How to get rid of a timeshare

Some timeshare buyers know almost instantly that they’ve made a mistake. Other owners struggle for years with loan payments and ever-escalating annual fees before they’re ready to throw in the towel. Even the happiest timeshare owners may decide they want out of their contracts, perhaps when they are no longer able to travel.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how to get rid of a timeshare.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to use autopay to boost your bottom line. Also in the news: 5 credit card habits to take to college and beyond, investing when you’re not bullish on the bull market and reviewing the best mobile payment systems.

How to Use Autopay to Boost Your Bottom Line
Automating payments can make your life much easier while also boosting your savings and credit rating.

5 Credit Card Habits to Take to College and Beyond
Time to embrace your budget.

Investing When You’re Not Bullish on the Bull Market
The clock is ticking on this market.

The Best Mobile Payment Systems
Consumer Reports takes on ApplePay, Venmo and more.

Q&A: How to get results when you complain to your mortgage company

Dear Liz: Last year my mortgage was sold to another company. I didn’t know that I had a new loan number, so my automatic payments weren’t posted properly. With the help of my bank, I was able to sort this out but not before the new company reported me as delinquent to the credit bureaus. I have never been late with a payment in 15 years.

I pleaded with the company to remove the delinquency from my credit report, but they declined, saying their records show that they fulfilled their obligation by notifying me that they are my new lender. Do I have any recourse and what are my options in getting this delinquency removed from my credit report?

Answer: You can try disputing the delinquency with the credit bureaus, but that is a highly automated process. The company may check its records and respond to the bureaus as it did to you, refusing to remove the black mark. It’s worth a shot, but far from guaranteed.

You most likely will need to get to the right human being to help you. Sometimes when you run into a brick wall with customer service, you can turn things around by appealing to someone’s expertise. Asking the customer service rep, “If this happened to you, what would you do to fix it?” may get you pointed in the right direction.

Of course, you may have been talking to a call center worker with little training and even less authority. If that’s the case, ask to speak to the manager. You might also write a letter to the company’s chief executive, asking directly for help.

Another option is to involve regulators. Filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or your state attorney general may get results.

A single missed payment can knock more than 100 points off good credit scores, plunging you into the “average” category and causing you to pay more for such things as credit card interest, insurance and cellphone coverage. It may take considerable effort, but it’s worth fighting back.

Q&A: Moving for cheaper foreign healthcare can be stressful

Dear Liz: My husband is 55 and we are hoping to retire in five years. That gives us time to clean up our outstanding debt (the house, car and credit card debt from medical bills). We have a little over $1 million saved. He was recently offered early retirement but didn’t take it because of our debt and my health problems. I have end-stage liver disease and recovered from liver cancer. I have been collecting disability for a while.

I’m doing relatively well for my condition. However, at any time my health can take a bad turn. So I was interested in what you said about living in other countries to get affordable healthcare. If we were to do that, how long would we need to live there to qualify for healthcare? Should we talk to a tax preparer and financial advisor?

Answer: Residency requirements to qualify for public healthcare vary by country, said Kathleen Peddicord, founder of the international living site Live and Invest Overseas. “In some cases it’s instant, in others it could take years,” she says.

In most countries, anyone who is employed or self-employed can instantly access the public system. Some countries allow non-workers to opt into this system by volunteering to pay into it, but there may be restrictions for those with pre-existing conditions. If you’re collecting Social Security disability, you probably have Medicare, but that coverage typically doesn’t extend abroad.

Expatriates in good health can use an international medical plan to bridge any gaps in coverage, but those policies also typically exclude preexisting conditions. You might have to settle for a more limited travel medical plan that would expire after six months and need to be renewed, she said. Given your serious health issues, that could be problematic.

Then there’s the potentially enormous stress of moving to a foreign country, adapting to a different culture and possibly learning a new language. Even in countries with excellent healthcare, finding specialists who can help you manage your condition, and who can communicate clearly with you, can be a hassle.

If you can find advisors familiar with life in the country of your choice, that could be helpful, but you’ll probably be doing a lot of research on your own. Before you decide to move, you should make at least one and preferably a few trips to the country to get a better idea of the challenges.

Q&A: Reporting Social Security fraud

Dear Liz: You’ve written about Social Security survivor benefits and how after one spouse dies, the other gets only one check, which is supposed to be the larger of the two the couple previously received. I know a woman who is still collecting both her own and her deceased husband’s check. How is that possible?

Answer: That can happen if the death wasn’t properly reported to the Social Security Administration. Continuing to collect and cash the dead person’s checks is fraud. You can report it by calling Social Security’s fraud hotline at (800) 269-0271 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The average retirement savings by age and why you need more. Also in the news: What hotel credit card upgrades mean for your bottom line, why banks are still playing with financial fire, and the pros and cons of prenups.

The Average Retirement Savings by Age and Why You Need More
How close are you?

What Hotel Credit Card Upgrades Mean for Your Bottom Line
Hotel credit cards are getting a makeover.

After ’08 Meltdown, Banks Still Play With Financial Fire
Lessons unlearned.

The Pros and Cons of Prenups
One touchy subject.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Understanding what colleges are looking for. Also in the news: How a self-taught baker became a rising entrepreneur, 3 credit score myths you should stop believing, and what to do when you’re worried you’re going to retire broke.

What Do Colleges Want? It’s Hiding in Plain Sight
Diving into the data.

How a Self-Taught Baker Became a Rising Entrepreneur
Keiyana Roberts is getting it done.

3 Credit Score Myths You Should Stop Believing
Busting credit score myths.

Worried you’re going to retire broke? Help could be closer than you think
Finding help at work.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Ace back-to-school shopping with six smart moves. Also in the news: How to prepare for the next recession, how a remodeling project changes your property tax bill and adding more cash investments to your portfolio.

Ace Back-to-School Shopping With 6 Smart Moves
Avoiding the splurge trap.

How to Get Ready for the Next Recession Now
Making your finances recession-proof.

How a Remodeling Project Changes Your Property Tax Bill
Upgrades mean an uptick in home value.

Interest rates are going up. Is it time for more cash investments in your portfolio?
The appeal of cash investments is growing.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 wrong ideas you might have about financial planning. Also in the news: Bringing retirement savings goals closer, tips for back-to-school shopping, and how to kick your adult child out of the house.

5 Wrong Ideas You Might Have About Financial Planning
It’s not just for rich people.

If You Can’t Picture Retirement, Bring Savings Goals Closer
Saving for freedom.

Cross Items Off Your Back-to-School List With These Tips

How to Kick Your Adult Child Out of the House
Placing limits on your generosity.

What do colleges want? It’s hiding in plain sight

The college application process can seem pretty mysterious to the uninitiated.

But what colleges want from their applicants isn’t a secret. Schools telegraph what they’re after in the form of big data that’s available online to anyone.

High school students can use that data to apply where they will be strong candidates, boosting their chances of admission and financial aid.

In my latest for the Associated Press, here’s what to look for.