Thursday’s need-to-know money news

common-retirement-mistakesToday’s top story: How much should you save for retirement? Also in the news: Tips for buying a home if you have student loans, what to expect from bankruptcy counseling, and how men and women retire differently.

How Much Should You Save for Retirement?
Establishing guidelines.

5 Tips For Buying A Home If You Have Student Loans
Navigating a mortgage and loans.

Bankruptcy Counseling: What It Is, What to Expect
Making difficult decisions.

How (and Why) Men and Women Retire Differently
Taking risks.

Q&A: Reverse mortgage due when borrower dies

Dear Liz: I was laid off from my job this year and decided to move in with my widowed dad in the suburban home that he and my mother purchased outright in 1989. However, over the years they apparently took out a reverse mortgage with a current balance of about $500,000 (the house was recently appraised at $680,000). When my father dies, how much longer can I live in the house? If there is little or no equity left, can I walk away from the house and let the lien holder handle the sale?

Answer: Reverse mortgages, which allow people 62 and older to tap the equity in their homes, are due and payable when the borrower dies, sells the home or moves out. You won’t be expected to vacate the premises the day after he dies, but you typically would have to leave the property within six months. You may be able to get an extension of that time if you’re selling the house or trying to get a loan to pay off the mortgage.

If there is still equity left in the home, it might make sense for you to try to sell it yourself to get the maximum value. Lenders only want to recoup what they’re owed and aren’t required to go to any extra effort to maximize the amount going to the heirs.

If the home is worth less than what’s owed, you can do a “deed in lieu of foreclosure,” which essentially allows you to hand over the keys and walk away. The good news is that you’re not on the hook. Reverse mortgages are non-recourse loans, which means that the lender can’t pursue the estate or the heirs for the balance owed.

Q&A: Invest or pay down mortgage?

Dear Liz: I usually finish the month with $1,000 to $2,000 left over after expenses to invest. My savings are with a money manager who has conservatively invested in a diversified portfolio. Given the uncertainty of the market, does it make any sense for me to start using that monthly excess to pay down the balance on my 15-year mortgage rather than continue to invest? The mortgage has about 91/2 years to go with a balance of just under $75,000. One added point: I would like to retire in about five years.

Answer:
It’s time to talk to a fee-only financial planner who can review your entire financial situation and offer personalized advice. The planner can give you a better idea if you’re really on track to retire within five years. If you are, then paying down the mortgage may be an excellent use of the money. Having a paid-off home will reduce your monthly expenses, which in turn can reduce how much of your retirement funds you’ll need to tap.

Before you prepay a mortgage, though, you should make sure all your other financial ducks are in a row. In addition to saving enough for retirement, you should have paid off all your other debt, accumulated a decent emergency fund (at least six months’ worth of expenses) and be properly insured.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

18ixgvpiu0s24jpgToday’s top story: What your bank won’t tell you when you get a mortgage. Also in the news: Retiring your debts before retirement, health care to-dos that can save you money, and apps that can keep your cell phone safe from security threats.

4 Things Your Bank Won’t Tell You When You Get a Mortgage
What you should know.

Before Even Thinking About Retiring, Retire Your Debts
Why your debt needs to retire before you do.

7 Summer Health Care To-Dos That Can Save You Money
Take a hard look at your health care costs.

5 Apps to Keep Your Cellphone Safe From Security Threats
Protecting yourself from identity theft.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

401k-planToday’s top story: How to choose the right 401K plan. Also in the news: Money losses you can’t claim on your taxes, the benefits of prepaying your mortgage, and how to survive living on a budget.

Do You Have the Right 401K?
Picking the plan that’s right for you.

These Money Losses Won’t Help You at Tax Time
Losses you can’t write off.

Should You Prepay Your Mortgage?
Prepaying could put more money in your pocket.

5 Strategies That Make it More Fun to Live on a Budget
It doesn’t have to be miserable.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How you could save $200 a month on your mortgage. Also in the news: How making the minimum payments on a credit card bill could take decades to pay off, why you should pay cash for your new car, and what to review during your annual financial checkup.

Millions of Homeowners Could Be Saving $200 a Month on Their Mortgage
Playing the HARP.

How long does it take to pay a $2,000 credit card debt with minimum payments?
The answer may surprise you.

Should You Pay Cash for Your Next New Car?
The argument for paying cash.

3 Steps for Your Annual Financial Checkup
What’s up for review?

Q&A: When is the right time to buy?

