Author Topic: How to help my 63-year-old mother with TONS of problems ($ and otherwise!)  (Read 5575 times)

Nick_Miller

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I'll keep this as short as possible.

My 63 y/o mom is:
1) needing to file bankruptcy
2) on the road to divorce (husband says he wants one)
3) a hoarder and enabler (her home is overrun with clothes/garbage/etc and is borderline uninhabitable)
4) broke! doesn't have a penny to her name
5) scared to death of being on her own...she's never had to do that before as an adult.

What in the world am I suppose to do? What do others do in my position? I have one brother that can help some but he's limited in how he can help (doesn't drive, doesn't make much $, but he gets by)

Options I don't think are even on the table...

A) Mom living with us. Our house is not very big, and having Mom here would drive my wife insane and cause marital problems. A non-starter.

B) Mom living in Section 8 housing (or the equivalent). I've seen those hellholes. My wife works in property management and admits they are hellholes.

C) Mom staying in her home. Well, in theory she COULD stay there for a bit longer, until foreclosure starts, but as stated above, the house is barely inhabitable and there are a lot of negative feelings attached.

The plan, right now, is to get mom set up in an apartment by the end of THIS month, so she can sign a lease before her credit is trashed! (It's not bad now, but with her husband leaving, they are both giving up on paying bills. They were just barely keeping their heads above water beforehand, and were going to need to file BK even if they stayed married). I figure if we don't get her in an apartment very soon, an active BK might make it harder for her to find something. And frankly she's stayed here for going on 3 weeks now, and that can't last much longer. We can do it until the end of July but I think that's it.

In the best of all worlds, she'd find a lady of a similar age in a similar situation and they'd become roommates or something, but she has few friends so this might happen down the road, but I'm not sure it will happen any time soon. So basically I'm resigned to having to help her financially for a while. My wife agreed that we can help her pay off her car and help pay her first month's rent and deposit, but I went over a budget with Mom the other night and I just don't see how she can support herself. She's two years from being able to retire with a full pension from her gov't job, and then she'd also be Medicare eligible. She might take SS at age 65 just so she can retire in two years (or maybe draw from my dad's; they were divorced about 18 years ago but were married for about 25). But this would be her budget for the next two years:

Monthly Income:
$1400

Expenses:
Rent $600 (maximum)(I'm assuming this would include water/garbage)
Car $300 (we would pay these payments until Jan, 2018, when it would be paid off)
Groceries/household goods $220
Car Insurance: $100
Medical: $100 (just for co-pays and meds, nothing extra)
Electricity: $80
Cable $80 (I know! she "needs" her shows)
Phone: $80 (I know! she just signed a new contract)
Entertainment $100
Gas $80
Savings: $100 (I'd like her to be able to save at least $100 per month to start building an EF)

TOTAL $1,840

So even with us paying the $300 car payment, she's still $140 in the red each month. I guess if you erase "savings," she's down to $40 in the red each month, but then she doesn't save a penny at all, and so any little emergency or unanticipated event destroys her budget (and probably results in her calling me!) I assume there will be some maintenance payments down the road, but that won't happen right this second. And I know those should be viewed as "extra," not essentials that are needed to balance a monthly budget.

What would you do if you were me?

*EDITED TO ADD: BK MUST HAPPEN. I didn't even include any debts in Mom's proposed budget. She owes (with her current husband) over $25,000 in credit cards and a staggering $90,000 in home equity loan on a home that's worth, maybe, $60,000-$70,000. At her age, and with her low income, there's no way to dig out of it. I don't say many things are impossible, but this is impossible. She will need to file BK to wipe her slate clean and let her limp into retirement with no debts.





« Last Edit: July 11, 2017, 09:01:08 AM by Nick_Miller »

rubybeth

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A few things:

Find out about social security NOW. See if she can get her ex-husband's income and take it early. It may pay to start social security early if it allows her to not go bankrupt.

