DEAR BRUCE >> I started saving late in life, so now I'm playing catch-up. I am 45, have about $95,000 in a 401(k), $5,000 in a Roth and I am working a second job to bring in more money. My income is approximately $60,000 combined. I have a mortgage of $45,000, student loans totaling $35,000, and no other loans or credit card debt. Also, I have $13,000 in savings.

I don't know what I should do with my extra money, whether I should pay down my student loans or pay off the mortgage. I don't know how much longer I can keep working two jobs, but I want to keep with it for at least five years. Also, I want to sell my condo and buy a small house in a few years.

— Reader

DEAR READER >> It sounds to me like you've a good handle on things. You say you're playing catch-up. At 45 years old, you still have 20 to 25 years to work, and I suspect that you're going to have to do that.

In essence, you have student loans at $35,000 and a mortgage of $45,000. Not too shabby. I would pay down the student loans first, which very likely have a considerably higher expense factor than the mortgage. As to selling the condo and buying a small house, I don't know why you are waiting to do that.

You mentioned not wanting to work for too much longer. I urge you to work as long as you can. Your income, which is $60,000 combined, is not insignificant, but it's not a great deal of money. It seems to me that you're very disciplined and you should be congratulated.


DEAR BRUCE >> I will be closing on my house in the next couple of weeks. I want to have an attorney present in case of any problems. What is the standard rate for an attorney in this circumstance?

— Reader

DEAR READER >> First of all, you should already have an attorney at this point. You're late! There may be some issues that have to be cleaned up.

As to a standard rate, it depends to some measure on the size of the house. If you're buying an expensive home (say $600,000), it wouldn't be unusual to have an hourly rate of $150 to $175. If it's much smaller, then the rate should be much less. Get ahold of an attorney soon because you are already late in getting that very important part of the closing established.

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