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imagesToday’s top story: The biggest mistakes car buyers make and how to avoid them. Also in the news: How to land your dream home this summer, saving big on your wedding expenses, and how we can learn from the money mistakes of celebrities.

5 Mistakes Car Buyers Make
Pay attention to how long you’ll pay.

7 Ways to Land Your Dream Home During the Summer
Look for a diamond in the rough.

Easy ways to save $10,000 on your wedding expenses
Location, location, location.

5 celebrity money mistakes we can all learn from
One word: prenup.

Cash 4 Phones: 5 Tricks to Buying and Selling Used Electronics
Turn those dust collectors into cash.

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Our apartment in Paris

Jul 09, 2014 | | Comments (1)

Eiffel TowerWe’ve settled into our home for the next few weeks: a comfortably funky 3-bedroom apartment on the top of an older building not far from the Moulin Rouge.

Travelers will tell you that if you’re planning to stay more than a few days here (and indeed in many major cities), it makes a lot more financial sense to rent a place than to stay in a hotel. Not only is it cheaper*, but access to a kitchen and (often) a washer and dryer will further reduce your costs. And this time, I knew enough to get a place with an elevator.

Another way to travel cheaper: public transport. We’re less than a block from a Metro station and the bus stop is literally across the street. Several grocers and a good boulangerie (bakery) are nearby, as well as a number of restaurants when we don’t feel like cooking.

We used the Homelidays site, now known as HomeAway, to find this place, and AirBnB to book a flat in Edinburgh.  I relied heavily on other users’ reviews, seeking out the listings that have a bunch of them. (I’ll let other people take a chance on the newbies.)

The one thing we gave up was flexibility. Most of the listings we considered had pretty strict cancellation policies, with substantial deposits (usually half the rent) and steep forfeitures if you change your mind. Fortunately, our plans were pretty well set.

*We’re paying about $140 a night for three bedrooms and two baths. Before we arrived, we spent one night at the Westin Paris Vendome using points. The room we occupied typically costs over 500 euros per night, or nearly $700. There are much cheaper hotels, obviously, but you typically pay a couple hundred bucks for a small room, so renting an apartment can really make sense.

 

 

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Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Learning what identity thieves want you to do. Also in the news: Saving money as a wedding guest, market myths that can make you poorer, and how to manage your money emotions.

5 Things Identity Thieves Want You to Do
How to do the opposite.

Tips to Save Money as a Wedding Guest
How to celebrate the happy couple without going broke.

7 market myths that make investors poorer
Mythbusting!

How to Manage Your Money Emotions
Reining in emotional spending.

5 Financial Lessons Everyone Should Learn in Their 30s (Did You?)
It’s never too late.

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DrowningA reader whose credit scores have already been badly damaged by late payments and charge-offs had a question: How much more would her scores drop if she filed for bankruptcy?

For years the creators of the leading FICO credit scoring formula were a bit vague about the answer, saying only that a bankruptcy filing is “the single worst thing” that can happen to your scores.

Three years ago, though, the FICO folks provided a peek into how the formula treats a bankruptcy filing as well as other major negatives. You’ll find the post that covers that topic on FICO’s Banking Analytics blog. I go into more detail about this in my book “Your Credit Score,” but you’ll see that, indeed, the impact of a bankruptcy is bigger than that of other negatives. As with other black marks, a bankruptcy hurts already battered scores proportionately less than it does those with higher scores. But in the three examples given (people who started with scores of 680, 720 and 780), everyone ended up in the low to middle 500s. Not a great place to be. Futhermore, it takes years for credit scores to recover. To get back to “good” credit of 720 and above will take 7 to 10 years.

So does that alone mean people should avoid bankruptcy? Heavens, no. Bankruptcy puts a legal end to collection efforts and the ongoing damage unpaid debts can do to your scores. If you can get your act together and start using credit responsibly after a bankruptcy filing, you can start to rebuild your scores immediately. If you continue to struggle with un-payable debt, you may never be able to rehabilitate your credit.

Obviously, if you can pay your debts, you should. Many people who can’t wind up doing themselves more damage, and throwing good money after bad, in vain struggles to pay their bills. If you’re falling behind and can’t see how you’ll catch up, you’d be smart to at least talk to a bankruptcy attorney about your options.

 

 

 

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Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: What to do when your 401(k) and IRA are maxed out. Also in the news: Comparing medical loans and credit cards, three essentials that could be missing from your retirement plan, and thirteen factors to consider when picking a place to retire.

What to Do After Your 401(k) and IRA Are Maxed Out
Where to invest your money next.

How to Compare Medical Credit Cards, Loans
Prepare for high interest rates.

3 Essentials Missing From Many Retirement Plans
Don’t forget these essentials.

13 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Place to Retire
It’s time to make a list.

10 tips for buying your next car for less
Don’t be afraid to haggle.

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imagesToday’s top story: Maintaining good credit without carrying debt. Also in the news: Taking out the right amount of mortgage, how to keep your home cool for less, and what happens when your student loan co-signer dies.

How to Maintain Good Credit Without Debt
Can you build credit without going into debt?

How Much Mortgage Can You Handle?
How not to get in over your head.

