Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 3 credit card alerts worth setting up now. Also in the news: Why you shouldn’t necessarily max out your 401(k), how your social media apps want to help you send money, and what you should know about cryptocurrency.

3 Credit Card Alerts Worth Setting Up Now
Handling your cards more responsibly.

You Should Max Out Your 401(k), Right? Not So Fast
Things to consider.

Your Social Media Apps Want to Help You Send Money
It’s as simple as a text.

What You Should Know About Cryptocurrency
Bitcoin, LiteCoin and the rest.

Q&A: My 401(k) is making only 2-3%, so why not borrow from it and pay it back at 5%?

Dear Liz: You have warned in the past about the risks of a 401(k) loan. I have been investing now for 15 years, and the last 14 years, my average return has been between 2% and 3%. I am considered moderately aggressive in my choices of international (24%), large and small cap (52%), midcap (16%) and 8% in bonds.

It has been an absolute joke (until last quarter) so I took out a loan a few years ago and was planning on doing it again when the first is repaid in approximately two years. I look at it as a 5% return to make myself a little something in an unstable and nasty market. I see the loan as my best consistent return option.

Answer: There is something wrong with your portfolio if your average annual return has been that low — and if you think paying returns out of your own pocket is a better option than putting your money to work in the markets.

If you had invested in a plain vanilla balanced fund 15 years ago, with 60% of its portfolio in stocks and 40 percent in bonds, you would have received an average annual return of over 9% (and it would be up 10% in the last year alone). While you wouldn’t have achieved 9% every single year, and your returns would vary based on when you bought your shares over the years, you certainly should have done better with your portfolio than you have.

It’s possible your plan charges higher-than-average fees or your investment choices have higher-than-average expenses. A site called FeeX will evaluate your 401(k) portfolio for free and show you how its costs stack up against other plans. You may be able to move to less expensive options within your plan or press your company to look for lower-cost providers.

The loan you took out depressed your returns as well. That money was pulled out of your investments, so it wasn’t able to participate in the market’s growth. The 5% interest rate you’re paying may seem cheap, but it’s a bad deal when compared to the returns the money could have been earning.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Learning how to ditch debt. Also in the news: How to prepare for the change from corporate career to entrepreneur, how to teach your kids to be better with money than you are, and why Millennials are paying attention to their 401(k)s.

How I Ditched Debt: Making Sense of Cents
Every penny counts.

Corporate Career to Entrepreneur: How to Prep for the Leap
Making a big change.

How to teach your kids to be better with money than you are
Learning from your mistakes.

Millennials may be far from retirement, but think ahead with 401(k)
Planning for the future.

The astonishingly high risk of a 401(k) loan

If anyone tells you a 401(k) loan is a cheap way to borrow, they are both right and very, very wrong.

401(k) loan interest rates are low. But the way many Americans repay them spells disaster.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how a reckless 401(k) loan could turn out to be the most expensive money you’ll ever borrow.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 401(k) mistakes for new grads to avoid. Also in the news: 6 financial questions you’re too embarrassed to ask, why you should scatter your bank accounts, and 5 facts that prove Americans don’t know anything about managing money.

New Grads, Don’t Make These 401(k) Mistakes
Plan carefully.

6 Financial Aid Questions You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask
We’ve got answers.

Why You Should Scatter Your Bank Accounts
Don’t keep it all in one place.

5 Facts that Prove Americans Don’t Know Anything about managing money
We need to get better at this.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to gift stock to a new grad. Also in the news: Memorial Day weekend sales, what to do if you miss a financial goal, and why your 401(k) can be a cash drain.

How to Gift Stock to a New Grad
A gift for the future.

Making a Major Purchase? Wait for Memorial Day
But remember the real reason for Memorial Day.

If at First You Miss a Financial Goal, Try, Try Again
Don’t give up!

Why your 401(k) can be a cash drain
It’s possible to be “401(k) rich and cash poor.”

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to dodge scams and time-wasters in the online job market. Also in the news: Credit card bonuses are drifting further away, how job hopping can hurt Millennials in retirement, and how to fraud-proof your retirement savings.

Online Jobs: How to Dodge Scams and Time-Wasters
Don’t get taken for a ride.

As Credit Card Bonuses Balloon, They Drift Further Away
Bigger isn’t necessarily better in this case.

Job Hopping Can Hurt Millennials in Retirement
The 401(k) game.

6 ways to fraud-proof your retirement savings
Protecting your savings.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: NerdWallet’s best credit card tips for May 2017. Also in the news: VA loan funding fees, the best banks for multiple savings accounts, and 401(k) myths you can’t afford to believe.

NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for May 2017
Which cards you should be considering.

VA Loan Funding Fee: What You’ll Pay and Why in 2017
Don’t be caught off-guard.

Need Multiple Savings Accounts? Here’s Where to Bank
Which banks offer the most bang for your bucks.

401(k) myths you can’t afford to believe
Time for some myth busting.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Making a habit of checking your financial health. Also in the news: Online business ideas for couch potatoes, how one couple paid off $20K of debt in 18 months, and how Trump’s tax plan may affect your 401(k).

Start a New Habit: Check Your Financial Health
Almost as important as your physical health.

3 Online Business Ideas for Couch Potatoes
Make money from your recliner.

How I Ditched Debt: Active Budgeting Pays Off
How one couple paid off $20,000 in 18 months.

How Trump’s tax plan may affect your 401(k)
Digging into the details.

Q&A: Fees can do serious damage to your retirement

Dear Liz: When I changed jobs, I rolled my 401(k) account into an IRA and took it to a financial planner. He invested it initially and now has a management company watching it. So now I am paying quarterly fees to him, the management company and the IRA custodian. The fees average about $2,000 a year. I am thinking about moving my account to my current 401(k), which has lower fees.

I feel like the planner has me in way too many investments, and my returns aren’t great. My account is up about $40,000 on a $122,000 initial investment. I will be 60 this year and plan on working for another six-plus years.

Answer: If your employer accepts IRA transfers — and many do — then rolling the money into your current 401(k) could be a great way to go.

Many 401(k) plans offer ultra-low-cost investment options that aren’t available to retail investors. Many also offer target date funds that would take care of diversifying your investments while making sure the mix gets more conservative as you get closer to retirement.

Right now you’re paying above-average fees to get below-average performance. If you had put your money into a low-cost option such as the Vanguard Balanced Index Fund five years ago, your account would now be worth nearly $190,000. The expense ratio for the balanced fund can be as low as 0.08%, compared with the 1.23% you’re paying now. (Your actual cost probably is higher; you didn’t include the expense ratios of the underlying investments in your account.)

Fees matter a lot. Higher fees depress returns and can increase your chance of running short of money in retirement.

At the same time, the years just before and after retirement are crucial because you’ll be making a lot of decisions with major consequences (such as when to claim Social Security and how much to withdraw from retirement accounts). Paying 1% in fees could make sense if you were getting comprehensive financial planning advice that addressed your retirement planning needs as well as other aspects of your finances, such as insurance, taxes and estate planning. If all you’re paying for is investment management, though, you can get that for a lot less.

If your employer doesn’t accept transfers or doesn’t have low-cost options, you could consider transferring your IRA to a custodian that offers low-cost computerized investment services. These include Betterment, Wealthfront, Vanguard Personal Advisor Services and Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, among others. The all-in fee for their services, including expense ratios of underlying investments, is typically less than 0.5%.

If you do opt for less expensive investment management, you still should consider hiring a fee-only financial planner before you retire to review your plan. You can find fee-only planners who charge by the hour at Garrett Planning Network.