Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Amazon launches a car comparison site. Also in the news: HARP loans get extended through September of 2017, 4 finance apps every college student needs, and what to do if you can’t afford your kids’ school supplies.

Amazon Launches Car Comparison Site
The online giant gets in the car game.

HARP Loan Extended Through September 2017
Struggling homeowners have more time to refinance.

4 Finance Apps Every College Student Needs
Sticking to a budget while on campus.

What if You Can’t Afford Your Kids’ School Supplies?
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

dog holding a purse with money in its mouth. isolated on white bToday’s top story: How to save without using your savings account. Also in the news: Why you should have a separate bank account for your side jobs, the bad side to inactive credit, and how much it really costs to own a dog.

4 Ways to Save Without Your Savings Account
Under the mattress doesn’t count.

Why You Need a Separate Bank Account for Your Side Job
Keeping your money straight.

Inactive Credit: How Long It Takes, and How to Use a Credit Card to Prevent It
Not using credit can actually hurt your score.

This is how much it really costs to own a dog per year
Man’s best friend can get pretty pricey.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

22856641_SAToday’s top story: Finding your college savings “magic number.” Also in the news: What to do when your bank isn’t measuring up, what to buy (and skip) over Labor Day weekend, and how teachers are bringing financial literacy into classrooms.

Finding Your ‘Magic Number’ for College Savings
Coming up with a reasonable estimate.

Bank Not Measuring Up? How to Tell and What to Do
You don’t have to stick with a bad bank.

What to Buy (and Skip) Over Labor Day Weekend
Navigating the sales.

How Teachers Are Bringing Financial Literacy Lessons to the Classroom
Getting kids excited about saving.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Life InsuranceToday’s top story: Life insurance questions you’re too embarrassed to ask. Also in the news: what to do with an IRA when you leave a job, when a debt collector calls to collect money you don’t owe, and the profitable business of lending to subprime borrowers.

5 Life Insurance Questions You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask
There are no dumb questions!

Why to Do an IRA Rollover When You Leave Your Job
Don’t leave money behind.

When a Collector Calls About a Debt You (Possibly) Don’t Owe
Get all the information you possibly can.

The profitable business of lending to subprime borrowers
Subprime borrowers bring in lots of extra money.

Monday’s need-to- know money news

mortgage2Today’s top story: What happens to your mortgage when you die? Also in the news: 3 things more important than a bank’s savings rate, 5 times when you shouldn’t use a credit card, and how to curb your impulse spending.

What Happens to Your Mortgage When You Die?
Who will continue the payments?

3 Things That Matter More Than a Bank’s Savings Rate
Properly managing your savings is more important.

5 times you shouldn’t use a credit card
There are cheaper methods of financing.

Curb Impulse Spending by Focusing on the Space Between a Stimulus and Your Response

Secrets of next-door millionaires

The way most Americans build wealth is no secret: Save, invest, repeat. How average people keep their wealth, though, gets a lot less attention.

It boils down to how they handle risk. It’s hard to accumulate wealth without taking some risks, but there are perils that “next-door millionaires” seem to avoid.

Next-door millionaires weren’t born into wealth. They haven’t invented killer apps or won the lottery, exercised a pile of stock options or played professional sports. They’re the majority of millionaires, and they include teachers, small business owners and professionals who accumulate wealth gradually over time. They’re often in their 50s or 60s before their net worth ticks over to seven digits.

In my latest column for the Associated Press, how to apply the secrets of next-door millionaires to your own finances.

Q&A: Getting a new mortgage after a foreclosure

Dear Liz: Is it true that we can’t refinance our home until seven years after a foreclosure? We lost a rental property six years ago. Our credit scores now are in the 740 range, and we are anxious to take advantage of lower rates since our mortgage rate is 5.75%. Other than the foreclosure, our credit is perfect.

Answer: As foreclosures surged, the agencies that buy most mortgages increased the amount of time troubled borrowers had to spend in the “penalty box” before being allowed another mortgage.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac still have a seven-year waiting period after foreclosures. But that has been shortened to three years when borrowers can prove “extenuating circumstances,” such as a prolonged job loss or big medical expenses. Waiting times for other negative events, such as bankruptcy or short sale, have been reduced to two years with extenuating circumstances. Otherwise, it’s four years.

There are other loan programs that are even more forgiving. For example, the FHA has a three-year waiting period that can be shortened to one year if borrowers participate in its “Back to Work” program, which requires they document a significant loss of household income, that their finances have fully recovered from the event and that they’ve completed housing counseling. The Veterans Administration, meanwhile, makes loans available one to two years after foreclosure.

Q&A: Could new job affect credit rating?

Dear Liz: I have been employed at a small business, a sole proprietorship, for 34 years. My boss is going to just shut down the business, with no plan for succession. I have a job offer from a rival firm, so I don’t plan on being out of work for very long. How will this affect my credit rating? If I apply for a loan after being employed for, say, six months at the new firm, will the short time at that job be a negative mark against me? Should I hurry to apply for a loan before the business shuts down? Would that be illegal or unethical, since I know that I won’t be there much longer?

Answer: Few people know with any certainty how long they’ll remain in their current jobs. If only those who planned to stick with their employers indefinitely were allowed to apply for credit, lenders would go out of business.

That said, a recent job change can complicate the process for getting some loans, such as a mortgage. If you’re planning to borrow the money anyway and can complete the loan process before changing jobs, you’ll likely have an easier time getting approved.

While some lenders take job stability into account, your credit scores do not. Credit scoring formulas don’t include any information about employment or income. You get and keep good scores by using credit responsibly. But part of responsible credit management is not applying for loans you don’t need, so don’t rush out to borrow money just because you can.

Q&A: Survivor benefits for divorcees

Dear Liz: I am 76 and widowed. I’ve been collecting half of my ex-husband’s Social Security payment for the last nine years. We were married for 20 years. He remarried in 1987 and his wife is still living. He is now terminally ill with cancer. Am I eligible for survivor benefits?

Answer: You will be. If you qualify for divorced spousal benefits while your ex is alive, you will qualify for divorced survivor benefits when he dies. Instead of collecting an amount equal to half his benefit, your check will increase to 100% of the amount he was receiving.

Survivor benefits differ from spousal benefits in another key way. If you remarry, divorced spousal benefits end. Survivor benefits can continue after marriage, as long as you’re 60 or over when you re-tie the knot.

By the way, your benefits don’t take any money away from his current wife. She, too, will be eligible for a survivor benefit equal to what he was getting, unless her own retirement benefit is greater. One primary earner’s work record can support a number of divorced spouses in addition to a current spouse, as long as the previous marriages lasted at least 10 years each.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

155403-425x282-Mortgage-LateToday’s top story: Bouncing back after foreclosure. Also in the news: How to piece together the perfect bank, handling the financial consequences of millennials living at home, and a parents guide to insurance for college students.

How to Bounce Back After Foreclosure
Getting through a trying time.

How to Piece Together the Perfect Bank
Ticking all the boxes.

How to Handle the Financial Consequences of Millennials Living at Home
Don’t sacrifice your retirement.

A parents guide to insurance for college students
Evaluating your insurance needs as your child goes to college.