Friday’s need-to-know money news

download (1)Today’s top story: The best credit card freebies. Also in the news: Breaking bad money habits, the worst states for retirement, and apps that can save you money while shopping.

8 Credit Cards With Freebies
Perks from the get go.

5 Ways to Break Your Bad Money Habits
Breaking the cycle.

10 Worst States for Retirement
States to reconsider.

The “Cash Back” Apps That Can Actually Save You Money When Shopping
Take your smartphone shopping.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Household-Budget1Today’s top story: How a good budget can help you build credit. Also in the news: Avoiding financial scams, tips on managing your elderly parent’s money, and five money rules for a successful retirement.

How Your Budget Can Help You Build Credit
A good budget can help you build a great credit score.

10 Tips To Avoid Common Financial Scams
Don’t be taken advantage of.

Managing Your Mom or Dad’s Money
Taking over a difficult task.

5 Money Rules For A Successful Retirement
How to make your money last longer.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: It’s tax day! Also in the news: Apps to teach your kids about money, personal loans vs credit cards, and why a good FICO score matters when buying a home.

Time’s Up! It’s Tax Deadline Day
No more excuses!

5 apps to teach your kids about money
Just in time for Financial Literacy Month!

The Pros & Cons Of Personal Loans vs. Credit Cards
It’s all about the interest rate.

The One Graph That Explains Why a Good FICO Score Matters for Homebuyers
The better the score, the better the terms.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

bigstock-U-s-Income-Tax-Return-Form-28476797-e1390508229663Today’s top story: How to finish your taxes before the deadline. Also in the news: How to file for a tax extension, when your employer can check your credit, and why you need to pay close attention to your parents’ financial advisors.

The Procrastinator’s Guide to Finishing Your Taxes
The clock is ticking.

How to File for an Extension
Buying some time.

When Can Employers Check Your Credit?
Far less often than you might think.

Hidden Dangers With Aging Parents’ Financial Advisors
Paying close attention is vital.

The Ultimate Tax Day Guide: Post Office Hours, Freebies and Expert Tax Refund Tips
Free shredding!

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: What to do with a financial windfall. Also in the news: How to financially survive a military deployment, what you should cut back on first if you lose your job, and how to protect your retirement nest egg.

How Not to Blow a Financial Windfall
The yacht can wait.

3 Things Military Wives And Husbands Can Do To Secure Their Finances
Surviving deployment financially.

The Budget Categories To Cut Back on First When You Lose a Job
What you need to immediately cut.

How Retirees Can Build a Portfolio for the Next 30 Years
Protecting the nest egg you worked so hard to create.

Q&A: Credit CARD Act

Dear Liz: I have a business credit card that offers cash rebates. It has an interest rate of 15.24% on purchases and 25.24% on cash advances. I carry balances in each category. Each month the issuer posts my entire payment to my lower-interest purchases balance and nothing to my cash advance balance. I telephoned to complain but I was told that they will not post any payments to my cash advance balance until my purchases balance is completely paid off. I thought that there was a federal regulation that payments had to be posted to the highest-rate debt balance first. Am I mistaken? If not, to which federal agency can I complain?

Answer: There is indeed a federal law that requires payments in excess of the minimum to be applied to the highest-rate balance. It’s part of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009. But the Credit CARD Act applies only to consumer credit cards — not business cards.

It’s not a good idea to carry a balance on any credit card, but it’s even more dangerous to carry a balance on a card that lacks the consumer protections promised in the Credit CARD Act. Talk to the bank that has your business checking account to see if you can arrange a lower-rate loan to pay off your balances.

Q&A: Helping a mentally ill family member

Dear Liz: I want to offer some bit of advice to the woman with the mentally ill, homeless son. She didn’t say which state he lives in, and I’m guessing it’s not California. There are so many wonderful programs here. I did help a woman my age (late 40s at that time) get off the street by convincing her to let me drive her to PATH (People Assisting the Homeless). It took a few tries but she finally got into my car. PATH took over after that. She has been on Supplemental Security Income for years and lives in a low-income housing tax credit building. Tell the mother that there are social workers dedicated just to representing people that are both homeless and mentally ill in all 50 states. There is also subsidized housing available in all 50 states. She just needs to put her worry into action to find the right social worker or organization. They have the know-how to proceed and help her son. I’m not saying that this will be easy, but she will feel better if she persists in trying to find the right resources for her son and it just might work.

Answer: Thank you for suggesting PATH as a possible solution for homeless people in Southern California. The mother thought there was no help available in the state where her son lives, but every state has at least a few programs for the mentally ill. Getting low-income housing is another matter because many programs have far more applicants than availability.

The mother can certainly make inquiries and suggest possible solutions for her son. But she still needs to set boundaries in how much time and money she dedicates to his problems. She is elderly, on a limited income and several states away from her son. She deserves a little peace at the end of her life, which may mean making peace with the idea that his fate is not in her hands.

Q&A: Special needs trust

Dear Liz: Your suggestions about resources to help a parent with an emotionally ill adult child were very helpful. But from a financial standpoint, don’t you think you should have discussed a special needs trust for the time when the parent dies? Whatever assets she has, most likely her home, should be put in this trust to protect her son’s eligibility for government benefits (Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid, for example). An inheritance could jeopardize his eligibility for these programs. It will be overseen by a responsible party and can never be taken as part of a potential lawsuit. This is something I recommend to my clients as a geriatric social worker.

Answer: Thank you for the suggestion. Given the brevity of this column, it’s impossible to cover all potential angles to every situation. In this case, there was no indication that the son was receiving government benefits or that his mother had sufficient assets to be concerned about an inheritance.

