Thursday’s need-to-know money news

retirement-savings3Today’s top story: Why you cannot afford to become complacent about money. Also in the news:The financial steps you need to take after your spouse dies, how to get into a money-saving mindset, and why getting your debt in order is essential for a good retirement.

5 Ways Complacency Can Cost You Serious Money
The importance of staying on your toes.

Financial steps to take after your spouse dies
Protecting yourself during a difficult time.

3 Tips to Stay in the Money-Saving Mindset
Changing money habits could result in big savings.

Don’t Let Debt Blow Your Retirement
Getting your debt in order is essential for a good retirement.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

refinancingToday’s top story: What you need to know about divorce and credit. Also in the news: Things that surprisingly don’t affect your credit, back-to-school shopping hacks, and what to consider when deciding whether to sell your house or rent.

Help! I’m Getting Divorced. How Do We Split Our Credit?
What you need to know about divorce and credit.

9 Things That Surprisingly Won’t Affect Your Credit
When paying your bills on time doesn’t make a difference.

14 Back-to-School Shopping Hacks
Keeping more money in your wallet.

Should You Sell Your House or Rent It Out? – Things to Consider
The pros and cons of each.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

budgetToday’s top story: The money moves you need to make at the midyear point. Also in the news: Life events that require financial planning, common credit score killers, and why you should always read the fine print when choosing a checking account.

Your Midyear Guide to Managing Your Money
Moves you need to make now.

10 Life Events That Require Financial Planning
Both happy and sad.

5 Common Credit Score Killers
How to avoid them.

Want 1% Interest On Your Checking Account? You Can Get It, But Make Sure To Read The Fine Print
That 1% could end up costing you.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

air-miles-cardToday’s top story: How your medical debt impacts your FICO score. Also in the news: Signs your parents are victims of a financial scam, what you need to know when hunting for scholarships, and how to fly first class on the cheap.

The Impact of Medical Debt on FICO Scores
A new formula treats medical debt differently.

5 Signs Your Parents Are the Victims of a Financial Scam
Older adults are more susceptible to scams.

Everything You Need to Know When Hunting for Scholarships
Helping your kids on the road to college.

How to fly first class for free (or on the cheap)
Bargain your way out of coach this summer.

Q&A: Co-signing student loans

Dear Liz: I have two kids heading to college. Both need co-signers for their student loans. Will me co-signing have a negative effect on my credit? The kids have no choice. I’m middle class, having made enough to get myself by as a divorcee, but there’s no college savings. To make matters worse, I make just over the base for them to get a Pell Grant. I’m concerned about my credit, but my kids need to go to college.

Answer: Your children probably do need to go to college if they want to maintain a middle-class lifestyle in the 21st century. They probably don’t need to finance that education with private student loans, which are the kind that require a co-signer.

Co-signing means the loans show up on your credit reports. Your credit scores can be trashed if your children miss a single payment. If they stop paying, the lender will come after you for the balance.

Federal student loans are a much better option. They have fixed rates, numerous repayment options and the possibility of forgiveness.

Private student loans typically have none of those attributes. Quite the opposite: There are horror stories of private lenders that refused to forgive the balance of borrowers who died, leaving co-signers on the hook.

The big problem with federal student loans is that the amount your children can borrow is limited.

A first-year student typically can borrow just $5,500 and usually no more than $31,000 for an undergraduate degree. The average net cost of a public four-year university — the sticker price for tuition, fees, room and board minus grants and scholarships — was just under $13,000 in 2014-15.

That leaves a fairly substantial gap to cover, especially with no savings and two children.

If you can’t cover the gap out of your current income, your family needs to consider some options. Finding more generous colleges might be one.

Institutions vary tremendously in their willingness to meet families’ financial need. While few meet 100% of a typical student’s need, the more generous shoot for 90% or more. Some meet less than 70%. (You can find these need statistics, and many others, at the College Board’s Big Future site, at http://bigfuture.collegeboard.org.)

