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Need financial advice? Where to find it

Sep 27, 2010 | | Comments Comments Off

Earlier today I asked my Facebook fans to suggest stories they’d like to read about money–including what they’d like to learn more about, what would help them manage their finances today and what would help them plan for the future.

I got a bunch of great column ideas to work on, but I also discovered that the information many of you are looking for is already on MSN Money. So here are some reader requests that have already been answered, and where you can find the information:

Dawn Soger: How do I improve my credit rating after a rotten marriage, and horrible divorce? I’m struggling to get back on my feet!

Liz: Start with “7 fast fixes for your credit score.” Anyone contemplating divorce should read “Don’t let your ex trash your credit,” because debt obligations can haunt you long after your marriage is over.

Kerry Erickson: Retirement strategies for 30-something workers who might have a portion of their Social Security benefits — or none at all — by the time they retire. My generation of workers are in dire need of advice on how to live after retirement especially since 401K matches a rarity these days.

Liz: I happen to think Social Security can survive, which will be a topic for a future column, but it’s still important to get a good early start on savings. Some columns to read include “Money in your 30s: Don’t get derailed by debt,” “Your magic number for retirement,” “Yes, you will live to be 80,” and “401(k) fixes for every age.

Jennifer Beach: What can people who have already been devastated by this recession (job loss, foreclosure, living in Mom’s basement) do to get back on their feet?

Liz: The key to starting financial recovery is creating a spending plan that actually works, and I recommend “The 50/30/20 budgeting strategy.” Once you’ve got your finances under control, you can work on repairing your credit. “Bounce back fast after bankruptcy” gives ideas for recovering from any credit disaster.

Bob Cagle: Why should I be concerned with my credit rating if I don’t plan on ever borrowing money again?

Liz: An excellent question, since credit scores affect even those who don’t want to borrow. Read more in “7 nasty credit myths that won’t die.”

Peter Nurman: When is it safe to close an account (revolving or otherwise) when there is inactivity in that account.

Liz: Closing accounts won’t help your credit scores, but that doesn’t mean you should never close an account. Read more in “Held hostage by your credit scores.

Jennifer Bowman: What to do with too many houses. The BF and I would like to get married but that gives us 2 houses with little equity.

Liz: You might want to read one of my older pieces, “Do you have what it takes to be a landlord?” You might also want to read “Should you walk away from your home?”

Erica Gaede How to get out of debt. The fastest way. Where to put $$$ first savings retirement or debt?

Liz: Read “A debt payoff plan that works” and then “Your money priorities, first to last.”

Stephanie Teague: Improving your credit score. I want to get a mortgage soon, but feel like I need to improve my score to get a better rate. I don’t have negative marks against me, I just have student loans and 2 major credit cards that I’m in good standing with. I have one car loan that I have never been late on. However, my credit score is poor. What should I do?

Liz: If you don’t have any negative marks against you and you have active credit accounts, your scores shouldn’t be poor. I’d pull your credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com and scour them for accounts that aren’t yours (indicating identity theft or mistaken identity) or negative marks older than 7 years. If you find those, dispute them. To get your scores into prime mortgage-borrowing territory, read “Raise your credit score to 740.”

Jaci Eby Berni: Immediate steps to take to protect yourself from identity theft and how to recover quickly if it happens to you anyway.

Liz: MSN’s “5-minute guide to protecting your identity” is a good start. Also read “The Hysteria over identity theft” to see what you really should be worried about, as well as what needs to change in “Identity theft: 5 ways to fight back.” The Identity Theft Resource Center is a great resource for victims

Diana Richmond Stewart: I agree with everything that has posted above plus I would like to see Retirement strategies for the almost 60 yr olds.

Liz: You’re in luck. Start with “8 money moves you must make at 50” and “What to do if you’re 55 and haven’t saved a dime.”

Jaci Eby Berni: Tips on how to lower my bills accross the board.

Liz: Start with the Smart Spending blog, which has original posts and links to the best stuff on the Web.

DeShondra Michelle: Having a budget and sticking to it while you are still completing your undergrad [degree]. The budget topics on MSN are more for college grads then students still working on their degrees.

Liz: I mentioned it above, but the 50/30/20 strategy can work for almost any income. It’s a good place to start.

Lisa Rastetter: Most of my $ I make goes to health insurance through small company I work for. I’m healthy but wants to know if I should search on my own?

Liz: Sometimes you can save money with an individual policy, particularly if you’re younger and healthier than your coworkers or willing to cope with a high deductible. MSN’s “5-minute guide to health insurance” can get you started. Another bit of good news is that individual policies can no longer be rescinded, or taken away, if you get sick. In the past, that was one of the major drawbacks to choosing an individual over an employer-provided policy

Antoinette Jarrett: I’d love an article called, “Money and the Married Woman.” It would be great info, especially for those in a community property state.