Dear Liz: My wife and I are young (25 and 22). We owe no one money and have built up an emergency fund with six months of expenses. We both contribute enough to our 401(k)s to get the maximum match, and I contribute the maximum to my company’s stock purchase plan. Currently we are saving $2,500 to $3,000 a month for a future home purchase. My question is will we be able to buy a decent house without getting a mortgage in three to four years at this rate? Is this something we should do? Or should we have a large down payment and pay the mortgage off quickly? We both have below average credit and mostly use cash for everything.

Answer: Since you two are so good at saving, you presumably can do the math required to determine how much you’ll have in three or four years. So what you’re asking is whether home prices will accelerate so fast in your area that what may seem like enough to buy a decent house now won’t actually buy one in the future.
The answer is: Nobody knows for sure.
The best approach is to keep your options open — and that means you’ll need to work on improving those credit scores. A year or two of using credit cards lightly but regularly, and paying off your balances in full each month, should help pull up your numbers. You could speed up the rehabilitation process by getting an installment loan such as a car loan or personal loan. Managing different types of credit responsibly is typically good for your scores.
If you wind up getting a mortgage, you may decide to pay it off quickly, or you may have better things to do with that money such as boosting your retirement accounts or saving for college educations.

Q&A: Taking a mortgage for the tax deduction

Dear Liz: My wife and I are both 66 and in good health. Currently we have about $1.2 million in IRAs. We’re receiving about $80,000 a year from a pension and $110,000 in salary. We have been aggressive about reducing any lingering debt. So we think we are in good shape for me to retire within the next year or so. If we decide to stay in our home rather than move, we will need to make some significant repairs and improvements. We were thinking of taking out a $200,000 mortgage to pay off our last remaining debt ($50,000 on a home equity line of credit) and fund the renovations. This would give us a better tax deduction and not incur the high taxes we would pay by making an IRA withdrawal. Our grown children have expressed no interest in the home after we die, so it probably would be put up for sale at that time. Does this seem like a reasonable approach if we choose to go that route? Anything we haven’t considered?

Answer: Considering the tax implications of financial moves is smart, but you shouldn’t make decisions solely on that basis. You especially shouldn’t take on mortgage debt just for the tax deduction. The tax benefit is limited to your bracket, so for every dollar in mortgage interest you pay you would get at best a federal tax benefit worth 39.6 cents. State income tax deductions might boost that amount, but you’d still be paying out more than you get back in tax benefits. You also would be locking yourself into debt payments at a time in life when most people prefer the flexibility of being debt-free.

If you’re comfortable having a mortgage in retirement, though, you might want to consider a reverse mortgage. Although once considered expensive loans of last resort for people who were running out of money in retirement, changes in the federal reverse mortgage program caused financial planners to reassess the no-payment loans as a potential wealth management tool. The idea is that homeowners could tap the reverse mortgage for funds, especially in bad markets, instead of depleting their retirement accounts.
Reverse mortgages are complex, though. The upfront and ongoing costs can be significant. Because you don’t make payments on the money you borrow, your debt grows over time and reduces the amount your heirs might get once the home is sold. You’d be smart to find a savvy, fee-only financial advisor to assess your situation and walk you through your options.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Five changes lawmakers have made to your taxes for 2015. Also in the news: Keeping your low-down-payment mortgage affordable, why using a Roth IRA to pay for college could work against you, and three reasons why you can’t stick to a budget.

5 Major Changes Lawmakers Made to Your Taxes
Getting ready for 2015.

How to Keep a Low-Down-Payment Mortgage Affordable
How to handle PMI.

Using a Roth IRA to Pay for College May Work Against You
Your child’s financial aid package could take a hit.

3 reasons why you just can’t stick to a budget
Besides being human.

Retailers’ data breaches could get ‘ugly’
More like ‘uglier’.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

AirfaresToday’s top story: How to find the best airfare deals. Also in the news: Financially preparing for a job search, how “reason codes” can help improve your credit, and ten money moves to make before the end of the year.

3 Insider Tips for Getting the Best Airfare Deal
How to get the best possible deal on flights.

Preparing Financially for a Job Search
Three tips to help you survive the hunt.

Pay Attention to Credit Report “Reason Codes” to Improve Your Score
These codes can help you improve your credit.

10 Smart Money Moves to Make Before the Year Ends
Don’t put off your finances until the new year.

Want to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early? Not So Fast
Why you should carefully consider where your money should go.