You’re married, but your assets don’t have to be

People who aren’t rich or famous typically don’t have prenuptial agreements, which are legal documents detailing who gets what in a divorce. Even ordinary folks without prenups, though, should think about how to protect their money if something goes wrong.

Planning for divorce may be cynical, but it’s also smart, San Diego certified financial planner Ginita Wall says.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how to protect your assets in case the unthinkable happens.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to do if the new tax law changes your paycheck. Also in the news: The smartest way to use gift cards, giving up your brick-and-mortar bank, and smart money moves for Black Americans in financial distress.

What to Do If the New Tax Law Changes Your Paycheck
What to look out for.

The Smartest Way to Use Gift Cards
How to get the most value.

Can You Afford to Give Up Your Brick-and-Mortar Bank?
Making the switch to mobile banking.

Smart Money Moves for Black Americans in Financial Distress
Fighting against income disparity.

Should we pay people to save?

Long ago, people were rewarded for saving. Banks contributed something known as “interest” to the amounts deposited in savings accounts.

OK, technically they still do, but you’d be forgiven for not noticing the tiny amounts added in a low-rate environment. The current average interest rate on savings accounts is 0.06 percent.

Anemic rates may not be a major reason why Americans don’t save enough, but there’s some evidence that better rewards could induce more people to save. Two approaches that seem to work: matching funds and prize-linked accounts.

In my latest for the Associated Press, could rewarding people for saving get them to save more?

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Cryptocurrency for beginners. Also in the news: How credit card rewards made a couple’s dreams come true, when to tell your partner that you’re in serious debt, and why you should get a new bank if you’re paying fees.

Cryptocurrency for Beginners: 7 Questions to Ask
Understanding the hottest money trend.

How Credit Card Rewards Made Their Dreams Come True
Building rewards with an ultimate goal in mind.

Ask Brianna: Should I Tell My Partner I’m in Serious Debt?
When it’s time to confess.

If You’re Paying Fees of Any Kind, Get a New Bank
Don’t pay for your banking.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How your wallet can do more good this year. Also in the news: Talking money with our partners, how to file a claim in the Western Union fraud case, and why the Dow Jones breaking records isn’t helping your bottom line.

How Your Wallet Can Do More Good This Year
Putting your money where your values are.

Breaking the Last Taboo: Talking Money With Our Partners
Having the tough conversations.

Western Union Fraud Case: How to File a Claim
You have until February 12th.

Why the Dow Jones Breaking Records Isn’t Helping Your Bottom Line
When the numbers don’t match up.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 surprising factors that can inflate your car insurance rate. Also in the news: The best banks and credit unions for 2018, 3 housing trends to pay attention to, and documents you need if your kid is 18.

5 Surprising Factors That Inflate Your Car Insurance Rate
Not just accidents.

The Best Banks and Credit Unions for 2018
Where to do your banking.

3 Months, 3 Housing Trends: Buyer Prep, Loan Rates, Taxes
Planning to buy or sell? You’ll want to pay attention to these trends.

If Your Kid Is 18, You Need These Documents
Crucial papers to have handy.

Q&A: How to cash savings bonds for children

Dear Liz: My son is trying to cash in his children’s savings bonds, which seems to be difficult. You used to be able to go to a bank to do that. Is that still possible? If not, how can you do it now?

Answer: If the bonds were electronic, they probably would be held in a special minor’s account at TreasuryDirect.gov, the government site that allows investors to buy and redeem Treasury securities. If your son was identified as the person to have authority over the account, it would be relatively easy for him to redeem them.

We’ll assume, then, that your son is dealing with paper bonds. We’ll further assume that your grandchildren are still minors and that your son is cashing these bonds for their benefit, rather than his own. Many banks are leery of cashing children’s bonds precisely because parents (or people posing as parents) may be trying to rip off their kids.

Parents are allowed to redeem a child’s paper saving bond if the child lives with that parent and is too young to sign the request for payment, according to TreasuryDirect. The parent should write the following on the back of the bond:

“I certify that I am the parent of [child’s name]. [Child’s name] resides with me / I have been granted legal custody of [child’s name]. [She / he] is ___ years old and is not of sufficient understanding to make this request.” Your son should find a bank willing to certify or guaranty his signature. Then, in the presence of the bank representative, he must sign the request with his name “on behalf of [child’s name].”

Then he can send them to Treasury Retail Securities Site, PO Box 214, Minneapolis, MN 55480-0214. If the bonds are electronic, he can log into TreasuryDirect.com and follow the instructions there. Your son can contact the U.S. Treasury at (844) 284-2676 for further details.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Learn the truth about overdraft fees and save money. Also in the news: Beware the Dead Cat Bounce (and other stock market jargon), students breathe easy on the tax bill, and what will be more (and less) expensive in 2018.

Learn the Truth About Overdraft Fees — and Save Money
Looking at alternatives.

Beware the Dead Cat Bounce (and Other Stock Market Jargon)
Learning the language of Wall Street.

Students Breathe Easy on Tax Bill but Other Battles Loom
A momentary reprieve.

What will be more (and less) expensive in 2018
Travel prices are going up.

Would a bank payday loan be any safer?

A “safer” payday loan sounds like an oxymoron. Critics have branded these notoriously high-cost loans as debt traps that cause borrowers to go ever deeper in the hole.

Thanks to a recent regulatory change, it now may be possible for banks to offer small, short-term loans that could be a lot less dangerous for borrowers. Whether banks will actually do so remains to be seen.

The right moves could save low- and moderate-income Americans billions of dollars a year. The wrong moves could create yet another sinkhole for those who are already struggling. In my latest for the Associated Press, how to avoid falling into the payday loan trap.