Food assistance--food shelf, SNAP, etc. It can help cover some basics, and doesn't need to be forever.

Are there any health/mental health issues that may qualify her for additional assistance, like Medicaid for health costs? The hoarding is an indicator of other problems.

Rent would probably include water/garbage if she's in an apartment building vs. just renting a house. Being in a controlled access building might help alleviate some "being alone" concerns, too.

Maybe cut entertainment to the bone--like nothing, or $20. Or you offer to take her out for movies, dinners, etc. and pay her way instead of her spending that money.

What happens if the house is foreclosed on? I am not familiar with that process, or with bankruptcy.

Call the cable/phone companies and threaten to drop these/break any contracts since she's facing bankruptcy. See if they will reduce it for a year or so.

I also would not have her live with you. Your wife and marital happiness has to come first. I know that story all too well. :/

Also, does she own anything of value that she could sell for some cash? Craigslist or Facebook marketplace for local sales seem to work well in my area. Do a clean out/garage sale if that might be worthwhile.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2017, 08:41:58 AM by rubybeth »

LifeHappens

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First, sorry you're going through this. It's a hard situation when you want to help someone who seems unable to help herself.

The first place I would start is by contacting your local Senior Services agency. These are called different things in different parts of the country, but your county will have some type of agency that coordinates all the resources for seniors. For example, your mom is old enough to live in a senior housing complex and they would have a list of those facilities. If you don't know what agency does this, call 211 for a referral.

Second, does she own anything of value? Can the house be sold for a low price just to save it from foreclosure? I know the divorce complicates things, but it seems like it would be in the best interest her and her X to get that out of their lives.

Third, she's going through a divorce and has hoarding behaviors. If she is at all receptive to therapy, try to get her in ASAP. Hopefully she has benefits through her work. She has some much bigger issues you can't fix for her.

Like Moustaches said, this seems to be a temporary financial issue. See what her situation would look like at 65 with healthcare, SS and her pension.

Nick_Miller

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@rubybeth, I will look into the SS angle. That's something I can learn more about and advise her on. But bankruptcy is definitely going to happen.

I didn't even include any debts in Mom's proposed budget. She owes (with her current husband) over $25,000 in credit cards and a staggering $90,000 in home equity loan on a home that's worth, maybe, $60,000-$70,000. At her age, and with her low income, there's no way to dig out of it. I don't say many things are impossible, but this is impossible. She will need to file BK to wipe her slate clean and let her limp into retirement with no debts.

And yes I will work on her about accepting some help; like SNAP, etc. I think it's hard for a person to accept that sort of help this late in their life, sorta like they are officially a drag on society now. Thanks for all your other suggestions as well! I will definitely offer to take her out once a month for dinner or mini golf or something.

@Moustaches, I HOPE it's a temporary problem! She will definitely make more money at age 65, and she could even work part-time on top of that. But these next two years will be rough. And my brother is helping with cleaning out the house. He's knowledgeable about nick knacks  and vintage stuff and collectible stuff, etc. He's taking a week's vacation starting in a few days to work through the entire house and pull anything of value that can be sold for $. A few basic pieces of furniture can be pulled to furnish her new apartment. 95% of the hoarding mess will just go with the house and the bank will have to take care of it.

And yes she's under a huge amount of stress. I talk with her every night for an hour; she walks me through her entire day and all the ups and downs. It's a lot for me to process, but I let her vent and I offer firm advice. Yes, if we're going to do something for her a monthly basis for the next two years, like pay her electricity bill, I want at least some input on her budget. I think she will listen to me, but I do end up being the "bad guy" which is a thankless position. I helped her find counseling (her employee benefits offer a few free sessions) that she didn't even know was available. I'll help her screen attorneys for the BK and divorce.

My wife's biggest concern, and it's a valid one, is that we can't underwrite a lifestyle that won't balance every month. Like if Mom refuses to give up cable, or her smart phone, and she spends $ on playing bingo or things like that, and then "she winds up short" at the end of the month, it will drive my wife INSANE.








