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Monday’s need-to-know money news

Jun 16, 2014 | | Comments Comments Off

debt collectorsToday’s top story: How to prove that a debt isn’t actually yours. Also in the news: How your credit score impacts your mortgage rate, the laws debt collectors must adhere to, and how to protect your identity during World Cup madness.

How Can You Prove a Debt Isn’t Yours?
How to determine if a debt is actually yours.

How credit scores impact your mortgage rate
The lower the score, the higher the interest rate.

Know the law when dealing with debt collectors
Don’t let yourself become intimidated.

5 Ways Hackers Could Target You During the World Cup
Stick to well-known sites and be careful with apps.

7 Ways to Help Get Your Child Out of Debt
How to help without burdening yourself.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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Q&A: Closing credit cards with annual fees

Jun 15, 2014 | | Comments Comments Off

Dear Liz: When I opened my airline-branded credit card almost 10 years ago, it was well worth the $50 annual fee. I was able to book many flights for free because of the miles I earned and the airline’s generous rewards program. However, I moved a few years ago to a location that is not serviced by the airline. Now the airline’s reward card is my “last ditch emergency” card since I have two other cash-back rewards cards that offer a better return (I pay all my cards in full every month).

I know that annual fees on credit cards are not good, but I’m struggling with the decision on whether to keep it or not. It is the second-oldest credit account I have and about a third of the amount of credit I can use, and I am concerned about my credit score dropping if I close it. My credit score is excellent, but I am concerned about how much of a drop in my score this would cause. I did try to “convert it” to a cash-back credit card with no annual fee, but the bank wouldn’t do it. So now I’m stuck on what to do. Should I continue to pay the $50 annual fee to keep my credit score intact, or should I close it and see if I can increase my credit on my other cards?

Answer: Most good travel rewards cards these days charge annual fees, and those fees aren’t a big deal if you’re getting airline tickets or lodging that more than offset the cost. Your card may pay for itself with a single trip if it waives baggage check fees (as many airline-branded cards do).

If you can’t even wring that much value from the card, consider closing it. Given how much of your available credit the card represents, though, you might want to open another card first. Available credit matters far more to your credit scores than the age of your accounts. And even if you close this account, your history with it will continue to be reported for many years, so you shouldn’t hold off just because it’s your second-oldest card.

Categories : Credit Cards, Q&A
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Dear Liz: Most of the questions you answer about Social Security come from people who don’t have a lot of money saved. I agree with your advice that those people should delay starting benefits. That way their Social Security checks, which will be the bulk of their income in retirement, will be as large as possible. But what about those of us who won’t need the money? I will receive a good pension and thanks to real estate investments, my retirement income will exceed my current income should I retire at age 62. That means I will never have to touch my capital. I do not have any other debt and am fully insured.

My initial thought is that I should take Social Security as soon as I’m eligible and use it while I’m in good health for travel and other activities. A friend who is in a similar situation says to wait and enjoy the emotional safety that if the need arises, I can turn on the Social Security tap later and let some more money flow. If you don’t need the money now or later, but could have more fun earlier, should you take Social Security sooner?

Answer: The less you’ll need Social Security, the less it matters when you start it.

Starting benefits early locks you into lower payments for life and will result in significantly smaller lifetime benefits for most people. That’s in part because Social Security hasn’t adjusted its payment formulas even as life expectancies have expanded, so most people will live beyond the “break-even” point where delayed benefits exceed the amounts they could have received had they started earlier. Delaying benefits is particularly important for married people, since one partner is likely to outlive the other and will have to get by on a single check. Making sure that check is as large as possible will help make the surviving spouse’s final years more comfortable.

But all that assumes that you, like most people, would receive half or more of your retirement income from Social Security. If your Social Security is truly icing on the cake — you don’t need the money now, you (and your spouse) are unlikely to need it in the future, and you don’t care about maximizing your lifetime benefits — then start it whenever you want.

Categories : Estate planning, Q&A
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Friday’s need-to-know money news

Jun 13, 2014 | | Comments Comments Off

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Some surprising ways that identity theft can hurt you. Also in the news: How your credit card rewards can help pay for your vacation, ways to earn extra money at home, and the complicated tax rules of alimony.

9 Surprising Ways Identity Theft Can Hurt You
Job hunting just got more complicated.

Take a Vacation on Your Credit Card Rewards
Letting your points help you pack.

6 Ways to Earn Money Without Leaving the House
Earn money and help the environment at the same time.

The Tax Rules of Alimony
When “happily ever after” isn’t.

P.F. Chang’s Confirms Some Customer Credit Card Info Was Compromised In A Security Breach
The latest high profile customer data breach.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Jun 12, 2014 | | Comments Comments Off

credit-score-repair1Today’s top story: Meet the credit score you didn’t know you had. Also in the news: What to do when you’re debt free, how to break out of a financial slump, and what single people need to do to protect their money.

You Have a “Secret” Credit Score That Could Be Working Against You
That late payment on your rent ten years ago could come back to haunt you.

Life After Debt: 5 Ways to Make the Most of Healthy Finances
Debt free. Now what?

4 Ways to Overcome Financial Inertia
Stop treading water.

3 Things That Make Single People Financially Vulnerable — And How To Beat Them
Because being single wasn’t depressing enough.

