Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

budgetToday’s top story: How to earn more interest on your money. Also in the news: When and how to appeal a financial aid award, what you need to know about estate planning, and how keeping your finances simple can ensure you staying on top of them.

4 Ways to Earn More Interest on Your Money
Making your money work for you.

When and How to Appeal a Financial Aid Award
Asking for more.

Do I need a will? What to know about estate planning
YES.

Keep Your Finances Simple to Ensure You Stay On Top of Them
Don’t overcomplicate things.

The Huge, Hidden Costs of Owning a Home

refinancingFirst-time homebuyer Teresa Hair had owned her house less than two months when water started bubbling up through the guest bedroom floor.

“The whole floor was just covered,” says Hair, a 34-year-old attorney who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. “I pulled up all the laminate flooring and there was an inch of water.”

Finding and repairing the broken pipe — it was in a wall shared with the kitchen, behind the dishwasher — cost $1,000. Replacing the flooring may cost considerably more. But the expenses aren’t a crisis, Hair says, because she resisted the urge to buy as much home as lenders said she could afford. She also made sure the purchase, including closing costs, didn’t drain her savings.

“I still had a little bit of money saved up, so I wasn’t strapped,” Hair says. “You have to know when you buy a house that you’re going to need something in addition to what you need to close.”

In my latest for NerdWallet, how the hidden costs of homeownership can equal if not exceed the mortgage payments you send to the bank.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

money-vacation-saveToday’s top story: How leaving a 401(k) behind after a job change could cost you. Also in the news: A debt avalanche, the five best store credit cards, and money-saving tips for your next family vacation.

Leaving 401(k) Behind After Job Change Could Be Costly
You CAN take it with you.

What Is a Debt Avalanche?
Yesterday’s debt snowball just got a lot bigger.

The 5 best store credit cards
Who has the best perks?

3 money-saving tips for your next family trip
Leaving more money for souvenirs!

Q&A: Adding daughter as co-owner of mother’s home could trigger costs

Dear Liz: My father passed away last year, and my mother wants to add my name to her house so there is no probate. Do I need to change the title or the deed or both? Are there any negatives to doing so? Also, we already have a durable power of attorney between us. Does that offer me any benefits as far as real estate? What does it offer me in general?

Answer: A deed is the legal document that transfers the title or ownership of a property. Please don’t alter the home’s documents until you consult an estate-planning attorney. Your mother’s desire to avoid the costs of probate could inadvertently trigger much larger costs.

Adding you as a co-owner could mean giving up a big tax benefit, for example. If your mother bequeaths the house to you when she dies, you won’t owe any tax on the gain in the house’s value during her lifetime. If she adds you to the title, she’s gifting you half the house. In that case, you potentially could owe tax on some of that gain even after she dies. If she wants to preserve tax benefits while avoiding the court process known as probate, she may need a living trust.

There could be other complications if you should die or be sued, which is why it’s important to get good advice before proceeding.

As for the durable power of attorney: It isn’t designed to give you benefits. Powers of attorney allow you to make decisions for your mother if she becomes incapacitated. Those decisions need to be in her best interest, not yours.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

debt-snowballToday’s top story: What is a debt snowball? Also in the news: A 1-week financial fast, why personal finance classes should be taught in college, and how your wallet is becoming the next tech platform.

What Is a Debt Snowball?
A creative way of tackling your debt.

Big money goal? Try a 1-week financial fast
A self-kickstarter.

Why Personal Finance Classes Should Be Taught in College
Real world preparations.

Why your wallet is becoming the next platform
Tech companies can’t wait to claim space in your wallet.

Q&A: Catching up on retirement savings

Dear Liz: I just found out I am cured of cancer. I thought I would be dead in three years and thus did not save very much. I’m 62, single, with no children and an annual salary of $85,000. I’m now contributing the maximum to my employer’s 403(b) retirement plan plus $6,500 to a Roth IRA. My mortgage balance is $380,000 on a 30-year loan fixed at 3.65%. I have about $380,000 in equity. I have about $30,000 saved outside of my $10,000 emergency fund. What should I do with it to get the highest return with minimal risk?

