Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The student loan tip that saves you money year after year. Also in the news: Overlooked small business tax deductions, when you need a cashier’s check and how to get one, and why Americans are drastically under-saved for retirement.

This Student Loan Tip Saves You Money Year After Year
It’s all about auto-pay.

5 Overlooked Small-Business Tax Deductions for 2017
Don’t forget these deductions.

Cashier’s Check: When You Need One and How to Get It
Another form of payment.

It’s worse than you thought: Americans are drastically under-saved for retirement
Are you one of them?

Q&A: How to track down an old retirement account

Dear Liz: I worked for a company during the late 1990s. When I left, I had a 401(k) worth approximately $10,000. I recently found an old 401(k) statement and called the plan administrator. I was told my company’s accounts had been transferred to another plan administrator in 2008. I called the new administrator and was told they also could not find my 401(k) using my Social Security number. How do I proceed? What are my options?

Answer: Get ready to make a lot more phone calls.

There’s no central repository for missing 401(k) funds — at least not yet. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which safeguards traditional pensions, has proposed rules that would allow it to hold orphaned 401(k) money from plans that have closed. That wouldn’t start until 2018. Another proposal, by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), would direct the IRS to set up an online database so workers could find pension and 401(k) benefits from open or closed plans, but Congress has yet to take action on that.

If your balance was less than $5,000 — which is possible, given the big market drop in 2008-2009 — your employer could have approved a forced IRA transfer and the money could be sitting with a financial services firm that accepts small accounts. If the plan was closed and your employer couldn’t find you, the money could have been transferred to an IRA, a bank account or a state escheat office. You can check state escheat offices at Unclaimed.org, but searching for an IRA or bank account may require help.

If your employer still exists, call to find out if anyone knows what happened to your money. If the company is out of business, you may be able to get free help tracking down your money from the U.S. Department of Labor (at askebsa.dol.gov or (866) 444-3272) or from the Pension Rights Center, a nonprofit pension counseling center (pensionrights.org/find-help). Another place to check is the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits, a subsidiary of a private company, called PenChecks, that processes retirement checks, at www.unclaimedretirementbenefits.com.

One more wrinkle: Your employer or a plan administrator could insist you cashed in your account at some point. You may be able to prove otherwise if you’ve kept old tax returns, since those typically would show any distributions.

Your experience shows why it’s important not to lose track of old retirement accounts. Your current employer may allow you to transfer old accounts into its plan, or you can roll the money into an IRA. Either way, it’s much better to keep on top of your retirement money than to try to find it years later.

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.

Retirement advice from retired financial experts

Most retirement advice has a flaw: It’s being given by people who haven’t yet retired.

So I asked money experts who have quit the 9-to-5 for their best advice on how to prepare for retirement.

In my latest for the Associated Press, what the experts say you can do to prepare yourself both financially and mentally.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

mortgage2Today’s top story: Why you should front-load your IRA in January. Also in the news: Rideshare insurance for drivers, why January is the best time to buy a home, and how fifteen minutes a day can get your finances in order.

Front-Load Your IRA in January for a Bigger Payoff
It’s all about compound interest.

Rideshare Insurance for Drivers: Where to Buy, What It Covers
What Uber and Lyft drivers need to know.

Why January Is the Best Time to Buy a Home
Timing is everything.

Commit to Fifteen Minutes of Financial Literacy a Day to Get Your Finances in Order
Make it a daily habit.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

hidden-fees1Today’s top story: Credit card late fees are expected to rise in 2017. Also in the news: 10 New Year’s resolutions for your wallet, will Millennials be ready for retirement, and 3 signs you should switch banks.

Look for Credit Card Late Fees to Rise in 2017
More incentive to pay on time.

Sean Talks Money: 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Wallet
Starting the news year off on the right foot.

Only 30 Years to Go. Will Millennials Be Ready for Retirement?
The clock is ticking.

3 Signs You Should Switch Banks in 2017
Knowing when it’s time to switch.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

2Today’s top story: 4 steps to managing your parents’ bank accounts. Also in the news: How banks boost overdrafts by counting big debits first, how to determine whether to pay down debt or save for retirement, and mistakes to avoid when choosing a financial advisor.

4 Steps to Managing Your Parents’ Bank Accounts
Taking the reins.

Many Banks Boost Overdrafts by Counting Big Debits First, Report Says
Putting transcations in a certain order can guarantee overdraft fees.

This Calculator Will Tell You Whether to Pay Down Debt or Save for Retirement
Which should you choose?

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Picking a Financial Advisor
Selecting the right one for your needs.

Q&A: How much risk is too much in retirement?

Dear Liz: If you have all your required obligations covered during retirement, is having 70% of your portfolio in equities too risky?

Answer: Probably not, but a lot depends on your stomach.

Retirees typically need a hefty dollop of stocks to preserve their purchasing power over a long retirement, with many planners recommending a 40% to 60% allocation in early retirement. A heftier allocation isn’t unreasonable if all of your basic expenses are covered by guaranteed income, such as Social Security, pensions and annuities. Ideally, those pensions and annuities would have cost-of-living adjustments, especially if they’re meant to pay expenses that rise with inflation.

Historically, retirees have been told they need to reduce their equity exposure as they age, but there’s some evidence that the opposite is true. Research by financial planners Wade Pfau and Michael Kitces found that increasing your stock holdings in retirement, where the allocation starts out more conservative and gets more aggressive, may reduce the chances of running short of money. Their paper, “Reducing Retirement Risk with a Rising Equity Glide-Path,” was published in the Journal for Financial Planning and is available online for free.

That said, you don’t want your investments to give you ulcers. If you couldn’t withstand a big downturn — one that cuts your portfolio in half, say — then you may want to cushion your retirement funds with less risky alternatives.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

holiday-tipping-dont-let-it-wipe-you-outToday’s top story: Tips to save more for retirement in 2017. Also in the news: Why the key to saving may be in your head, why skipping a payment at the holidays is a bad idea, and a guide to holiday tipping.

Retirement Anxiety? 3 Tips to Save More in 2017
Starting the new year off on the right foot.

The Key to Saving May Be in Your Head
Time to look inward.

Skip a Payment? Those Offers Are No Holiday for Your Budget
Reading the fine print.

Tips on Holiday Tipping
Who and how much?

Friday’s need-to-know money news

smartphones_financeToday’s top story: A good retirement savings option for the self-employed. Also in the news: Jobs that could mark you as a risk for late payments, what to ask before giving a cell phone as a gift, and the financial perks of not celebrating Christmas.

A Good Retirement Savings Option for the Self-Employed
Consider a Solo 401(k).

Study: These Jobs Could Mark You as a Risk for Late Payments on Personal Loans
Is yours on the list?

Ask These Questions Before Giving a Cell Phone This Season
What you need to know before making a purchase.

The Financial Perks of Not Celebrating Christmas
The upside to being The Grinch.