Is Your Credit Card Debt Average? And What’s Average?
One of the few times when being below average is a good thing.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Jun 11, 2014 | | Comments Comments Off

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How often should you check your credit report? Also in the news: How not to get duped on your summer vacation, some of the worst ways to handle your debt, and how to construct a realistic debt reduction plan.

How Often Should I Check My Credit Report?
Don’t go overboard.

Summer Vacationers, Beware: 5 Travel Scams That Won’t Die
From souvenirs to scenic tours.

4 of the Most Foolish Ways to Handle Debt
Never pay just the minimum.

A realistic debt-reduction plan for retirement
Mind over money.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Jun 10, 2014 | | Comments Comments Off

istockphoto-break-the-bankToday’s top story: How to build your financial flexibility. Also in the news: What to do before you take that walk down the aisle, how to save money using one of the internet’s biggest time vampires, and why caregivers need to enlist a financial advisor.

Downward Dog, Downward Debt: Building Your Financial Flexibility
No mat necessary.

What To Do Before You Say ‘I Do’
So that you don’t end up wishing you hadn’t.

How to Save Money With Pinterest
Your four thousand pins on six hundred boards could finally pay off!

Why Caregivers Should Enlist A Financial Advisor
The day-to-day care is difficult enough.

When to Spend Your Time Versus When to Spend Your Money
Both are valuable, but only one can’t be replaced.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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Monday’s need-to-know money news

Jun 09, 2014 | | Comments Comments Off

Today’s top story: President Obama will take action to help those with student loan debt. Also in the news:images How not to get scammed on your summer vacation, being honest about your debt situation, and how to make sure you’re being paid what you’re worth.

President Obama to Take Executive Action on Student Debt Monday
“Pay As You Earn” will be widely expanded.

How to Avoid Getting Scammed on Your Summer Vacation
Protecting your mobile devices is key.

Are You in Denial About Your Debt?
Be honest with yourself.

3 Ways to Tell If You’re Being Paid What You’re Worth
Don’t shortchange yourself.

2 Things You Have To Teach Your Kids About Money
Budgets and credit cards.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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Q&A: Independent consulting and taxes

Jun 09, 2014 | | Comments Comments Off

Dear Liz: I am a full-time employee who just started independent consulting work on the side. I have submitted my W-9 with the company with which I am a consultant, but I know the onus will be on me to set aside federal tax payments. Here’s my question: Will I pay state taxes on my consulting income? And if so, will those taxes be paid in the state where I live or the state where the company is based?

Answer: If you live in a state that taxes income, and you have income to tax, then yes, you’ll probably have to pay state income taxes on your net income — your gross revenue minus your expenses.

“Since you are in business for yourself, contracting with another company, you will pay taxes in the state where you do the work,” said enrolled agent Eva Rosenberg of the TaxMama.com site. “If you perform the services in your own state, that’s where your taxable responsibilities lie. However, if you frequently go to the client’s location and do work there, you will be liable for taxes in that state as well.”

A good rule of thumb is to set aside half of any money you make to cover the various taxes you’ll owe, Rosenberg said.

“Payroll taxes are 15.3%. If you’re making enough to live on, you’re in the 25% bracket at least. That’s 40%,” she said. “Depending on the state, that could be another 5% to 10%.”

You probably should make quarterly estimated tax payments to avoid a penalty. Business owners, especially newly minted ones, would be smart to hire a tax pro to help them navigate their obligations.

Categories : Q&A, Taxes
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Q&A: Using a car loan to establish credit

Jun 09, 2014 | | Comments Comments Off

Dear Liz: Our son is graduating from college and needs a car for his new job. Is this an opportunity to help him establish a good credit rating? His credit union offers loans to first-time auto buyers who don’t have a credit history, but the interest rate is 8.4% (6 percentage points more than standard auto loans). We parents intend to help pay for the car, so we could provide a larger down payment or help with larger payments to pay off the loan sooner as a way to reduce the higher interest costs. Would doing either of these, however, lower the credit rating he might earn? He has no other debt and has two credit cards (co-owned by us) on which he pays monthly in full. Are there better ways to help him establish his own credit rating?

Answer: If your son is a joint account holder on two credit cards, he might not have to bother with a “credit builder” loan. He should already have credit histories and credit scores that would qualify him for better rates.
He should first check his credit reports at http://www.annualcreditreport.com, the federally mandated site where people can check their credit histories annually for free.

If he has credit histories, he can take the additional step of buying at least one of his FICO scores from MyFico.com. (He can buy a total of three, one for each credit bureau.) There are other sources for free scores, but they’re usually not the scores used by most lenders. He then can ask the credit union for a quote on the interest rate he’d be charged, given his score or scores. It probably will be lower than 8.4% if he has a good history with these cards.

If he doesn’t have credit reports in his own name, he probably is an authorized user rather than a joint account holder on your cards. (Some issuers don’t export the primary cardholder’s history with a card into an authorized user’s credit files, although many do.) In that case, the credit-building loan could be a good idea, particularly if you were willing to help him pay off the loan quickly. Although there’s some advantage to paying off a loan according to schedule, your son will get most of the credit-scoring benefit just by having the loan, and he’ll save by paying it off fast.

Another way you could help is by co-signing the loan, but then you’re putting your credit at risk. If he makes a single late payment, your credit scores could suffer. If the credit union is willing to make the loan, that’s usually a better way to go.

Categories : Credit & Debt, Q&A
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