Nick_Miller

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First, sorry you're going through this. It's a hard situation when you want to help someone who seems unable to help herself.

The first place I would start is by contacting your local Senior Services agency. These are called different things in different parts of the country, but your county will have some type of agency that coordinates all the resources for seniors. For example, your mom is old enough to live in a senior housing complex and they would have a list of those facilities. If you don't know what agency does this, call 211 for a referral.

Second, does she own anything of value? Can the house be sold for a low price just to save it from foreclosure? I know the divorce complicates things, but it seems like it would be in the best interest her and her X to get that out of their lives.

Third, she's going through a divorce and has hoarding behaviors. If she is at all receptive to therapy, try to get her in ASAP. Hopefully she has benefits through her work. She has some much bigger issues you can't fix for her.

Like Moustaches said, this seems to be a temporary financial issue. See what her situation would look like at 65 with healthcare, SS and her pension.

Thanks for your advise and nice sentiments! I appreciate it.

I think Mom will bristle at a low-income senior housing place. Basically any place with 85-year-olds in the hallways who look like a step away from death. She acts young for 63, and although she might be okay with going into a senior home in 10 years, I think she will fight me tooth and nail now. She wants to feel "normal," not old.

Other questions: very little of value, just a few nick knacks. My brother will help sell those, but that $ will likely go towards a new mattress and some $ for first month's rent. The house will be GONE. No two ways about it. It's my childhood home, and it's very sad for us all, but it can't be saved. And see my comment that posted just as you were posting; yep I have her in therapy, at least for a few more weeks that are covered.

wenchsenior

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It sounds like a temporary problem and you should do an income and cash flow estimate based on her situation at age 65 with SS, medicare, and pensions.  If she is going to be fine after that, I would happily support my mom with a few hundred a month until that time, with the condition that I would be in charge of her budget.  If she is a hoarder, you could also look to sell some of her belongings that have value.  For example, $300 a month for a car doesn't make alot of sense as she is about to be retired, maybe she could get a cheaper used car or you can give her your car and then go buy a different car.  The rest of the budget isn't that high.  Also, if you have kids maybe you could pay her to watch them sometimes.  Going through a divorce and moving are stressful, maybe you could spend more time with her as well.

With the caveat that our mothers didn't have quite the level of psychological challenge that hoarding indicates, I agree with the above.  We faced a similar situation with both our mothers. No income, no assets, no job, and pre SS age. With one mother (his) who lives far away, is stubborn, and is secretive, we resigned ourselves to emergency requests for cash a couple times per year and now budget 2-3K/year for that.  Which trust me, is much easier than trying to actively stabilize her situation.

With my mother, I paid off her credit card debt and car repairs a few times over the years, until eventually she was close to SS age and she could no longer afford to live.  However, she was cooperative about becoming totally open re her finances and having me take them over (initially) and then be able to check on them in ongoing fashion later.   In her case, we bought a second house and gave her our old car, and paid her utilities.  This was incredibly financially challenging the first 4-5 years, because it added about a 10k/year drain to our budget.  She was unable to get the kind of job she had previously held (at her age, and it was during the recession), so she applied a few years early for SS based on her ex husband's income.  Ideally, I wanted her to take any shitty job, even grocery bagger, etc, but there were psychological issues involved and it was more stressful and more of a time sink for me to try to force the issue, so we gave up on the job eventually.  However, as we've stabilized her situation, eventually the financial burden became less. Now she has taken over more of the monthly bills, and our ongoing costs to support her in terms of housing and car expenses is about 5k/yr (half of what it originally was).

However, if we had been living in a HCOL area, we could not have swung that kind of support for my mother. She would then have been forced to live temporarily with one of her sisters until she could qualify for Section 8 housing, SNAP, etc.

