Thursday’s need-to-know money news

currencyToday’s top story: Why you’ll always need cash. Also in the news: Must-know tips for selling your home, nontraditional ways to fund your retirement, and why people with low checking account balances pay high fees.

Why You’ll Always Need Cash
We’re not going all-digital just yet.

5 Must-Know Tips for Selling Your Home
How to get your asking price.

10 Nontraditional Ways to Fund Your Retirement
Thinking outside the box.

People with low checking account balances pay over $500 a year in fees
Overdraft fees can pile up quickly.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Student-LoansToday’s top story: Avoiding a costly student loan mistake. Also in the news: How a marijuana DUI could raise your insurance rates, why the new “good” payday loans are still awful, and how to resell a canceled event or trip.

Don’t Make This Student Loan Mistake
It could be quite costly.

A Few Hundred Good Reasons to Avoid a Marijuana DUI
You could see a big insurance hike.

‘Good’ Payday Loans Still Very, Very Expensive
Don’t fall the “kinder and gentler” approach.

How to Resell a Canceled Event or Trip
Your money may not be a lost cause.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

imagesToday’s top story: Simple ways to teach your kids about money. Also in the news: Investing tips for those in their 20s, the best things about buying a house in the fall, and why you should look at frugality as a method instead of a lifestyle.

Simple Ways to Teach Your Children About Money
It’s never too early to start.

5 Investing Tips for Your 20s
Taking the longview.

The 7 Best Things About Buying a House in the Fall
Timely tax deductions.

Think of frugality as a method, not a lifestyle, to avoid wasting your time
It’s not just about saving money.

How the Wrong Choice Could Ruin Your Spouse’s Retirement

1403399192000-retire-workThree key decisions about retirement benefits can help couples make their money last — or dramatically increase the chances the survivor will end up old and broke.

Widowed women are twice as likely as their male counterparts to live in poverty during retirement, according to a March study by the National Institute on Retirement Security. But anyone who outlives a mate can be vulnerable to a big drop in income and lifestyle because of shortsighted decisions about claiming benefits.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how to make the right choices for your retirement.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

homebuyerToday’s top story: How to get the most for your old phone. Also in the news: Why starter homes are becoming a thing of the past, five surprising things that could leave you poor, and how to invest your way to a million dollars.

How to Sell Your Old Phone
Because a newer version is always right around the corner.

Why ‘Starter Homes’ Aren’t What They Used to Be
Starter homes are becoming a relic of the past.

5 Surprising Things That Could Leave You Poor
Start with the company you keep.

How to Invest Your Way to $1 Million
The tiny things add up quickly.

Q&A: Factors to consider for refinancing into a 15-year mortgage

Dear Liz: I am considering refinancing my home from a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year loan and wondered if it would be a wise decision. I am 57, divorced and make a little over $100,000 a year as a high school teacher (and I plan to keep working until at least age 65). Other than a car loan, I have no debts and an excellent credit rating. I will receive a pretty decent teacher’s pension and I have about $150,000 in mutual funds in retirement accounts. I can afford the larger payment on a shorter loan. Do you think this would be a good move for me?

Answer: For most people, a 30-year mortgage is a good option. People can always make extra principal payments to pay down the loan faster, but the lower monthly payment is easier to handle if they face financial setbacks such as a job loss.

Your employment situation seems pretty stable, though, and you’re in good shape with a pension plus savings. If you can swing the payments, you’d be building equity much faster and while paying less interest. You’ll still have home debt into your 70s, which isn’t ideal, but it’s certainly better than having a mortgage in your 80s.

Q&A: Where to find FICO scores

Dear Liz: I’m looking to buy a car and I’d like to see the FICO scores that lenders use. I already visited MyFico.com, but I want another site that shows my real FICO scores for auto lending. If you could point me in the right direction, that would be great.

Answer: You were at the right site. When you buy one credit score for $19.95 from MyFico.com, you actually get several scores from the same credit bureau. Those include FICO 8, the most commonly-used score, as well as the FICOs that bureau typically supplies to mortgage, auto and credit card lenders. If you want to see FICOs from all three bureaus, you can buy them for $59.85 and get a total of 25 different scores.

The scores lenders actually use to price your loan may be somewhat higher or lower from the ones you’ll see because credit scores change all the time. But if you apply for a loan shortly after buying your scores, they should be pretty close to the ones you see.

Q&A: Accessing Social Security account data

Dear Liz: I read your answer to the gentleman trying to locate his W-2 forms to add missing years to his Social Security account. I wonder why, even as you give advice about keeping old W-2 forms indefinitely, you didn’t mention that the Social Security Administration allows everyone who has paid into the system to receive an annual report showing the income, year-by-year, that was subject to Social Security taxes. I have been receiving that report for most of my adult life (I’m 60 now) and I don’t find the need to keep old W-2’s past seven years if I’ve already compared their totals against the annual SSA report. I wonder why this gentleman didn’t do likewise over the years.

Answer: You may not have noticed, but those annual statements went missing for a few years.

Social Security began mailing annual reports to workers 25 and over starting in 1999 but suspended those as a cost-saving measure in 2011. The suspension saved the government about $70 million each year in printing and mailing costs, but workers lost easy access to information about their future benefits and their earnings.

People with access to the Internet could create online accounts to check their earnings records, and about 26 million have done so. But that still left the majority of workers in the dark about whether their earnings were being properly credited to their accounts.

In 2014, mailings resumed but only for workers reaching ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60 and over.

Q&A: When to take Social Security benefits

Dear Liz: I’m about to turn 66 and my wife is 60. I plan to delay Social Security benefits until I’m 70. My benefit will be large enough that whenever she starts benefits, her spousal benefit will be larger than what she earned on her own. Here’s the question: I think that the time for her to start taking benefits will be immediately upon reaching her full retirement age, not waiting until 70, as I am doing. Correct?

Answer: Correct. You will earn delayed retirement credits that will boost your benefit by 8% for each year you put off applying. Spousal benefits don’t get those credits. The maximum spousal benefit is 50% of your primary insurance amount, or the amount you would get if you applied at age 66. She’ll receive that maximum if she applies for spousal benefits at her own full retirement age.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

1412020991000-ATMToday’s top story: How to avoid ATM fees. Also in the news: The true cost of a bounced check, surprising ways to use your credit card rewards, and the pros and cons of college tuition insurance.

How to Avoid ATM Fees
You shouldn’t have to pay to access your money.

The True Cost of a Bounced Check
Fees upon fees.

7 surprising ways to use your credit card rewards
Thinking beyond miles.

Should You Buy College Tuition Insurance?
Protetcing your investment.