Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How an engineer digs out of $100,000 in loans. Also in the news: What to do if Hurricane Florence hits your home and/or mortgage, 3 low-stress ways to invest for retirement, and the pros and cons of identity monitoring.

Debt Diary: How an Engineer Digs Out of $100,000 in Loans
Accounting for every single expense.

What to Do If Hurricane Florence Hits Your Home, Mortgage
Recovering from disaster.

3 Low-Stress Ways to Invest for Retirement
How to get started.

The Pros and Cons of Identity Monitoring Services
Are they worth the expense?

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why your financial advisor has a financial advisor. Also in the news: Is a rent-to-own home right for you, what really matters with your first credit card, and why FICO credit scores are now at their highest levels ever.

Why Your Financial Advisor Has a Financial Advisor
Taking off the blinders.

Is a Rent-to-Own Home Right for You?
The pros and cons.

What Really Matters With Your First Credit Card
Knowing the basics.

FICO credit scores are now at their highest levels ever … here’s why
The average score is now 704.

Q&A: Why it’s important to pay bills on time

Dear Liz: I recently checked one of those free credit score sites and saw three delinquent department store accounts from over a year ago. I was 30 days late but paid all three accounts in full last year. What can I do to remove that from my credit report?

Answer: You can ask the store credit card issuers, in writing, if they’d be willing to remove the late payments from your credit reports. If this was a one-time mistake, they may grant your request.

If they don’t, you’re pretty much out of luck. Accurate, negative information can remain on your credit reports for seven years. The effect on your credit scores will wane over time, but your scores may not be fully restored for as long as three years. This is why it’s so important to make sure all credit accounts are paid on time, since even a one-time lapse can have serious repercussions.

Q&A: What to consider when you’re deciding whether to sell and move for better schools

Dear Liz: I’m 47, married, with one child in private elementary school because the public school option for our neighborhood is not good. We earn a combined $260,000 per year. (We know we’re fortunate, as we come from lower-income circumstances). I’ve eliminated all of my credit card debt and owe only mortgage debt ($168,000 plus $30,000 on a line of credit used for remodeling). Our home is worth about $350,000 and the scheduled mortgage payoff is about 25 years from now.

We’ve thought of moving for a bigger, better house and especially better school options as our child grows through middle and high school. However, we’ve begun to think that staying put is better, since a new house will be much more expensive and a new 30-year mortgage would mean we’d still have a mortgage payment into our 70s. I saw my dad struggle in retirement because he still had a mortgage to pay on a fixed income; I don’t want that.

If we stay put and are aggressive, we can pay off the current house much sooner than 25 years. Any advantage of moving to a place with good public school options at best pencils out the same financially as private school because of increased mortgage costs. But I see peers and family members moving around, taking on mortgage debt that they won’t pay off before they retire. Are we making the right financial decision in staying put?

Answer: You’re not wrong to want to avoid a mortgage in retirement — or the considerable costs of moving. Each move can eat up 10% or more of your current home’s value, once you account for real estate agent commissions and other selling costs, plus moving expenses. Minimizing the number of moves you make in a lifetime can save you a considerable amount of money.

That said, paying the premium for a home in a better school district may pay off in greater appreciation and perhaps less risk of loss during a downturn.

Because the other financial costs of moving versus staying put are roughly equal, perhaps you should think about your future. Do you want to move to another community when you retire, or do you plan to stay put?

If you’ll remain, is your current home a good option for your later years, or can it be remodeled to help you age in place? The best layout would be to have the main living areas, including a bedroom and a full bath, on one level. Ideally, there also would be at least one entry with no steps, hallways and doorways at least 36 inches wide and enough space in the main rooms for a wheelchair to turn around — generally a 5-foot-by-5-foot clear space, according to the National Assn. of Home Builders.

Some homes can’t be made age-friendly. If that’s the case, and you don’t want to move to another area when you retire, making the move to a more appropriate house now could make sense.

