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Today’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.
Today’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.
Today’s top story: President Obama will take action to help those with student loan debt. Also in the news: 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.
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.
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.
Today’s top story: Teaching your kids to avoid money mistakes. Also in the news: Becoming a smarter investor, cleaning up your digital life, and how your summer vacation could earn you credit card perks.
Teaching Kids to Avoid Money Missteps
Put them on the right path early.
One Phrase That Will Make You a Smarter Investor
It’s all about the evidence.
Tips for Cleaning Up Your Digital Life
Protecting yourself from identity theft.
The Best Summer Credit Card Rewards Offers
How to get perks from your vacation spending.
3 Tips to Increase Your Paycheck
It’s time to maximize your allowances.
Today’s top story: What can be learned financially during a parent’s last days. Also in the news: How to reduce your credit card debt through balance transfers, what new college grads should know about money, and should you buy life insurance for your kids.
5 financial lessons from a parent’s last days
What can be learned during a difficult time.
Save Thousands on Credit Card Debt with Balance Transfers
Playing the balance transfer shuffle.
What New College Grads Need To Know About Money
The “real world” is expensive.
Should You Buy Life Insurance for Your Kids?
Determining the best savings strategies.
Five Little Money Leaks That You Can Plug Right Now
Stopping the drips.
Today’s top story: Financial moves to make in the month of June. Also in the news: What to do if you forgot to pay your taxes, hot to create the ideal household budget, and what you need to know about your future spouse’s finances before getting married.
The Financial Moves You Should Make in June
How to take the month by storm.
What to Do if You Forgot to Pay Taxes
A Guide to Creating Your Ideal Household Budget
Something all members of the house can live with.
Getting Married? 10 Things to Know About Your Fiance’s Finances
No honeymoon surprises.
Are Student Loans Worth it?
Weighing the short-term benefits and long-term costs.
And a lot of young people are having trouble paying this debt. The exact number of struggling borrowers is a bit of a mystery, as I wrote in this week’s Reuters’ column, “Confusing data flummoxes fixing of student loan defaults.” But it’s safe to say a sizable portion of borrowers is having trouble paying down their education debt.
A college education, or at least some post-graduate education, will be a virtual necessity if you want to remain in the middle class in the 21st century. But believing that any investment in any education will pay off is naïve. The thing is, the colleges know better, or at least their financial aid staffs should. But their vested interest in selling educations typically means they don’t step in or even offer warnings as their teenage and twenty-something students pile on ridiculous amounts of debt.
Here’s what I wish every college student and every parent knew:
1. You should stick to federal student loans. These loans have fixed rates, tons of consumer protections and most importantly, limits on how much you can borrow. You typically can only borrow $5,500 for your freshmen year. You typically can’t borrow more than $31,000 for an undergraduate education. That makes it virtually impossible to take on too much debt as long as you get the degree. Can’t afford the education you want with just federal loans? Then you need to look for cheaper schools.
2. Steer clear of private student loans. Honestly, these loans should have warning stickers plastered all over them, like cigarette packs. The rates are typically variable, there are few options if you can’t afford the payments and you can borrow far more than you could ever repay. They should only be considered if the total amount you’ll borrow in both federal and private loans is no more than you expect to make your first year out of school.
3. Mom and Dad should not risk their retirement. Federal parent PLUS loans have some of the advantages of federal student loans. The rates are fixed and there are some repayment options (parents can choose extended, graduated or income-contingent payments, but not income-based or “Pay as You Earn,” the most helpful payment plans for overburdened debtors). But unlike federal student loans, there aren’t reasonable limits on what you can borrow. Parents’ ability to repay isn’t taken into account, and they can borrow up to the full amount of their child’s education. That’s a recipe for disaster. Parents should consider borrowing for college only if they’re able to comfortably repay the debt AND continue saving adequately for their own retirements.
4. You should get through school as fast as possible. If Mom and Dad are paying the bill in cash, then you can afford to party, pack your schedule with electives and switch majors 10 times. If your future self is paying the bill via loans, then you need to get your act together. Get help—find a mentor or advisor who cares about you enough to set you on the right path. The place to look is among your school’s best teachers. Ask around, because these teachers get talked about; take their classes; ask for their help.