CRANBERRY TWP — A national author and financial expert brought her humor and knowledge to hundreds of people Monday night who came to hear her speak about money matters. Michelle Singletary is a syndicated newspaper columnist who has written three books on money and personal finance issues and regularly appears on television and radio shows. Singletary used humor and wit to break down complicated topics such as Social Security, pensions and investments, as well as tips for staying out of debt in her talk at the Pittsburgh Marriott North as part of a free seminar sponsored by the state Department of Banking and Securities and AARP. She also spoke extensively about the importance of saving for retirement, especially if children are involved. “My daughter came to me one day begging for me to buy her something,” she said. “I told her over and over that I had two words for her: College fund. And she had two words for me: Nursing home. And that, folks, is why we have to save for our own retirement.” Despite all of the number crunching and terminology inherent in money issues, Singletary laid down a foundation of five basic tenets designed to get a person’s financial house in order. She hammered home the importance of being frugal, being careful with credit cards, doing smart budgeting, having smart investments and being content with what you have. Singletary knows a thing or two about the last point. She, along with four other siblings, were raised by her grandmother on a salary of only $13,000 a year. It was her grandmother who taught her everything she knows about money management. Singletary said the family never had much money, but her grandmother left $20,000 when she died. “I don’t believe in disposable income,” she said. “It doesn’t exist in my house.” That’s because any extra money immediately gets filtered into the college fund, the mortgage or other investments, she said. Following that practice goes a long way in keeping the family out of debt. Most people have varying amounts of debt in their lives, Singletary said, debt that infringes on a person’s ability to retire. The key to save enough for retirement lies in a mix between Social Security savings, pension savings and personal savings, she said, although a significant portion of that should come from personal savings. Dave Mueller came to hear about saving for retirement. For him, that’s not too far off. “Hopefully I’ll get there in eight to 10 years,” he said. “I have some investments that aren’t doing so well, so I figured I’d come here and learn a few things.” Rose Nicklow perused one of more than a dozen booths set up in the lobby of the hotel. A wide range of companies had representatives on hand to answer financial questions that weren’t extensively covered in the seminar. “I wanted to learn about scam artists and how they operate,” she said. “And I’m gathering all the information I can.” The educational seminar is in its 10th year. Dates and times of other seminars can be found on the state Department of Banking and Securities website.