Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: A look at the past three months of housing trends. Also in the news: A new app to help apply for financial aid, how to avoid magical thinking when it comes to retirement planning, and what to know about freezing and unfreezing your credit.

3 Months, 3 Housing Trends: Rates Rise, Prices Slow, Millennials Buy
What’s happening in housing.

Ready to Apply for College Aid? A New App’s on Tap
Financial aid at your fingertips.

Don’t Let Magical Thinking Jinx Retirement Planning
You’re not going to win the lottery.

What to Know About Freezing and Unfreezing Your Credit
Know the pros and cons.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Is Bitcoin safe? Also in the news: How to buy better gifts with credit card rewards, must-have tools and tips for year-end retirement planning, and smart money lessons for kids that can last a lifetime.

Is Bitcoin Safe?
A roundtable debate.

How to Buy Better Gifts With Credit Card Rewards
Using your rewards strategically.

Must-have tools and tips for year-end retirement planning
Getting on the right track.

Smart money lessons for kids that can last a lifetime

Q&A: How to figure out the right time for retirement

Dear Liz: I hear so much talk about waiting to collect Social Security. What are good reasons to start collecting Social Security at age 62? I recently retired from the military with a monthly retirement of $4,400. I plan to work a civilian job until I’m 62 (eight more years).

I’m in fairly good health now, but decades of military service and multiple deployments overseas put a lot of miles on my chassis. I truly hope I do, but I don’t know if I will live until I’m 80 or 90 years old.

Answer: None of us knows how much more time we have on this Earth. The primary reason for delaying Social Security is to decrease the odds of running short of money if we (or our spouses) happen to live a long time.

Think of it as a kind of longevity insurance because the longer you live, the more likely you are to use up your savings and to rely on your Social Security check for most, if not all, of your income. The wealthier you are — in savings and in pensions — the less important it may be to delay Social Security.

Your military pension provides a substantial monthly check and (presumably) survivor benefits for your spouse. These benefits will rise with inflation. You also have retiree health insurance at reasonable rates. You’re better off than most people approaching early retirement.

Still, your pension may not cover all your expenses and it’s not clear how much you have in other savings. Also, consider that your survivor would get about half (or less) of your pension check if you die first. So you may still want to hedge your bets by waiting at least until your full retirement age of 67 to start Social Security.

In addition to increasing your benefit, delaying to that age means you won’t be subject to the earnings test that can reduce your check by $1 for every $2 you earn over a certain limit (currently $17,040). You may think now that you’ll be ready to stop working at 62, but many early retirees find they miss the stimulation and social contact work provides.

Q&A: When considering retirement, money isn’t the only factor

Dear Liz: You answer many questions about whether people are ready to retire. But there’s one other thing to consider besides money, and this is more important.

Folks need to seriously ask themselves whether they can handle being retired. I know I can’t stand it.

I have more than enough assets, plus a pension, plus healthcare, plus no debts or bills. I’m young and healthy. But I find happiness in work.

Unfortunately, I had to leave my job owing to conditions outside of my control. I now live in a beautiful house at the beach, with all my money and all the things I like to do — and I’m miserable. I’m looking for a part-time job. I live in a small community and there aren’t many jobs, but I’m hopeful to find one.

Tell your readers that it’s not only the advice of a financial planner, but also some good soul-searching that they’ll need, especially if someone is a manager or a highly educated professional. You can’t just give that up and go from full time to no time. At least work part time before retiring to make sure it’s what you want.

Answer: That’s excellent advice. Not everyone derives meaning and purpose from work, but many do, and an abrupt adjustment can be painful. Good luck in your search for a job that gives you a reason to get up in the morning.

Retire right — plan to do it twice

There’s the retirement that looks like the commercials: biking, travel, enjoying the family.

And then there’s the one where you can’t get up the stairs anymore.

Most of us happily plan for the first, when our health is good and energy high. The second can be hard to contemplate, when health falters and medical crises can change lives in an instant.

Yet a focus on just the active part of retirement can shortchange your quality of life once you begin to decline, which is why financial advisers suggest you also look at how you’ll live in that later phase. In my latest for the Associated Press, what you should consider for that second stage.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to prepare financially for your death regardless of your age. Also in the news: The best industries for starting a business in 2017, how insurance companies use your driving record as a crystal ball, and 5 practical steps for creating a retirement backup plan.

How to Prepare Financially for Your Death (No Matter How Young You Are)
Making important decisions.

5 Best Industries for Starting a Business in 2017
Time to start working for yourself.

Your Driving Record: Insurance Companies’ Crystal Ball
Analyzing your behavior.

5 practical steps for creating a retirement backup plan
Always have a Plan B.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

money-vacation-saveToday’s top story: Overcoming the obstacles between you and retirement. Also in the news: What the President wants to tell college students, what happens when your debt goes to collections, and how to pay less for staying cool this summer.

