Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Americans don’t know much about taxes – or that they might get them done for free. Also in the news: 19 ways to save on a wedding, why you shouldn’t buy a salvage title car, and 8 tax tips for people with disabilities (and their caregivers).

Americans Don’t Know Much About Taxes — or That They Might Get Them Done for Free
Stop paying unnecessary tax expenses.

19 Ways to Save on a Wedding
Saving on the wedding means more money for the future.

Why You Shouldn’t (Usually) Buy a Salvage Title Car
Proceed with an abundance of caution.

8 Tax Tips for People With Disabilities (and Their Caregivers)
Maximizing your deductions and making the process easier.

The never-ending car payment

Car payments have morphed from a temporary nuisance into a permanent part of many people’s budgets. Whether that’s a bad thing depends on what you do with the rest of your money.

One-third of millennial car buyers chose a lease last year, which helped push auto lease volume to a record of 4.3 million and 31 percent of all new auto purchases, according to market research by Edmunds.com.

“There is a greater percentage of people who view car ownership as a monthly payment like their cell phone or cable or Wi-Fi,” says Jessica Caldwell, executive director of strategic analytics at Edmunds.com. “It’s just the way we live our lives.”

In my latest for the Associated Press, why millennials are looking at cars the same way they look at cell phones, and the financial implications.

Q&A: Letting car be repossessed will make debt problem worse

Dear Liz: I own a car that I can no longer afford. Unfortunately, buying it was a poor decision and came with terrible interest rates and terms. I’ve been 30 to 60 days late on the payments for close to a year and have other debts that I haven’t been able to pay. Because of this, my credit is already in the basement. I’m underwater on the car (by about $7,000) and am feeling like the only option is to have it “voluntarily” repossessed. I really feel that if I didn’t have this $400 payment and another $200 a month in car-related costs, I could get my other debts squashed, build some savings and get in a much better place financially. I should mention that I have another (free!) car available to me when I need it and live in an area with reliable public transit, plus I have carpooling options that can get me to and from work at little to no cost. I have no major plans for anything that would require amazing credit scores. I have a stable job and rent an apartment with my boyfriend, who has strong credit but not a huge capacity to help financially. Am I insane? How would I even begin to recover from a repossession?

Answer: Having your car repossessed won’t relieve you of the debt. In fact, your debt is likely to increase.

Repossession costs such as storage, preparation for sale and attorney fees can be added to your loan balance. You’ll owe the difference between that amount and the price the creditor gets for the vehicle when it’s resold, often at auction.

If you don’t pay what you owe, your creditor can sue you — and probably will, given that nice steady job with reliable wages that can be garnished.

So yes, you probably would be insane to think repossession is the answer to your situation.

Usually the best solution when you owe more than a car is worth is to “drive out of the loan” — in other words, to own the car at least until the loan is paid off. In your case, the best solution may be to park the car while you pay it off. A parked car doesn’t need much gas or maintenance (as long as you start it occasionally). You may be able to get discounts on insurance and registration if you don’t operate it.

If you still can’t make ends meet, then get a second job that will bring in some extra cash. Pay off the loan as quickly as possible and then start saving to pay cash for your next car. Also work on repairing your credit so that if you want loans in the future you’ll be able to get decent rates and terms.

Wonder Why You’re Broke? Look in the Driveway

Rockhead126's_1951_Mercury_CustomIf you’re struggling to make ends meet, your problem may not be too many lattes or dinners out. It may be sitting in your driveway.

Your monthly car payment is the tip of the iceberg.

Counting gas, registration and taxes, depreciation, tires, insurance and finance charges, Americans spend $8,700 a year on average — $725 a month — for the privilege of owning a typical midsize sedan, according to AAA, and more than $10,600 a year for an SUV. If you’re struggling with bad credit, the increased cost of financing and insurance will push those numbers even higher.

In my latest for NerdWallet, how to determine if you have too much car in your driveway.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

medical concept -  stethoscope over the dollar billsToday’s top story: How many accounts are too many on your credit report? Also in the news: What your car is really costing you, how to manage your money in your 30’s, and it’s time to spring clean your finances.

Do I Have Too Many Accounts on My Credit Report?
The answer may surprise you.

What your car really costs you
Has your car turned into a money pit?

How to Manage Money in Your 30s
This decade could be pivotal to your financial future.

5 Ways to Spring Clean Your Finances
Winter is finally over!

3 Health Myths that Cost You Money
Not taking care of yourself could be costing you money.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

valentines-day-money-100092381726Today’s top story: How your net worth can keep your budget in check. Also in the news: What to do when your employer switches 401(k)s, protecting elderly parents finances, and watching out for Valentine’s Day scams.

Calculate Your Net Worth While Budgeting to Maintain Perspective
Looking at the bigger picture in order to focus on the smaller one.

Your Best Moves When an Employer Switches 401(k)s
First move: Don’t panic.

Why Do Elderly Parents Fall For Scams That Seem So Obvious To Us?
How to protect elderly parents from falling victim to financial predators.

Don’t Fall for these 5 Valentine’s Day Scams
Guarding your heart and your money.

The Hidden Costs of Buying a Car
Don’t let your wallet get taken for a ride.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How driving could affect your credit. Also in the news: The five C’s of credit, what you shouldn’t do this Christmas, and what we can learn about personal finance from three holiday classics.

How Does Driving Affect Your Credit?
Unpaid tickets could wreck your credit score.

The 4 Judgments Every Lender Makes Based on Your Credit
Introducing the five C’s of credit.

Essential Personal Finance Lessons From Three Holiday Classics
Kevin McAllister, coupon king.

Ten financial don’ts this Christmas
Advice from the experts on what you shouldn’t do this Christmas.

Everything I’ve Learned About Personal Finance in 10 Sentences
Short and sweet advice.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

School Kids DiversityWhy schools are lacking financial literacy classes, what retirees need to consider before buying a new car, and how to get the most from your wholesale club membership.

Why We Want—But Can’t Have—Personal Finance in Schools
Is financial literacy as important as historical literacy?

Should Retirees Finance a Car or Pay Cash?
Several things retirees should consider before getting behind the wheel.

10 Mistakes Even Savvy Stock Investors Make
Tweeter does not equal Twitter.

Don’t Count on Home Equity to Fund Retirement
Being realistic about the equity in your home.

Ways to Save: Best, worst buys at wholesale clubs
Do you really need that ten pound jar of peanuts?