Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Learning how to ditch debt. Also in the news: How to prepare for the change from corporate career to entrepreneur, how to teach your kids to be better with money than you are, and why Millennials are paying attention to their 401(k)s.

How I Ditched Debt: Making Sense of Cents
Every penny counts.

Corporate Career to Entrepreneur: How to Prep for the Leap
Making a big change.

How to teach your kids to be better with money than you are
Learning from your mistakes.

Millennials may be far from retirement, but think ahead with 401(k)
Planning for the future.

The astonishingly high risk of a 401(k) loan

If anyone tells you a 401(k) loan is a cheap way to borrow, they are both right and very, very wrong.

401(k) loan interest rates are low. But the way many Americans repay them spells disaster.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how a reckless 401(k) loan could turn out to be the most expensive money you’ll ever borrow.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What would you give up to be debt free? Also in the news: What to know about alternative investments, what to buy (and skip) in August, and how money can actually buy happiness.

What Would You Give Up to Be Debt-Free?
Making sacrifices.

Alternative Investments: What to Know Before You Buy
Investments beyond stocks.

What to Buy (and Skip) in August
Preparing for back-to-school.

Yes, you can buy happiness … if you spend it to save time
Spending it the right way.

Q&A: When student debt payoff becomes complicated by identity theft

Dear Liz: I went back to school in 2002 to get my teaching credential. I took out several student loans and set up a repayment plan upon graduating with automatic deduction out of my checking account. Several years ago, the IRS started garnishing my bank account stating that there was a lien but I never received any other type of indication what was going on.

After contacting the IRS, we found that someone took out a fraudulent student loan using my former married name. I also got my credit reports, which showed the loan. I was able to get the signed loan documents from the U.S. Department of Education but now the department does not respond to my certified letters or phone calls.

I’m at a loss at what to do at this point. I filed a police report and notified the credit reporting agencies. I’m out almost $10,000. Is there any other advice you could give me?

Answer: First, follow up with the credit bureaus to make sure the fraudulent loan has been removed from your credit reports. Consider setting up credit freezes at all three bureaus to reduce the chances of being victimized again. The Identity Theft Resource Center at www.idtheftcenter.org has more information to help you protect yourself.

Getting the actual loan dismissed and your money back is a more difficult task. You may be able to have the loan erased under what’s known as a false certification discharge, but qualifying for that isn’t easy, said Jay Fleischman, a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in student loan problems.

It’s not enough to have a police report. You’d need to identify and file a lawsuit against the thief. If you can get a court judgment against that person, you would provide the Education Department with that as well as proof of your identity and possibly signature samples from the approximate date of the loan.

Even if you did everything necessary to prove eligibility for discharge, the department could still deny it if you received any benefits from the loan — if it paid any costs of your education instead of someone else’s, Fleishman said.

At this point, you may need to hire an attorney familiar with identity theft issues. You can get referrals from the National Assn. of Consumer Advocates at www.naca.net.

Q&A: The road to homeownership should be paved with skepticism

Dear Liz: My husband is 46 and I am 43. We have been living in Las Vegas for six years. We are aware that we missed out on buying a home a few years ago. Are we chasing a dream or do you think that we might have another chance to buy a house in the next few years? I am also very concerned about another recession. Some websites forecast one in 2018.

Answer: Some websites forecast the end of the world in 2016. And 2015. And 2014. And so on.

Recessions, by contrast, are pretty much inevitable but they’re not really predictable. You shouldn’t try to time your real estate purchases hoping to avoid, or take advantage, of the lower prices they might bring.

In general, you need to be a lot more skeptical about what you read and what you’re told if you want to be a homeowner and not get fleeced.

Everyone involved in real estate transactions — as well as in most other financial transactions — may have an incentive to mislead you or at least not tell you the whole truth. That’s why it’s so important to do your own research and make your own decisions.

Here’s just one example. A lender will tell you how large a mortgage it will give you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can really handle that loan. You may have other goals, such as retirement, that you won’t be able to achieve if you take on a too-large payment.

The best time to buy a home is when you want to be a homeowner, you’re financially ready to do so and you can afford to stay put for several years, because it can take a few years’ worth of appreciation to offset the costs of buying and selling a home (not to mention moving costs).

You also should make sure you have a healthy emergency fund — three months’ worth of expenses is a good start — to handle the inevitable unexpected expenses that arise when you own a home.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to have healthy finances. Also in the news: Credit cards to pack for your road trip, learning about a Solo 401(k), and ten ridiculously easy ways to save $300 a month.

Want Healthy Finances? Start Here
Getting your finances in shape.

Credit Card Perks to Pack for Your Road Trip
Getting the biggest bang for your buck.

What Is a Solo 401(k)?
A retirement plan for the self-employed.

10 ridiculously easy ways to save $300 a month
You can do it!

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How much you should spend on a wedding gift. Also in the news: How health insurers are fighting opioid addiction, why new homeowners should plan for additional expenses, and how o turn your used electronics into cash.

How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift?
Answering the age-old question.

How Health Insurers Are Fighting Opioid Addiction
The human and financial costs.

Budgeting for New Homeowners: Plan for Additional Expenses
Expect the unexpected.

How to Turn Your Used Electronics Into Cash
Don’t let them just collect dust.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How teachers can ace retirement without Social Security. Also in the news: Why credit cards are serving big restaurant rewards, making sure your spending personality matches your credit cards, and the one mistake that can cost millennials millions.

Teachers: Here’s How to Ace Retirement Without Social Security
It varies from state to state.

Why Credit Cards Are Serving Big Restaurant Rewards
Everyone has to eat.

Does your spending personality match your credit cards?
Make sure you’re earning rewards you’ll actually use.

This one mistake can cost millennials millions
Stop avoiding the stock market.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How financing a vacation with a credit card could ruin your fun. Also in the news: How immigrants can plan a comfortable retirement, how one immigrant started her financial journey in the U.S., and what to do if your defined benefit pension plan is frozen.

How Financing a Vacation with Credit Cards Could Ruin Your Fun
When the bill comes due.

How Immigrants Can Plan a Comfortable Retirement
Discovering which benefits you’re entitled to.

How One Immigrant Started Her Financial Journey in the U.S.
Studying personal finance is key.

Retirement: What to do if your defined benefit pension plan is frozen
Time for a back-up plan.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to keep an eye on your college kid’s spending. Also in the news: How to help your kid get a credit card in college, what you need to know about stock splits, and the 10 things every non-finance person needs to know about finance.

How to Keep an Eye on Your College Kid’s Spending
Making sure they don’t go nuts.

How to Help Your Kid Get a Credit Card in College
Finding the best way to help.

Stock Splits: What They Are, How They Affect Your Portfolio
What you need to know.

10 Things Every Non-Finance Person Should Know About Finance
Learning the essentials.