The reality is, support for the poor elderly is very spotty state to state.  She originally lived in a higher support state, but then no one would have had oversight on her finances.  So we moved her to this very low support state, where we can be directly involved.  You have to check into each state's rules.

It's tough, and regrettably, there is no great option for this situation.

ETA: I did not see that she would have a pension coming in soon. That is fantastic!  In that case, you will not be facing the situation we are of permanent ongoing support.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2017, 09:02:34 AM by wenchsenior »

lizzzi

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Just a quick comment on Section 8 housing being a "hellhole." I am sure this varies area to area. I've had two relatives in Section 8. One had a bad experience with the first apartment (recurring bedbugs in the building), but her case manager found her a beautiful Section 8 apartment that anybody would enjoy living in---and the relative has been there very happily for years. We minimalist Mustachians would probably consider it a bit fancypants. My other relative has a sunny, clean, upstairs unit in a two-family mid-city house. Very pleasant...and the landlord was willing to re-do the stairs to make it a little easier for the relative to go up and down. As a former community health nurse, I've seen all kinds of Section 8 places. Some are fine...and some not...as the OP pointed out.

robartsd

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I'd look into the possibility of saving money by replacing cable with a streaming service and possibly do all you can to break phone contract and get a more reasonable plan. Certainly you should be able to come up with $40 from the $260 currently going to telecoms / entertainment in order to make the budget work for the next couple of years.

SS - Your mom cannot claim SS on your dad's record while she is married. If she was born before 1954, she may be able to apply on your dad's record as soon as her current marriage is disolved without affecting what she'll qualify for on her own record later. Benefits would be reduce for taking them early and for current earned income, but there's no long term harm if the benefts she receives on her own record later are greater than the benefits she would have recieved on your dad's record had she waited to apply. If she was born on or after 2 Jan 1954, she can not apply for SS only on your dad's record (she must also apply on her own record at the same time).

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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One thing I've learned: you cannot help people. You can only help them help themselves.

All of this needs to come from your mom, or you'll both just end up resentful and frustrated, and nothing will change.

Cassie

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If you are working SS takes one dollar for every 2 you make once you hit 15k in income unless you are full retirement age so taking it early may not be a good idea.  She probably will not qualify for senior or low income housing while she is working f.t.  I used to be a social worker so worked closely with many programs. She won't qualify for Medicaid either at this point.  I doubt she will qualify for snap now but could use free food banks.  I am your Mom's age and really feel bad for her.

affordablehousing

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I wouldn't discount the possibility of her finding affordable housing. You'd need to find the right fit as some projects have age restrictions of 55+, 62+ and 65+, but a lot of newer affordable housing has section 8 contracts on them, and she'd be paying a 30% contribution of her income to rent and utilities, which sounds like a savings compared to market rate options. In my experience, some of these projects are very nice, and beyond being age restricted, may have little else other than a sign to suggest they are for seniors. The designation just helps the developer get federal funding for the construction of the project.

Also, from the experience of having parents who are also on the hoarding spectrum, it may be worth able family members pitching in for a decluttering consultant. I've found it impossible to help parents get rid of stuff coming at it from being within the family. An outside perspective may seem less threatening, and having less stuff, may make all of the changes seem slightly easier to handle for your mom.

Cassie

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AF: the problem with section 8 is you have to have a low income to qualify and if she is a government employee still working I doubt it is low enough. I had a friend with a pretty low income that was unable to get it although it will vary by state. Once retired depending on size of pension and SS she may be able to get it.

Nick_Miller

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Limited time this morning but I saw there were responses from last night.....

She makes less than $28,000 per year (works for school system) and at her age (she also has medical conditions including heart problems), I don't see her getting an additional job, so her income is what it is for the next few years.

I'll look into the SS more closely again...navigating that is definitely the biggest issue along with finding housing. Market rates for decent apartments will eat up close to 50% of her take home pay, and that seems like a recipe for failure.

