Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to protect yourself during online transactions. Also in the news: Finding financial help when you’re not wealthy, saving money at the gas pump, and how to tell if your financial dreams are based in reality.

4 Tips for Secure Online Transactions
Protecting yourself while shopping online.

How to Find a Financial Advisor If You’re Not Rich
You don’t need to be loaded in order to get advice.

3 Secrets to Saving Money at the Pump
Following these tips could save you almost $500 a year.

Financial Goals: How To Tell If Yours Are Truly Realistic
Keeping your head out of the clouds.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Five pieces of personal finance advice from those in the know. Also in the news: Renting with bad credit, how to raise cash in an emergency, and when to admit your finances are out of control. Offering Advice

5 Pieces of Personal Finance Advice From Successful People
Listening to the experts.

How to Rent With Bad Credit
A low credit score doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t rent.

Ways to Raise Cash You Haven’t Thought Of
Tips on how to handle financial emergencies.

7 Warning Signs Your Finances Are Out of Order
When to admit you have a problem.

5 things you’ll pay less for in 2014
Cheaper gas could be on the way.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The key factors to getting the lowest mortgage rate. Also in the news: Personal finance trends for 2014, how to make teaching your kids about money fun, and what you can do to make good financial decisions all day long. girlcoins

The Most Important Factors to Getting the Lowest Mortgage Rate
Your credit score is key.

5 personal finance trends to expect in 2014
Mortgage rates will begin to slowly increase.

Making Financial Literacy Fun
Teaching your kids about money doesn’t have to be torture.

5 Ways to Make Good Money Choices All Day Long
Daily reminders can be a big help.

10 money lessons from elderly Americans
Advice from those who have seen it all.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Understanding your credit reports. Also in the news: Sticking to your financial resolutions, the pros and cons of money apps, and confessing your deep, dark money secrets to your financial advisor. Offering Advice

How to Read Your Credit Reports
How to make sure you’re finding any and all errors.

The 3 Pitfalls Likely To Derail Your Financial Resolutions
Steeling your resolve and avoiding money traps.

Are Apps Helping or Hurting Your Finances?
Could your savings apps cause you to spend more money instead of less?

3 Big Secrets You Should Tell Your Financial Advisor
They’ve seen and heard it all.

5 Tips for Preparing for 2014 Taxes
Time to start getting your paperwork in order.

Great money books to get or give

Christmas shopping woman holding giftsDonna Freedman was kind enough to include a couple of my books in her recent post, “The gift of personal finance,” which made me realize that there was an unusually good crop of money tomes that appeared this year.

I’m delighted to recommend the following for anyone who’s interested in making the most of his or her money:

The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese,” by Brian J. O’Connor. How often do you laugh out loud when reading a personal finance book? Brian is flat-out hilarious, and his ultimately-successful efforts to trim his family’s spending are both entertaining and educational.
Confessions of a Credit Junkie: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Mistakes I Made” by Beverly Harzog. I wrote the forward to this book because its author’s message is so important: that you can bounce back from a credit disaster without forsaking plastic for the rest of your life.
The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement: How to Save Your Future Today” by Mary Hunt. Mary is best known for her Debt-Proof Living website and her books about saving money (which always teach me a thing or two). She brings her trademark approachable style to the often scary and sometimes complex world of retirement savings. She offers wisdom, practical ideas and hope to those who may be struggling with how to make their retirement dreams come true.
I’ll have more recommendations in the coming days. Stay tuned!

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to avoid charity scams. Also in the news: Money lessons from retirees, money-saving tips for travelers, and how a grandparents’ gift for college could ruin a student’s financial aid.

4 Ways to Avoid Charity Scams
Protecting your empathy from being preyed upon.

5 Financial Lessons from Retirees
Voices of experience.

3 Smart Money-Saving Tips For Your Travels
More money for souvenirs!

Grandparents’ 529 College Distributions Can Be a Ticking Time Bomb
A loving gesture which could ruin a student’s financial aid.

