Monday’s need-to-know money news

common-retirement-mistakesToday’s top story: How to choose the right amount for your FSA in 2017. Also in the news: The best and worst airports for holiday travel, the pros and cons of free money from a bank, and how long it will take to retire based on your spending.

How to Choose the Right Amount for Your FSA in 2017
Finding the amount that’s right for you.

Best and Worst Airports for Holiday Travel 2016
Preparing for holiday travel madness.

Should you turn down free money from a bank?
Considering the variables.

This Grid Shows You How Long It Will Take to Retire, Based on Your Spending
How many years left to go?

Q&A: How to evaluate consumer options and not get cheated

Dear Liz: Although I’m able to pay my bills, it’s the decisions regarding cable, telephone, Internet and various insurance options that drive me nuts! I’ve tried to seek out independent groups that discuss such issues, but none exists in my area; and these decisions are not covered by my financial planner, nor do I wish to pay a senior money manager for this advice. As an elder orphan, I’m finding these decisions and others regarding repairs, workmen, etc. very stressful. Friends don’t really want to help and be held “responsible” if their recommendations don’t work out. What do you suggest?

Answer: Sometimes it feels like a full-time job to evaluate your options as a consumer and not get snookered. This isn’t an issue that’s unique to older people. But as we age, our financial decision-making abilities tend to decline, and we become more vulnerable to fraud or bad decisions. So you’re smart to want a trustworthy helper to guide you.

A lot of Internet sites clamor to be that helper, but not all are as objective as they seem to be. They may be steering you toward the companies that pay them the most. Make sure you read a site’s disclosure statements so you understand what its conflicts of interest might be.

One outfit you can trust is Consumer Reports, which has a print magazine as well as an online subscription with objective advice on thousands of products and services. Consumer Reports doesn’t accept advertising and has been helping people make smarter decisions since 1936.

Finding good people to work on your home is trickier. Sites such as Angie’s List and Yelp offer reviews from other consumers and can help lead you to reputable firms. You shouldn’t take the results as gospel, though, because both rely on advertising from the companies being reviewed.

If you don’t feel up to the task of researching and sorting your options, please reconsider your aversion to hiring a daily money manager. You typically can pay such a manager by the hour to help you make these decisions. You’ll also have a chance to “test drive” his or her services since you may well need help with paying bills and other financial tasks down the line.

Q&A: Social Security calculators may overestimate your benefits

Dear Liz: All of the Social Security calculators that I have found assume that you will work until you start drawing Social Security benefits. However, I plan on retiring around 62 but not drawing my benefits until age 66 or later. Whenever I calculate my future benefits, the calculator assumes that I will continue to draw the same salary as I have today until I start benefits. I’m worried the calculators are overestimating my benefit.

Answer: As you probably know, Social Security uses your 35 highest-earning years to calculate your benefit. When you work longer than 35 years, you’re typically replacing your lower-earning years in your teens or 20s with higher earnings from your 50s and 60s.

Free Social Security calculators usually assume that pattern will continue. If you stop working or earn less, the calculators may overstate your benefits. To get a better estimate, you’ll need to shell out $40 to use MaximizeMySocialSecurity.com, which allows you to customize your future earnings assumptions.

Q&A: Getting help with credit scores after identity theft

Dear Liz: Would you please help readers learn how to fix credit scores after identity theft? I have been a victim at least eight times in the past five years. I have filed three police reports regarding these matters and sent them along with other proof to the big three credit report agencies. Only one quickly answered and deleted the false entries.

Answer: You have a friend in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In the past, complaints about credit bureaus went into a black hole. The Federal Trade Commission collected them but warned consumers that it couldn’t expect any action on their individual cases. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, by contrast, forwards consumer complaints directly to the financial company and works to get problems solved. The bureau says 97% of complaints get a timely response.

Before you make your complaints, though, you should check your credit reports again. One bureau may have been faster in responding, but the other two may have since deleted the bogus accounts.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Financial advisors on what the election means for your money. Also in the news:sol_helpkidssave How your taxes may change in a Trump presidency, how President Trump could affect your student loans, and how to teach kids about money.

Ten Financial Advisors on What the Election Means for Your Money Plan
A look at what happens next.

How Your Taxes May Change in a Trump Presidency
Big changes ahead.

5 Ways President Trump Could Affect Your Student Loans
What this means for interest rates.

Ask Kids to Contribute to a Family Savings Goal to Teach Them About Money
Teamwork.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Probate, and how to avoid it. Also in the news: A Class of 2016 Postgrad student loan checklist, how to haggle down your rent by offering to do your own maintenance, and a few things to consider before moving to Canada.

Probate, and How to Avoid It
Learn the three common ways.

Class of 2016 Postgrad Student Loan Checklist
Get ready to start paying back those loans.

Haggle Down Your Rent By Offering to Do Your Own Maintenance
All they can say is no.

6 reasons to think twice before moving to Canada
Some things to consider.

Tough times ahead? Enter to win these books. Plus: discount code.

Updated to add second coupon code. I mentioned earlier this week that I’m giving away a copy of Donna Freedman’s “Playbook for Tough Times,” as well as Abigail Perry’s “Frugality for Depressives.”  (Donna and Abby are mother and daughter.)

Donna just let me know that she’s also offering a short-term discount on the PDF version of “Playbook.” If you don’t win the giveaway, you can get the e-book for $5 through Nov. 30 by using the discount code ASKLIZ at this payment link:snip20161108_3

https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?c=cart&ejc=2&cl=315870&i=1507332

Abby’s offering a $1.99 discount on her book as well. Use the code FRUGALITY to get the book for $5 through Nov. 30:

Visit https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?c=cart&ejc=2&cl=315870&i=1517519

You can enter to win the books by leaving a comment here on my blog (not my Facebook page). Make sure to include your email address, which won’t show up with your comment, but I’ll be able to see it.

snip20161108_2Comments are moderated, so it may take a little while for your comment to show up.

The winners will be chosen at random Friday night. Over the weekend, please check your email (including your spam filter). If I don’t hear from a winner by noon Pacific time on Monday, his or her prize will be forfeited and I’ll pick another winner.

Also, check back here often for other giveaways.

The deadline to enter is midnight Pacific time on Friday. So–comment away!

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Pile of Credit CardsToday’s top story: NerdWallet’s best credit card tips for November. Also in the news: How credit card rewards can help pay for the holidays, what to do if your parents don’t have a retirement plan, and the pros and cons of a joint checking account with your parents.

NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for November 2016
Preparing for holiday spending.

How Credit Card Rewards Can Help Pay for the Holidays
Every little bit counts.

What to Do If Your Parents Don’t Have a Retirement Plan
An important conversation.

Helping out Mom or Dad with a joint checking account? Watch out
The pros and cons.

Book Giveaway: Playbook for Tough Times and Frugality for Depressives

snip20161108_3I’m giving away a copy of Donna Freedman’s “Playbook for Tough Times,” and Abigail Perry’s “Frugality for Depressives.” These books have more than a topic in common–Abby is Donna’s daughter. Both books offer great, realistic advice for getting a handle on your money.

To enter to win, leave a comment here on my blog (not my Facebook page). Make sure to include your email address, which won’t show up with your comment, but I’ll be able to see it.

snip20161108_2
Comments are moderated, so it may take a little while for your comment to show up.

The winners will be chosen at random Friday night. Over the weekend, please check your email (including your spam filter). If I don’t hear from a winner by noon Pacific time on Monday, his or her prize will be forfeited and I’ll pick another winner.

Also, check back here often for other giveaways.

The deadline to enter is midnight Pacific time on Friday. So–comment away!