Dear Dave,
Iíve had a judgment filed against me for an old, unpaid medical bill. The original amount was $2,500, but now it has increased to $3,200. Can I negotiate this with the lawyer? Iíve asked him for a detailed statement of the account several times, but all Iíve gotten is a payment booklet.
ó Bill

Dear Bill,
When it comes to paying off bills or debt, you should always pay whatís owed if you have the money. Thereís a moral, as well as legal, responsibility involved. That being said, if you donít have $3,200, offer him whatever youíve got ó $2,000 or the original $2,500 as a settlement.

Make sure he understands that youíre not offering to pay the amount you have on the debt, but that itís being offered as settlement in full if the debt is cleared.

The reason you havenít gotten what youíve asked for so far is you may have been talking to some low-level staffer or paralegal. If you have been talking directly to the lawyer, then heís probably running a small debt collections or debt lawsuit machine. That means youíre just one of dozens of widgets coming down the line. To you, this is very personal. But to him, youíre just another account. You might have to do something to get his attention and wake him up.

If this is the case, he probably gets a piece of whatever he collects. So, if he gets a third of $2,000 or $2,500 it might make his house payment this month. You could also talk to the hospital administrator, too, and let them know youíll bring a couple thousand down there today if theyíll accept it as payment in full. At this point, youíve just got to do something to get off the conveyor belt.
óDave

Annuities for long-term retirement?

Dear Dave,
Are annuities good for long-term retirement?
ó Quincy

Dear Quincy,
The short answer is no. There might be a rare exception when Iíd use a variable annuity ó which is a mutual fund inside of an annuity ó but as a rule I donít use annuities. And I certainly donít use fixed annuities for anything, because theyíre just crap. Basically, theyíre a CD with a huge set of fees. Itís just an insurance agentís product, really.

The place for variable annuities might be when youíve got everything else maxed out and your house is paid off. If youíve reached that point, you can talk to your advisor about some of the possible benefits of a variable annuity. You can leave a beneficiary on it, so that it passes outside of probate, and youíve got some principle guarantees and return guarantees that are decent. The returns are a little lower, though, because youíll get hit with both the annuity fee and the mutual fund fee.

So, by and large the answer is no for most people, because they donít have their house paid off and arenít maxing out all other retirement options. If youíre doing all that, and you want to do something in this area, then I might think about it.
ó Dave

ó Dave Ramsey is Americaís trusted voice on money and business, and CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 11 million listeners each week on more than 550 radio stations and digital outlets. Daveís latest project, EveryDollar, provides a free online budget tool. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.