Thursday’s need-to-know money news

check-credit-report-easilyToday’s top story: How to remove a dispute from your credit report. Also in the news: Retirement expenses you shouldn’t neglect, how to protect your identity during tax time, and simple things you can do to save on your healthcare costs.

How Do I Get a Dispute Off My Credit Report?
Taking matters into your own hands.

Commonly Overlooked Retirement Expenses
Don’t forget these when planning your retirement budget.

How to Protect Your Identity This Tax Season
Keeping your information safe.

5 Simple Ways to Save on Your Health Care Costs
Staying physically and financially healthy.

3 new, must-read money books

College SavingsThree recently-published books are well worth your time and money, thanks to talented authors who offer new takes on some familiar financial topics: Social Security, raising money-smart kids and investor manias.

The first is “Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security” by economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff and journalists Philip Moeller and Paul Solman. This book is a deep dive into Social Security claiming strategies, which may not sound sexy until you learn that people are costing themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars by making bad decisions about when and how to get their benefits. Larry is one of my go-to sources for Social Security questions, and his grasp of the intricacies of this complex system is amazing. Even more amazing is how readable this book is given those complexities.

The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money” by New York Times personal finance columnist Ron Lieber is one of the best books I’ve read about children and money. Ron aims his book at more affluent families–those with incomes over $50,000–but most of what he writes pertains to any American family that can buy its children everything they need and at least some of what they want. The chapters on what to tell your kids about how much you make and how to handle allowances are particularly thought-provoking.

The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute” by best-selling author and all-around wunderkind Zac Bissonnette. You don’t even have to be old enough to remember the Beanie Baby craze to enjoy this gossipy (but deeply researched) account of how so many people lost their minds–and not infrequently their savings–in a frenzy to corner the market on mass-produced stuffed animals. It’s not just collectors who should read this book. Any investor who wants to avoid being taken in by an unsustainable mania should take note. In fact, this book should be required reading for every high school personal finance course, although some of Beanie creator Ty Warner’s weirder proclivities might have to be edited out.

 

 

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

babytrollToday’s top story: What to do when your child’s data is hacked. Also in the news: How to hack your own money, credit card habits you need to break immediately, and how to hit your money goals.

My Baby’s Data Was Hacked. What Should I Do Now?
Like stealing credit from a baby.

Make Your Money Go Farther With ‘Hack Your Cash’
This time, you’re the hacker.

5 Bad Credit Card Habits to Break Now
Breaking them now will cost much down the road.

4 Ways to Hit Your Money Goals
Eye of the tiger.

Are These Retirement Issues Keeping You Up at Night?
The insomnia-causing retirement issues.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

file_161555_0_tax refundToday’s top story: What to do with your tax refund. Also in the news: Financial aid myths, how much you should contribute to your 401(k), and easy steps to get started with investing.

How to Put Your Tax Refund to Good Use
Alternatives to spending it on new stuff.

5 Myths About College Financial Aid
Financial aid mythbusting.

How Much Should You Contribute to Your 401(k)?
Even the smallest amounts can pay off in the long run.

6 Easy Steps to Get Started With Investing
Don’t be intimidated.

How Being Too Open About Money Can Backfire
TMMI – Too Much Money Information

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: The most important personal finance rules. Also in the news: How to hack away at your student loan debt, what couples need to know about their finances before moving in together, and how to prevent a tax audit.

The Most Important Personal Finance Rules Never Change
The rules that matter most are the ones that never change.

Hacking away at student loan debt
Chipping away at the albatross.

Moving in together? Read this first
Laying all the financial cards on the table.

25 Ways to Prevent a Tax Audit
How to avoid the excruciating experience.

Q&A: Mistaken address leads to debt collection

Dear Liz: A debt collector says I owe a small debt from a store credit card I opened about six months ago. The wrong address was on file, so I hadn’t received any documentation at all. After opening the account I had called the store customer service line to arrange a payment, but the representative told me I had to wait for my account number and card in the mail. It never showed up, obviously, because of the wrong address issue. I understand that it was still my responsibility to pay this, but I called the store and then the bank that issued the card and got no response. Do I have any right to dispute the collection or at least catch a break?

Answer: The Fair Credit Billing Act requires that when accounts are opened, lenders send written notice about the account holder’s right to dispute errors, said credit expert Gerri Detweiler. Lenders are also supposed to send you statements when your account has activity (such as a balance due).

You could make the argument that the lender violated federal law by sending the information to the wrong address, Detweiler said, and that your credit scores have suffered as a result.