How to Keep Your Home Cool this Summer for Cheap
Staying cool without breaking the bank.

Am I Completely Screwed If My Student Loan Co-Signer Dies?
Pretty much.

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Dear Liz: I am 64. I recently reviewed my Social Security summary online and saw that it does not have an accurate listing of my income, so the projections of my benefits aren’t accurate either. How do I correct these errors?

Answer: There are a number of ways the Social Security database could be wrong. An employer could have reported your earnings incorrectly or not at all. Or your earnings could have been reported using the wrong name or an incorrect Social Security number. If you married or divorced and changed your name, but failed to notify Social Security, that also could lead to errors in your record.

You can call the Social Security help line at (800) 772-1213 to start the process of correcting your records. It would be best if you have proof of your earnings, such as W-2 forms, tax returns or pay stubs from the years in question. If you don’t have such proof, the Social Security Administration asks that you provide as much information as possible about where you worked, the name of your employer(s), the dates you worked and how much you earned.

Your experience shows why it’s important to periodically review your Social Security records to make sure they’re accurate. This year the Social Security Administration will resume sending paper statements to certain workers (those aged 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60), but in the meantime you can check your records online by signing up at http://www.ssa.gov/mystatement/.

Categories : Q&A, Retirement
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Q&A: When to file bankruptcy

Jul 06, 2014 | | Comments (1)

Dear Liz: I’m a 33-year-old mother who lost my full-time job during the recession in 2009. I may have my “stuff” together again, but am considering filing bankruptcy. Each month I’m spending almost half (yes half!) of my income on debt payments to credit cards, loans and medical bills. Each month after all my bills are paid and groceries are bought, I have zero dollars left over to save. Even after losing my job, I made sure to always make those payments, so my credit is decent. Last I checked my credit score was hovering right around 700. I really have no reason to have good credit at this time, as I don’t have any need for a large purchase. Should I file or pay back my debts? Is filing for bankruptcy a good idea if it allows me to build a savings account and start putting money back into a 401(k)?

Answer: A bankruptcy filing would devastate your credit scores, and that may create more problems than you think. Credit information is used by insurers to determine premiums, by landlords to evaluate applicants and by wireless carriers and utilities to set deposit requirements.

At the same time, it makes little sense to continue to struggle against a mound of debt if you’re not making a dent in the pile. If it would take you five years or more to repay what you owe, you should at least consider filing for bankruptcy. Why five years? Because that’s how long you’d be required to make payments under a Chapter 13 repayment plan.

Most people, however, qualify for Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy, which is typically preferable since it’s faster (three to four months, versus five years) and erases credit card and medical bills. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can advise you and help you understand the ramifications of filing.

If lower interest rates might help you pay off your debt within five years, you also should consider an appointment with a credit counselor associated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (www.nfcc.org). These nonprofits can set you up with debt management plans that may offer lower rates on your credit card debt.

Most people feel an obligation to pay what they owe, but that often leads to fruitless struggles against impossible debts. Bankruptcy laws allow individuals a fresh start so that they can take care of themselves and their families. Among your many financial obligations is the one to support yourself in retirement, and every year you delay saving will make it that much harder to accumulate a reasonable nest egg.

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Notes from London

Jul 03, 2014 | | Comments (1)

LondonIn Los Angeles, a 10 percent chance of rain in the forecast means it’s not going to rain. In London, a 10 percent chance of rain means it will rain 10 percent of the day.

At least that’s my conclusion after our recent week tourizing that fine city.

Each morning, we made sure to pack our rain jackets regardless of the forecast, and just about every day we used them. We had one truly rainy day, but were (as the Brits say) spoiled for choice about where to spend it, since London has so many great indoor options to entertain the kiddos: the British Museum, a science museum, a natural history museum and an aquarium, to name just a few.

Most of the major museums are free. Spending time in one of London’s many parks is also free, and renting a bike to tool around will cost you just two pounds for the day (about $3.50). We appreciated these wallet-friendly options, because otherwise London can be an expensive city. (Just one example: two loads of laundry at a laundrette near Marble Arch set me back over $30. The proprietor was lovely, though, and there are worse things than spending a morning chatting with fellow travelers from all over the world.)

Some things are definitely worth the expense. Among them:

The hop-on, hop-off buses. I’ve long been skeptical of the open-top buses that cruise big cities, but the Big Bus tour we took had a witty guide and offered a great overview of the city. Our tickets included a boat ride on the Thames and several free walking tours. You can get your tickets at most of the stops, or get them in advance for a discount online. (We spent about $130 for three people.)

The Harry Potter tour at the Warner Bros. studio. Visit the sets, check out the props, be blown away by the scale models used in making the film. The digital guides, with audio and video commentary, are worth getting. (With the guides, we spent about $200 for admission plus about $50 for rail tickets to get there.)

The Tower of London. A thousand years of history in one place, with lots to interest the kiddos. (Admission for three was about $70.)

Matilda. Yes, we could have seen this terrifically fun musical made from Roald Dahl’s book in New York, but I’m glad we waited to see it in its native habitat. If you book in advance, you can get a better deal than the nearly $300 I shelled out for two tickets…so do that.

 

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