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by on May 01, 2014 10:50 AM

DEAR MARY: I would like to know your opinion on the American Express Pass reloadable card for teens. — Debbie, California

DEAR DEBBIE: I am opposed to any kind of plastic for kids of any age. Honestly, age 18 is about the right time to introduce credit and debit cards. Just keep in mind that plastic is a privilege for financially mature adults.

Plastic will confuse and abuse your children’s thinking processes. It will open the door to ugly attitudes of entitlement. Cash, on the other hand, works like a dream. Teach your kids how to earn, save, give and manage cash. They’ll love it and so will you.

I have written extensively about this in my book, “Raising Financially Confident Kids,” which also includes a foolproof step-by-step plan that will help you to produce financially confident adults.

I hope you will read it soon, before you hand your child an American Express card.

DEAR MARY: In our divorce agreement, my ex was responsible for the $5,000 student loan that I co-signed. My attorney told me that if he defaults, I should pay the loan and then sue him for the amount plus legal fees.

Sallie Mae made me a settlement offer, which will show on my credit. Should I opt for this black eye on my credit report? — Kim, California

DEAR KIM: You hired an attorney, so take his advice. If you have an option, you absolutely do not want a “settled debt” on your record for the next seven years.

DEAR MARY: Once each quarter we have our house and property treated for pests by Terminix. The results have been excellent and we no longer have the problem with bugs that we had before. Do you know of a homemade or store-bought solution that we can use instead of paying quarterly? The payment is quite high, and although I was able to negotiate with Terminix to lower the fee, I know that’s just temporary. I am afraid if we don’t continually have our house treated, we may end up with an infestation again. — Gloria, email

DEAR GLORIA: The reason that pest control performed by a professional service such as Terminix is costly, is because they use chemicals that are toxic and restricted for consumer use. The professionals know how and where to apply the chemicals in a way that doesn’t put you and pets in harm’s way.

There are do-it-yourself options for minor issues such as ants and aphids; however, it sounds to me as if you have bigger problems that do warrant the services of a professional.

Instead of trying to do this yourself, I suggest you shop around to find the most cost-effective service possible, and let Terminix know that you are.

Also, consider service every four months or twice a year. That might do the trick as a maintenance option, and cut your costs.

Mary invites questions at, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at
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