Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why your kid should help pay for college. Also in the news: 5 reasons for flyers to love the middle seat, tips for Labor Day sales, and why you should prioritize building up your cash reserves.

Why Your Kid Should Help Pay for College
It’s their education, after all.

5 Reasons for Flyers to Love the Middle Seat
No, really.

Work Less, Save More at Labor Day Sales With These Tips
Bargain hunting.

Prioritize Building Up Your Cash Reserves
Creating a cushion.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to stretch your spending money in college. Also in the news, 4 places to find last-minute scholarships, why your house is not a piggy bank, and 6 financial microhabits that can make you rich.

How to Stretch Your Spending Money in College
Making it last week-to-week.

4 Places to Find Last-Minute Scholarships
You still have (a little bit of) time.

Your House Isn’t a Piggy Bank
Don’t treat it like one.

6 Financial Microhabits That Can Make You Rich
Even the tiniest habit can make a difference.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How couples with kids retired early. Also in the news: 5 credit card tips to take to college and beyond, how a self-taught baker became a rising entrepreneur, and what not to do when hiring a lawyer.

How They Retired Decades Early — With Kids
How two families pulled it off.

5 Credit Card Habits to Take to College and Beyond
Track your spending.

How a Self-Taught Baker Became a Rising Entrepreneur
Feel inspired.

What Not to Do When Hiring a Lawyer
Save on fees when avoiding these mistakes.

What do colleges want? It’s hiding in plain sight

The college application process can seem pretty mysterious to the uninitiated.

But what colleges want from their applicants isn’t a secret. Schools telegraph what they’re after in the form of big data that’s available online to anyone.

High school students can use that data to apply where they will be strong candidates, boosting their chances of admission and financial aid.

In my latest for the Associated Press, here’s what to look for.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to leverage great credit without borrowing a dime. Also in the news: How to get your taxes done for free, how to hang on to more cash, and how to save for your kid’s college and still live.

How to Leverage Great Credit Without Borrowing a Dime
Capitalizing on great credit.

How to Get Your Taxes Done for Free
Examinging the offers.

To Hang On to More Cash, Let Go of These in 2018
Time to get rid of those delivery apps.

How to Save for Your Kid’s College and Still Live
The saving doesn’t have to be painful.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What doesn’t affect your credit score. Also in the news: A crash course for first-time Black Friday shoppers, how far your money will stretch on Black Friday, and how to pick a college that won’t break the bank.

What Doesn’t Affect Your Credit Score
Focusing on the important factors.

A Crash Course for First-Time Black Friday Shoppers
Tips for rookies.

See How Far Your Money Will Stretch on Black Friday
Getting the most for your money.

How to pick a college that won’t break the bank
Avoiding years of student loan repayment.

Q&A: Help your son by helping yourself

Dear Liz: I’m a new mom and want to start saving for my son’s college/car/other life expenses while also planning a secure future for him. If I only had, for example, $300 a month to put toward this goal, what would you recommend I spend it on? Life insurance? Savings accounts for him? Savings accounts for my household? A 401(k)? Stashing away money under the mattress? Something else I haven’t thought of yet? I just want to make sure I’m doing the very best for my son and our future.

Answer: Congratulations and welcome to the wonderful adventure that is parenthood.

This adventure won’t be cheap. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the cost of raising a child to age 18 is now $233,610 for a middle-income married couple with two kids. Your mileage will vary, of course, but there’s no denying that your income will have to stretch to cover a lot more now that you’re providing for a child.

Your impulse will be to put your son first. To best care for him, though, your own financial house needs to be in order.

Begin by creating a “starter” emergency fund of $500 or so. Many people live paycheck to paycheck, which means any small expense can send them into a tailspin. Eventually you’ll want a bigger rainy-day fund, but it could take several years to build up the recommended three months’ worth of expenses, and you don’t want to put other crucial goals on hold for that long.

Once your starter fund is in place, you should contribute enough to your 401(k) to at least get the full company match. Matches are free money that you shouldn’t pass up.

You probably need life insurance as well, but don’t get talked into an expensive policy that doesn’t give you enough coverage. Young parents typically need up to 10 times their incomes, and term policies are the most affordable way to get that much coverage.

After life insurance is in place, you can boost both your retirement and emergency savings until those accounts are on track. If you still have money left over to devote to your son’s future, then consider contributing to a 529 college savings account. These accounts allow you to invest money that can be used tax free to pay for qualifying education expenses anywhere in the country (and many colleges abroad, as well).

Keep in mind that post-secondary education really isn’t optional anymore, particularly if you want your kid to remain (or get into) the middle class. Some kind of vocational or college degree is all but essential, and the money spent can have a huge payoff in terms of his future earnings.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to buy (and skip) in September. Also in the news: How to choose an airline credit card, how to help parents pay off college debt, and why the average American saves less than 5%.

What to Buy (and Skip) in September
Need a new mattress?

How to Choose an Airline Credit Card
Maximizing your miles.

Ask Brianna: How Do I Help My Parents Pay Off College Debt?
Contributing to the costs.

Average American saves less than 5%. How do you stack up?
How much do you save?

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 back-to-college lessons on building credit. Also in the news: Focus on just one thing in order to retire early, 4 salary negotiation tactics that actually work, and what you need to know before switching to a cheaper phone plan.

5 Back-to-College Lessons on Building Credit
Preparing for a solid future.

To Retire Early, Focus on Just One Thing
Save like mad.

4 Salary Negotiation Tactics That Really Worked
How to get what you’re worth.

What You Need to Know Before Switching to a Cheaper Phone Plan
There will be changes.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to keep an eye on your college kid’s spending. Also in the news: How to help your kid get a credit card in college, what you need to know about stock splits, and the 10 things every non-finance person needs to know about finance.

How to Keep an Eye on Your College Kid’s Spending
Making sure they don’t go nuts.

How to Help Your Kid Get a Credit Card in College
Finding the best way to help.

Stock Splits: What They Are, How They Affect Your Portfolio
What you need to know.

10 Things Every Non-Finance Person Should Know About Finance
Learning the essentials.