I think she'll file for BK first, get that done, and then petition for divorce. I'm not sure if there are pros or cons either way with the timing; I'll talk to some attorneys this week..I know lots of solo practitioners do both.

Thanks everyone! For now I'm just cutting expenses at our house so that our stache progress doesn't take too much of a hit when we write a check to get her in an apartment within a few weeks.


Lis

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This might not be financially or even physically feasible for you, but is it possible to add/build a small mother-in-law suite on your property? A small one bedroom or studio with its own kitchen and bathroom? She would just have keys to her space (not yours) so it could hopefully give you and your wife some separation (as opposed to her living in an extra bedroom in your house), but she would be close by so you could keep an eye on her.

(This isn't inexpensive or easy, just wanted to put this idea out there that *may* work.)

Mariposa

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If it were me, yes, I would help my mother limp along until she gets her pension in 2 years. We give 15k/year permanent support to my MIL.

Question: is that budget close to what she's living on now, or is it what you think her expenses should be going forward? For a non-mustachian, those numbers are fairly austere, aside from the cable and cell phone. And if she is capable of living on a relatively austere budget, how did she get into so much debt in the first place?

Definitely look into benefits and collecting her ex's SS, as others have mentioned. My impression is that her salary is just above the cut-off for SNAP or Medicaid; not sure about subsidized housing. How much will she get in pension + her own SS when she turns 65? Will that comfortably cover her expenses in 2y, or is it possible you may have to provide some sort of limited life support forever?

I would forget about trying to get her to save $100/mo for her own EF, if she's not capable of it. Instead, I would earmark maybe $2-5k of your own money (without telling her) to pay for any major expenses that come up. Having that money earmarked & anticipating those calls from her will help relieve the stress on you & your wife.

historienne

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Section 8 vouchers are just a way to pay for housing.  You need to find a landlord willing to accept vouchers, but if you are willing to put in the legwork to help out, don't assume that there isn't a decent option out there that would accept section 8.

Although, depending on your area, there may be a VERY substantial waitlist.  You should call your local Adult Protective Services agency or Council on Aging to ask about resources.

wenchsenior

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If it were me, yes, I would help my mother limp along until she gets her pension in 2 years. We give 15k/year permanent support to my MIL.

Question: is that budget close to what she's living on now, or is it what you think her expenses should be going forward? For a non-mustachian, those numbers are fairly austere, aside from the cable and cell phone. And if she is capable of living on a relatively austere budget, how did she get into so much debt in the first place?

Definitely look into benefits and collecting her ex's SS, as others have mentioned. My impression is that her salary is just above the cut-off for SNAP or Medicaid; not sure about subsidized housing. How much will she get in pension + her own SS when she turns 65? Will that comfortably cover her expenses in 2y, or is it possible you may have to provide some sort of limited life support forever?



This varies by state, I think. In our state, my mother did not qualify for Medicaid on a gross income of 15K/year and zero assets. I think she BARELY would have qualified in one of the states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA, but I'm not sure.  She did qualify for a very small amount of state assistance for utilities and rent...about 100-150$'s worth/month I think, which was negated when we provided her with housing.  At that point, she did not qualify for any state assistance. 

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Make sure not to break your marriage!

Catbert

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You seem to think that when she turns 65 she'll be able to collect SS and a pension and be better off financially.  Have you looked into it?  Is that actually her case?  Pension and SS are both based at least in part on salaries earned during working years.  She's so low income now, that it seems her SS and pension would also be small.  You may need to be planning for the long-run and not just two years.  That may make some options more or less viable.