5 Obstacles Between You and Retirement (and How to Overcome Them)
Clearing the pathway to a solid retirement.

5 Things the President Wants to Tell College Students
Messages for students and student loan borrowers.

What Happens When Your Debt Goes to a Collector?
Not every debt collection process is the same.

Stay cool, but pay less for electricity this summer
Your wallet’s hot enough.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Another day, another massive online security breach. Also in the news: How to decide between brand name and generic, tips for a successful retirement plan, and protecting yourself from bad credit vultures.

7 steps to stronger, more secure passwords
Yet another massive security breach puts millions at risk of identity theft.

Name Brand or Generic? 10 Items Where It Pays to Pick Right
Saving money may not always be worth the cost.

9 Steps to a Successful Retirement Plan
Time tested methods put you on the road to retirement success.

How to protect yourself from credit-card bullies
Don’t become a victim of bad credit predators.

4 Rules to Live By When Making an Offer on a House
How to successfully negotiate your home purchase.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

homebuyerToday’s top story: How to purchase a home in a tough real estate market. Also in the news: Keeping your credit cards safe, important retirement milestones, and why you should avoid bad credit loans.

How to Buy a Home in a Competitive Real Estate Market
Getting the right lender is crucial.

The Everyday Household Item That Can Keep Your Credit Card Safe
You’ll never look at a bag of coffee the same way again.

Top 7 Retirement Milestones You Need to Know
Retirement planning doesn’t end when you get the gold watch.

5 Types of Bad Credit Loans to Avoid
The quick fix will be painful in the long run.

Don’t Wait: 6 Good Financial Habits for 30-Somethings
The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be.

Are you ready?

Christchurch Earthquake - Avonside House CollapsesThe earthquake that rattled us out of bed Monday morning also served as a reminder: it’s time to check the emergency supplies. And it occurred to me that preparing for emergencies has a lot in common with preparing for retirement. Consider:

Most people are woefully unprepared. Not just “under-prepared” but not even being in the same room as prepared. When it comes to retirement savings, one-third of workers have less than $1,000 set aside and 60% have less than $25,000, according to the most recent survey by Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald and Associates.

The solution: Use your imagination. Emergency preparedness experts recommend thinking, in detail, about how you would feed, shelter and tend to the hygiene needs of your family if you were without power, water or a roof for three days. Walking yourself through those days will get you motivated to make your life easier should something happen. A similar exercise can jumpstart your retirement planning: Go to the Social Security estimator, see what you’re scheduled to get at retirement, and imagine trying to live on that.

Many people are overwhelmed. The list of emergency supplies you’re supposed to keep in your home, car and office can be pretty daunting, especially if you’re on a budget. Likewise, the amounts of money people are supposed to save for retirement can seem unrealistically large.

The solution: Start small. Anything you scrape together will help. Getting a kit together can start with some canned goods and a few gallons of water stored in a plastic tote. Getting your retirement together can start with a 1% contribution to a 401(k) or an automatic transfer to an IRA. Build from there, as you can.

You can’t “set it and forget it.” Once you’ve assembled them, disaster supplies have to be regularly checked to see what’s expired or wandered off. (Somebody may have pilfered the batteries in an “emergency” for a game console, for example.) Likewise, once you start saving for retirement, you need to check in to make sure your investments are properly allocated and regularly rebalanced. Changes in your life or your plans can necessitate changes in your retirement savings, as well.

The solution: Put it on your calendar. Schedule checkups at least once a year.

By the way, you can find lists of emergency supplies at the Red Cross and FEMA’s Ready.gov sites. Or check out this great graphic from the LA Times, which shows how you can store what you need in a clean plastic trash can.

If you’re interested, here are some of the supplies we keep around the house (as well as my notes about what I need to replace/get):

Outside in storage bins:

  • Water [need more; we have about half of the two gallons per person per day recommended]
  • Food (we have canned food + can opener, peanut butter, crackers, energy bars; I need to add more pet food now that we have a cat]
  • Cat and dog crates
  • Tent, cookstove, fuel
  • Shovel, hatchet, crowbar, hacksaw
  • Plastic sheeting (to replace windows), duct tape [need to get: staple gun]
  • Plastic goggles, hard hats (protection for clearing debris) [need to find: the work gloves that wandered off]
  • Gas shut off tool (we had an automatic shutoff installed, but I like to be sure)
  • Rope
  • Flashlight, lantern, batteries [looks like I moved the portable radio to some other site; now I just have to remember where]
  • Emergency toilet (bucket with a snap-on seat, garbage bags and kitty litter), toilet paper, wipes
  • Bleach, castille soap, towels
  • Mylar blankets & rain ponchos
  • Need: Fire extinguisher, hygiene kit [toothbrushes, floss, hairbrush]

Car kit:

  • Bottled water
  • Energy bars
  • First-aid kit
  • Sneakers, socks, extra sweaters and coats
  • Multi-tool (oooo I love my Leatherman)
  • Wipes
  • Wind-up/solar-powered flashlight/radio/cell phone charger
  • Regular blanket, mylar blankets & rain ponchos