Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 3 questions couples should ask before getting a dog. Also in the news: 4 Black Friday facts retailers don’t want you to know, what to buy and skip this Black Friday, and the number one financial fear for most Americans.

3 Questions Couples Should Ask Before Getting a Dog
A financial commitment.

4 Black Friday Facts Retailers Don’t Want You to Know
Black Friday secrets.

What to Buy (and Skip) on Black Friday 2017
Start making a list.

Financial fears? This is No. 1 for most Americans
Money monsters under the bed.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to foil 5 common bank fees from draining your funds. Also in the news: How to talk – not fight – about money with your spouse, the real cost of owning a pet, and how Equifax ignored warning about security vulnerabilities.

How to Foil 5 Common Bank Fees From Draining Your Funds
Don’t let them take your money.

How to Talk — Not Fight — About Money With Your Spouse
Peaceful talks over a tough subject.

How Much Does Owning a Pet Really Cost?
Affording Fido.

Equifax Was Warned About Vulnerability But Failed To Patch It
A nightmare that could have been prevented.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 10-word answers to your biggest hurricane insurance questions. Also in the news: How to prepare before a hurricane hits, ditching debt when you’re newly single, and how to bring up money for the first time.

10-Word Answers to Your Biggest Hurricane Insurance Questions
What you need to know.

How to Prepare Before a Hurricane Hits
Essential tips.

How I Ditched Debt: Newly Single, ‘I Knew I Had to Help Myself’
Protecting yourself first.

How to Bring Up Money for the First Time in a Relationship
Making the first move.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 3 money tools to save you from yourself. Also in the news: Why paying off debt with retirement money can be dangerous, how to make money selling stuff online, and why you should think twice before giving up financial control at the altar.

3 Money Tools to Save You From Yourself
We could all use a little help.

A High-Wire Act: Paying Off Debt With Retirement Money
A dicey proposition.

How to Make Money Selling Stuff Online
Putting money in your pockets by creating room in your closet.

Think twice before giving up financial control at the altar
Create a balance instead.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Budgeting for newlyweds. Also in the news: What you need to know about May’s Fed meeting, should a partner’s debt keep you from marrying, and a retirement literacy quiz you need to pass.

Budgeting for Newlyweds: Figuring Out Family Finance
Now comes the fun part.

May 2017 Fed Meeting: 7 Questions (and Answers)
What you need to know.

Ask Brianna: Should My Partner’s Debt Keep Us From Marrying?
Things to consider.

A retirement literacy quiz you need to pass
Knowing the essentials.

Q&A:Prenup may help with student loan issue

Dear Liz: You recently heard from someone who discovered after marriage that his wife had more than $100,000 in student loans. Would having a prenuptial agreement help in this situation?

Answer: Possibly. Debts incurred before marriage are considered separate rather than joint debts, but creditors still sometimes try to go after joint assets to get paid. A prenuptial agreement, which is a written contract created before marriage, could help a couple limit liability for each other’s debts.

In this case, the husband was willing to help his wife resolve the debts, but knowing about them before marriage would have been helpful — to put it mildly. The loans probably would have turned up during the financial disclosures required when drafting a prenuptial agreement. Even couples who won’t consider a prenup should pull their credit reports together so each knows what he or she is getting into.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What’s love got to do with a Roth IRA? Also in the news: Are you ready for a joint bank account, why America needs black-owned banks, and 3 health insurance tax benefits you can get in 2017.

What’s Love Got to Do With a Roth IRA?
Saving for the golden years.

Two Hearts, One Bank Account: Are You Ready?
Ready to take the big step?

Why America Needs Black-Owned Banks
Honoring history.

3 health insurance tax benefits you can get in 2017
Maximizing your savings.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Creating a budget isn’t as scary as it sounds. Also in the news: How filing separately could give some couples a lower tax bill, the history of the credit card, and how to protect your family business during a divorce.

Creating a Budget Isn’t as Scary as It Sounds
Taking the first step.

Filing Separately Could Give Some Couples a Lower Tax Bill
When it makes sense to file separately.

The History of the Credit Card
The origins of our favorite plastic.

How to protect your family business during a divorce
Protecting a legacy.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: A financial advisor’s tips for starting an emergency fund. Also in the news: How small homes can offer big returns, why partner’s wealth is very important to only 5% of OKCupid users, and how to raise financially savvy kids.

Emergency Funds: A Financial Advisor’s Tips for Getting Started
Start your fund today.

Small Homes Can Offer Big Returns
Bigger homes aren’t always better.

Partner’s Wealth ‘Very Important’ to Only 5% of OkCupid Users, Survey Finds
Why money doesn’t seem to matter.

How to raise financially savvy kids
Getting them off on the right foot.

Q&A: When a new spouse brings surprise debt to the marriage

Dear Liz: I’m 58 and got married for the first time almost two years ago. I discovered my wife has several incredibly large outstanding student loans, including a parent Plus loan for her son’s education that she thought was in deferment and that has nearly doubled to well over $100,000. In addition, my wife has her own student loans, which total over $40,000 and have rates from 3% to nearly 7%. Needless to say, I was shocked and dismayed to discover this debt and wish she had shared it with me earlier.

We have looked into consolidating the loans into the U.S. Department of Education’s student debt relief program, which creates a monthly payment program based on income and forgives the remaining balance after 25 years. I’m uncomfortable with this plan. The long duration of monthly payments would be a big struggle and, after 25 years, we would have paid nearly $40,000 over the current principal even with the outstanding balance being forgiven.

I’m contemplating liquidating all my non-retirement accounts and half of our savings to pay off the larger parent PLUS loan.This would leave us with very little liquid reserve but still some substantial retirement accounts. Our combined income is around $75,000. We would then consolidate my wife’s lower-rate debt and try to take a personal loan out to pay off the higher rate loans if we can secure a lower rate. Do you have any other suggestions as to my options?

Answer: Your situation is a perfect example of why couples should review each other’s credit reports before marriage. At the very least, you could have figured out a plan to deal with the debt at least two years earlier and saved the interest that’s accrued since then.

As you probably know, your wife is stuck with this debt. The government can pursue her to her grave because there’s no statute of limitations on federal student loan debt collections. The government also can take part of her Social Security retirement or disability checks, something collectors of other kinds of debt can’t do. Even bankruptcy isn’t a viable option for most borrowers because student loan debt is extremely hard to get erased.

It’s understandable that you don’t want to be making student loan payments into your 80s, but paying the loans off much faster probably isn’t a reasonable option, given your income. So liquidating other assets to pay off the parent loan may be the best option. The wisdom of this approach, however, depends on how well you’ve saved for retirement, your job security and how much of an emergency fund would remain. If you lost your job after paying off the parent loan, you couldn’t get that money back to pay your expenses. By contrast, you could have your payment lowered under the Department of Education’s plan if you lost a source of income.

Consolidating your wife’s debt inside the federal student loan program would allow her to retain some important consumer protections that aren’t available with other debt, such as the ability to defer payments for up to three years if she faces an economic setback. If you do refinance your wife’s debt with private lenders to lower the rate, consider doing so with a private student loan rather than a personal loan if you want to retain the ability to write off the interest.

This is a complex decision with a lot of moving parts, so you’d be smart to discuss your plan with a fee-only financial planner before deciding what to do.