Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

o-CREDIT-REPORT-facebookToday’s top story: The secrets of boosting your credit score. Also in the news: A 3-step retirement plan for 20-somethings, where the U.S. ranks on basic money smarts, and money steps to take before your 70th birthday.

A 3-step retirement savings plan for 20-somethings
How to get started on the path to retirement.

The Secrets Of Boosting Your Credit Score
A nudge in the right direction.

How the U.S. Stacks Up on Basic Money Smarts
Room for improvement.

10 Money Steps to Take Before Your 70th Birthday
Managing your accumulated assets.

Can I Be Fired for Bad Credit?
The answer may surprise you.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to get fired up about saving money. Also in the news: How much you should be saving for the holidays, using “bill fixers” to negotiate lower rates, and the top beliefs that are keeping you broke.

4 Ways to Get Yourself Fired Up About Saving Money
Keeping yourself motivated.

How Much Should You Save Up for Christmas?
Budgeting tips to keep your holiday spending under control.

Should You Use a Third Party to Negotiate Your Cable Bill?
Welcome to the world of “bill fixers.”

Top 7 Beliefs Keeping You Broke
What’s holding you back from better money habits?

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to protect your credit cards online. Also in the news: Tips to avoid investing scams, moves to make before the Fed raises interest rates, and how to handle investments if you divorce.

4 Ways to Protect Your Credit Cards Online
With holiday shopping just around the corner, you can’t be too careful.

Simple steps retirees (and others) can take to avoid investing scams
If it sounds too good to be true…

5 moves to make before the Fed raises rates
It’s only a matter of time.

How to Handle Investments When You Divorce
Making sure your assets are fairly divided.

Finally Start Saving for Retirement With the Help of Your Tax Refund
Saving instead of splurging.

Q&A: More on Social Security rule changes

Dear Readers: The changes Congress made to the “claim now, claim more later” Social Security strategy generated so many questions from readers that I’m devoting a second column to answering some of those queries. Next week, we’ll get back to the usual mix of personal finance topics.

Dear Liz: I am divorced after being married for 27 years and have not remarried. I was planning to file for early retirement benefits at 62 (I’m 58 now) on either my own or my ex-spouse’s record.

Then at full retirement age, I would switch to the other record, depending on which would be a larger monthly amount. Do the new rules affect early retirement claims the same as they affect suspended benefit claims?

Will I be able to file for early retirement benefits on the smaller payout, then change to the larger at full retirement age using the divorced spousal filing for one of the times?

Answer: The rules never allowed you to do what you’re proposing to do.

If you file for benefits before your own full retirement age, you’re deemed to be applying for both your own retirement benefit and a spousal benefit, and essentially given the larger of the two.

Your benefit would be permanently reduced because of the early start and you wouldn’t have the option to switch later.

The “claim now, claim more later” strategy that Congress targeted involved waiting until full retirement age (66 to 67, depending on your birth year) and then filing a restricted application for spousal benefits only.

That allowed you to collect an amount of up to half the benefit earned by your spouse or ex-spouse. Then you could switch to your own benefit at age 70, when it maxed out, if that benefit was larger.

The rules have now changed so that people who haven’t turned 62 by the end of this year, like yourself, will no longer be allowed to file that restricted application.

Dear Liz: I turn 66 next year. My wife is 63 and receiving Social Security benefits. When I turn 66, can I file a restricted application for spousal benefits?

Answer: Yes. People who are 62 or older by the end of this year still have the option to file a restricted application for a spousal benefit.

That is as long as the “primary worker” (in this case, your wife) is receiving benefits or was able to “file and suspend” before the May 1, 2016, deadline.

Filing for retirement benefits and then immediately suspending the application meant the filer’s benefit could continue to grow while still allowing the spouse to claim a spousal benefit.

Dear Liz: I was married for 23 years and divorced in 2009. I was told by the IRS about a year ago that when I turn 66, as long as I am still working I can collect half of my former husband’s Social Security until I turn 70. Is that still true with the new rules? I am 62.

Answer: You shouldn’t be asking the IRS about Social Security strategies. They have a hard-enough time answering people’s questions about taxes.

Your employment status has nothing to do with being able to get a spousal benefit.

When being employed matters is when you start Social Security benefits before full retirement age. If that’s the case, your check will be reduced by $1 for each $2 you earn over a certain amount (which is $15,720 in 2015 and 2016). That “earnings test” ends when you reach full retirement age (which in your case is 66).

Now, on to heart of your question — and the weird incentive Congress just gave people to get divorced.

Since you’re 62, you’ll still be allowed to file a restricted application for spousal benefits at 66.