Laid Off? 5 Tips To Get Back On Your Feet
How not to become complacent during a layoff.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

My first carBusting credit myths, credit goals for 20-somethings, and the evolving list of what your home insurance will and won’t cover.

6 Credit Myths That Can Wreck Your Finances
It’s time to bust some credit myths.

10 Amazing Pieces Of Financial Advice Stuffed Into 1 Cheat Sheet
Everything you need on a simple index card.

5 Critical Financial Goals for 20-Somethings (Hint: One Goal Makes You ‘Poorer’)
With adulthood comes great financial responsibility.

5 Bad Habits of New Car Owners That Ruin a Vehicle’s Value
You’ve got to treat your new baby right.

6 Things Home Insurance Won’t Cover
Sharknado, yes. Mold, no.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

bad creditLearning how to take advice, cleaning up your credit report, and why working an extra year or two could be a good thing.

Why Can’t We Follow Simple, Good Money Advice?
Why is it so hard to adhere to the basics?

10 Steps to Help Erase Errors on Your Credit Report
Tips on removing errors from you all-important credit report.

8 Costs to Consider When Buying a Rental Property
Rental properties can be a great investment, but there are things you need to watch out for.

Is That Credit Card Surcharge Illegal?
Depending on where you live, that fee to use your card could be against the law.

When Should You Delay Retirement?
Could delaying your retirement pay off in the end?

Save or pay debt? Do both

Dear Liz: I am a 67-year-old college instructor who plans to teach full time for at least eight more years. Last year I began collecting spousal benefits based on my ex-husband’s Social Security earnings record. Those benefits give me an extra $1,250 each month above my regular income. I have been using the money to pay down a home equity line of credit that I have on my condo. The credit line now has a balance of $29,000. I have about $200,000 in mutual funds and should have a small pension when I retire. (I went into teaching only a few years ago.) Would it be better for me to split the extra monthly $1,250 into investments as well as paying off my line of credit? The idea of having no loan on my condo appeals to me, but I wonder if I should try to invest in stocks and bonds instead.

Answer: Paying down debt is important, but opportunities to save in tax-advantaged retirement plans are typically more important. Fortunately, you probably have enough money to do both.

First investigate whether your college offers a 403(b) or other retirement program that offers a match. If it does, you should be contributing at least enough to that plan to get the full match.

Your next step is to explore an IRA. Since you’re covered by at least one retirement plan at work (your pension), you would be able to deduct a full IRA contribution only if your modified adjusted gross income as a single taxpayer is $59,000 or less in 2013. The ability to deduct a contribution phases out completely at $69,000.

If you can’t deduct your contribution, consider putting the money into a Roth IRA instead. Roth contributions aren’t deductible, but withdrawals in retirement are tax free. Having a bucket of tax-free money to draw upon in retirement can help you better manage your tax bill, which is why some investors opt to contribute to Roths even when they could get a deduction elsewhere.

People 50 and older can contribute up to $6,500 this year directly to a Roth if their income is under certain limits. (For singles, the limit for a full contribution is a modified adjusted gross income of $112,000 or less.) If your income is over the limit, you can contribute to a traditional IRA and then immediately convert the money into a Roth IRA, since there’s no income limit on conversions. (This is known as a “back door” Roth contribution.)

Since you’re so close to retirement, you don’t want to overdose on stocks, but you still need a significant amount of stock market exposure so that your money has a chance to offset future inflation. You might consider a balanced fund that invests 60% in stocks, 40% in bonds.

Once you’ve taken advantage of your retirement savings options, you can direct the rest of your Social Security benefit to paying off your home equity line. These credit lines typically have low but variable rates. Higher interest rates are likely in our future, so paying this line down over time is a prudent move.

Our #CreditChat is about to begin!

liz-westonIn a few minutes I’ll be answering your questions about how to deal with your debt on Experian’s #CreditChat, which starts at 3 p.m. Eastern/noon Pacific today. Topics include how to balance savings and paying off debt, which debts to tackle first, how to handle student loans and what to do if you’re drowning in debt. Easy ways to follow the conversation include Twubs or tchat.

Please join us!