You also could consider a couple of years at a community college. There are some one- and two-year technical degrees, typically in the health and science fields that pay more than the average four-year degree.

Or your children could attend community college to get some requirements out of the way cheaply before transferring to a four-year school, but be aware that the dropout rate at two-year schools is high, even for students who start fully intending to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Another option is for you to borrow, but you shouldn’t consider doing so unless you’re saving adequately for retirement and can continue to do so while paying off the loans. Federal PLUS loans offer fixed rates, but if you can pay the loan off quickly, a home equity loan or line of credit may be a less expensive option.

Q&A: IRS Electronic Payment System

Dear Liz: I was intrigued by your answer to the question about paying taxes through the IRS Electronic Tax Payment System. I went to the website you mentioned (www.irs.gov/payments) and found that there was a fee.

You didn’t point this out, and I think it is relevant. My quarterly estimated payment would be $1,726 and the fee for a Visa payment would be 2.29%, which equals $39.55. If my math is correct, that is quite a significant amount. Did I reach the correct interpretation of fees being charged?

Answer: If you return to www.irs.gov/payments, you’ll see two big blue buttons. The one on the left, IRS Direct Pay, takes you to the IRS’ free payment system for individuals. Directly below that button is a link for the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, which offers a free method for businesses to pay their taxes.

Only if you choose the button on the right that says “Pay by Card” will you be taken to various payment processors that charge a fee. Those fees can be significant, which is why it’s worthwhile to take the time to explore the free options.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

seniorslaptopToday’s top story: How to simplify your financial life. Also in the news: Credit card fees you shouldn’t have to pay, the hidden costs of starting your own business, and the amazing credit card features you’ve always wanted.

8 Easy Ways to Simplify Your Financial Life
Sifting through the clutter.

6 outrageous credit card fees you shouldn’t have to pay
Banks will always find a way to get more of your money.

The Hidden Costs of Starting Your Own Business
You’ll need to spend money to make money.

5 Credit Card Features You Wish You Had — That Actually Exist
Choose your own rewards? Sure!

6 estate planning tips even broke people need to take

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailNo one really wants to sit around thinking about what will happen if they get seriously sick or so incapacitated they can’t make sound financial decisions — let alone contemplate the actual D word. But that doesn’t mean you can forget about estate planning altogether. It won’t just go away if you ignore it, and you could be leaving yourself vulnerable in the future.

Maybe you have a will, which is usually the centerpiece of an estate plan and allows you to say who gets what when you die. But that won’t cover everything.

Even if you’re young or short on assets, you need to take steps to protect the quality of your life and the lives you leave behind. My column for Daily Worth shows you how.

Elsewhere on the web, I disagree with Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley over financial aid in my column for Reuters.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

downloadToday’s top story: How a secured credit card could help you build your credit. Also in the news: Generations X and Y race to prepare for retirement, how to handle your debt when you’ve lost your job, and an identity theft reveals how he empties your bank account.

The Best Secured Credit Cards in America
How to build or improve your credit.

Gen X Vs. Gen Y: How Retirement Ready Is Each Generation?
Which generation is best prepared for retirement?

What to Do About Debt When You’ve Lost Your Job
You cannot ignore it.

An Identity Thief Explains the Art of Emptying Your Bank Account
It’s shockingly easy.

4 phone calls that can save you a ton of money
Savings are just a phone call away.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: What happens if you get caught lying on your FAFSA? Also in the news: Why your financial life is a mess, which interest rate you should choose, and the credit score every small business owner should understand.

What Happens If You Lie on Your FAFSA?
Resist the temptation.

Fixed or Variable: Which Interest Rate Should You Choose?
Which interest rate is best for you?

The Credit Score Every Small Business Owner Needs to Understand
Introducing the FICO SBSS.

Top Seven Reasons Why Your Financial Life Is A Mess
Getting your financial house in order.

If You Won’t Remember Something in a Week, Don’t Buy It
Smart advice.