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uk-budget-greenest-government_233Today’s top story: How to budget when living paycheck to paycheck. Also in the news: Finding the best prepaid debit card, quick fixes that can hurt your finances, and ten good financial rules of thumb.

How to Budget When You Don’t Have a Steady Income
A budget is critical when living paycheck to paycheck.

How to Find the Best Prepaid Debit Cards
Pay close attention to hidden fees.

5 ‘Band-Aid’ Fixes That Hurt Your Finances
Beware the short-term fixes that could cause lasting damage.

10 Good Financial Rules of Thumb
Solid starting points.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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635522783074355959-holiday-cardsToday’s top story: Ways to protect your credit during the holidays. Also in the news: Tips on minimizing your taxes, how to prepare for retirement, and how to make your charitable donations really count.

4 Ways to Keep the Grinch From Stealing Your Good Credit
Safe shopping will keep the Grinch at bay.

7 Ways To Minimize Your 2014 Taxes By December 31
April 15th is right around the corner.

8 tips for people who will retire in 2015
Preparing for a huge change.

Make Your Charitable Donations Really Count

Getting your money to the people who truly need it.

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Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Five changes lawmakers have made to your taxes for 2015. Also in the news: Keeping your low-down-payment mortgage affordable, why using a Roth IRA to pay for college could work against you, and three reasons why you can’t stick to a budget.

5 Major Changes Lawmakers Made to Your Taxes
Getting ready for 2015.

How to Keep a Low-Down-Payment Mortgage Affordable
How to handle PMI.

Using a Roth IRA to Pay for College May Work Against You
Your child’s financial aid package could take a hit.

3 reasons why you just can’t stick to a budget
Besides being human.

Retailers’ data breaches could get ‘ugly’
More like ‘uglier’.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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Dear Liz: I am 63 and my husband is almost 64. He lost his job last year. We have been living on his $1,500 monthly pension plus what I could make from small contracts and drawing down our emergency fund. The fund and the contracts are now gone. We would like to get jobs, but we live in an isolated area and must sell our house first so we can move. It’s worth about $350,000 with no mortgage, but selling it could take a while.

My question: Is it better to pull from our retirement investments of $750,000, use our home equity line of credit until we sell our house or have me file for early Social Security benefits? We plan to have my husband wait to apply until his full retirement age and then file a restricted application so he gets only spousal benefits until age 70, when his own benefit maxes out. Meanwhile, we need money to live on. I ran a Social Security calculator, and it seemed to say the difference between my starting early and the maximum we could get for waiting was $35,000. Our financial advisor says to take Social Security, but he also manages our investments. We pay him 1% of our portfolio, so reducing it would reduce his income. Can you offer any guidance?

Answer: The benefit from delaying the start of your Social Security benefits is typically so great that knowledgeable financial planners would suggest tapping other funds, including your retirement account, if that’s the only way you can hold off.

If you followed the 4% rule for sustainable withdrawals, you could take $30,000 from your retirement fund the first year without having to worry too much about running out of money. You could take more, of course, and plan to cut back when the Social Security checks start flowing, but you run the risk of a downturn dramatically increasing the chances that you won’t have enough money to last your lifetimes.

Of course, everybody’s situation is different. If the gap between your strategy and maximum benefits is just $35,000 over your lifetimes, you’ll have to decide if that’s incentive enough to wait. Understand, though, that calculators designed to evaluate Social Security strategies aren’t all equal. The free ones tend to be simpler, while the ones that require a fee (typically $40) are more sophisticated and allow you to take more factors into account.

So here’s a game plan. Run one or more of the more sophisticated calculators such as MaximizeMySocialSecurity.com, SocialSecuritySolutions.com and SocialSecurityChoices.com. Then take the results to a fee-only financial planner who charges by the hour to get another opinion. You want a planner who uses Social Security maximizing software and who has received education in Social Security planning strategies (just ask). If you can’t find someone locally, there are plenty of good planners willing to consult long-distance via phone and email. You can get referrals from Garrett Planning Network, among other sources.