Liz: That’s an excellent idea. In the meantime, you might want to read “Get real: Marriage is a business” and “The myth of the marriage penalty.

Lisa Rastetter: My son will be 18 in a year & wants to start building good credit now. Is this possible?

Liz: Start with “Your teen’s credit is your problem.” Other reads include “9 ways to build a killer credit score from scratch” and “Should you cosign for your kid’s credit card?”

Mark Verbyla: What to do with a windfall of cash, such as oil lease money?

Liz: Read “What to do with a $10,000 windfall.

Jessalyn Cotter: College Financial Aid. The first of four about to enter in Fall 2011. How to get aid and still keep the most of retirement money and investments.

Liz: MSN has a whole decision center on this topic, called Managing College Costs. I’d also recommend checking out FinAid.org.

Jeff Pearce: How to increase your credit score. Is it just a “stay mistake free and wait” game??

Liz: Time helps, but you can take steps to speed things along. “7 fast fixes for your credit score” will help.

Liana Algarín: Is it better to pay off consumer debt aggressively and not put any money into retirement savings, or is it better to save for retirement while allowing debt to build interest?

Liz: Putting debt repayment ahead of retirement savings can actually cost you far more in lost retirement income than you’d save in interest. For more, read “Your money priorities, first to last.”

Brian Young: How to Refinance With No Equity in Your Home

Liz: You may find some answers in “Want to refinance but can’t? 3 tips.”

Kate McGee: Retirement strategies for those in their mid-late 20′s who are DINKs (Double Income No Kids) and plan to stay that way. (If it helps, he’s employed full time with a pension and a small 401(k) and will be forced to retire at 55, and I’m part-time with no benefits)

Liz: MSN’s “Money in your 20s” Decision Center may provide some answers. The good news is that without kids you’ll have more money to put aside for other goals, including retirement.

Mike E Cisneros Jr: Retirement and college savings

Liz: Check out MSN’s Retirement and College Savings Decision Center

Don Blakeley: Continued info on mortgages. What’s good and what’s bad.

Liz: MSN’s Getting the Right Home Loan Decision Center is a good place to start.

Wendy Michael: My husband was offered his dream job, so we left a house that we love in a poor selling market. It looks like we’re going to be landlords for the time being, and I’m trying to read up on all the issues involved (we’re using a property management company, but they don’t do our taxes for us!), and it would be nice to have a roadmap.

Liz: Reading “Do you have what it takes to be a landlord?” should help, but also check out the resources for landlords at Nolo.com.

Daushae Paxton: How to pay off debts while in college.

Liz: You’ll find helpful resources in MSN’s Managing Debt Decision Center.

Debbie Bottrell: Bravo How to correctly clean up my credit reports.

Liz: Again, “7 fast fixes for your credit score” is the place to start.

Debbie Bottrell: Also how to purchase a home with poor credit

Liz: These days it’s pretty much impossible to get a home loan with credit scores below 580 (or 620 in many cases). See the links above for improving your scores. Once they’re above 620 or so, MSN’s Home Buying Guide may help.

Nancy Thornton: Budgeting – not just how to budget but successful budgeters and their stories and HOW they actually do it – I love reading budgeting stories of people who were on the verge and how they started their budget journey!

Liz: I agree! You may have already seen these stories, but if not, read “Living on $18,000 a year–by choice” and “Retired by 50: What it takes” along with this follow-up.

Amy Welter: Any suggestions on student loans? My interest rates are through the roof because when I started college my parents made to much money and I didn’t qualify for any grants or even financial aid. Now I can’t pay them because I make $10,000 less than 2 years ago and now have a kid. The interest is accruing very very fast and its ruining my credit.

Liz: I’m going to send you straight to FinAid.org’s excellent page explaining your options if you’re having trouble paying student loan debt. You have a lot more options with federal loans than private loans. For more about the dangers of student loans, read “4 fixes for the student loan trap.”

Karyn Hill: I’m slowly working my way back from losing all of my savings and racking up credit card debt because I was laid off. I have a job now and I know the only thing I can do is keep plugging away and wait. I think what I want most is some reassurance that it does pay off in the end. Any chance of hearing some stories from people who were where I am a year or two ago? It’ll make me feel better when I stay home instead of going to a movie, or pass up contributing to my 401K in favor of paying a little extra on my credit cards.

Liz: “Huge debts, paid off fast” may give you some of what you’re looking for, but check out the link above about financial priorities. Saving for retirement needs to be at the top. Good luck!

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