Dear Mary: Thank you for your many helpful articles. In a past column you wrote about how to un-shrink a wool sweater. All I can remember is that it involved baby shampoo. Could you print the instructions again? Thanks! --Linda L., IL
Linda: Sure, here it is: Mix a solution of 1 gallon lukewarm water and 2 tablespoons baby shampoo. Soak the garment for about 10 minutes. Now the important part: Don't rinse! Simply blot out all the excess water with a dry towel, and very gently lay it flat on a fresh towel. Reshape slowly, and carefully stretch it back to its original size. Keep out of direct sunlight or heat while drying. This tip comes from the Wool Bureau, who verifies this technique will work provided the fibers have not become permanently damaged.
Mary: Will I get my husband's pension, 401(k) and IRA if he dies? --Riley G., email
Riley: Yes, provided your husband named you as the sole beneficiary of those plans.
Most plans have a stipulation that if the beneficiary is anyone other than the spouse, the husband or wife must consent in writing.
Upon your husband's death, the rules that applied to him for getting his pension, 401(k) and IRA, will now apply to his beneficiary.
For example, if your husband dies before the minimum withdrawal date (age 59 1/2), you will have to wait until that date to withdraw funds without a penalty, regardless of your age.
Every plan has an administrator who will be able to answer all of your questions. Call his HR department at work to find out how to contact the administrator.
Dear Mary: I am a 70-year-old single male with a decent income who faced the stark reality of bankruptcy. I have spent my entire life doing everything wrong when it comes to finances. While rearing my family, we lived well, but with a lot of stupid debt. I have never saved, seldom invested wisely and gave consistently -- though at times very unwisely. My poor awareness of the proper way to handle money left an old man groping for a way out. With a debt load of over $36,000 on a fixed income, I entered a CCCS debt management program (NFCC.org). Shortly after, I saw an advertisement for your book, Debt Proof Living. I bought it and have read and re-read it. I wish that I could have been exposed to this wisdom as a young man.
To know that "money is not to spend, but to manage" has changed my life. If God allows me to live long enough I will be debt-free in 44 months. I can't begin to express to you my gratitude. Thank you for giving me hope and God bless. --Billy B., Florida
Dear Billy: You have no idea how much you have encouraged me. You affirm what I so strongly believe, that there's always hope and a way out. I think you'll be debt-free sooner than you think.
My only concern is what I will do with all the letters I get from 70-year-old single females who want your address.
Mary invites questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.