Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to buy and skip in September. Also in the news: 5 times to stash your cash and pay with plastic, what college freshman need to know about their student loans, and how to choose the best approach to managing your investments.

What to Buy (and Skip) in September

5 Times to Stash Your Cash and Pay With Plastic
Protecting your purchases.

What College Freshmen Need to Know About Their Student Loans
A whole new world of financial obligation.

How to choose the best approach to managing your investments


It’s all about streamlining.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Amazon Prime hits $119. You’ll probably pay it. Also in the news: Understanding a bear market, 5 money mistakes 20-somethings make, and the 3 best reasons to rent your home instead of buying.

Amazon Prime Hits $119. You’ll Probably Pay It.
It’s about more than just free shipping.

What Is a Bear Market?
Investment prices are dropping.

Ask Brianna: 5 Money Mistakes 20-Somethings Make
How to side step them.

The 3 best reasons to rent your home instead of buying
Not every reason is financial.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: If you sold fearing a market crash, here’s what to do now. Also in the news: Why you should look under the hood of your target-date fund, a home buyer’s guide to motivated sellers, and is Amazon Prime worth its new price?

If You Sold Fearing a Market Crash, Here’s What to Do Now
Getting back in the game.

It’s Time to Look Under the Hood of Your Target-Date Fund
Taking a closer look.

A Home Buyer’s Guide to Motivated Sellers
Making the right match.

Is Amazon Prime worth its new $119 price tag?
The online giant is raising Prime prices.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The most and least affordable places to buy a home. Also in the news: 3 investments that aren’t actually investments, why credit card rewards may lose their sparkle, and how to ask for a raise.

The Most and Least Affordable Places to Buy a Home
Some of these may surprise you.

3 Investments That Aren’t Actually Investments
The true definition of investment.

Credit Card Rewards May Lose Sparkle, but Not Value
Rewards could get a lot more personal.

Use This Formula to Ask for a Raise
Getting what you’re worth.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 3 ways to invest in your career this week. Also in the news: How to pick stock investments, checking accounts for seniors, and using your emergency savings to pay off credit card debt.

3 Ways to Invest in Your Career This Week
Give your career a boost.

How to Pick Stock Investments
Choosing wisely.

Checking Accounts for Seniors
Know the perks.

Should You Pay Off Your Credit Card Debt With Your Emergency Savings?
Start making short-term sacrifices.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Making your investing resolutions a reality in 2018. Also in the news: Free activities to get your family out of the house, learn the truth about overdraft fees, and 3-month Equifax fraud alerts are expiring.

Make Your Investing Resolutions Reality in 2018
A whole new outlook for a new year.

Get Your Family Out of the House With These Free Activities
Fun doesn’t have to cost money.

Learn the Truth About Overdraft Fees — and Save Money
Expensive mistakes.

Warning: Your 3-month Equifax fraud alert is expiring
Should you freeze your credit?

Q&A: How to find the right balance when investing

Dear Liz: My brokerage wanted me to start moving from stocks that paid me steady dividends into bonds as I got older. If I’d followed that advice, I wouldn’t be nearly where I am today. I sleep just fine with my dividends. Things can change, of course, but until I see solid evidence otherwise, I am sticking with my plan. I have no idea why the brokerage is still pushing the “more bonds with advancing age” idea.

Answer: Presumably you were invested during the financial crisis and saw the value of your stocks cut in half. If you can withstand that level of decline, then your risk tolerance is a good match for a portfolio that’s heavily invested in stocks.

The problem once you retire is that another big drop could have you siphoning money for living expenses from a shrinking pool. The money you spend won’t be in the market to benefit from the rebound. This is what financial planners call sequence risk or sequence-of-return risk, and it can dramatically increase the odds of running out of money.

Perhaps you plan to live solely off your dividends, but there’s no guarantee your buying power will keep up with inflation. Most people, unless they’re quite wealthy, wind up having to tap their principal at some point, which leaves them vulnerable to sequence risk.

There’s another risk you should know about: recency bias. That’s an illogical behavior common to humans that makes us think what happened in the recent past will continue to happen in the future, even when there’s no evidence that’s true and plenty of evidence to the contrary. During the real estate boom, for example, home buyers and pundits insisted that prices could only go up. We saw how that turned out.

Bonds and cash can provide some cushion against events we can’t foresee. The right allocation varies by investor, but consider discussing your situation with a fee-only financial planner to see how it aligns with your brokerage’s advice.

Investment fees could leave you old and broke

You want to save as much as possible for retirement. The financial services industry wants to make as much money off you as it can.

That thorny conflict is at the heart of the battle over what is known as the “fiduciary rule.” If implemented, it would require financial advisers to put clients’ best interests first when counseling them about retirement savings. In practice, it typically would prevent financial pros from steering you into a high-cost investment if similar low-cost choices are available.

The differences in fees — often fractions of a percent — may sound minuscule.

Over time, though, higher fees can dramatically reduce the amount of money that investors accumulate for retirement, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission and other investor watchdogs, and significantly increase the chances that savers will run out of money late in life.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how to save money for retirement without making the financial services industry even richer.

Q&A: Investors need to stop trying to time the market

Dear Liz: My 25-year-old son is a new investor. He put $11,000 ($5,500 each for 2016 and 2017) into an IRA in a money market fund with a discount brokerage firm. He doesn’t want to get into the market yet because he thinks it is in a bubble. I’m afraid with this strategy, he could be sitting there for a long time losing out to inflation. How would you present this argument?

Answer: You might ask him when he plans to enter the market. When stocks fall 10%? 20%? More? If stocks do tumble to his target level, there are likely to be plenty of scary headlines indicating that the market could fall further. Will he be able to follow through on his plan or will he put off investing — and miss the inevitable rise that will follow?

Newbie investors, and even some more experienced ones who should know better, often think that they can time the market. They can’t. They’re better off diving in with a well-diversified portfolio and adding to it regularly without worrying about the day-to-day swings of the market. Your son won’t need this money for decades, so there’s no sense fretting about what might happen tomorrow or next week. Over the next 40 years, he’ll see significant gains — but only if he gets off the sidelines and puts his money to work.

Q&A: Professional investment management fees

Dear Liz: I have an IRA with over $100,000 at a discount brokerage. I had it in a target date fund. Due to market downturns, I got nervous and was convinced to put my investment into the brokerage’s portfolio advisory services with additional fees coming to $1,600 per year. In general, is it wise to change investments to these more professional services?

Answer: If professional management keeps you from bailing out of your investments when markets decline, then paying a higher fee may be justified. But the higher the fees you pay, the less money you can accumulate. For example, your IRA could grow to more than $600,000 over 30 years if you net a 6% return. If your fees are one percentage point higher, and you net just 5%, you’d end up with less than $450,000.

Some discount brokers, including Schwab, Fidelity and Vanguard, now offer a low-cost “robo” option that invests your money using computer algorithms. These robo options don’t offer the highly customized investment portfolios that some other services provide, but they come at a much lower cost — typically 0.3% to 0.4%. A few, including Vanguard and Betterment, offer access to financial advisors.