Friday’s need-to-know money news

o-CREDIT-REPORT-facebookToday’s top story: The best places to find a small-dollar loan. Also in the news: What is considered a bad credit score, things you don’t have to pay taxes on, and how not to lose money on your house by following the five year rule.

Where to Find a Small-Dollar Loan
Without paying astronomical interest.

What Is a Bad Credit Score?
Knowing the numbers.

7 Things You Don’t Have to Pay Taxes On
Some of these may surprise you.

Follow the Five Year Rule to Make Sure You Don’t Lose Money on Your House
Plan on staying put for a while.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

siblingsToday’s top story: How your taxes have changed if you’re recently divorced. Also in the news: What every LGBT taxpayer needs to know, financial goals every GenXer should have, and five tools to get your budget in order.

Here’s How Your Taxes Changed If You Just Got Divorced
It’s a different tax world.

Every LGBT Taxpayer Needs to Read This
Marriage equality hasn’t made filing taxes any easier.

7 Financial Goals Every GenXer Should Have
Welcome to middle age!

5 tools to get your budget in order
And how to stick to it.

5 Reasons Your Money Is Safer Today Than 10 Years Ago

Your paycheck doesn’t stretch far enough, and the stock market routinely clobbers your retirement account. You may not feel financially secure, but in many ways your money is a lot safer than it was a decade ago.

The financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent recession prompted a bunch of reforms that are helping you keep more of your hard-earned cash, even if you’re not always aware of the safeguards.

In my latest for Nerdwallet, five of the most important changes.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: The key tax changes for 2015. Also in the news: Costly mistakes that can destroy your credit, smart estate-planning steps to avoid probate, and why combining your finances in a relationship might be a bad idea.

Key 2015 Tax Changes to Know About
Don’t wait until the last second.

5 Smart Estate-Planning Steps to Avoid Probate
Protecting your assets.

4 Costly Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Credit Score
Small mistakes that can cause major damage.

When Combining Your Finances In a Relationship Might Be a Bad Idea
What to consider before taking that big step.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

635522783074355959-holiday-cardsToday’s top story: How to protect yourself against online identity fraud. Also in the news: Myths about student loan consolidation, why fewer retirement savings options could be a good thing, and the hefty cost of those Oscar gift bags.

Follow These Steps to Guard Against Online Identity Fraud
Doing whatever it takes to protect your identity.

5 Myths about Student Loan Consolidation
Don’t fall into a deeper debt trap.

How a Simpler Approach to Retirement Savings Can Make You Richer
Lots of options isn’t always a good thing.

The Taxability of Oscars Gift Bags
All that swag comes with a hefty tax bill.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

taxesToday’s top story: What to do if you’re a victim of tax fraud. Also in the news: Personal finance items couples hide from each other, why Millennials will spend more on Valentine’s Day, and why you should watch out for student debt predators.

Victimized by tax fraud? Here’s what to do
Take a deep breath.

What personal finance item have you ‘hidden’ from a spouse or partner?
A bounced check or a little bonus? What about a hidden credit card?

Need to slash student debt? Watch out for rip-offs
Watch out for predatory loans.

Millennials to Spend More Than Others on Valentine’s Day, Survey Finds
Ah, young love.

Q&A: Social Security survivor benefits

Dear Liz: I am 63 and retired but have not started to collect my Social Security. My husband will be 67 in March. He started his Social Security at 62. Our plan is to wait until I am 70 to start my benefit, which would make my monthly amount significantly larger than his. If I predecease my husband, would he be able to collect my benefit instead of his own? If I started benefits now, our checks would be relatively close in size, although mine would be a bit higher than his current amount.

Answer: If you had started benefits already, your husband’s survivor benefit would equal what you were receiving when you died. Since you didn’t start early, though, your husband will get more.

If you should die before your full retirement age of 66 without starting retirement benefits, he would receive a survivor benefit equal to what you would have received at 66.

If you continue to delay benefits past age 66, your retirement — and thus his survivor benefit — would accrue the “delayed retirement credits” that boost your Social Security check by 8% annually between age 66 and age 70, when your benefit maxes out. In other words, if you die between 66 and 70 without starting benefits, he would get the delayed retirement credits and larger check you’d earned even if your checks hadn’t started.

As you can see, delaying the start of benefits is a great way to maximize what a survivor receives. It’s particularly important for the higher earner in a couple to put off filing for retirement benefits for as long as possible.

Q&A: Long-term capital gains tax

Dear Liz: I’m very confused about the long-term capital gains tax. Several years ago, I bought a house for $525,000 in Texas. I’ve been thinking about selling, and my real estate agent informed me that my home is now worth $1.5 million. I am a disabled veteran and have no tax liability because my income is tax-free. Since this is my primary residence, I know that the first $250,000 in gains is exempt from tax. What I just don’t understand is what my tax liability will be on the rest of the money.

Answer: If you sell this house, you’ll essentially go from the bottom tax bracket to the top. Single people with incomes over $415,050 in 2016 are subject to the 39.6% marginal tax rate.
Most people pay capital gains tax at a 15% rate, but those in the top bracket face a 20% rate.

Improvements you’ve made to the house and some other expenses, such as selling costs, can reduce the amount of gain that’s subject to tax.

This big windfall could have other effects on your taxes, so you’ll want to consult a tax professional before proceeding.

Q&A: Paying off student loan

Dear Liz: am going to pay off one of my daughter’s private student loans. One has a balance of $8,500 at 4% interest and the other is for $7,500 at 6%. Which one should I pay off?

Answer: You have a lucky daughter, either way.

In addition to balances and rates, the other variable you need to consider is whether the rates are fixed or adjustable. These days, many private student loans have fixed rates, but in the past most of this debt had variable rates. Variable rates mean higher costs and larger payments when interest rates rise.

If both loans have variable rates, or both are fixed, then paying off the highest rate debt first makes the most sense. If the lower rate loan is variable and the higher rate one is fixed, you’ll have to guess whether interest rates are likely to rise enough in the next few years to instead pay the larger balance first. Some people might want to pay off a variable debt just to eliminate the uncertainty, while others are willing to gamble that rates aren’t likely to jump two full percentage points before the loan is scheduled to be paid off.