available programs to help with mortgage payments.
  • Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) – HAMP® is designed to lower monthly mortgage payments, making them more affordable and sustainable for the long-term.
    • HAMP achieves a more affordable payment by adjusting the mortgage interest rate, extending the term of the loan, and reducing or forbearing principal.
    • Homeowners have saved about $500 per month.
    • Through HAMP, homeowners can get help with their primary residence or rental property.
    • Homeowners who owe significantly more than their home is worth (>115% Loan-To Value or LTV ratio) are automatically evaluated for principal reduction.
    • Just for making timely payments, homeowners could earn up to $10,000, which is used to reduce the principal balance of their mortgage.
  • Hardest Hit Fund (HHF)– HHF programs are designed to complement MHA programs and provide assistance to struggling homeowners, like those in the testimonial videos, through modifications, mortgage payment assistance, and transition assistance programs. HHF programs vary state to state, but often include:
    • Mortgage payment assistance for unemployed or underemployed homeowners.
    • Principal reduction to help homeowners get into more affordable mortgages.
    • Funding to eliminate homeowners’ second lien loans.
    • Help for homeowners who are transitioning out of their homes and into more affordable places of residence.
  • Through the Federal Making Home Affordable program, many homeowners have received much-needed help to reduce their monthly payments, get mortgage relief, and avoid foreclosure. Homeowners who are struggling to make mortgage payments can call 888-995-HOPE or visit for free resources and information to help them with their mortgage problems and avoid foreclosure. By calling 888-995-HOPE, homeowners can speak with a housing expert at a HUD-approved counseling agency at no cost, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and identify potential solutions based on their individual

Economic Recovery? Not Around Here

Dear Mr. Dad: I lost my job more than a year ago and have been unable to find another. My wife works part time, but doesn’t bring in nearly enough to cover our expenses. We have no health insurance, burned through the little savings we had trying to stay current on our mortgage and other bills. Now we’re faced with having to take money out of our retirement accounts to make ends meet. I’m so embarrassed by this whole thing that I can barely face my children. What can we do?

A: I’ve been (and still am) in almost the same situation and I definitely feel your pain. The good news is that you already took the first step: acknowledging that there’s problem. The bad news is that you’re in for a bumpy ride. Here are some steps that should help.

  • Buy some throat lozenges and get rid of any weapons you have around the house. I’m only half kidding. This may be the most frustrating and infuriating experience of your life; you’re going to do a lot of screaming (hence the lozenges), and you don’t want to do anything to hurt yourself or someone else. Believe me, it’s tempting, though.
  • Ask for help. Start by talking with your mortgage company about refinancing your home or modifying your loan. But be prepared for an exercise in twisted logic. My lender told me that I made too much money to do a loan modification but not enough to refinance. There were other options available, but I didn’t qualify because I was current on my mortgage. Apparently, being a responsible adult and paying my bills meant that I couldn’t get help. Defaulting, however, would have made it a lot easier (try to avoid this).
  • Look into the Making Home Affordable Program. This actually encompasses two separate programs, HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program) and HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program). The rules can be complex and seem designed to exclude as many people as possible. In my case, conveniently placed loopholes made me ineligible for any program. Check your eligibility here:
  • Apply for insurance through But hurry: If you don’t make the February 15 deadline, you may have to wait until October to enroll. Ready for more twisted logic? My income was so low that I wasn’t eligible for Obamacare and had to enroll in Medicare. But then Medicare denied coverage because I have money in IRAs. If I take it out now, I have to pay penalties.
  • Apply for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps). Check your eligibility here: Also look into local food banks.
  • Ignore the media. Every day there’s a new story about the booming economy and dropping unemployment numbers. I’ve seen precious little evidence of that. Plus, those statistics are carefully manipulated to exclude all the people who have given up looking for work, who are working part time for economic reasons, or who are under-employed. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics—the agency that calculates the “official” data—the true unemployment rate is roughly double the official one.
  • Use your situation as a lesson—if you can talk about it without scaring your children. Being in horrible financial straits (which, hopefully, won’t go on too much longer), made me a lot more sympathetic to homeless people and others who access government benefits.
  • Get past embarrassment. You and your wife worked for many years, and a lot of the taxes you paid has gone to help people in need. Now it’s your turn, and there’s no shame in getting the help you deserve.

You’re About to Be Schooled

Dear Mr. Dad: I can hardly believe that summer is almost over. It’s been a tough year, financially for our family, and I’ve been putting off doing the back-to-school shopping for my three kids (14, 10, and 5). But at this point I don’t really have a choice. Any tips on how to get it done efficiently and, hopefully, save a little money?

A: Wow, summer did fly by especially quickly this year—I can tell because I find myself muttering under my breath about how much I hate shopping and how expensive things are. But, as you say, it’s got to be done. So here are a few ideas that should make the experience a little less painful.

Check under the bed. Before you go to the store, take a walk through your house. Chances are your child didn’t use up all of last year’s paper and pencils, and you can probably reuse some of last-year’s (or the year before’s) binders. You’ll find that there are a lot of things you can buy less of or skip altogether.
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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. And Breakfast. And Lunch.

Dear Mr. Dad: I have a 20-year-old son who has been living on his own for several years. But he’s hit a few rough patches lately, and now wants to move back home. My wife and I want to do the right thing and help him, but we’re afraid that letting him move back in with us could turn out to be the wrong thing in the end—for everyone. Is it wrong of us to want our son to stay on his own?

A: Well, first of all, congratulations. You raised your son right: he went to school, got a job, and started making a life for himself. So it’s only natural that you’d assumed that you and your wife would have your house to yourselves. But times are much, much different than when you were your son’s age. According to a recent survey by, only 4 percent of Baby Boomers were living at home after having started their careers. Eleven percent of Gen X (those born between 1961 and 1981) got their first jobs but kept living (or moved back in with) ma and pa. And 28 percent of Gen Y (those born after 1982) are still under their parents’ roof. It’s no wonder that your son’s generation is sometimes called the Boomerang Generation.
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A Not-So-Extreme Guide to Saving More

[amazon asin=080072206X&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Kasey Knight Trenum, author of Couponing for the Rest of Us.
: A not-so-extreme guide to saving more.
Issues: Where to find coupons for what your family eats; how to reinvent your shopping strategy, how to make grocery shopping less stressful–and even fun.

You’re living where? Really?

Okay, I admit it. I moved back in with my parents after college, just until I got settled. And then, years later, after my divorce, I moved back in again. But I didn’t stay long—mostly because it seemed horribly embarrassing to be living with my parents. Plus, it definitely made dating kind of tough. I mean how many times can you get away with, “Oh, can’t go to my place because, ah, they’re painting and the place needs to air out.”
Well apparently, the days of feeling embarrassed about being an adult and living with ma and pa are gone. The Pew Research Center just did a survey of over 2,000 adults across the country and they found that the number of young adults living at home is at the highest level since the 1950s. In 2010, for example, nearly 22 percent of adults 25-34 were had moved back home. The report, “The Boomerang Generation,” also found that:

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