That wouldn’t be unusual. One study for the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 46% of Americans have less than $10,000 in financial assets when they die. Many single-person households (57%) have no home equity.

Still, even a small inheritance can disqualify someone from SSI, and losing access to Medicaid health coverage would be catastrophic for people who depend on the program. So parents who have both an heir who needs these programs and assets that might outlive them should discuss a special needs trust with an estate-planning attorney.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

teen-creditToday’s top story: Finding the best credit card for your teenager. Also in the news: Financial date nights, what to do if you can’t pay your taxes, and keeping old credit cards on your credit history.

5 Credit Cards for Teens
How to make sure their first card is the right one.

Avoid money fights with financial date nights
Dinner, a movie, and money talk.

Can’t Pay Your Taxes? How to Get IRS Relief
Don’t ignore the problem.

Use Recurring Charges to Keep Old Credit Cards on Your Credit History
Avoid the ding of a closed account.

5 ways going green can save some green

605x340xdollar-bills-2015-Dollarphotoclub_67129525.jpg.pagespeed.ic.0DZosyt27WIn honor of this month’s Earth Day, here’s a piece that first ran on DailyWorth.

If you’re trying to save money, you’ve heard all the usual advice about ways to cut back: brown bag your lunch, use coupons, shop sales.

But with Earth Day this month, maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at your frugal hacks and see which ones can be updated with the environment in mind. Many times you can save even more with some earth-friendly tweaks.

“Frugal and green lifestyles both mean making specific, informed decisions in order to waste as little as possible,” said frugal hacker Donna Freedman of Surviving and Thriving. “Bonus: Choosing to be frugal can make being green a lot more affordable.”

Old way: Brown bag your lunch.

New way: Reusable bags, wrappings and containers will extend your savings and help save the environment. An investment in an $8 Wrap-N-Mat, for example, will pay for itself in less than a year, assuming you’re spending 4 to 5 cents each for sandwich bags. Or you can just use a napkin or a bandana to wrap that PB&J. You don’t have to buy a special lunch bag, either; any small tote bag will work. Oh, and bring your drink in a Thermos. Bottled water isn’t friendly to the earth or your wallet.

“Bottled water is an environmental nightmare given the petroleum and other resources needed to manufacture and recycle and dispose of all those bottles,” Jeff Yeager, the author of four books on frugal living, including “Don’t Throw That Away! 1,001 Ways to Reuse Your Stuff.” “It’s also a waste of money since tap water is just as good.”

Old way: Make your coffee at home.

New way: Make your coffee sustainably. Still using paper coffee filters? Reuseable ones can be had for $4 to $7—about the same price as a box of 100 paper filters. Did you fall for the single-serve coffee maker fad? The variety’s great, but you’re using a whole lot of plastic pods that probably aren’t even getting recycled. (TreeHugger’s Lloyd Alter called pod coffee a “design for unsustainability.”) You could switch to pods that are mostly biodegradable, or just reserve your fancy coffee maker for special occasions and use a drip or French press version for your daily brew.

The single-serving coffee makers “may still be greener than driving to Starbucks for a cup of Joe, but it really defeats the whole intention of saving money and saving the environment,” Yeager said. (For more tips, watch his video on saving money by going green.

Old way: Shopping for clothes at discount chains.

New way: Buy gently-used clothing at consignment and thrift stores. Katy Wolk-Stanley, who blogs at The Nonconsumer Advocate, joined a “buy nothing new” movement called The Compact in 2007. Since then, she hasn’t bought new clothing other than underwear, bras and socks since 2007.

“Is it easy to only buy used? Yes and no. No, because sometimes a needed item is hard to find used,” said Wolk-Stanley. “However, that built-in lag time between wanting something and tracking down a used version often means that I figure out an alternate solution or simply that it was a momentary impulse and not buy it after all.”

Old way: Buy detergent and other cleaners on sale.

New way: Use a lot less, or make your own. A quarter-cup of laundry detergent is usually enough to clean all but the filthiest loads, while a tablespoon of dishwasher detergent will get your plates clean without overloading your machine with suds. Or make your own: Mary Hunt, author of several books including “Cheaper, Better, Faster!” has been making her own laundry soap for years.

“It’s better than anything I can buy–no perfumes, no dyes or other stuff that causes itching and other skin reactions—and infinitely cheaper,” said Hunt, who runs the Debt-Proof Living site. “Makes me smile to think of all the gallon plastic jugs, bottles, boxes, and other packaging I no longer buy with laundry products in them, to simply haul that fancy packaging to the trash.”

Meanwhile, vinegar and baking soda are two of the most versatile cleaners, and they’re cheap. They can replace most of the store-bought cleaners in your home.

“If you mix vinegar and water in a spray bottle it’ll stand in for Fantastik and other ‘all-purpose’ cleaners,” Freedman said. “You can use a straight vinegar spray if it’s a particularly greasy stovetop, but I use a 50/50 mix and it usually does the trick.”

Old way: Using coupons and sales to stock up on paper towels and napkins.

New way: Ditch paper for cloth. You already have dishtowels, rags and cloth napkins, so put them to use. (If you need to stock up, you can get Tekla dish towels from Ikea for 79 cents apiece.) While you’re at it, ditch those stinky sponges for good old-fashioned dishcloths. I love the Ritz Cotton ones with a scouring side, $8.99 for a five pack. I whip out a new one each day and toss the old one in the hamper. Yes, using cloth creates a bit more laundry, but I haven’t noticed I’m doing any extra loads.

“Buying less and reusing stuff is the way to save money and save the planet,” Yeager said.

Want more? Check out my other columns on DailyWorth.