Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Mad at Equifax? Use that fuel to boost your cybersecurity. Also in the news: What to weight when considering a secured credit card, what not to do on your Facebook small business page, and 3 mistakes to avoid when picking a Medicare plan in open enrollment.

Mad at Equifax? Use That Fuel to Boost Your Cybersecurity
Batten down the hatches.

What to Weigh When Considering a Secured Credit Card
Things to watch out for.

What Not to Do on Your Facebook Small-Business Page
Setting the right tone.

Avoid these 3 mistakes when picking a Medicare plan during open enrollment
Choose wisely.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

1381460521Today’s top story: 7 ways to cover the cost of emergency home repairs. Also in the news: How to buy a home with a low down payment, breaking up with your credit card company, and 5 ways to save on Medicare.

7 Ways to Cover the Cost of Emergency Home Repairs
What to do when something goes kaput.

Beyond FHA Loans: How to Buy a Home With a Low Down Payment
Thinking outside the FHA box.

Are you using the wrong credit card?
Breaking up with your credit card company.

5 Ways to Save on Medicare
Mastering the Medicare maze.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

shutterstock_62636899Today’s top story: Getting your credit ready for holiday shopping. Also in the news: Keeping your Social Security plan on track despite higher Medicare premiums, 3 points to add to your year-end financial checklist, and shopping tricks to make your budget last longer.

How to Get Your Credit Ready for Holiday Shopping
And make January bills a bit less painful.

Don’t let higher Medicare premiums derail your Social Security plan
Keeping your plan on track.

Add these 3 points to your year-end financial checklist
Three more to-dos.

Smart Shopping Tricks to Make Your Budget Last All Month
Stretching your dollar.

The 10 Best States To Enjoy An Early Retirement
Is your state one of them?

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Getting the most from Medicare. Also in the news: Tips for smart student loan borrowing, the mistake single Americans are making with their retirement, and how to get the most from your credit card rewards.

Medicare’s Maze – How to Maximize Benefits
Navigating your way through.

Five Tips For Smart Student Loan Borrowing
Choose your loans wisely.

The Big Retirement Blunder Single Americans Are Making
Start saving, singles!

3 Ways to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards
Getting the most points/miles from your cards.

What 11 Successful People Wish They Knew About Money in Their 20s
If they could turn back time.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to save money on your upcoming tax bill. Also in the news: Tracking your wasteful spending, how to get the best deal on car insurance, and why it pays to shop around for Medicare insurance plans.

7 Money-Saving Tips to Cut Your Tax Bill
How to make tax season a little less painful.

How to Track Your Most Ridiculously Wasteful Spending
Shame yourself into frugality.

Here’s How to Get the Best Deal on Car Insurance – Eventually
The older you get, the less you’ll pay.

It pays to shop for Medicare insurance plans
Welcome to open enrollment season.

Parents of special needs kids can bank on trusts
Providing for your child’s needs after you’re gone.

News you can use for retirement

seniorslaptopReuters news service has posted its “Retirement Roadmap 2014,” a collection of good advice on topics that don’t get as much attention as they should. My favorite of the bunch is Beth Pinsker’s piece on choosing a rehab facility after surgery, either for yourself or a parent. It’s not a sexy topic, but if you’ve ever been in this situation you realize how little information is out there to help you choose well. Another important topic is choosing a new Medicare plan, since open enrollment is coming up and most people just stick with what they have–not realizing they’re paying more than they should.  This would be a great article to pass along to anyone you know who’s 65 or over.

And then, for fun, read about a couple who sold their house to travel the world…and dream a little.

Here are the links you’ll need:

Video: Guide to Healthcare Costs
From Medicare to long-term care to health savings accounts. We explore the options – and the possibilities – in episode one of our 12-part series.

Stern Advice: Should you tap your 401(k)to buy a house?

Why it pays to pore over your Medicare drug plan – every year

How to choose the best rehab facility after a hospital stay

It happens: Seniors with student debt – and smaller Social Security checks

Extreme retirement abroad: How one footloose couple sees the world

Q&A: Medicare premiums

Dear Liz: I wanted to comment on the person who was wondering why her multimillionaire friend receives less Social Security. One reason could be that higher-income people pay more for Medicare, the health insurance program for people 65 and older. Instead of the standard $104 a month that most people pay, my wife and I pay about $375 each per month for Parts B and D. So if the person writing to you is thinking about net Social Security checks, Medicare would make quite a difference.