If you’re still unmarried at that point, your spousal benefit will be based on your former husband’s earnings record. If you remarry, though, your spousal benefit will be based on your current husband’s record.

If you remarry, your husband will have to be receiving benefits or have filed and suspended by May 1 for you to receive spousal benefits. If you don’t remarry, your ex just has to be old enough to receive Social Security — 62 or above.

So married couples now have an incentive to split up, said economist Laurence Kotlikoff, coauthor of the book “Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security.”

If they divorce, one of them can put off starting Social Security benefits, but the other can start spousal benefits — something he or she couldn’t do if still married.

To qualify for divorced spousal benefits, the marriage had to have lasted at least 10 years, the divorce must be at least 2 years old, and the person applying for spousal benefits must not be remarried.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

best-emv-chip-credit-cardsToday’s top story: Busting the myths about chip credit cards. Also in the news: Relying on Social Security, how to pay for taking care of your aging parents, and how to avoid airline price surges this Thanksgiving.

5 Chip Credit Card Myths Busted
Mythbusting the chip myths.

After Budget Deal’s Surprise Cuts, Can Boomers Really Count On Social Security?
Politicians are making promises they can’t keep.

Taking Care of Your Aging Parents? It’s Going to Cost You
Preparing for the costs.

How to avoid airline price surges this Thanksgiving
Finding last-minute travel deals.

Three things you can do if you’re behind in saving for retirement
There’s still time to start catching up.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

siblingsToday’s top story: What to do when your spouse is sabotaging your finances. Also in the news: Money saving tips for couples, the first thing you should do after getting a raise, and how to afford your next cold.

What to Do When Your Spouse Is Sabotaging Your Finances
Don’t call a divorce lawyer just yet.

25 Tips for Saving Money With Your Spouse
Another way to avoid a divorce lawyer.

The First Thing You Should Do With Your Paycheck After Getting a Raise
A little splurge is okay.

How to Afford Your Next Cold
That annoying cold can get expensive.

Why banks want you to drop Mint, other ‘aggregators’

Image9Millions of people share their bank account passwords with third-party sites and apps that help them track their spending, but some of the biggest financial institutions, wary of hacking risks, are trying to scare people into not using them.

JPMorgan Chase & Co and Capital One Financial Corp, for example, warn on their websites that customers could be liable for any fraud in their accounts – even though federal regulations say otherwise.

Capital One’s site (here) tells users: “If you choose to share account access information with a third-party, Capital One is not liable for any resulting damages or losses.”

Chase (here) admonishes, “If you give out your user ID and password, you are putting your money at risk.”

In my latest for Reuters, a look at why banks are issuing these warnings, and if users should be concerned.

In my latest for MoneyWatch, why the best gift to give your kids this holiday season is a head start on investing.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

money-saving-militaryToday’s top story: Online financial information and resources for Veterans. Also in the news: Determining when to lock in your mortgage rate, what you’ll need to save for a down payment in America’s biggest cities, and why you need an emergency fund.

Online Financial Information and Resources for Veterans
Thank you for your service.

When Should I Lock In My Mortgage Rate?
How to determine the best lock in date.

Here’s How Much You Need To Save For A Down Payment In America’s Biggest Cities
Take a deep breath.

Why You Need an Emergency Fund
A single event could completely upend your finances.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Student-LoansToday’s top story: How to decide if you should refinance your student loans. Also in the news: Credit card scams to watch out for, money-saving tips for the holidays, and hidden perks in your credit cards.

This Infographic Helps You Decide If You Should Refinance Student Loans
Refinancing could give you some breathing room.

3 Credit Card Scams You Need to Watch Out For
Protect yourself.

5 smart money-saving tips for the holidays
Especially if you’re still paying off last year’s holiday shopping.

8 Perks That Might Be Hiding in Your Credit Cards
What you could be missing out on.

7 simple steps to wise charitable giving
Donating strategically.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

18ixgvpiu0s24jpgToday’s top story: How to save for retirement without a 401(k). Also in the news: Checking your 401(k) fees, the tax consequences of renting your home on Airbnb, and smart money moves for soldiers and military veterans.

5 Ways to Save for Retirement Besides a 401K
401(k) alternatives.

Why You Should Check Your 401(k) Plan’s Fees
Looking out for dents in your nest egg.

Renting Your Home On Airbnb? Be Aware Of The Tax Consequences
That extra cash could be costly.

5 Smart Money Moves for Soldiers and Military Veterans
Defending your finances.

Beware Lifestyle Inflation When Your Home’s Equity Increases
Avoid spending more.