Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: College degrees can be a bargain abroad. Also in the news: Open enrollment time, how to finance a car at 0% interest, and 3 ways to protect your retirement savings from a market crash.

College Degrees Can Be a Bargain Abroad
Considering international universities.

Open Enrollment at Work: Get Ready to Get Choosyst
Finding the best plan.

How to Finance a Car at 0% Interest
Getting the best rate.

401(k) uncertainty? 3 ways to protect your retirement savings from a market crash
Protecting your future.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why you need a 401(k) in your 20s. Also in the news: How being lazy can help you save money, the new rules of credit card point etiquette, and how to spot financial infidelity.

Yes, You Need a 401(k) in Your 20s — Here’s Why
Paving the long road.

How Being Lazy Can Help You Save Money
Automatic banking can help.

New Rules of Credit Card Points Etiquette
When to use your points.

How to Spot Financial Infidelity
Noticing the signs.

Q&A: Saving for retirement also means planning for the tax hit

Dear Liz: I’m 40. We own our house and have a young daughter. Through my current employer, I’m able to contribute to a regular 401(k) and also a Roth 401(k) retirement account. My company matches 3% if we contribute a total of 6% or more of our salaries. Are there any reasons I should contribute to both my 401(k) and Roth, or should I contribute only to my Roth? My salary and bonus is around $80,000 and I have about $150,000 in my 401(k) and about $30,000 in my Roth. Thanks very much for your time.

Answer: A Roth contribution is essentially a bet that your tax rate in retirement will be the same or higher than it is currently. You’re giving up a tax break now, because Roth contributions aren’t deductible, to get one later, because Roth withdrawals in retirement are tax free.

Most retirees see their tax rates drop in retirement, so they’re better off contributing to a regular 401(k) and getting the tax deduction sooner rather than later. The exceptions tend to be wealthier people and those who are good savers. The latter can find themselves with so much in their retirement accounts that their required minimum distributions — the withdrawals people must take from most retirement accounts after they’re 70½ — push them into higher tax brackets.

That’s why many financial planners suggest their clients put money in different tax “buckets” so they’re better able to control their tax bills in retirement. Those buckets might include regular retirement savings, Roth accounts and perhaps taxable accounts as well. Roths have the added advantage of not having required minimum distributions, so unneeded money can be passed along to your daughter.

Given that you’re slightly behind on retirement savings — Fidelity Investments recommends you have three times your salary saved by age 40 — you might want to put most of your contributions into the regular 401(k) because the tax break will make it easier to save. You can hedge your bets by putting some money into the Roth 401(k), but not the majority of your contributions.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: You could be overspending with credit cards. Yes, you. Also in the news: Your excuses for not contributing to a 401(k) are dwindling, which is the best way for you to zap your debt, and how millennials can prepare for the next financial crisis.

You Could Be Overspending With Credit Cards. Yes, You.
Keeping your spending in check.

Your Excuses for Not Contributing to a 401(k) Are Dwindling
No more excuses.

Different Ways to Zap Your Debt: Which Is for You?
Finding the best way to conquer your debt.

How millennials can prepare for the next financial crisis
Preparing for the inevitable.

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.”