Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why it matters the House voted to squash banking reforms. Also in the news: Your new claims inspector might be a drone, how to build an LGBT-friendly investment portfolio, and how to deal with resentment when your friends make more money than you.

Why It Matters House Voted to Squash Banking Reforms
Consumers will lose.

Meet Your New Claims Inspector: A Drone
Could it speed up the claims process?

How to Build an LGBT-Friendly Investment Portfolio
Diversify.

How to Deal with Resentment When Your Friends Make More Money Than You
A tough spot.

Q&A: Why a reverse mortgage might be a good idea for some older homeowners

Dear Liz: I recently retired to a small house I bought 30 years ago. I refinanced four times to get the rate down from 11% to 3.5%. This provided me with a low monthly mortgage (just under $450), but my current 30-year loan won’t be paid off until I’m 92. I’ll be 67 in two months, and just received an inheritance of $400,000 following the death of my parents. My only income is $2,000 a month from Social Security and a monthly pension check of $1,100, although I do have an IRA that should be worth roughly $170,000 by July.

I’m thinking about paying off the $90,000 remaining on my mortgage, which would allow it to be passed on to my sister, nephew (or whomever) without any complicated bank or loan issues. It also would free up that mortgage payment for other household expenses. The house needs some work, such as a new carport, double-pane windows, proper insulation, deck repair and maybe termite work, all of which will probably eat up the better part of $100,000. Is it worth keeping the loan just to maintain the tax deduction or does it makes financial sense to pay it off?

Answer: Keeping a mortgage just for the tax deduction doesn’t usually make much sense. Here’s why: If you’re in the 25% federal tax bracket, you’re getting back only about 25 cents for each dollar in interest you pay. Most homeowners get even less back, and many don’t get any tax advantage from their mortgages at all.

It can make sense, though, to keep a mortgage to preserve liquidity. Younger people, especially, should be wary of tying up most of their net worth in a home if that equity would be hard to tap in an emergency. Home equity lines of credit offer one way to access that equity, although lenders can freeze or reduce those lines on a whim.

Because you’re over 62, you could consider paying off the loan and then setting up a reverse mortgage line of credit.

An FHA-insured reverse mortgage line of credit can’t be shut down once it’s established, as long as you abide by the loan rules (such as paying your property taxes and insurance, and keeping the home in good condition). In fact, the amount you can borrow can increase over time with a reverse mortgage credit line. You don’t have to make monthly principal and interest payments on the money you borrow with a reverse mortgage.

Any amount you borrow will grow over time, typically at variable interest rates, and will have to be repaid when you die, sell or permanently move out of the home. That would complicate leaving the house to your heirs, but if the amount you owe is greater than the home’s worth, your heirs aren’t on the hook for the difference with an FHA-insured reverse mortgage, also known as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage.

In any case, preserving an inheritance probably shouldn’t be your top priority. You should focus instead on preserving your quality of life and your financial flexibility.

Reverse mortgages have gotten safer and less expensive in recent years, but you would need to exercise discipline not to waste the money you borrow on frivolous purchases. You want that equity to be available for you when you need it, such as for nursing home or other long-term care expenses.

You would be required to get counseling before applying for a reverse mortgage, but you also should talk to an independent, fee-only financial planner to make sure this approach makes sense.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Finances for same-sex couples – what to consider before saying ‘I Do.’ Also in the news: Use caution when giving gift cards for grad gifts, how loved ones can destroy your finances, and what airlines owe you for an overbooked flight.

Finances for Same-Sex Couples: 7 Things to Consider Before ‘I Do’
Taking a big step.

This Graduation Money Gift Can Disappear Before It’s Spent
Pay close attention to those gift cards.

How Loved Ones Can Destroy Your Finances
Money and emotional ties can be a bad mix.

What does airline owe you for overbooked flight?
It might be more than you think.

Money hacks for real people

Everyone loves a hack — an uncommon solution to a common problem. There’s a reason so much of the internet revolves around things like “This One Little Trick” and “The Secret Doctors Don’t Want You to Know.”

Sometimes money hacks evolve from details buried in the fine print. Wealthy people employ professionals who seek out financial loopholes and aggressively exploit them.

But not every hack requires an accountant. Some can spur you to save more money for retirement or help you to pay bills on time every time. In my latest for the Associated Press, do-it-yourself hacks to make life easier.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to take the heat off your summer budget. Also in the news: How to find out if you’ll owe taxes on an inheritance, 3 things your student loan servicer might not tell you, and what happens to your credit score when you transfer a balance.

How to Take the Heat Off Your Summer Budget
Keep your costs in check.

Find Out If You’ll Owe Taxes on an Inheritance
Don’t spend all that money quite yet.