Answer: That’s a very good possibility. Some people don’t make the distinction between Social Security and Medicare. They’re separate government programs, but Medicare premiums are typically deducted from Social Security payments.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Hiccups to avoid when applying for a VA loan. Also in the news: Keeping your home from turning into a money pit, learning the basics of the Affordable Care Act, and how to file your tax returns electronically.

5 Homebuying Hiccups for Veterans to Avoid
How to clear any potential hurdles on the way to a VA loan.

7 Homebuying Mistakes to Avoid
How not to turn your new home into a money pit.

5 things you need to know about the Affordable Care Act
Learning the basics.

Ways to Electronically File Your tax Return
Skip the long lines at the post office.

Medical Services Medicare Doesn’t Cover
If you need glasses or a hearing aid, you’re on your own.

Your payout from Social Security and Medicare

Old Woman Hand on CaneA reader recently wondered what the average person could expect from Social Security, compared to the taxes we pay into the system.

Urban Institute has done the math, and recently released “Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Benefits Over a Lifetime: 2013 Update.” The institute figured out net present values of money paid in and paid out for various situations: single male and single female, one-earner family, two earner families. Spoiler alert: in most situations, people in the simulations pay more in Social Security taxes than they get back in benefits–but they get back vastly more Medicare benefits than they pay in taxes. Overall, benefits received exceed taxes paid. Here’s one example with a cogent comment from the Wall Street Journal:

Consider: A one-earner couple with a high wage ($71,700 in 2013 dollars) retiring in 2015 can expect lifetime Social Security benefits of $640,000. The same couple can expect to get $427,000 in lifetime Medicare benefits—while paying only $111,000 in Medicare taxes. The latter figures help illustrate how Medicare, in particular, is expected to strain future federal budgets.

The report, which you’ll find here, is interesting reading. Obviously, there are caveats. Nobody can know for sure what his or her Social Security “payout” will be, since a lot depends on longevity. And that brings me to the most important point: it’s really not about money in, money out.

Social Security isn’t an investment scheme. It’s insurance. (The formal name for what we know as Social Security is Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance or OASDI). It’s insurance against poverty, against outliving your assets, against a downturn in the market at the wrong time that could leave you with too little money on which to live. You still should save and invest as much as you can on your own, but Social Security provides a safety net in case things don’t go as planned.

About to retire? Get some help

Dear Liz: I am approaching being able to retire in three years at 56, but I’m really concerned with the current market conditions. I have around $320,000 in 401(k) and 457 accounts now, all of it invested in stocks. Should I scale this back to more moderate allocations? My pension will pay me around $5,200 a month, so I do not anticipate needing to withdraw from my investments before age 59.

Answer: Even if you’ve been a die-hard do-it-yourself investor until now, it’s time to get help. Retirement decisions can be incredibly complicated, and you may not have time to recover from mistakes.

A fee-only financial planner would ask, among other things, what your current living costs are and what additional expenses you expect, such as buying another car, taking trips and so on. Those details can help determine whether your savings are adequate. The planner also would ask you how you plan to pay for healthcare in retirement, since Medicare doesn’t kick in until age 65, and an individual policy at your age could eat into that pension check. Even with Medicare, Fidelity Investments estimates, a 65-year-old couple retiring this year would need $240,000 to cover medical expenses throughout retirement — not counting any money they might need to pay for nursing home or other custodial care.

What a planner probably wouldn’t do is approve having 100% of your investments in stock at any age, even with a nice pension. You may have time to ride out another market downturn, but watching half of your life savings disappear might increase the chances you’d sell out in a panic. Having a more moderate allocation that includes bonds and cash could help cushion those market swings and keep you invested.

You can get referrals to fee-only planners who charge by the hour at the Garrett Planning Network, http://www.garrettplanningnetwork.com. If you’re looking for fee-only planners who charge a retainer or a percentage of assets, you’ll find those at the National Assn. of Personal Financial Advisors, http://www.napfa.org. NAPFA has tools for consumers at http://www.napfa.org/consumer/Resources.asp and the Financial Planning Assn. has tips on choosing a financial planner at http://www.fpanet.org/FindaPlanner/ChoosingaPlanner/.