Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Social-Security-benefitsToday’s top story: Timing is everything when it comes to Social Security benefits. Also in the news: How Wi-Fi calling can save you money, a quiz to test your money smarts, and four concepts that’ll help you master your money.

For Social Security Benefits, Timing Is Key
Picking the right time.

What Wi-Fi Calling Is and How It Can Save You Money
Saving your minutes.

Do you have money smarts?
Take the quiz.

Focus on These Four Concepts to Finally Master Your Money
What to concentrate on.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

siblingsToday’s top story: How couples can talk about money without a blowup. Also in the news: Amazon Prime Day, tax mistakes to avoid, and how to make good financial decisions.

How Couples Can Talk Money Without a Blowup
Remembering what’s important.

Prime Day Kicks Off With Low Prices on Amazon Kindle, Echo and More
Bargain hunting.

11 Big Tax Mistakes to Avoid
Proceed with caution.

How to Make Good Financial Decisions
Thinking before you spend.

The Smartest Financial Decision You’ll Ever Make

common-retirement-mistakesThere’s really only one thing young people need know about money: Save for retirement, starting now.

Yes, at some point you’ll want to pay off your debt, have an emergency fund and buy a home. Right now, though, you’re burning through your most limited resource, which is time. You can’t make more of it, you can’t get it back when it’s gone, and you have a limited window to harness its power.

In my latest for NerdWallet, why it’s imperative for young people to start saving for retirement immediately.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

bigstock-U-s-Income-Tax-Return-Form-28476797-e1390508229663Today’s top story: The best time to file your tax returns. Also in the news: Picking the right financial advisor, overcoming retirement obstacles, and what the Presidential candidates have planned for your wallet.

The Best Time to File Your Tax Return
What’s the optimum time for you?

Key Steps to Researching a Financial Advisor
Finding the right advisor.

5 ways to overcome obstacles between you and retirement
Don’t let them get in your way.

Keep an eye on candidates’ plans for your wallet: Advisors
They’re both after your money.

Q&A: How to make sure your money-distribution wishes are followed after you die

Dear Liz: My first husband died when my oldest child was 1. I remarried and had another child (they’re 5 and 3 now). My husband and I prepared a trust in which I have him and my sister as beneficiaries of my assets. But my husband regrets that he is not the only beneficiary.

My argument is that if I pass away and he remarries, I want my oldest son (not his biological son, nor has my husband adopted him yet) to get what I saved for him, and that my sister will make sure this happens. What would you recommend? Should I have him as the only beneficiary?

Answer: No. But your sister probably shouldn’t be a beneficiary either, given your aims.

Any parent who wants to get money to a child should do so with a properly drafted trust, rather than trusting someone else — even another parent — to “do the right thing” by the child. All too often, they don’t. A new spouse, a change in financial circumstances, ill will or basic selfishness can tempt people to justify raiding funds intended for others.

A better way to benefit your children is to set up trusts to receive the money. You can name your husband as the trustee for the younger child and name your sister as the trustee for the elder. Trustees have the legal responsibility to act as fiduciaries, which means they have to put the beneficiaries’ interests first.

You can either create these trusts with your will or they can be part of your living trust if you live in a state with high probate costs, such as California. The advantage of probate is that the court can provide some oversight of the trustee, but that typically involves some additional costs. Your estate-planning attorney can offer guidance about which approach may be best for you.

Q&A: Are credit checks a scam?

Dear Liz: In July last year, I accessed the website for my free credit report before applying for a car loan. I have also been in recovery from cancer treatment and haven’t been great about checking my Visa statement until now. For the past year, my credit card has been charged $19.95 each month for some kind of “credit check” service. I never authorized this, nor did I request this service. I contacted the site, and they will refund me only one month of billing. Is this some kind of scam? How do they get away with this, and what can I do?

Answer: It may not technically be a scam, but the site’s business model profits from people’s confusion about how to get free credit reports.

The site you used is not the federally mandated site for free credit reports. It’s likely one that you found by typing “free credit reports” into a search engine and then clicking on one of the first results, which was probably an ad. To find the real site, you need to type www.annualcreditreport.com into your browser. You won’t need to give your credit card number to get your reports.

You may be able to get another month’s fee refunded by contacting your credit-card issuer and disputing the charge. By federal law, you’re supposed to make such disputes within 60 days after the statement containing the disputed charge was sent to you. Write to the issuer at its address for billing inquiries (not the address where you send your payments) and send it certified mail, return receipt requested.

Q&A: Don’t miss out on spousal Social Security benefits

Dear Liz: How far back can Social Security go for someone who did not know to apply for spousal benefits? I’m 69, still working and did not know I was eligible for spousal benefits from my retired wife when I turned 66. Social Security is indicating six months of retroactive benefits is the maximum.

Answer: Unfortunately, that’s correct. You’ve missed out on at least two and a half years’ worth of spousal benefits based on your wife’s work record.

You still can file a restricted application for spousal benefits only and get a lump sum payment for the previous six months. You also still have the option to switch to your own benefits when they max out at age 70. These strategies aren’t available to younger people because Congress changed the rules last year.

Social Security rules can be complex, and the penalty for misunderstanding or missing deadlines can be huge. “Get What’s Yours,” a book about Social Security-claiming strategies that recently was updated, should be required reading for anyone approaching retirement age.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: What Hillary Clinton’s college affordability plan could mean for you. Also in the news: How to enjoy your summer vacation without going broke, what seniors want you to know about managing money, and how to save for retirement without a full-time job.

What Clinton’s College Affordability Plan Could Mean for You
Is this a gamechanger?

Enjoy Your Summer Vacation — Without Maxing out Your Credit Cards
It doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

10 Things Seniors Want You to Know About Managing Money
Speaking from experience.

5 ways to save for retirement without a full-time job or 401k
Every bit helps.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

W-2 Tax heroToday’s top story: What you need to know about your W-2. Also in the news: How the “Five-Finger Checkup” can save your financial life, the best method for paying off different kinds of loans, and apps that will help manage your money.

6 Things You Need to Know About Your W-2
Deciphering what it means.

How the ‘Five-Finger Checkup’ Can Save Your Financial Life
One question for each finger.

The Best Method for Paying Off Each Kind of Loan
You need more than one strategy.

7 Apps to Help Manage Your Money
Help is at your fingertips.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

iStock_000015900242LargeToday’s top story: Critical steps to prepare your finances for divorce. Also in the news: Tips on taking over the family business, getting your credit back on track after moving back to the United States, and how to tell if your 401(k) is helping or hurting your retirement savings.

6 Critical Steps to Prepare Your Finances for Divorce
Protecting your assets during a vulnerable time.

Tips on Taking Over a Family Business
Making a smooth transition.

After Moving Back to U.S. From Overseas, Credit Card Is First Step to Rebuild Credit
Getting your numbers back on track.

Is your 401(k) helping or hurting your retirement savings?
Finding a best-in-class 401(k).