How to profit from someone else’s financial mistake

Most of us have wasted money on ill-considered purchases or stuff we really couldn’t afford. As we get more financially savvy, that happens less often. But we can still profit from other people’s bad choices.

People who prize the latest and greatest, for example, quickly need to upgrade to the next shiny thing. That leaves plenty of lightly used cars and electronics for sale at a discount.

People who can’t look beyond cosmetic damage also provide buying opportunities for those who can, since surface flaws can ding price without hurting functionality. Then there are the “d’oh” mistakes: the stuff that didn’t fit or turned out to be the wrong shade of robin’s egg blue. That stuff gets returned so it can be discounted and snapped up by frugal buyers.

In my latest for the Associated Press, three ways to profit from others’ mistakes.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The benefits of a just-for-debt credit card. Also in the news: July’s stock market outlook, bogus organic fruit, and how long it takes your credit score to recover from a drastic drop.

Just-for-Debt Credit Card: It Has One Job
Use this card for only one thing.

Stock Market Outlook: A Market That Giveth and Taketh Away
Buckle your seat belts.

$6 Million in Bogus Organic Fruit Sold to U.S., Costa Rican Report Finds
Bogus pineapples fill the shelves.

How Long It Takes Your Credit Score to Recover from a Drastic Drop
Be prepared to wait.

Q&A: The future is bleak for charitable deductions, early retirees’ healthcare costs

Dear Liz: When I sat down with my accountant in March to do my 2017 taxes, he said next year I will take the standard deduction. Are my contributions to charity still deductible if I take the standard deduction?

Answer: No. Charitable contributions are an itemized deduction. If you don’t itemize your deductions, you won’t get the tax break.

Congress nearly doubled the standard deduction as part of its tax reform. For married couples, the standard deduction is now $24,000, up from $12,700. The state and local tax deduction was capped at $10,000. As a result, the proportion of taxpayers who will itemize their deductions is expected to drop from about 30% to 10% or less.

Q&A: Leaving the U.S. for cheap healthcare

Dear Liz: Your column a few weeks ago suggested a couple consider leaving the country for healthcare benefits until they reach the age to receive Medicare. We are in a similar position, with enough money to retire early but profoundly worried about the future availability of health insurance. Which countries are considered good options for American ex-pats who want good, affordable healthcare?

Answer: Five countries with healthcare comparable to or better than the U.S. are Colombia, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Mexico and Panama, according to International Living, a site for living and investing abroad. These countries have both public and private healthcare systems, with out-of-pocket costs that are a fraction of what they are in the U.S.

In Mexico, for example, many doctors receive at least some of their training in the U.S. and speak English, according to International Living. The public healthcare system typically costs legal residents a few hundred dollars a year, while private services and prescription drugs cost 25% to 50% of their U.S. equivalents.
Some early retirees like their adopted countries enough to stay past age 65, but they should strongly consider signing up for Medicare when they are eligible, even if they can’t immediately use its services. Failure to sign up can lead to permanent penalties that will make Medicare more expensive if and when they do come back to the U.S.

Q&A: Healthcare costs could nix early retirement

Dear Liz: Recently you included a letter from a retired person who was amused by the suggestion that early retirees may have to go abroad to find affordable healthcare. I was horrified by that letter and shared your article with several friends. Something is deeply wrong when a nation offers citizens who have contributed to its success so few options regarding decent medical care. It makes me very sad and angry. Thank you for focusing attention on this issue.

Answer: Currently early retirees do have an option before they’re old enough for Medicare, which is to buy insurance from Affordable Care Act exchanges. The future of that coverage is in doubt, though, which is why many financial planners are warning their clients who had planned on early retirement to continue working, if that guarantees them access to health insurance. Moving abroad is another option for the adventurous, but obviously won’t be a good solution for many.

Q&A: Beware of ‘junk’ medical insurance

Dear Liz: In response to your response to the retired couple about healthcare costs. I wish everyone else could be informed about this. Healthcare costs in the individual market before the ACA were anything but affordable. I had to quit my job because my husband got ill in 2000. I was healthy and was paying at first $350 a month. Every couple of years it went up because I entered a new age bracket. I had to drop my coverage when premiums went to $800. And that was for a junk policy. I was hit by a car and I realized what it didn’t cover. I almost went bankrupt, but was able to sue my own car insurance company so that I wouldn’t lose my house. I finally was able to get on Medicare when I turned 65.

Answer: Thank you for mentioning the issue of “junk” policies. Some of the cheaper alternatives to ACA policies offer far less coverage, something buyers may not discover until it’s too late. Any insurance policy worth the name should cover the kinds of catastrophically high expenses that could otherwise wipe out a retirement fund or lead to bankruptcy.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Student loan interest rates go up July 1st. Also in the news: Chase rolls out an all-mobile banking app, 5 ways your friendships can blossom on a budget, and how to make living with your parents pay off.

Student Loan Interest Rates Go Up July 1
Prepare for an increase.

Chase Rolls Out All-Mobile Banking App. Is It for You?
All of your banking done on your phone.

5 Ways Your Friendships Can Blossom on a Budget
Don’t let student loans cramp your style.

How to Make Living With Your Parents Pay Off Financially
Start building your savings.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Don’t let puppy love blind you to the expenses of a dog. Also in the news: The pros and cons of timeshares, 9 unsung ways to earn airline miles for free, and every expense you can expect with a first-time home purchase.

Don’t Let Puppy Love Blind You to the Expense of a Dog
Keeping Fido’s costs in check.

Are Timeshares Worth It? Possibly, if You Buy Smart
There are bargains to be found.

9 Unsung Ways to Earn Airline Miles for Free
Convert your groceries into miles.

Every Expense You Can Expect With a First-Time Home Purchase
The costs lurking behind the celebration.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What 3 Big Brother winners did with their $500K payday. Also in the news: Financial wisdom for young adults, 3 ways to avoid a bad student loan, and when to hire a mortgage broker.

What 3 ‘Big Brother’ Winners Did After Their $500K Payday
What happened when the cameras were turned off.

It’s Not All About Money: Financial Wisdom for Young Adults
How to think about money as you begin adulthood.

3 Ways to Avoid a Bad Student Loan
Take a close look at the fine print.

When to Hire a Mortgage Broker
When to bring in the middleman.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 3 questions to help grow your retirement savings. Also in the news: 7 annoying international travel fees you can shrink or skip, why waiting to file bankruptcy can hurt you, and 7 ways to retire without Social Security.

3 Questions to Help Grow Your Retirement Savings
Evaluating your current position.

7 Annoying International Travel Fees You Can Shrink or Skip
Leaving your more money for souvenirs.

Why Waiting to File Bankruptcy Can Hurt You
Making a bad situation worse.

7 Ways to Retire Without Social Security
Creating your own retirement income.