Answer: There’s no such thing as an investment that offers high returns with minimal risk. You get one or the other.

There’s also no such thing as “making up” for decades of not saving, short of an extremely unlikely windfall such as a lottery win or a big inheritance. This is why financial planners tell young people to start saving for retirement from their first paychecks and not to stop or touch those funds prematurely. Waiting until the last minute simply won’t work, and the longer you delay the tougher it will be to catch up — until catching up becomes impossible.

Still, at some point you won’t be able to keep working, so you need to save what you can. The more you save, the better off you’ll be.

Continue to take full advantage of your retirement savings options. Thanks to catch-up provisions, you can put up to $24,000 in your workplace retirement fund (the 2016 limit of $18,000 plus a $6,000 “catch up” for those 50 and over) and $6,500 into an IRA or Roth IRA (the 2016 limit of $5,500 plus a $1,000 catch-up). You’ve saving more than a third of your income, and several years of contributions like that will go a long way toward easing your final years. A balanced approach to your investments, with 50% to 60% in stocks, should give you the growth you’ll need to overcome inflation over the decades to come.

Your home could be another source of funds. Downsizing or moving to a lower-cost area could free up some of your equity to bolster your nest egg. Another option could be a reverse mortgage, but make sure you get objective, expert advice before you proceed.

Finally, it’s crucial to delay claiming Social Security as long as possible, since this benefit is likely to comprise most of your income in retirement and you want that check to be as large as possible. Try to put off claiming until age 70 when your benefit maxes out.

Q&A: Finding fee-only financial planners

Dear Liz: Every so often your column mentions an organization that lists financial planners that are fee-only. I cannot find this information on your site. Please keep mentioning this in your column.

Answer: You can get referrals to fee-only planners who charge by the hour at www.garrettplanningnetwork.com. If you’re looking for fee-only planners who charge a retainer or a percentage of assets, you’ll find those at

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Senior checking accounts. Also in the news: The best Earth Day sales and freebies, five reasons why a nearly perfect credit score isn’t enough, and how to file taxes for a deceased love one.

What Is a Senior Checking Account?
The pros and cons.

Best Earth Day Sales, Deals and Freebies
Thank the planet for the discounts.

5 reasons why a nearly perfect credit score’s not enough
The rules are complicated.

How to File Final Taxes for a Deceased Loved One
Death, taxes, and after-death taxes.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

file_161555_0_tax refundToday’s top story: Using your tax refund to secure your future. Also in the news: Frequent overdrafters lose hundreds in fees, what to do before age 40 to retire comfortably, and how viewing your budget as a circle instead of a list can provide more flexibility.

5 Ways to Use Your Tax Refund to Secure Your Future
Protecting what you have, while still having a little fun.

Heaviest Overdrafters Pay a Week’s Wages in Fees, Study Finds
Creating a vicious circle.

10 Things to Do Before Age 40 to Retire Comfortably
Tick tock.

View Your Budget as a Circle Instead of a List to Be More Flexible
Giving yourself a little breathing room.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

PayRentPiggyBank.157131716_stdToday’s top story: How paying rent can affect your credit. Also in the news: How to protect yourself from cybercrime while banking with your phone, why you shouldn’t consider something “yours” until it’s completely paid off, and financial strategies for creative types without steady incomes.

How Paying Rent Can Affect Your Credit
Rent-reporting services can boost your credit.

4 ways to dodge cybercrime when banking, shopping on mobile phones
Convenience can come with a hefty price.

Avoid Saying You “Own” Something Until It’s Paid Off
It isn’t yours until the last payment is made.

The #1 Reason Artists Struggle With Money, and 3 Simple Strategies to Turn Things Around
Advice for creative types.