Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How an engineer digs out of $100,000 in loans. Also in the news: What to do if Hurricane Florence hits your home and/or mortgage, 3 low-stress ways to invest for retirement, and the pros and cons of identity monitoring.

Debt Diary: How an Engineer Digs Out of $100,000 in Loans
Accounting for every single expense.

What to Do If Hurricane Florence Hits Your Home, Mortgage
Recovering from disaster.

3 Low-Stress Ways to Invest for Retirement
How to get started.

The Pros and Cons of Identity Monitoring Services
Are they worth the expense?

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Don’t believe the hype about Millennials and money. Also in the news: 3 low-stress ways to invest for retirement, 4 quick financial wins in under an hour, and 10 unexpected debt traps – and how to avoid them.

Don’t Believe the Hype About Millennials and Money
Forget the avocado toast cliche.

3 Low-Stress Ways to Invest for Retirement
It doesn’t have to be stressful.

Got an Hour? Chalk Up 4 Quick Financial Wins
60 minutes well spent.

10 Unexpected Debt Traps – and How to Avoid Them
Don’t get caught in these traps.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How women who retire with their husbands ofter lose out. Also in the news: Why the cashless trend doesn’t have all shoppers sold, what rising DTI limits mean for your next mortgage, and how to protect your frequent flyer miles from hackers.

How Women Who Retire With Their Husbands Often Lose Out
Losing years of income.

Why the Cashless Trend Doesn’t Have All Shoppers Sold
Cash still matters.

What Rising DTI Limits Mean for Your Next Mortgage
Your debt-to-income ratio is key to mortgage approval.

Protect Your Frequent Flyer Miles from Hackers
Miles have become a hot commodity.

How women who retire with their husbands often lose out

Women who retire when their husbands do may be giving up more wealth than they realize.

Married women overall are still in their peak earning years in their 50s and early 60s, while married men’s earnings are on the decline, says economist Nicole Maestas, an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and the author of a recent study about couples’ income and retirement patterns.

As a result, married women typically sacrifice more Social Security wealth than married men when they retire early, says Maestas, who analyzed the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Survey of more than 20,000 people 50 and older.

In my latest for the Associated Press, why women should consider staying employed longer than their husbands.

Q&A: Waiting for Social Security pays off

Dear Liz: My husband (who will retire in January) just turned 67, but still wants to wait to collect Social Security until he turns 70 to maximize his benefit.

Should he apply for Social Security now, and immediately suspend benefits? Or, should he simply wait until he turns 70 years old to apply? Is there a difference?

Answer: There’s no need for your husband to file for benefits now. He will accrue delayed retirement credits for each month he delays filing, and those credits will add 8% a year to his benefit. Not only will that result in a larger check for him, but that could mean a larger survivor’s check for you should you outlive him.

Your house isn’t a piggy bank

Your home equity could keep you afloat in retirement or bail you out in an emergency — but not if you spend it first.

U.S. homeowners are sitting on nearly $6 trillion of home value they could tap as of May 2018, according to data provider Black Knight. Lenders are eager to help many do just that through home equity loans, home equity lines of credit and cash-out refinancing.

The rates are often lower than other kinds of borrowing, and the interest may still be deductible, despite last year’s tax reform changes. But you can lose your home to foreclosure if you can’t pay back the loan, which is why financial planners generally frown on using equity for luxuries, investing or consolidating credit card debt.

Many planners point to the foreclosure crisis that started a decade ago as an example of what can go wrong when people binge on home equity debt.

In my latest for the Associated Press, why it’s dangerous to treat your house like a piggy bank.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How couples with kids retired early. Also in the news: 5 credit card tips to take to college and beyond, how a self-taught baker became a rising entrepreneur, and what not to do when hiring a lawyer.

How They Retired Decades Early — With Kids
How two families pulled it off.

5 Credit Card Habits to Take to College and Beyond
Track your spending.

How a Self-Taught Baker Became a Rising Entrepreneur
Feel inspired.

What Not to Do When Hiring a Lawyer
Save on fees when avoiding these mistakes.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Understanding what colleges are looking for. Also in the news: How a self-taught baker became a rising entrepreneur, 3 credit score myths you should stop believing, and what to do when you’re worried you’re going to retire broke.

What Do Colleges Want? It’s Hiding in Plain Sight
Diving into the data.

How a Self-Taught Baker Became a Rising Entrepreneur
Keiyana Roberts is getting it done.

3 Credit Score Myths You Should Stop Believing
Busting credit score myths.

Worried you’re going to retire broke? Help could be closer than you think
Finding help at work.

Managing Debt in Retirement Takes Some Planning

Owing money in retirement isn’t ideal — but most people do.

Seventy percent of U.S. households headed by people ages 65 to 74 had at least some debt in 2016, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Consumer Finances. So did half of those 75 and older.

Paying debt usually gets more difficult on a fixed income. Mortgage debt, especially, can be a huge burden in retirement. Retirees may have to withdraw larger amounts from their retirement funds to cover payments on debt, which can trigger higher tax bills and increase the chances they’ll run short of money.

People have the most options to deal with debt if they create a plan before they retire, financial planners say. Refinancing a mortgage, for example, is usually less of a hassle while people are still employed. It’s also typically easier to generate the extra income that may be needed to pay off debt.

“It is much easier to keep working for another year or two than to try and come back into the workforce when they are older and the employer needs have changed,” says Linda Farinola, a certified financial planner in Princeton, N.J.

In my latest for the Associated Press, three loans to consider before you stop working.

Q&A: Should a soon-to-be retiree use savings to pay off the mortgage?

Dear Liz: I am 64, single and planning to retire in two years. I have saved enough to pay off my $100,000 mortgage. It will take the bulk of my savings but I have no other debts. I will have a pension and Social Security. I also have a credit score over 800. Should I do this?

Answer: Being debt free in retirement is wonderful, but being stuck short of cash is not. It’s a particularly bad idea to use pretax money from retirement accounts to pay off a mortgage. Not only can the withdrawal trigger a big tax bill, but it may push you into a higher tax bracket for that year and cause other unexpected tax consequences.

Even if your pension and Social Security cover your expenses now, that probably won’t be the case for the rest of your life. For example, Medicare covers about half of the typical retiree’s medical costs, and doesn’t pay at all for most long-term care expenses if you should need those.

You could pay off the mortgage and then arrange a home equity line of credit you could tap for such expenses or for emergencies. Just be aware that lenders can freeze or close lines of credit at their discretion, so it won’t be the same as having cash on hand.

Decisions made about retirement are complex and often irreversible. Consider consulting with a fee-only financial planner about your retirement plans so you better understand your options and the consequences of the choices you’re making.