Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The average 401(k) balance by age. Also in the news: Taking the next step with your student loans, 3 money tasks to do right now, and what to do with all the tax documents you’re receiving.

The Average 401(k) Balance by Age
How do you match up?

Take the Next Step With Your Student Loans in 2019
Setting small goals.

3 Money Tasks You Need to Do Right Now
Starting the year off right.

What to Do With All the Tax Documents You’re Getting Right Now
What to keep and what to toss.

Q&A: Why do 401(k) and IRA contributions have such different rules?

Dear Liz: Can you please explain to me why the IRS allows an employee in a workplace 401(k) to contribute $19,000 but a wage earner without a 401(k) can contribute only $6,000 to an IRA? This seems grossly unfair. Why does one group get to save three times as much for retirement?

Answer: Congress works in mysterious ways, and this is far from the only weird byproduct of tax law.

The 401(k) and the IRA were created through different mechanisms.

The 401(k)’s birth was almost accidental. Benefits consultant Ted Benna created the first 401(k) savings plan in 1981, using a creative interpretation of a section of IRS code. Benna crafted the plan to provide an alternative to cash bonuses, not to replace traditional pensions — although that’s what it ended up doing.

IRAs, by contrast, were created deliberately by Congress in 1974 to provide a way for people to save independent of their employers.

Raising the IRA limit would be costly to the budget, while decreasing 401(k) limits would be unpopular, since so many people rely on them for the bulk of their retirement savings.

You aren’t, however, limited to saving only $6,000 annually for retirement. You can always save more in a taxable account. You wouldn’t get the tax deduction for contributions, but your investments can qualify for favorable long-term capital gains treatment if you hold them for at least one year.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Quick ways to save more money in 2019. Also in the news: Medical bills plague millennials, 3 simple strategies to max out your 401(k), and the basics of Parent PLUS loan forgiveness.

Quick Ways to Save More Money in 2019
Focusing on the simple.

Medical Bills Plague Millennials; These Tips May Be the Cure
Making medical debt more managable.

3 Simple Strategies to Max Out Your 401(k)
Increasing your retirement savings at any income level.

The Basics of Parent PLUS Loan Forgiveness
Who’s responsible for repayment?

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Scrub these expenses from your budget in 2019. Also in the news: 3 simple strategies to max out your 401(k), how your slow cooker saves you money, and unnecessary fees to stop paying in the new year.

Scrub These Expenses From Your Budget in 2019
Hitting reset on your expenses.

3 Simple Strategies to Max Out Your 401(k)
It’s easier than you think.

How Your Slow Cooker Saves You Money
Set it and forget it.

Stop Paying Unnecessary Fees in the New Year
The most common fees and how to avoid them.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: New scoring could help credit-shy millennials. Also in the news: Giving yourself the gift of a $0 credit card balance, 5 key steps to joining the 401(k) Millionaires Club, and why you should only share your credit card info at a hotel at the front desk.

New Scoring Could Help Credit-Shy Millennials
Introducing UltraFICO.

Give Yourself the Gift of a $0 Credit Card Balance
A gift with long lasting impact.

5 Key Steps to Join the 401(k) Millionaires Club
Starting early is crucial.

Only Share Your Credit Card Info at a Hotel at the Front Desk
Protecting your info during your stay.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to make the most of the Child Tax Credit this year. Also in the news: 4 reasons to ditch your old debit card, getting to know your 401(k) plan, and how to choose the best tax software.

How to Make the Most of the Child Tax Credit This Year
The tax credit is doubling for 2018.

4 Reasons to Ditch Your Old Debit Card
New card, new perks.

Get to Know Your 401(k) Plan
Everything you need to know about your retirement savings.

How to Choose the Best Tax Software for You This Year
DIY vs finding a pro.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Free investments can come at a cost. Also in the news: How to not be your own worst enemy when investing, 5 things to cut your tax bill by December 31st, and how to increase your 401(k) or IRA contributions for 2019.

Free Investments Can Come at a Cost
Free doesn’t always mean without cost.

Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy When Investing
Look for help.

Do These 5 Things by Dec. 31 to Cut Your Tax Bill
You’ve still got time.

Increase Your 401(k) or IRA Contributions for 2019
Boost your retirement savings.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Get to know your 401(k) plan. Also in the news: How one couple ditched debt, having the talk about college costs with your teen, and what to do if you’re affected by Marriott’s huge data breach.

Get to Know Your 401(k) Plan
Everything you need to know.

How I Ditched Debt: ‘We Have Choices Again’
One couple’s story.

Having ‘The Talk’ About College Costs With Your Teen
Keeping expectations in check.

What to Do If You’re Affected by Marriott’s Data Breach
Over 500,000,000 customers are affected.

Q&A: When to merge 401(k) accounts

Dear Liz: I have $640,000 in a previous employer’s 401(k) and $100,000 in my new employer’s plan. Do you recommend I merge the two? Both funds offer similar investment options. My only motivation is based on simplifying paperwork during retirement, although there may be other advantages I am not aware of.

Answer: The choice of investment options matters less than what you pay for them. If your current plan offers cheaper choices, rolling your previous account into your current one makes sense if your employer allows that.

If the previous employer’s plan is cheaper, though, leaving the money where it is can make more sense. Once you actually reach retirement age you can decide whether to consolidate the plans or roll them into an IRA.

IRAs give you a wider array of investment options, but keeping the money in 401(k) accounts has other advantages. Larger 401(k)s often offer access to cheaper, institutional funds that aren’t available to retail investors in their IRAs. A 401(k) may offer more asset protection, depending on your state’s laws, plus you can begin withdrawals as early as age 55 without penalty if you no longer work for that employer.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Don’t leave credit card rewards on the table when dining out. Also in the news: How to move forward after a financial setback, the best Black Friday TV deals, and when to opt out of the target-date funds in your 401(k).

Dining Out? Don’t Leave Credit Card Rewards on the Table
Earning money back for every meal.

How to Move Forward After a Financial Setback
Getting back on track.

Best Black Friday TV Deals, 2018
The most screen for your money.

When to Opt Out of the Target-Date Funds in Your 401(k)
It depends on your goals.