3 Things Your Student Loan Servicer Might Not Tell You
They’re not always forthcoming.

What Happens to Your Credit Score When You Transfer a Balance?
Looking at the numbers.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to get a tax deduction for moving. Also in the news: Learning about penny stocks, how to deduct graduate school on your taxes, and how to find and purge unwanted recurring charges.

Moving for Work? How to Get a Tax Deduction
An unexpected housewarming gift.

What Is a Penny Stock? An Investment Most Should Avoid
Is it worth the risk?

Deduct Graduate School on Your Taxes? It’s Possible
Looking at the qualifications.

Find and Purge Unwanted Recurring Charges with This Virtual Assistant
Cancel those long-forgotten subscriptions.

Q&A: When generosity becomes a taxing issue

Dear Liz: I recently came into some money, and I would like to share it with my family. I understand that there are annual tax caps on how much you can give to someone ($14,000 per person per year). However, does this limit apply only to cash and cash equivalents or also to any other gifts? For instance, can I pay off a sibling’s student loan for more than $14,000 without running afoul of the limits?

Answer: There’s no cap on how much money you can give to another person. But if you give more than $14,000 to any one person, you have to file a gift tax return (IRSForm 709). You won’t actually owe gift taxes until the amount you give in excess of that limit totals more than $5 million. (The precise limit this year is $5.49 million and it’s scheduled to rise by the rate of inflation in coming years.)

Paying most bills, including student loans, on behalf of another person counts as part of that $14,000 limit. The only exceptions are if you pay someone’s tuition, medical expenses and health insurance. To avoid the limit, you would have to pay the bills directly to the provider (such as the school, doctor, hospital, insurance company and so on). If you give the money to the person to pay these expenses, it counts as part of the $14,000 exemption.

Some people keep rigidly to the $14,000 limit to avoid having the excess gifts reduce their estate tax exemption. (Gifts over the $14,000 limit are added back into a person’s estate at death, and the prevailing estate tax exemption — which is also currently $5.49 million — is deducted from that enhanced total.)

If you aren’t a multimillionaire, though, this probably isn’t something you need to worry about. If you go over the $14,000 per person limit, you just have to deal with a little paperwork.

Q&A: How one spouse’s bankruptcy filing affects the other spouse

Dear Liz: If one spouse files for bankruptcy, how does that affect the other spouse? What happens to the joint accounts?

Answer: How the nonfiling spouse is affected depends on whether they live in a community-property or a common-law state.

Most states are common-law states. Property and debts acquired during marriage can belong to only one spouse.

In these states, the filing spouse’s separate property and their share of any jointly owned property become part of the bankruptcy. Any property that isn’t protected under the state’s bankruptcy exemption laws can be taken and sold to pay creditors.

The bankruptcy trustee may try to partition any joint property so only the filing spouse’s share is sold, but if that’s not possible the whole property may be sold and the nonfiling spouse will be paid for his or her share. The bankruptcy erases the filing spouse’s separate debts and share of any joint debts, but the nonfiling spouse still has to pay his or her share of those joint debts.

In community-property states, property and debts acquired during marriage typically belong to both spouses, even if they’re in only one spouse’s name. So a bankruptcy filing by one spouse in a community property state can put more property at risk. (Community-property states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.)

As in common-law states, a completed bankruptcy erases the filing spouse’s debts but leaves the other spouse on the hook for his or her share of any joint debts.

In community-property states, though, the nonfiling spouse can get a benefit known as a “phantom discharge.” If the filing spouse gets debts wiped out and is able to protect community property under the state’s exemption laws, then that property stays protected. As long as the couple is married, creditors won’t be able to touch it.

Bankruptcy has gotten complicated enough that you’ll want to get good, solid advice from an experienced bankruptcy attorney before you proceed with any filing. Most such attorneys offer a free or low-cost initial consultation to discuss whether it’s the right solution for your situation. You can get referrals from the National Assn. of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys at www.nacba.org.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: NerdWallet’s best credit card tips for June. Also in the news: Why retirees shouldn’t shun the stock market, Americans are taking on more borrowing, and why early retirement isn’t as awesome as it sounds.

NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for June 2017
What to do with your plastic.

Why Retirees Shouldn’t Shun the Stock Market
Staying in the game.

As Americans take on more debt, some pockets of concern
Are we borrowing too much, too soon?

Why Early Retirement Isn’t as Awesome as It Sounds
The pros and cons.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Stocks at a crossroads: 3 things to watch for in June. Also in the news: Why kids should stash summer job cash in a Roth IRA, millennials are stressed about their finances, and why now is the time to buy a used car.

Stocks at Crossroads: 3 Things to Watch for in June
Watching the market.

Why Kids Should Stash Summer Job Cash in a Roth IRA
It’s never too early to save for retirement.

Study: Millennials are stressing about their finances
Feeling worse off than their Baby Boomer parents.

Why Now Is the Time to Buy a Used Car
Getting the most for your money.