Friday’s need-to-know money news

o-CREDIT-REPORT-facebookToday’s top story: What you need to qualify for a credit card when you have bad credit. Also in the news: How to escape low-yield savings options, how one couple paid off $74,000 of debt in two years, and the building blocks that lead to smart money decisions.

What You Need to Qualify for a Credit Card for Bad Credit
Don’t fall for high fee offers.

How to Escape Low-Yield Bank Savings Options
How to get better returns without increased risk.

How One Couple Paid Off $74,000 in 2 Years
The success of the snowball method.

These Are the ‘Building Blocks’ That Lead to Smart Money Decisions
Teaching kids sound money practices.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Key financial considerations when you live alone. Also in the news: Managing your money while you’re separated from your spouse, determining how much life insurance you really need, and a change in thinking that will help get you out of debt.

Key Financial Considerations When You Live Alone
Important considerations for your life.

3 Tips for Managing Your Money While Separated From Your Spouse
Keeping your finances in order during difficult times.

How Much Life Insurance Do You Really Need?
Keeping yourself protected.

The Shift in Mindset That Will Help You Get Out of Debt
A change in thinking.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

retirement-savings3Today’s top story: Tax breaks and loan options to pay for college. Also in the news: Why you should buy a home after school starts, how to refinance your student loans, and how to de-stress your retirement program.

Tax Breaks and Loan Options to Pay for College
Easing the burden.

4 Reasons to Buy a Home After School Starts
Less buyer demand.

How to Refinance Your Student Loans
Getting a better deal.

How to de-stress your retirement plan
Taking a deep breath.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to save for college without sacrificing retirement. Also in the news: Recovering from a poor credit history, 3 ways to pay off a debt in collections, and the best savings strategies for your personality type.

How to Save for College Without Sacrificing Retirement
It’s possible to do both.

Poor Credit History? There Are Ways to Recover
Making a comeback.

3 Ways to Pay Off a Debt in Collections
Getting debt collectors off your back.

Here Are the Best Savings Strategies for Your Personality Type
Are you the gambling type? Or a goal-setter?

Treat your marriage like a business

My artist husband likes to say that if I were in charge of our spending, we’d be sitting on milk crates instead of furniture and that if he were in charge, we’d have no retirement accounts.

The fact that we have both nice furniture and retirement funds is a testament to compromise — and the wealth-building power of marriage.

Married people are significantly wealthier than single people in every age group, and the gap tends to widen as people approach retirement age. Married couples age 55 to 64 had a median net worth, excluding home equity, of $108,607 in 2011, the latest available Census Bureau figures show. By contrast, single men in the same age bracket were worth a median $14,226 and single women $11,481.

Income and education also contribute heavily to wealth — and to the likelihood that people will marry. But a 15-year study of 9,000 people found that even after controlling for those and other factors, marriage itself contributed to a 4 percent annual increase in net worth. The same study found that wealth typically began to drop four years before a divorce, which ultimately reduced people’s wealth by 77 percent.

Since marital status is so powerfully associated with financial status, people would be smart to view marriage as a business arrangement in addition to a romantic one. Taking a few pages from the business world has certainly made our 19-year marriage stronger as well as wealthier.

In my latest for the Associated Press, a look at what works for us and how to apply it to your own marriage.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

shutterstock_101159917Today’s top story: When and how much a Fed rate hike will cost you. Also in the news: The art of lowering your bills, how to become Social Security savvy, and why you should check your credit report after getting married.

Fed Rate Hike: When and How Much It Will Cost You
What to expect when the Fed pulls the trigger.

Ace the Art of Lowering Your Bills
Treat it like a science.

Are You Social Security Savvy?
What you know and don’t know.

Check Your Credit Report for Inquires After You Get Married
Checking for changes.

Q&A: Why surviving spouses aren’t always entitled to Social Security benefits

Dear Liz: I am confused. I thought all wives were entitled to Social Security if the husband’s earnings qualified. My husband is deceased and he received a larger Social Security benefit than I because he worked longer in a qualified system. We were married almost 49 years. Most of my earnings are from a job that didn’t pay into Social Security. I was told because I had a high retirement income, I could not qualify for a percentage of my husband’s benefit. I didn’t know there was an income basis for Social Security. My income was severely reduced when he died. I appreciate any resource in understanding Social Security you could provide.

Answer: It sounds like your survivor’s benefits were eliminated by something known as the “government pension offset,” or GPO. While this sounds draconian, the GPO is actually meant to ensure that people in your situation don’t wind up getting a bigger benefit than people who paid into the Social Security system.

If you had paid into Social Security, you would get the larger of either your own benefit or your husband’s after his death. You wouldn’t be able to continue receiving both checks. Since you’re receiving a government pension from outside the Social Security system, you would be receiving much more than a typical survivor if you could keep that pension AND get your husband’s check. The GPO reduces your survivor benefit by two-thirds of your government pension to compensate. If your pension is big enough to completely eliminate your survivor’s benefit, that means you’re still better off than you would have been just receiving your husband’s check.

Q&A: Effects of closing credit card accounts

Dear Liz: I would like to know how to close credit card accounts and not get a bad credit rating for doing so. We are trying to improve our credit after filing for bankruptcy seven years ago.

Answer: If you’re trying to improve your credit, then avoid closing credit accounts. Doing so can’t help your scores and may hurt them. Credit-scoring formulas are sensitive to how much of your available credit you’re using. The formulas like to see a wide gap between your credit limits and the amount you charge, both on individual cards and in the aggregate. When you close an account, you reduce your available credit, which narrows that gap and can ding your scores.

If you want to speed up your recovery from the bankruptcy, continue using the cards lightly but regularly and paying the balances in full every month. Make sure to pay all your bills on time so that a skipped payment doesn’t undo all the progress you’ve made. Review your credit reports and dispute any errors, including accounts that were included in the bankruptcy but are still showing up as active debts.

That doesn’t mean you can never close unwanted credit accounts. You just don’t want to do so now, or when you’re in the market for a major loan. You can close an account or two once your scores are in the high 700s on the 300-to-850 FICO scale and you don’t plan to apply for credit in the near future.

Q&A: Stepmom alters terms of dad’s will

Dear Liz: My father recently passed away and his will named my stepmom’s daughter as executor along with my brother. My stepmother just informed my brother that she removed him from that role, telling him it’s easier to just leave her daughter as the executor as she lives much closer. Is this legal to remove him after my father’s death? The rest of his five children have not been able to see that will.

Answer: Your stepmother doesn’t get to alter the terms of your dad’s will after his death. As mentioned in a previous column, a probate case should be opened in the county where your dad died and the will is among the paperwork that should be included in that case. It would become public record at that point so you would all be able to read it.

Your stepmother’s unwillingness to play by the rules indicates that you may need some legal help to make sure your dad’s wishes are carried out. The five of you should consult a probate attorney.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

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140814_juris_usps-jpg-crop-promo-mediumlargeToday’s top story: What to do with the extra money from the rise in median income. Also in the news: Post office banking could be the next big thing, household debt is creeping back up to recession levels, and the pros and cons of posting your consumer complaint on social media.

Median Income Is Up: Here’s What to Do With That Extra Money
Using it wisely.

Post Office Banking: An Old Idea Getting New Life
Making banking super convenient.

Household Debt Slowly Creeping Back Up to Recession Levels
What that increase means.

Should You Post Your Consumer Complaint on Twitter or Facebook?
The pros and cons of public shaming.