Categories : Q&A, Retirement
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Dear Liz: You recently answered a question about whether one spouse can be held responsible for the other’s credit card debt. My husband and I are separated and he recently was diagnosed with cancer. He is unemployed with no health insurance and high hospital bills and back child support payments. In the event of his death, will I be liable for his debts?

Answer: You need to talk to an attorney to determine your liability for his medical bills, since it depends on state law. Some states don’t hold spouses liable for these bills if they’re legally separated, while others do. In any case, his estate will still owe the unpaid child support, and child support typically has a higher priority for payment than most other creditor’s claims when an estate is settled. In general, creditors have to be paid before the rest of the assets can be distributed to heirs.

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Dear Liz: Your answer to the reader asking about Social Security survivor benefits for same-sex couples was incomplete. If the person was a registered domestic partner in a state that did not allow them to marry, they still qualify for spousal death benefits. Please tell those affected so they know they should apply ASAP.

Answer: Thanks for pointing that out. Social Security survivor benefits are available to legally married same-sex couples whose marriage is recognized by the state where the couple was living at the time of the spouse’s death (assuming the deceased spouse meets all other qualifications for benefits). If the state where the couple lived doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, a surviving partner may still qualify as a widow or widower for Social Security benefits if the intestacy laws of that state allow the surviving partner of a non-marital legal relationship (such as a civil union or domestic partnership) to inherit as a spouse.

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crop380w_istock_000009258023xsmall-dbet-ball-and-chainToday’s top story: How to decide which debts you should pay off first. Also in the news: Financial topics you should never discuss at work, a key tax move you need to check before the end of the year, and how to offer financial advice to your adult kids.

Which Debts Should You Pay Off First?
How to develop a strategic pay off plan.

3 Financial Topics You Should Never Discuss at Work
Keep these conversations off-limits.

Don’t Let December End Without Looking at This Key Tax Move
Preparing for 2015 taxes.

How to Offer Financial Advice to Your Adult Child
Approaching a difficult conversation.

Plan Out a Year of Life as a Retiree To Jump-Start Your Saving
Giving your savings a boost in the right direction.

4 In 5 Millennials Optimistic For Future, But Half Live Paycheck To Paycheck
A look at the financial lives of millennials.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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budgetToday’s top story: Time to start getting your finances ready for 2015. Also in the news: How to give yourself a holiday bonus, protecting yourself and your credit from “Santa Scams”, and an end-of-the-year financial checklist.

15 tips on turning your finances around in 2015
Start getting ready.

Give Yourself (not Uncle Sam) a Christmas Bonus
Time to look at your W-4.

Santa Claus Is Coming… for Your Credit Cards
Watch out for the Letters From Santa scam.

Your End-of-Year Financial Checklist
Starting 2015 off on the right foot.

3 Reasons Why You Just Can’t Stick to a Budget
And how to fix them.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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retirement-savings3Today’s top story: Seven financial moves to make before New Year’s Eve. Also in the news: When you should use your credit card instead of your debit card, what to do when you’re 40 and have nothing saved for retirement, and busting four common myths about taxes.

7 Financial Moves to Make Before New Year’s Eve
Preparing yourself for 2015.

6 Times You Should Use a Credit Card Instead of a Debit Card
Credit cards can provide more protection.

What to Do When You’re 40 and Have Nothing Saved for Retirement
Don’t panic.

5 Ways to Combat an Online Shopping Addiction
Tips to combat a growing problem.

4 Common Myths About Taxes
Time for some tax mythbusting.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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shutterstock_62636899Today’s top story: Why debt doesn’t have to ruin your holiday season. Also in the news: How time can heal your credit wounds, where you’ll have to pay sales tax on Cyber Monday, and how to protect yourself from charity fraud during the holidays.

Don’t let debt ruin your holiday season
Manage and reduce your debt while still enjoying the holidays.

Time heals all wounds when it comes to credit
Time and responsibility are the best remedies for credit bruises.

On Cyber Monday, Will You Have to Pay Sales Tax?
It all depends on where you live and where you shop.

How to protect yourself against charity fraud during the holidays
Don’t let thieves take advantage of your generosity.

How Information Overload Can Hurt Your Retirement
Take small bites instead of big chunks.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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