Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Student-LoansToday’s top story: Avoiding financial pitfalls in your 20’s. Also in the news: The hidden costs of selling your home, what to do when you haven’t saved for your kid’s college tuition, and the clock is ticking on a popular Social Security strategy.

How to Avoid 5 Financial Pitfalls in Your 20s
Welcome to the real world!

4 Hidden Costs of Selling Your Home
Prepare yourself for fees.

You Didn’t Put Money Away for Your Kid’s College Fund. Now What?
Time to start playing catchup.

Time is running out for this Social Security strategy
The clock’s running out on file-and-suspend.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How small choices can have a big impact on your finances. Also in the news: 9 things that can trigger an IRS audit, how to organize your financial documents, and 10 tax breaks for homeowners.

Small Choices Have a Big Impact on Your Finances
Why some become rich and others stay broke.

9 Things That Could Trigger an IRS Audit
How to avoid a second look.

How to Organize Your Financial Documents
Tackling that huge pile of paper on your desk.

10 homeowner tax breaks you should be taking advantage of
Don’t leave money on the table.

Q&A: Fixing a wounded credit score

Dear Liz: My wife and I co-signed on our daughter’s mortgage, then the home went into foreclosure. My wife and I have no debt and a net worth that exceeds $1 million. We purchased our cars with cash and the single credit card we have with a $35,000 limit is paid off in full each month. Since the foreclosure, our FICO score has been in the “fair” range. We have no plans to take out a loan for anything and plan to continue our “cash and carry” lifestyle. However, the low FICO is a little disconcerting. It appears the only cure is time (measured in years). We welcome any additional guidance.

Answer: You can’t fix your wounded FICO scores overnight, but you could speed up your credit score rehabilitation by adding one or two more credit accounts to your mix. At least one of those accounts should be an installment loan, since scoring formulas want evidence you can handle different types of credit. If you don’t want an auto or personal loan, then consider a “credit builder” loan that puts your payments into a certificate of deposit that you claim when all the payments have been made. Credit builder loans are offered by credit unions and some online lenders.

Is it worth the effort, even though you don’t plan to borrow? In most states (although not California), credit scores heavily influence what you pay for auto and homeowners’ insurance. People who don’t have the best scores can pay hundreds of dollars more each year for coverage. Credit scores also may be used to determine deposits for utilities and wireless service. If you need to rent an apartment, your credit scores matter as well.

If none of those are a concern, you can continue to take the slow road to rebuilding your credit, since the foreclosure will fall off your credit reports after seven years. If you want to speed things along, though, another credit account or two should help.

Q&A: Options for paying a big IRS bill

Dear Liz: I sold one mutual fund to invest in another fund with the same company. The tax statement shows this as a capital gain so large that I cannot afford to pay it all in one payment to the IRS. This is a disaster. Is there anything I can do?

Answer: Absolutely. File your tax return on time, since the failure-to-file penalty is much higher than the failure-to-pay penalty. Pay as much as you can when you file the return, and then consider your options.

If you can come up with the remainder within 120 days, then do so. There’s no need to arrange a formal payment plan, but you will owe interest and penalties on the balance until it’s repaid.

If you can’t pay within 120 days, you can ask for an installment agreement. You’ll find an application in most tax software or you can find Form 9465 on the Internal Revenue Service website. You also can try calling the IRS at (800) 829-1040, but prepare for a long time listening to hold music. Budget cuts have left the agency severely short-handed and wait times are considerable.

You also should consider borrowing the money from another source, such as a low-cost personal loan. Another option is to charge what you owe to a low-rate credit card. You’ll pay a small fee for the privilege, but ultimately it may be cheaper than paying interest and penalties to the IRS.

Q&A: How much does a fee-only financial planner cost?

Dear Liz: You frequently suggest consulting a fee-only financial planner, such as those who are members of the Garrett Planning Network, which seems like great advice. Can you provide any guidance on how much one should expect to pay for the services of this type of planner? We are a couple living in Los Angeles looking for a pre-retirement evaluation. That would probably include evaluation of existing investments, insurance needs, Social Security, long-term care, etc. How should we evaluate a quote of $3,000 for a full review estimated at 10 hours or $300 an hour?

Answer: The cost for a comprehensive financial plan varies depending on where you live and the planner’s experience level, among other factors. Nationally, the range is typically from $150 to $300 an hour, so $3,000 for 10 hours in Los Angeles is at the high (but not unreasonable) end of the scale, assuming the planner has several years’ experience.

Another way to get a feel for going rates is by interviewing a couple of other fee-only planners in your area. If the cost you’re quoted is dramatically lower, though, make sure the planner isn’t accepting commissions as well. Some planners are “fee based,” which means they accept both fees from clients and commissions on the products they recommend. You can ask for the planner’s Form ADV, a form filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Part II of this form contains information about how the planner is compensated.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

taxesToday’s top story: The biggest tax mistake Millennials make. Also in the news: The 10 best Tax Day sales and freebies, the pros and cons of paying off debt early, and how to decide how big your emergency fund should be.

The biggest tax mistakes Millennials make
Don’t overlook these deductions.

10 Best Tax Day Sales, Deals and Freebies
Making Tax Day more tolerable.

The Pros and Cons of Paying Off Debts Early
Fixing one problem could create another.

Decide How Big Your Emergency Fund Should Be With the 3-6-9 Guideline
Don’t be left in a lurch.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

gay-marriage-cake-toppers-485x320Today’s top story: Wallet-stretching tips for renters. Also in the news: Financial advice for newly married couples, why timing is everything with travel rewards credit cards, and how small businesses can be prepared when disaster strikes.

6 Wallet-Stretching Tips for Renters
Keeping a roof over your head without breaking the bank.

10 Pieces of Financial Advice for Newly Married Couples
What to do when you’re back from the honeymoon.

With travel rewards credit cards, timing is everything
Don’t miss out on valuable points.

When Disaster Strikes: 3 Ways Small Businesses Can Be Prepared
Keeping your business afloat during tough times.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

imagesToday’s top story: How to talk to your kids about money. Also in the news: Shrewd ways to use your tax refund for your future, how to survive an IRS audit, and tips for cancer patients who are worried about the cost of their care.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Money
The sooner the better.

5 shrewd ways to use your tax refund for your future
Your retirement fund will thank you.

How to survive being audited by the IRS
Don’t panic.

7 tips for cancer patients worrying about the cost of their care
Minimizing the stress.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to save money by refinancing your mortgage. Also in the news: How to spice up your retirement recipe, avoiding the financial pitfalls of divorce, and must-know money tips for new graduates.

Tips to Save Money by Refinancing Your Mortgage
What to consider when deciding to refinance.

6 key ingredients to spice up your retirement recipe
Strategies for investors.

Avoiding The Financial Pitfalls Of Divorce
Navigating through tough times.

5 Must-Know Money Tips for New Grads
Now comes the hard part.

Save for Retirement, Then Tackle Debt

common-retirement-mistakesEvery day we hear from people who are diligently paying down their student loans — and ignoring their retirement funds. This has got to stop.

In my latest for NerdWallet, why debt can be costly, but failing to save for retirement ultimately will cost far more.