Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

financial-toolboxToday’s top story: 7 ways to improve your finances in 2017. Also in the news: How to help your kid graduate from college debt-free, how rising home values can boost your mortgage refinance, and why Americans are blowing it when it comes to personal finance.

7 Ways to Improve Your Finances in 2017
Making the most of the new year.

Help Your Kid Graduate From College Debt-Free
The greatest graduation gift of them all.

Rising Home Values Can Boost Your Mortgage Refinance
You could be able to tap your home equity.

Americans are blowing it on personal finance
Making financial literacy one of your goals.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

imagesToday’s top story: How to avoid 3 bank fees you shouldn’t be paying. Also in the news: One-word answers to your money questions, life insurance in 250 words, and how allowance contracts could help kids learn about money.

How to Avoid 3 Bank Fees You Shouldn’t Be Paying
Don’t pay your bank to access your money.

One-Word Answers To Your Money Questions
Short and sweet.

Life Insurance Explained in (Exactly) 250 Words
No more, no less.

Negotiate “Allowance Contracts” With Your Kids to Teach Them About Money
Put it in writing.

Q&A: What to do when a financial planner gives bad advice

Dear Liz: I personally like my fee-only financial advisor, who has been managing my portfolio (gained as inheritance) for the last six years. But she has me invested in bonds and gold only and insists that we wait until stock prices fall to get back in the stock market. We have been waiting for six years! My portfolio was not making much but now is declining with projections of interest rates increasing and the new administration’s potential financial implications. My current balance is only half of what it could’ve been had I stayed in my previous portfolio, set up by my previous advisor, of 60% stocks and 40% bonds. Is it time to change advisors again, or should I continue to trust my advisor’s advice? I’m one to five years away from retirement.

Answer: Your advisor is trying to time the market, despite ample evidence that market timing doesn’t work. You’ve missed out on a lot of growth, and your portfolio could take an outsized hit because bond prices suffer when interest rates rise. Big investments in gold are also problematic, given how volatile the prices of this commodity can be.

Increasing your stock exposure now comes with its own risks, of course, since the long-running bull market could end at any time. Still, you almost certainly will need the inflation-beating growth that only stocks can offer if you want a comfortable retirement. If your advisor isn’t willing to admit that she blew it, then you may want to start interviewing her replacement.

Q&A: Will paying off collections help credit scores?

Dear Liz: I have a question about clearing up collections on my credit reports. I used a credit repair company that did help me with most of the setbacks on my credit reports, but I still had collections that were recent and my scores were going up and down. The credit repair company left me to deal with the collections. Will it hurt my scores if I pay them off, and is there a way to get them off my report for good?

Answer: Paying off the collections shouldn’t hurt your scores, but probably won’t help them either. You can try to negotiate with the collection agency to stop reporting the collection accounts in return for payment, something known as “pay for delete” or “pay for deletion,” but debt experts say few agencies will agree to do that.

Plus paying off collections is more complicated than it may seem. Many agencies pay pennies on the dollar for collection accounts, which means virtually anything you pay them is pure profit. That means you should be able to negotiate a significant discount of 50% or more if you can pay in full.

However, not all collectors are ethical. Some pretend to own debts they actually don’t, so any payment to them is money down the drain. Other agencies will re-sell any debt you don’t pay in full to another collection agency, which means more collection calls.

Before you attempt to settle any collection account, visit DebtCollectionAnswers.com and download the free e-book written by consumer advocates Gerri Detweiler and Mary Reed.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Student-LoansToday’s top story: What to buy for every month of the year. Also in the news: Why you should think twice before borrowing for your kid’s college, why you need to stop hoarding your credit card rewards, and why banks are starting to look more like cafes.

What to Buy Every Month of the Year in 2017
Shopping smart.

Think Twice Before Borrowing for Your Kid’s College
You could spend decades paying it back.

Credit Card Rewards Are for Spending, Not Hoarding
Use ’em before you lose ’em.

Decaf with your deposit, ma’am? Reinventing the bank branch
Get a latte with your loan.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

prepaid-debit-cardToday’s top story: 10 smart insurance resolutions for 2017. Also in the news: Why your prepaid debit card needs FDIC insurance, the assumptions that can make or break your financial planning, and what will cost more – and less – in 2017.

10 Smart Insurance Resolutions for 2017
Strengthening your safety net.

Why Your Prepaid Debit Card Needs FDIC Insurance
Protecting your money.

Key Assumptions That Can Make or Break Your Financial Planning
When assumptions can backfire.

What Will Cost More – and Less – in 2017
What to expect in the year ahead.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Credit score companies ordered to pay millions in refunds. Also in the news: How the Trump presidency will impact housing, how to refresh your finances in the new year, and how to become an extreme saver in 2017.

Credit Score Companies Must Refund $17.7 Million to Customers
Could you have a refund on the way?

How the Trump Presidency Will Impact Housing in 2017
A glimpse into the future.

Ask Brianna: How Can I Refresh My Finances for the New Year?

How to Become an Extreme Saver in 2017
Every penny counts.

Bureaus fined for credit score confusion

51w4H0Y7W7L._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today ordered Equifax and TransUnion to pay more than $23 million in restitution and fines for deceiving consumers about the usefulness and actual cost of credit scores they sold to consumers. Regulators said the bureaus also lured customers into expensive subscriptions when people thought they were getting free scores.

The CFPB said the bureaus were selling scores without making it clear that they weren’t the FICO scores lenders typically use in their decisions. TransUnion was selling VantageScores and Equifax sold a proprietary score. (Important to note here that VantageScores are now offered for free by many sites, including my employer NerdWallet.)

Credit scoring can be complex, and people are easily confused about the different types of scores and how they’re used by lenders. For example, many people think they have one credit score, when in fact we have many, and those scores change all the time.

People often don’t understand that the scores they’re seeing aren’t necessarily the ones used by lenders. Most lenders use some version of the FICO credit scoring formula, but FICOs come in many different versions and iterations. There are different generations of FICO scores and formulas tweaked for different industries, such as credit cards or auto loans. Furthermore, the FICOs you get from one major credit bureau will differ from the FICOs you can get from the two other bureaus.
Before VantageScore, the bureaus often sold proprietary scores that were used by few, if any, lenders. That led consumer advocates to label these proprietary scores as “FAKO” scores. VantageScores definitely aren’t FAKOs, since they’re used by 20 of the 25 largest financial institutions. But they may be used behind the scenes–for marketing or testing, rather than for deciding whether you get a loan or the interest rate you’ll get.
A VantageScores can give you a general idea of how lenders might view you as a credit risk. If you’re in the market for a major loan such as a mortgage or auto loan, however, you should consider buying the appropriate FICOs from MyFICO.com to get the clearest idea of where you stand.

The money numbers you need to know

lighting-calculation-1000Some numbers matter more than others. How much you make is important, for example, but your financial health depends far more on how much you keep.

Knowing certain numbers can help you understand how well you’re converting income into wealth, as well as the impact of your spending and tax situation on that process. In my latest for the Associated Press, the calculations that can help you make better decisions.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Pile of Credit CardsToday’s top story: The best credit card tips for January. Also in the news: Less than one month left to shop for Obamacare, how to spend more mindfully in the new year, and what research says about erasing credit card debt.

NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for January 2017
How you can make 2017 better than 2016.

Less Than One Month Left for ‘Obamacare’ Shoppers
The deadline is Jan. 31st.

How to Spend More Mindfully in the New Year
Paying closer attention.

What research says about erasing credit card debt
Following the best path.