In any case, thinking about the next phase of your life may bring more clarity to the “stay vs. move” decision and help you arrange your finances accordingly.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Don’t believe the hype about Millennials and money. Also in the news: 3 low-stress ways to invest for retirement, 4 quick financial wins in under an hour, and 10 unexpected debt traps – and how to avoid them.

Don’t Believe the Hype About Millennials and Money
Forget the avocado toast cliche.

3 Low-Stress Ways to Invest for Retirement
It doesn’t have to be stressful.

Got an Hour? Chalk Up 4 Quick Financial Wins
60 minutes well spent.

10 Unexpected Debt Traps – and How to Avoid Them
Don’t get caught in these traps.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How women who retire with their husbands ofter lose out. Also in the news: Why the cashless trend doesn’t have all shoppers sold, what rising DTI limits mean for your next mortgage, and how to protect your frequent flyer miles from hackers.

How Women Who Retire With Their Husbands Often Lose Out
Losing years of income.

Why the Cashless Trend Doesn’t Have All Shoppers Sold
Cash still matters.

What Rising DTI Limits Mean for Your Next Mortgage
Your debt-to-income ratio is key to mortgage approval.

Protect Your Frequent Flyer Miles from Hackers
Miles have become a hot commodity.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Text a retailer and you could get back money and time. Also in the news: Shoppers cash in on the Golden Age of branded credit cards, how to spend money guilt-free even if you owe student loans, and the do’s and don’ts of using store credit cards for holiday shopping.

Text a Retailer and You Could Get Back Money and Time
No more waiting on hold.

In ‘Golden Age’ of Branded Credit Cards, Shoppers Cash In
Rewards and incentives are everywhere.

Spend Money Guilt-Free — Even With Student Loans
Don’t ignore your own needs.

Do’s and Don’ts of Using Store Credit Cards for Holiday Shopping
The holiday shopping season is right around the corner.

How women who retire with their husbands often lose out

Women who retire when their husbands do may be giving up more wealth than they realize.

Married women overall are still in their peak earning years in their 50s and early 60s, while married men’s earnings are on the decline, says economist Nicole Maestas, an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and the author of a recent study about couples’ income and retirement patterns.

As a result, married women typically sacrifice more Social Security wealth than married men when they retire early, says Maestas, who analyzed the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Survey of more than 20,000 people 50 and older.

In my latest for the Associated Press, why women should consider staying employed longer than their husbands.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What really matters with your first credit card. Also in the news: Having more than one life insurance policy, getting a safe mortgage using these post-crisis tips, and questions to ask yourself to live a better financial life.

What Really Matters With Your First Credit Card
The new foundation of your credit history.

Can You Have More Than One Life Insurance Policy?
The short answer is yes.

Get a Safer Mortgage Using These Post-Crisis Tips
Lessons learned from 2008.

Questions to Ask Yourself to Live a Better Financial Life
31 questions that need answers.

Q&A: Rebalancing your portfolio can trigger tax bills

Dear Liz: Is there a tax aspect to rebalancing your portfolio? You’ve mentioned the importance of rebalancing regularly to reduce risk.

Answer: Rebalancing is basically the process of adjusting your portfolio back to a target asset allocation, or mix of stocks, bonds and cash. When stocks have been climbing, you can wind up with too high an exposure to the stock market, which means any downturn can hurt you disproportionately.

There definitely can be tax consequences to rebalancing, depending on whether the money is invested in retirement plans.

Rebalancing inside an IRA, 401(k) or other tax-deferred account won’t trigger a tax bill. Rebalancing in a regular account could. Investments held longer than a year may qualify for lower capital gains tax rates, but those held less than a year are typically taxed at regular income tax rates when they’re sold.

Tax experts often recommend selling some losers to offset winners’ gains, and “robo advisor” services that invest according to computer algorithms may offer automated “tax loss harvesting” to reduce tax bills.