This money habit makes all the difference

Planning ahead is hard when you’re broke. But planning ahead may be the best way to stop being broke and start building a solid financial future.

People who have a strategy tend to save more money and be financially healthier than those who don’t, studies have found. In my latest for the Associated Press, why planning ahead is essential, even when you’re broke.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 7 ways to ready your finances for divorce. Also in the news: Tips for the Class of 2017, simplifying your savings, and how a credit union raised the roof on credit card rewards.

7 Ways to Ready Your Finances for Divorce
Preparing for a difficult time.

Class of 2017: Get a Jump on Adulthood With These 7 Tips
No more kidding around.

Simplifying Saving with the 52-Week Money Challenge
You can do it!

How a Credit Union Raised the Roof on Credit Card Rewards
A Chicago-based credit union is taking rewards to the next level.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Choosing between an FHA loan and a commercial mortgage. Also in the news: How to save for a secured credit card deposit, picking a first job based on your debt, and why more people aren’t borrowing home equity.

FHA Loan vs. Conventional Mortgage: Which Is Right for You?
Making the right choice.

How to Save Up for a Secured Credit Card Deposit
Establishing your credit.

Should I Pick My First Job Based on My Debt?

U.S. home equity is back, so why aren’t more people borrowing?
It’s still difficult to borrow.

Q&A: Money in the bank isn’t safe from inflation

Dear Liz: I am 68 and not in very good health due to heart disease. I’m not sure what do with my savings of over $1 million, which sits in online bank accounts, earning 1.25% to 1.35% in 18-month certificates of deposit. (No account contains more than $250,000 to remain under the FDIC insurance limits.) The money will eventually go to my daughter, though I could use it for my retirement. I don’t have the appetite for market swings. What should I do with my money?

Answer: Your money currently is safe from just about everything except inflation. If you want to keep your nest egg away from market swings, you’ll have to accept that its buying power will shrink. There is no investment that can keep your principal safe while still offering inflation-beating growth.

If you do want a shot at some growth, you could keep most of your savings in cash but also invest a portion in stocks — preferably using low-cost index mutual funds or ultra-low-cost exchange-traded funds.

Before you know how to invest, though, you’ll need to think about your goals for this money. A fee-only financial planner could help you discuss the possibilities and come up with a plan. You can find fee-only planners who charge by the hour through the Garrett Planning Network, www.garrettplanningnetwork.com.

Q&A: Good reasons why one spouse’s inheritance doesn’t belong to the other

Dear Liz: You recently told a husband who wanted to spend his wife’s expected inheritance that the money would be her separate property. Is that true of all states or just community property states like California? Even if it can be kept legally separate, should it be? Isn’t it better for couples to share their money?

Answer: Inheritances and gifts are considered separate property in every state. Where community property and equitable distribution states differ is in how other assets and debts acquired during marriage are treated.

For inheritances and gifts to remain separate property, though, a recipient must be careful not to commingle them with joint funds. Recipients would need to keep such windfalls in separate bank or brokerage accounts in their names alone, for example, rather than storing the money in jointly held accounts, using it to improve a jointly owned asset such as a home or paying down a joint obligation such as a mortgage.

Why would people want to keep funds separate? There are good reasons, even in marriages where all other money is shared. The couple may divorce, or the wife could die before her husband. If she commingles her inheritance with joint funds, the money her mother intended her to have could ultimately get spent by her husband’s next wife.

The wife may well decide to share some or all of her windfall with her husband. But she shouldn’t be pressured or bullied into doing so, especially with the notion that it’s the “right” thing to do. She would be smart to talk — alone — to a fee-only financial planner who pledges to put her interests first before she makes any decisions about the money.

Q&A: When a government pension doesn’t reduce Social Security benefits

Dear Liz: I have contributed to Social Security for 40 years and have no government pension. My husband selected a reduced teacher’s pension so I would receive that same amount should he predecease me. Will my Social Security be reduced in this scenario?

Answer: No. The provisions that may reduce Social Security payments such as the government pension offset and the windfall elimination provision apply only to the person receiving the pension, not the spouse. If he dies first, your income would remain the same. If you die first, his survivor’s benefit from Social Security could be reduced or eliminated.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to gift stock to a new grad. Also in the news: Memorial Day weekend sales, what to do if you miss a financial goal, and why your 401(k) can be a cash drain.

How to Gift Stock to a New Grad
A gift for the future.

Making a Major Purchase? Wait for Memorial Day
But remember the real reason for Memorial Day.

If at First You Miss a Financial Goal, Try, Try Again
Don’t give up!

Why your 401(k) can be a cash drain
It’s possible to be “401(k) rich and cash poor.”

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why stock pickers usually don’t beat the market. Also in the news: travel bloggers spill savings secrets, how to help your teen use their summer job earnings wisely, and some welcome news about college tuition.

3 Reasons Most Stock Pickers Don’t Beat the Market
A tough, tough job.

Travel Bloggers Spill Savings Secrets
Learning from the pros.

Help Your Teen Use Summer Job Earnings Wisely
Starting them off on the right path.

Finally, some welcome news about college tuition
The discounts are increasing.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 7 tax tips for new college grads. Also in the news: Why many people don’t know the cost of bad credit, how to travel on the cheap, and the death of payday loans.

7 Tax Tips for New College Grads
It’s a whole new tax world.

How Costly Is Bad Credit? Many Don’t Know, Survey Shows
A look at just how expensive bad credit can be.

To Travel Cheap, Steer Clear of These Booking Flubs
Don’t make these mistakes.

Payday loans are dying. Problem solved? Not quite
The slow death of payday lending.

‘Smart’ money moves that aren’t so smart

The odds of winning a lottery are infinitesimal. Yet inevitably, someone does. Inspired by the idea of a huge payoff, millions of people burn money on lottery tickets.

The financial strategies below aren’t as much of a long shot as the lottery. More than a handful of people may actually benefit. But many who are tempted to use them don’t understand how high the odds are stacked against success. In my latest for the Associated Press, what seem like smart money moves on the surface may hide perils underneath.