Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 things debt collectors can’t do – and 5 they can. Also in the news: The pros and cons of dropshipping, protecting intellectual property, and how to choose a rewards credit card.

5 Things Debt Collectors Can’t Do — and 5 They Can
Learn the limits.

Dropshipping Cuts Your Inventory — and Control
The pros and cons.

Protecting Intellectual Property: A Guide for Entrepreneurs

How to choose a rewards credit card
Optimizing your rewards.

Debt settlement a bad alternative to bankruptcy

Debt settlement isn’t the Wild West industry it was a decade ago, when people routinely paid hefty upfront fees to companies that failed to deliver any relief.

Thanks to increased regulation and enforcement, the much smaller number of settlement companies that remain often do what they promise: persuade at least some of a borrower’s creditors to forgive part of the debt, typically in exchange for a lump sum payment.

Several people I’ve interviewed lately reported positive experiences with debt settlement, so I decided to take another look at the industry. It turns out that hiring a negotiator could be a reasonable alternative to bankruptcy for some. But debt settlement is not as consumer-friendly as the industry presents it, and some of the people who praised the companies didn’t fully understand their alternatives or the longer-term consequences of settling debt.

In my latest for the Associated Press, a look at the biggest problems with debt settlement.

Q&A: An Internet search isn’t the best way to find a credit counselor

Dear Liz: You’ve mentioned finding a nonprofit credit counselor and I was wondering the best way to go about that without feeling like I’ve been scammed. I’m wise enough (in my later years) to know that “nonprofit” does not mean free or even cheap services, so I didn’t want to just search for “nonprofit credit counseling, McKinney Texas.” Suggestions? Or should I do just that?

Answer: You can find a nonprofit credit counseling organization in your area using the National Foundation for Credit Counseling site at www.nfcc.org. NFCC is the oldest and largest credit counseling organization. Member organizations provide a variety of free and low-cost services. Those include financial education, credit report reviews and counseling about credit and debt, bankruptcy, foreclosure prevention, housing and reverse mortgages. If you’re struggling with credit card debt, these agencies provide debt management plans that can allow you to pay off your accounts at lower interest rates.

If you think you may need a debt management plan, you may also want to consult with a bankruptcy attorney. You can get referrals from the National Assn. of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys at www.nacba.org. Credit counselors — and their clients — are sometimes too optimistic about people’s ability to pay off debt, so you should understand the advantages and disadvantages of bankruptcy before you commit.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Brace yourself for higher car insurance rates. Also in the news: Making biweekly mortgage payments, paying down debt with extra payments, and the two stressful views about money half of millennials share.

Brace Yourself for Higher Car Insurance Rates
Why rates continue to climb.

Should You Make Biweekly Mortgage Payments?
What you need to know before switching.

How I Ditched Debt: Extra Payments Became Her Obsession
Chipping away bit by bit.

Half of millennials share two stressful views about money
Student loan debt causes great angst.

Stop counting other people’s money

Your neighbor pulls up in a sweet new ride. Your co-worker announces she’s taking yet another trip abroad. Your best friend upgrades to a bigger house in a better area of town.

You’re pretty sure these people don’t make a lot more than you do.

So how are they able to spend that kind of money?

Maybe they’re up to their ears in debt, or they’re trust fund babies, or they’ll never be able to retire. Or maybe they’ve figured out the secret to money, which is: You can have anything you want. You just can’t have everything.

The new car, that house and that exotic trip are the shiny end results of a series of decisions hidden below the surface. What we don’t see, typically, are the trade-offs – or their consequences.

In my latest for the Associated Press, why you need to focus on your own finances instead of counting other people’s money.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 debt questions you’re afraid to ask. Also in the news: The best accounts for short-term savings, the 10 most-stolen cars and the cost of theft insurance, and what happens when your bank loses a cash deposit.

5 Debt Questions You’re Afraid to Ask
We have the answers.

Best Accounts for Short-Term Savings
It depends on your timeline.

The 10 Most-Stolen Cars and the Cost of Theft Insurance
Is yours on the list?

What Happens When Your Bank Loses a Cash Deposit
Keep copies of everything.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Learning how to ditch debt. Also in the news: How to prepare for the change from corporate career to entrepreneur, how to teach your kids to be better with money than you are, and why Millennials are paying attention to their 401(k)s.

How I Ditched Debt: Making Sense of Cents
Every penny counts.

Corporate Career to Entrepreneur: How to Prep for the Leap
Making a big change.

How to teach your kids to be better with money than you are
Learning from your mistakes.

Millennials may be far from retirement, but think ahead with 401(k)
Planning for the future.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What would you give up to be debt free? Also in the news: What to know about alternative investments, what to buy (and skip) in August, and how money can actually buy happiness.

What Would You Give Up to Be Debt-Free?
Making sacrifices.

Alternative Investments: What to Know Before You Buy
Investments beyond stocks.

What to Buy (and Skip) in August
Preparing for back-to-school.

Yes, you can buy happiness … if you spend it to save time
Spending it the right way.

How debt consolidation can go wrong

Daniel Montville knew a debt consolidation loan wouldn’t solve his financial problems, but the hospice nurse hoped it would give him some breathing room. He had already filed for bankruptcy once, in 2005, and was determined not to do it again.

Montville took out the loan in 2015, but within a year he had fallen behind on its payments and on the payday loans he got to help his daughter, a single mother with four children. The payday lenders all but cleaned out his checking account each time a paycheck landed, leaving little money for necessities. Then his daughter lost her job, and the $5,000 tax refund she had promised to him as repayment went instead to supporting her kids.

“That’s when I wised up and realized this was a no-win situation,” says Montville, 49, of Parma, Ohio. Montville is now repaying his creditors under a five-year Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan.

In my latest for the Associated Press, learn why debt consolidation isn’t always the best idea.

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.