From Joplin Tornado Victims, Advice on Disaster-Proofing Finances

But you can prepare yourself for the possibility, however remote, that something like what happened to the people of Joplin — or New Orleans, or Northridge, Calif., or New York City and the surrounding areas last month — will happen to you. And one of the easiest steps you can take is to disaster-proof your finances. The tornado here caused nearly $3 billion in damage. Some 61,000 insurance claims were filed, with a total payout of more than $2 billion. Of that, 31 percent went to homeowners an

Displaced Men Trade Blue-Collar Jobs for Nursing

Oakland University in nearby Rochester, Mich., has established a program specifically to retrain autoworkers in nursing — about 50 a year since 2009. And the College of Nursing at Wayne State University in Detroit is enrolling a wide range of people switching to health careers, including former manufacturing workers, said Barbara Redman, its dean. “They bring age, experience and discipline,” she said. David Pomerville brings a few more years than Mr. Edwards. A 57-year-old nursing student, he s

How to Set a Price on the Life of a Beloved Pet?

Alana Yañez of Highland Park, Calif., faced a similar decision in October, when her 11-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, Max, started limping. Ms. Yañez, 34, works with the Humane Society of the United States’ Pets for Life program, which provides free training and veterinary care to low-income communities. She counsels clients almost daily about end-of-life care for their pets and did the same in college while working as a veterinary technician. But she still faced wrenching decisions when it

One Couple’s Ordeal Against Credit Card and Housing Debt

Ms. Long, an author herself, also acknowledged that half of that $40,000-plus debt load was from living beyond their means. She always assumed she would share the upper-middle-class lifestyle of her childhood. She went out to eat — a lot — something that continued during her relationship with Mr. Koke. They took vacations. And when money was tight? “Basically I just put it on credit cards to keep that level of lifestyle no matter the actual situation,” she said. “Like I was entitled to that.”

Hanging Onto Home, Even After a Loss

“We had foreclosures, we had abandonments right here in these 99 units,” Mr. Murphy said. “This is the unit here that went for 50 cents on the dollar. I think this one up here is a foreclosure. And you think ‘O.K., that means if I want to sell tomorrow, next year, I can’t do it.’ ” Not that they want to move anytime soon. In fact, their plan was to stay in these 1,700 square feet for another decade or so. Mrs. Murphy, 64, still works full time as an administrative assistant at a private school.

Life Goes On, Some Find, After Leaving an Underwater Mortgage

Mr. Wittenberg bought a two-story, 1,300-square-foot condominium for $450,000 in April 2006, putting 20 percent down on a 30-year fixed mortgage with Wells Fargo. And the bank promptly offered him a line of credit, he said: “They were handing mortgages out like candy, and I was able to borrow from the house on Day 1 of signing the loan.” A Wells Fargo mortgage spokeswoman, Vickee Adams, confirmed last week that Mr. Wittenberg had been a customer but said that because of confidentiality laws, the

Out of College, Not on Her Own

Now she’s tutoring and working part time for a foundation started by her parents, who are both lawyers. The foundation provides low-cost legal services for students with special needs and eventually hopes to open a charter school. Her father, Greg, pays her $13 an hour. Her parents don’t charge her rent, but she has to do the grocery shopping and make dinner for her family four nights a week. She’s also responsible for all expenses related to her terrier, Queen Anne. The McNairs have three othe

A Reverse Mortgage Can Help Those With No Retirement Savings

In her 40s, Ms. Wilson moved to California and became a publicist. At her peak, she made around $65,000 a year, she said, and not a penny of that made its way into a retirement fund. “One thing kind of led to another,” Ms. Wilson said. “I’ve always put all my money into my businesses. And I always thought the business I was in was going to be a great success.” She also raised a daughter, Corie, 36, who lives in Los Angeles with her two children and is not in a position to help her mother financi