Of course, if her SS and pensions are based on someone else's salary, the above won't apply.

lizzzi

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Sometimes the Section 8 waiting lists are so long that they close the wait lists. You have to watch the newspaper carefully (usually in the back where the legal notices are) to see when the Section 8 lists open up again. Then you have to be quick like a bunny to get your LO on the list before it closes again.  I don't know whether the online newspapers (which is all that we read these days, right?) publish the public announcements or not. For my nephew, I was watching the hardcopy newspaper like a hawk to get him on the Section 8 waiting list.  For my other relative (in another state) , the county case manager helped her get on a list.

lhamo

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Is she in a position in the schools where she has contact with parents?   If the school district doesn't have policies against it, she should start letting people know she is available for evening/weekend babysitting.   She can probably earn as much or more per hour as she does for her regular job.   Would really help her gain some traction. She might even think about looking for a home-share situation where she provides overnight care for kids whose parents work evenings/nights.   Could be win-win for both parties.  It isn't the kind of thing she could do forever, but at least for the next couple of years until she can take the pension/SS.

Nick_Miller

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UPDATE:

Well, my brother went apartment shopping with her yesterday and she found a modest but apparently safe apartment for $700/month. I think that's too high, but I'm not making the decision. She won't go to a low income complex, and frankly she needs to get out of my house pretty soon. She's been here about a month and I'd prefer she be out by the end of July. She sleeps on our living room sofa, stays up into the wee hours of the night watching tv, and then corners me in the morning trying to tell me all about her problems while I try to rush around and take care of the dog, wake up the kids, make breakfast, and get our asses out the door.

An aside...she definitely has mental health issues. It's not just the hoarding. She's very immature, boarding on childish. She blames everyone else for her poor life choices. She has never had to take care of herself and she's terrified to do in this stage of life. So to the one poster, no I can't let her live here. :)   If she was sane, I'd let her stay a bit longer, but even then it couldn't be a permanent situation. My wife and kiddos keep me busy enough.

Anyways, this is the plan:

1) She gets an apartment and moves in around August 1st

2) My brother pays $1200 for her first month rent and deposit - this lets her find her footing

3) My wife and I take over her car payments in August. In January, 2018, the car is paid off. Our direct help ends at that point. That has us paying a total of about $1900.

4) I help her get set up with attorneys for bankruptcy and divorce. Based on my reading of some statutes and some divorce attorney websites, I think she'll qualify for at least $400/maintenance. THe goal would to be get this going as soon as possible. That $400/month would let her balance her budget, barely. Without the car payment, she needs $1800 per month. She earns $1400, so his  $400 is needed.

5) "Softer" support will continue in the form of inviting her over for dinner a few times a month, taking her out for mini golf or something once a month, to get her out of the house with no cost to her.

I think she just misses the income limit for SNAP, state benefits, etc. She is going to check it out herself though.

She will have to make things work. She is not me. I cannot make her find a cheaper apartment or cut her cell phone. I feel we have done what we can to help her transition. We still owe lots on my student loans and we're trying to build the stashe as fast as possible (only about $126K now, trying to get it to $140K by year's end)

There may be another update soon. She's supposed to sign a lease next week. And my brother is helping her sell stuff next week.

« Last Edit: July 13, 2017, 08:57:30 AM by Nick_Miller »

FinallyAwake

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One thing I've learned: you cannot help people. You can only help them help themselves.

All of this needs to come from your mom, or you'll both just end up resentful and frustrated, and nothing will change.

Ditto.

If she sees nothing wrong with her spending habits (i.e. $80 cable is a necessity) then she will continue them, except this time on your dime.

Try to get her in to Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University classes.  Yes, there is a Christian undercurrent to it, but that can easily be overlooked if one chooses.


Catbert

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Just be aware that once her car is paid off she can get a title loan on it at exorbitant interest.  I wouldn't rush to pay off the existing loan. 

Nick_Miller

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@FinallyAwake, yes she will likely continue them, but not on my dime. The car is all we are helping with, and that's really just to make it possible for her to move out of my house. Dave Ramsey might be an option at some point. I despise his religious bs and his tendency to rant and bash instead of run numbers, but my Mom might like him.

@mary w, We aren't going to rush it. We're just going to pay the monthly payments as scheduled. She does need a car to get to work, and it will only be 6 years old, so should last a while.