Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Four times when you might need a financial planner. Also in the news: Understanding the Glass-Steagall Act, how to manage money in your 20s, and how the Affordable Care Act drove down personal bankruptcy.

4 Times When You Might Need a Financial Planner
Times when you shouldn’t go it alone.

The Glass-Steagall Act: What It Is and Why It Matters
Understanding the banking regulation.

How to Manage Money in Your 20s
Welcome to adulthood.

How the Affordable Care Act Drove Down Personal Bankruptcy

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Only 1 in 10 Americans are at Peak Financial Health. Also in the news: How to dodge stock market scams, when a tax refund means bankruptcy, and millennial parents face the reality of baby costs.

Only 1 in 10 Americans at Peak Financial Health
Where Americans are falling short.

How to Dodge Stock Market Scams
Protecting your investments.

When a Tax Refund Means Bankruptcy
Using a refund as a budget tool or a chance at a fresh start.

Millennial parents face the reality of baby costs
Babies are both adorable and expensive.

Q&A: What to do about heavy credit card debt

Dear Liz: I have a lot of credit card debt and am just able to make minimum payments. I feel like after doing this for four years now that I am not getting ahead. I will be 61 this summer and don’t have much saved for retirement. My rent keeps going up along with other expenses. I have an 11-year-old car that is in need of maintenance but don’t have the funds to do it. My question is, what would happen if I walk away from the credit card debt? Will I be facing garnishment?

Answer: Yes, you could be sued and face wage garnishment if you simply stopped paying your debts.

You could consider a debt management plan offered through a credit counselor, which could lower the interest rates you pay. You can get referrals from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at www.nfcc.org. But you’d be making payments for the next five years or so, when you could be putting that cash toward your retirement.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy, by contrast, would take a few months and legally erase your credit card debt to give you a fresh start. Bankruptcy is often the best of bad options when you can’t make progress on your debts. Consider meeting with both a credit counselor and a bankruptcy attorney so you understand all your options.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: There’s still time to make an IRA contribution for 2016. Also in the news: FAFSA tool outage, 4 money lies you might be telling yourself, and when a tax refund means bankruptcy.

There’s Still Time to Make an IRA Contribution for 2016
You have a couple more weeks.

FAFSA Tool Outage: Students It Affects Most and How to Cope
Added stress.

4 Money Lies You Might Be Telling Yourself
Time for the truth.

When a tax refund means bankruptcy
The means to pay for going broke.

Q&A: Credit score after bankruptcy

Dear Liz: This is just to add to your observation that credit scores tend to improve after a bankruptcy. I filed Chapter 13, which required a five-year repayment plan. At that point my score was around 640. The day of the discharge, I was able to get a car loan at 3% interest. Also, the bankruptcy dropped off my credit reports seven years from the filing date, and my scores actually dropped a good bit.

Answer: It’s pretty unusual for scores to go down after a bankruptcy drops off your credit reports. It’s possible you weren’t looking at the same type of score because there are many different formulas in use. It also could be there were other changes that happened simultaneously, such as a high balance on a credit account or an old, paid-off loan that a creditor stopped reporting.

It’s not unusual, though, for someone who completes a Chapter 13 to get a competitive rate on a loan where there’s collateral, such as an auto loan, assuming he has a job, credit score expert John Ulzheimer said.

“Debt free plus employed equals not a bad risk, especially if they put down a decent down payment,” Ulzheimer said.

Q&A: Fixing your credit scores after a bankruptcy

Dear Liz: How do you repair credit scores after filing for bankruptcy? My husband and I are in this situation and are looking to reestablish credit and increase our credit scores. Also, how long do closed accounts appear on the credit report?

Answer: Filing for bankruptcy may have actually helped your scores. Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found scores typically plunged in the 18 months before people filed for bankruptcy and rose steadily afterward. The average credit score before someone filed Chapter 7 was 538.2 on Equifax’s 280-to-850 scoring range. By the time filers’ cases were discharged, their average score was 620.3.

You can continue the upward trend with a credit-builder loan. These loans, typically offered by credit unions, put the money you borrow — usually $500 to $1,000 — into a certificate of deposit or savings account that you can claim once you’ve made 12 monthly payments. Your payments are reported to the credit bureaus, so you can build a decent credit history and your savings at the same time. If your local credit union doesn’t offer these loans, check to see if there’s a community development financial institution near you that does. You can find links to these at www.cdfifund.gov. Another option is Self Lender, an online company that makes credit-builder loans.

If you don’t already have a credit card, you can accelerate your scores’ rehabilitation with a secured credit card. You make a deposit, typically $200 to $2,000, with the issuing bank and get a credit line equal to that deposit. You should use the card lightly but regularly, being careful not to charge more than about 30% of its credit limit and paying the balance in full each month.

Another option is to wait until your scores are in the mid-600s and then apply for a regular credit card.

The bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for 10 years, but it will have less effect on your scores as time goes by as long as you continue to use credit responsibly.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

bankruptcy_formToday’s top story: Careers that can help you conquer your student debt faster. Also in the news: What a good credit card company will offer people with bad credit, how to pay for bankruptcy when you’re broke, and five apps that automate your money.

Some Careers Can Help You Conquer Student Debt Faster
Kissing your student debts goodbye.

4 Things a Good Credit Card Issuer Will Offer People With Bad Credit
Getting on the path to better credit.

How to Pay for Bankruptcy When You’re Broke
A classic Catch .22

5 apps that automate your money and make you richer
Building your savings a few cents at a time.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

140404-cash-atm-1203_33aa88b2625872d25efbac961d07e3a0-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000Today’s top story: What to know about credit counseling for bankruptcy. Also in the news: What to do when your ATM spits out counterfeit money, how your state department of insurance can be of assistance, and what to look out for when donating to Hurricane Matthew victims.

What to Know About Credit Counseling for Bankruptcy
What to expect from the mandatory counseling.

Your ATM Spit Out Counterfeit Money. Now What?
It could depend on your relationship with your bank.

How Your State Department of Insurance Can Help You
Answers beyond Google.

Watch out for charity scams for Hurricane Matthew victims
Be cautious when donating.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

pokemon-goToday’s top story: Protecting your kids and your data while playing Pokemon GO. Also in the news: Bankruptcy means test, the hidden student loan cost no one talks about, and what to do when you’ve been dumped by your bank.

Pokémon Go: How to Keep Your Kids and Your Data Safe
Gotta catch ’em all!

The Bankruptcy Means Test: What It Is, Why It Matters
Determining your bankruptcy eligibility.

The Hidden Student Loan Cost No One Talks About
Introducing interest capitalization.

Help! My Bank Dumped Me
What to do when your bank breaks up with you.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

bankruptcy_formToday’s top story: How to find a bankruptcy attorney. Also in the news: What consumers need to know about annuities, signs you need a new financial advisor, and what millennials should know about life insurance.

How to Find a Bankruptcy Attorney
Making the right selection.

What Consumers Need to Know About Annuities
Combining life insurance with investment.

7 Signs You Need a New Financial Advisor
When it’s time to go in another direction.

The First 4 Things Millennials Should Know About Life Insurance
Thinking long term.