Friday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to get your credit card’s annual fee to pay for itself. Also in the news: Balancing debt reduction and retirement savings, money lessons to teach your kids, and why you should check your FAFSA status.

How to Get Your Credit Card’s Annual Fee to Pay for Itself
Getting the most out of your credit card.

How to Balance Debt Reduction and Retirement Savings
You can do both.

4 Money Lessons Smart Parents Teach Their Kids
It’s never too early to start teaching them.

How and Why to Check Your FAFSA Status
Staying on top of the financial aid process.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

321562-data-breachesToday’s top story: The worst online passwords of 2015. Also in the news: Why you should beware of the word “afford,” how to start saving for your retirement in your 20s and 30s, and steps to get more college financial aid.

The Worst Passwords of 2015
Stop making life easy for identity thieves.

Be Suspicious of the Word “Afford” to Keep Your Budget Balanced
Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you should buy it.

6 Steps to Saving for Retirement in Your 20s and 30s
It’s never too early to start saving.

3 Steps to More College Financial Aid From FAFSA
The sooner you fill out the form, the better.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

North-Dakota-Oil-BoomToday’s top story: Habits that can help you build good credit. Also in the news: Lessons from the oil boom and bust, replacing your financial adviser, and how to prepare for the new Obamacare tax form.

4 Habits That Can Help You Build Good Credit
Getting in the habit of building credit.

Five personal finance lessons from the oil boom and bust
What you can learn from the volitaile oil market.

Should You Replace Your Financial Adviser In 2016?
How to tell if you’re getting your money’s worth.

Are you prepared for new Obamacare tax forms?
New year, new tax form.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Free ways to improve your credit score. Also in the news: Financial habits to break, how a money club could improve your financial life, and tips to avoid a tax audit.

5 Free Ways to Improve Your Credit Score
Small things you can do to boost your numbers.

Break These Financial Habits in 2016
Getting back on track.

Start a Money Club to Improve Your Financial Life
Power in numbers.

7 Tips for Avoiding a Tax Audit
Honesty is the key.

7 in 10 Americans See Added Stigma in Credit Card Debt, Survey Shows
Are you ashamed of your debt?

Monday’s need-to-know money news

lottery-ticket-jpgToday’s top story: The high cost of winning a billion dollars. Also in the news: Tips for tackling your student loan costs, how banks are earning billions in ATM and overdraft fees, and basic personal finance facts people constantly get wrong.

The High Cost of Claiming Your Powerball Jackpot
Winning a billion dollars is awfully expensive.

5 tips for tackling your student loan costs
Tackling them head on.

ATM and overdraft fees top $6 billion at the big 3 banks
How much did you contribute?

Six Basic Personal Finance Facts People Constantly Get Wrong
No more excuses.

Q&A: Health insurance subsidies

Dear Liz: We’re living on a very tight budget and often have to put groceries and unexpected expenses on a credit card that’s in my husband’s name only. I have no personal income. My husband is on Medicare, but I’m too young to qualify and need to find low- or no-cost healthcare, (I haven’t had any insurance since 2007.) They are using my husband’s total income and coming up with high rates that are supposed to be lowered by tax credit, but we don’t pay income tax because our income is too low. Should they be using what the IRS considers our income to be? Or could I apply using my zero personal income?

Answer:
By “they,” you presumably mean a health insurance marketplace where you shopped for policies offered by private insurers. HealthCare.gov is the federal marketplace and many states, including California, offer their own. When you shop for a policy through a marketplace, you can qualify for subsidies that can dramatically lower the cost of your coverage.

This subsidy, also known as a premium tax credit, is based on your household income, not your individual income. The tax credit is refundable, which means you get it whether or not you owe federal income taxes, and you can opt to have the subsidy paid in advance to the health insurer to lower your premiums. You don’t have to wait until you file your taxes to get the money back.

You’ll want to act quickly, though, because the penalty for not having coverage is rising. The penalty for 2016 is the greater of $695 per adult or 2.5% of income. You still have a short window to avoid that hit: The enrollment deadline is Jan. 31.

Q&A: Credit card billing errors

Dear Liz: I have a dispute with a credit card company over an online transaction that I canceled. The company charged me three times but refunded only one of those charges. The credit card company initially canceled the other two transactions but I was rebilled without my knowledge. Despite my submitting evidence and the card company agreeing that I don’t owe the money, it will not take the charge off. Who do I contact to get this settled? When I call the card company, they say they will look into this and contact me in 10 days, which they never do.

Answer: It’s convenient to dispute credit card billing errors over the phone. If you want to preserve your rights under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act, though, you need to put your complaint in writing.

Your letter should be sent to the address given for billing inquiries, rather than the address where you send your payment, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The letter needs to include your name, address and account number along with a description of the problem. You should send copies of any receipts or other documents that back up your case. The letter should be mailed in time to reach the creditor no later than 60 days after the statement with the error was generated. The letter should be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.

That’s a cumbersome process, and often not necessary for people who monitor their statements and catch a problem early. Ideally, they first would contact the merchant and give it a chance to correct the problem. If the merchant doesn’t do so within a few days, the customer can contact the credit card company and give it time — say, 30 days — to resolve the situation. If that doesn’t work, then the customer can fire off a letter.

Even if you’re now outside the 60-day window, you should still send a letter and ask for a prompt response. If you don’t get one, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which intervenes with credit card companies to resolve such disputes.

Q&A: Social Security windfall elimination provision

Dear Liz: You’ve written about the windfall elimination provision, which reduces the Social Security checks of people who get a pension from a job that didn’t pay into Social Security. I am affected by this provision, but a Social Security representative told me that as long as I don’t start withdrawals from my government pension account, I am entitled to full Social Security payments. This ends when I turn 701/2 years old and must start taking automatic withdrawals from my pension. This info might help with the planning process.

Answer: Thank you for sharing this tip. The windfall elimination provision was enacted to keep people with government pensions that didn’t pay into Social Security from receiving proportionately more than people who paid into the system their entire working lives. But as you note, it’s possible to delay the provision by putting off the start of pension benefits.

Social Security can be complex, and claiming strategies that might work for one person could shortchange another. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself and seek out advisors who understand how Social Security works.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

images (2)Today’s top story: How to make your retirement savings last. Also in the news: Why it pays to file your FAFSA early, how to survive rising health care costs, and how the Rule of 72 can help you build your retirement savings.

The Easy Way to Make Your Retirement Savings Last
Stretching your savings.

It Pays to File Your FAFSA Early
You could receive twice as much financial aid.

10 Ways to Survive Rising Health Care Costs
Keeping costs in check.

How the Rule of 72 Can Help You Build Up Your Retirement Nest Egg
Building your savings.

Is a FICO Score the Best Credit Score?
Does your FICO score tell the whole story?