Yes, you should have contacted the store again after the card failed to arrive, but the lender should have fixed the problem and called off the collector once it was notified.

You can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at http://www.consumerfinance.gov and it will contact the lender to try to resolve the dispute. You’ll be able to log into the CFPB site to track the progress of its investigation.

You also should get copies of your credit reports and dispute any negative information related to this account, including any collections activity, said Detweiler, who writes about credit and debt at Credit.com.

Should the lender balk at removing the derogatory information from your credit reports, you can hire a consumer law attorney (referrals from http://www.naca.net) to press your case.

Q&A: Spousal benefits and Social Security

Dear Liz: I am divorced. If I apply for Social Security spousal benefits at age 62, based on my former spouse’s work record, can I continue to collect it if I get remarried? I understand that I cannot switch from spousal to my own benefit if I start early. But if I remarry, do I continue to collect spousal benefits or do I get nothing?

Answer: Spousal benefits based on an ex’s work record end when you remarry. (Some people think they can continue spousal benefits if they marry after they reach age 60, but that’s not true. Only survivor benefits for widows and widowers continue when a recipient remarries after age 60.)

When you file for spousal benefits before your own full retirement age, you are deemed to be applying for both your own benefit and your spousal benefit, and essentially given the bigger of the two, said economist Laurence Kotlikoff, founder of MaximizeMySocialSecurity.com. If the spousal benefit was larger and you remarry, the Social Security Administration looks at your benefit compared to your spousal benefit based on your new spouse and again gives you the larger of the two.

Understand that your benefit will be deemed to have started when you first applied for benefits. So rather than growing almost 7% each year between age 62 and your full retirement age, which it would have had you put off filing, it will effectively grow only at the rate of inflation.

That’s why it’s usually a better course to wait to file until your own full retirement age. Then you have the option of filing a restricted application just for spousal benefits, leaving your own benefit alone to grow (at 8% annually between full retirement age and age 70). You can switch to your own benefit when it maxes out at age 70.

Q&A: IRA’s and 401(k)’s

Dear Liz: You answered a reader who asked whether to contribute to her IRA, her Roth IRA or her regular or Roth 401(k) account. I thought that if you have access to a 401(k) at work, you couldn’t make a contribution to an IRA or Roth IRA.

Answer: That’s a common misconception. You can contribute to an IRA even if you have a workplace plan. What you may not be able to do is deduct the contribution. The tax deduction depends on your modified adjusted gross income and phases out in 2015 between $61,000 and $71,000 for singles and $98,000 to $118,000 for married couples filing jointly.

You also may be able contribute to a Roth IRA if you have a workplace plan. Contributions to a Roth are never deductible, but your ability to contribute phases out between $116,000 to $131,000 for singles and $183,000 to $193,000 for married couples filing jointly.

Want to protect yourself from tax return theft? You can’t.

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailA surge of bogus tax return filings has highlighted a grim truth: We can’t protect ourselves from this rising threat.

An underfunded, understaffed IRS manages to thwart many attempts, but still sent more than $5 billion in refunds to identity thieves in the 2013 tax year. Most state tax agencies aren’t nearly as sophisticated in detecting fraud, which is why the bad guys seem to be targeting them this year.

The core problem is that the key to your tax refund–as well as to your credit and your health records–is your Social Security number, which was never intended as an all-purpose identifier.

Even if you’re vigilant in protecting your  number, you’re still at risk, because a lot of companies aren’t so vigilant.

Court Ventures, now a subsidiary off Experian, sold an unknown number of records including Social Security numbers to identity thieves from a database of 200 million files. Anthem’s breach exposed 80 million people’s records. And they’re hardly the only ones. The US Postal Service, University of California Berkeley, the Oregon Employment Department, dozens of hospitals and medical centers–the list of places Social Security numbers have been stolen goes on and on and on. (Check out the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse chronology of breaches, showing more than 1 trillion records have been compromised.)

You may be able to beat the thieves to your tax refund by filing early–but that boat has already sailed for many victims.

Read more in my Reuters column, “Why identity thieves are targeting your tax return.”

Friday’s need-to-know money news

love-and-moneyToday’s top story: How to fall in love with your finances. Also in the news: Filing your taxes for free, the worst money mistakes you can make in the name of love, and how you can create a will for your social media accounts.

To Fall in Love With Your Finances, Do This
It’s like Match.com for your money.

IRS Free File 101 – How to File your Taxes for Free
Why pay for the privilege of paying.

7 Worst Money Mistakes People Make in the Name of Love
How to protect both your finances and your love life.

You Can Now Create a Will for Your Facebook Profile
Leaving a digital legacy.