Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 6 things your side gig will probably do to your taxes. Also in the news: How banking apps can motivate you to save, contributing to your IRA by April 15th could lower your 2018 tax bill, and social media is making Valentine’s Day super expensive for millennials.

6 Things That Side Gig Will Probably Do to Your Taxes

How Banking Apps Can Motivate You to Save

Contributing to Your IRA by April 15 Could Lower Your 2018 Tax Bill

Social media is making Valentine’s Day super expensive for millennials

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 tips for cutting the cost of having your taxes done. Also in the news: How to find the dirt on your tax preparer, making the most of a gig economy to pay down debt, and 11 smart ways to spend your tax refund.

5 Tips for Cutting the Cost of Having Your Taxes Done
How to rein in the costs.

How to Find the Dirt on Your Tax Preparer
Don’t give your info to just anyone.

How I Ditched Debt: Making the Most of a Gig Economy
A woman pays down over $25K in three years.

11 smart ways to spend your tax refund, according to personal finance experts
Don’t think of it as a windfall.

Don’t let others pick your financial adviser

Gaylen Rust must have seemed trustworthy to the people who gave him money.

Rust was a longtime businessman in Layton, Utah, where he ran a coin shop started by his father in 1966. Rust also founded a charity called Legacy Music Alliance that funded arts programs in schools. An admiring 2013 profile in The Salt Lake Tribune called Rust “the state’s biggest proponent of arts education.”

Federal and state regulators, however, say Rust was running a Ponzi scheme. Civil lawsuits filed late last year by the Securities and Exchange Commission , the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Utah Division of Securities say Rust, his wife and one of his five children persuaded hundreds of friends, customers and business associates across the country to invest more than $200 million in a bogus silver trading pool.

When scam artists target groups of people who know each other or have something else in common, such as religion, it’s known as “affinity fraud.” In my latest for the Associated Press, why you shouldn’t rely solely on recommendations from friends and family when choosing a financial adviser.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Hoping for a 529 tax deduction for K-12? Not so fast. Also in the news: 4 business credit card mistakes you can’t afford to make, the biggest financial mistakes women make, and one-size-fits-all financial advice.

Hoping for a 529 Tax Deduction for K-12? Not So Fast
The rules have changed.

4 Business Credit Card Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make
Take it easy with those cards.

The Biggest Financial Mistake Women Make
Narrowing the wage gap.

Follow This One-Size-Fits-All Financial Advice
Rules that everyone can follow.

Q&A: The Social Security waiting game

Dear Liz: I am 66 and had always planned to delay starting Social Security until I was 70. I do not need the income at this point of my life. I am no longer working as my husband has health issues and I do not expect to have any earned income.

But the latest statement I received from Social Security told me that the projected higher amount I would receive at age 70 is based on taxable earnings similar to what I was making before I retired. Now I have concerns that my lack of income will lower the amount of my benefit. Is it best for me to just start Social Security now?

Answer: No. You won’t increase your benefit. In fact, you’d be giving up the guaranteed 8% annual boost you would otherwise get.

Knowing how Social Security calculates your benefit can help you understand why this is true. Social Security bases your check on your 35 highest earning years. If you worked this year, then your 2019 wages could conceivably become one of those highest earning years, displacing a year when you earned less. That typically results in a slight increase to your benefit.

If you don’t work, however — or do work and don’t earn more than you did in one of those 35 highest earning years — your benefit remains the same.

Social Security projections assume you work until you claim benefits, so its estimates may slightly overstate the check you’ll actually get. But you will still receive the delayed retirement credit that boosts your check by 8% for each year you delay starting Social Security after your full retirement age of 66. That’s a 32% increase if you wait until age 70, when your benefits max out, to start. And that is definitely worth waiting for.

Q&A: Cash is king when it comes to home improvements

Dear Liz: My husband and I are squabbling over how to pay for the pool we may get. We have a line of credit on the house, and rates are still low. I say we use that, make it part of the mortgage and pass the cost on to the next owner (assuming that, someday, we sell this house). He wants to pay cash, which seems insane to me. I don’t pay cash to buy a car — why wouldn’t I finance a pool?

Answer: You probably should pay cash for your cars. Borrowing money is usually advisable only when you’re buying something that can increase your wealth, such as an education that helps you make more money or a home that can appreciate in value. Paying interest to buy something that declines in value generally isn’t a great idea.

Whether a pool can add value to your home depends a lot on where you live. If pools aren’t common in your neighborhood, adding one may not add much if any value. A pool could even place you at a disadvantage by turning off potential buyers who might not want to deal with the hassle and expense of pool maintenance. Parents with young children also may shy away from pools because of the drowning risk.

Adding a pool could increase your home’s value if you live in a warm climate and most of your neighbors have pools. But even then, it’s unlikely that your pool will add as much value as it would cost to install. (Home improvements rarely result in a profit — even the best-considered upgrades typically cost more than the value they add.)

A reasonable compromise might be to finance half the cost and pay cash for the rest. You’ll still want to pay off the line of credit relatively quickly, though. Lines of credit typically have variable interest rates that can make this debt more expensive over time.

You won’t be passing on the cost to the next owner in any case. Any money you borrow against your home has to be paid off when you sell, reducing your net proceeds. That’s yet another reason not to borrow indiscriminately.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The biggest financial mistake women make. Also in the news: 4 business credit card mistakes you can’t afford to make, 5 divorce mistakes that can cost you, and why you might owe taxes this year.

The Biggest Financial Mistake Women Make
Investing is important.

4 Business Credit Card Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make
Don’t get in over your head.

5 Divorce Mistakes That Can Cost You
No talking on Twitter.

Why You Might Owe Taxes This Year
About that tax break…

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 divorce mistakes that can cost you. Also in the news: How to achieve financial independence without retiring early, consolidated debt and how to do it right, and where to go when you have a travel insurance problem.

5 Divorce Mistakes That Can Cost You
Curb your social media.

How to Achieve Financial Independence Without Retiring Early
A worthwhile goal.

What Is Consolidated Debt and How to Do It Right in 2019
Don’t start charging again.

Where To Go When You Have A Travel Insurance Problem
Being your own best advocate.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: This winter, your credit should freeze, too. Also in the news: 5 keys to picture-perfect TV buying, when to hire someone to do your taxes, and 5 things consumers should watch out for now that the Fed hasn’t raised rates.

This Winter, Your Credit Should Freeze, Too
Protecting your personal info.

5 Keys to Picture-Perfect TV Buying
Just in time for the Big Game.

When to Hire Someone to Do Your Taxes
When Turbo Tax isn’t enough.

5 things consumers should watch for now that the Fed has NOT raised rates
Bad news for savers.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Could you live on your retirement savings for 23 years? Also in the news: How a new pilot manages $116,000+ in loans, what your tax refund will look like this year, and the top 10 colleges for financial aid.

Could You Live on Your Retirement Savings for 23 Years?
How long will your money last?

Debt Diary: How a New Pilot Manages $116,000+ in Loans
A payoff strategy.

What Your Tax Refund Will Look Like This Year
It might not be as much as you think.

The top 10 colleges for financial aid
Some colleges are quite generous.