Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 tips for finding the best mortgage lenders. Also in the news: 8 warning signs you won’t finish college, the best financial advice at every age, and how to make your finances more flexible before the next recession.

5 Tips for Finding the Best Mortgage Lenders

8 warning signs you won’t finish college
All of the debt without the degree.

The Best Financial Advice at Every Age
Money moves by the decade.

How to Make Your Finances More Flexible Before the Next Recession
Knowing what to prioritize.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 3 steps to spring clean your credit card debt. Also in the news: Trading privacy for car insurance discounts, how to improve your 401(k), and 4 ways to get a low-interest credit card.

3 Steps to Spring-Clean Your Credit Card Debt
Spring is finally here.

Should You Give Up Privacy for Car Insurance Discounts?
Being watched for a discount.

How to Improve Your 401(k)
Dealing with limited options.

4 Ways to Get a Low Interest Rate Credit Card
Get ready to negotiate.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to reclaim tax breaks you may have missed in recent years. Also in the news: Why college students take on loans they can’t repay, 6 surefire ways to delay your tax refund, and 7 red flags that could trigger an IRS audit.

Reclaim Tax Breaks You May Have Missed in Recent Years
IRS Form 1040X.

Why College Students Take on Loans They Can’t Repay
How to avoid these financial traps.

6 Surefire Ways to Delay Your Tax Refund
Don’t give the IRS any reason to slow your refund.

7 red flags that could trigger an IRS audit of your taxes
How to avoid the angst of an audit.

How to give money advice that sticks

Unsolicited money advice is like stale fruitcake: Most people wish the givers would just keep it to themselves.

Still, those who are “good with money” often want to help friends and family who struggle. Many of us remember the timely money tip that made all the difference: when a co-worker suggested we contribute to the company’s 401(k), for example, or that time a relative warned us off an investment that really was too good to be true.

In my latest for the Associated Press, I turned to neuropsychologist and executive coach Moira Somers, author of “Advice That Sticks: How to Give Financial Advice That People Will Follow.” Her book was written for financial planners, but the techniques she suggests, backed by behavioral finance research, could be helpful for anyone who wants to give effective money counsel.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The best financial advice at any age. Also in the news: What you can do about gender-based hikes for car insurance, trading privacy for car insurance discounts, and how to decide what to splurge on.

The Best Financial Advice at Every Age
The best financial moves to make by decade.

What You Can Do About Gender-Based Rate Hikes for Car Insurance
Older women often pay more.

Should You Give Up Privacy for Car Insurance Discounts?
The new trend of usage-based insurance.

How to Decide What to Splurge On
Treat yourself.

Q&A: Why co-signing a loan, especially a student loan, can be a costly move

Dear Liz: I co-signed a student loan to help a 31-year-old woman complete her schooling to become a nurse. I know this was something I should not have done, but I just could not refuse her. I did not realize that because no payments had to be made until after the student’s graduation, the loan amount would double. I am looking into a life insurance policy on the student to protect my interest.

Is there any advice you can provide me other than paying off the loan? I know the student can complete a form to take me off this loan, but she will not qualify on her own.

Answer: She may not be able to take you off the loan now, but hopefully she can within a few years of graduation. Most private lenders will allow a co-signer to be removed from a student loan after a certain number of on-time monthly payments, typically 12 to 48. If she has good credit and a decent income, she also may be able to refinance this loan with another lender to get you off the note.

In the meantime, you’ll want to protect your credit, because a single missed payment can damage your credit scores. Contact the lender to find out what notice, if any, you’ll get if she falls behind on payments. Discuss with her the importance of making payments on time, every time, and ask her to contact you immediately if there’s any chance that won’t happen.

Just as many people don’t realize that they’re putting their good credit in the other person’s hands when they co-sign a loan, many also don’t realize what can happen if they take a lender up on its offer to defer payments until graduation.

The loan amount swelled because of something known as capitalization. Because payments aren’t being made, the unpaid interest is being added to the loan amount and dramatically increasing what the two of you owe.

If the loan were a subsidized federal loan, the government would pay the interest while the student was in school. With unsubsidized federal loans and private student loans like the one you signed, it’s smart to start making payments immediately to avoid capitalization and having to pay interest on interest.

Q&A: Social Security’s widespread benefits

Dear Liz: I encourage you to educate your readers about the real intention of Social Security, as well as the real problem facing it. Social Security was designed as a safety net to keep the elderly, disabled and orphaned from abject poverty. It was not intended to provide decades of benefits to individuals who are not at risk of living in poverty. It does no good to further the inaccurate notion that everyone is entitled to “their share” from a social safety net meant for the poor.

Answer: You’ve misunderstood Social Security’s structure and its history.

Social Security was deliberately created as a social insurance program, not as welfare assistance. Workers fund the system themselves through payroll taxes. They have to pay into the system a certain number of years to qualify for benefits. In return, they receive inflation-adjusted income that they can’t outlive and that isn’t vulnerable to market downturns.

Social Security benefits are progressive, which means they’re designed to replace more income for a lower-paid worker than a higher-paid one. But people who pay more into the system get larger benefits than those who pay less, and benefits are not means-tested.

Programs for the poor tend to be easy targets for politicians, but Social Security’s universal nature contributes to its widespread support. More than 1 out of every 6 U.S. residents, or about 62 million people, collected Social Security benefits in June 2018.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Paying debt back home vexes expats. Also in the news: 6 surefire ways to delay your tax refund, can your employer cure your money woes, and how paying your credit card minimum puts you in a debt spiral.

Paying Debt Back Home Vexes Expats
When your debt follows you around the world.

6 Surefire Ways to Delay Your Tax Refund
Avoid them to get your refund faster.

Can Your Employer Cure Your Money Woes?
Debt solutions as employee benefits.

How Paying Your Credit Card Minimum Puts You in a Debt Spiral
Paying just the minimum won’t make a dent.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Can your employer cure your money woes? Also in the news: 10 lessons from the bull market’s 10-year anniversary, how to get money if you don’t have an emergency fund, and the $1.4 billion in refunds left on the table by taxpayers.

Can Your Employer Cure Your Money Woes?
Targeting debt-related stress through employee benefits.

10 Lessons From the Bull Market’s 10-Year Anniversary
It’s the longest bull market in history.

How to Get Money If You Don’t Have an Emergency Fund
But you really should have an emergency fund.

Taxpayers are leaving $1.4 billion in tax refunds on the table
Refunds owed from 2015.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: These 4 tax scams could really cost you. Also in the news: 3 times you can pay taxes with plastic and come out ahead, how to decide between investing in a 401(k) or a Roth 401(k), and the 5 best free money-management apps.

These 4 Tax Scams Could Really Cost You
Here’s how to avoid them.

3 Times You Can Pay Taxes With Plastic and Come Out Ahead
Maximizing your rewards.

Should You Invest in a 401(k) or Roth 401(k)?
Deciding which is best.

The 5 Best Free Money-Management Apps
Managing your finances by phone.