Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to gift stock to a new grad. Also in the news: Memorial Day weekend sales, what to do if you miss a financial goal, and why your 401(k) can be a cash drain.

How to Gift Stock to a New Grad
A gift for the future.

Making a Major Purchase? Wait for Memorial Day
But remember the real reason for Memorial Day.

If at First You Miss a Financial Goal, Try, Try Again
Don’t give up!

Why your 401(k) can be a cash drain
It’s possible to be “401(k) rich and cash poor.”

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Budgeting for college students. Also in the news: What to do when the GI Bill won’t cover college, 6 ways to travel cheaply, and why frugal retirees are ditching the 4% rule and hoarding their savings instead.

Budgeting for College Students: Where to Start
You don’t have to live on ramen.

What to Do When the GI Bill Won’t Cover College
Finding alternatives.

6 Smart Ways to Travel Cheaply
You don’t have to go overboard.

Frugal retirees ditch 4% rule, hoard savings instead
Why they’re making this choice.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How credit card bonuses got so big and hard to grab. Also in the news: VA Loan eligibility and requirements for 2017, how to detect scams that could ruin your retirement, and 10 numbers that may make or break your retirement.

How Credit Card Bonuses Got So Big and Hard to Grab
And you thought blackout dates were bad.

VA Loan Eligibility and Requirements for 2017
What you need to know.

How to Detect Scams That Could Ruin Your Retirement
Don’t put your savings at risk.

10 numbers that can make or break your retirement
Focus on the important ones.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to dodge scams and time-wasters in the online job market. Also in the news: Credit card bonuses are drifting further away, how job hopping can hurt Millennials in retirement, and how to fraud-proof your retirement savings.

Online Jobs: How to Dodge Scams and Time-Wasters
Don’t get taken for a ride.

As Credit Card Bonuses Balloon, They Drift Further Away
Bigger isn’t necessarily better in this case.

Job Hopping Can Hurt Millennials in Retirement
The 401(k) game.

6 ways to fraud-proof your retirement savings
Protecting your savings.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Budgeting for newlyweds. Also in the news: What you need to know about May’s Fed meeting, should a partner’s debt keep you from marrying, and a retirement literacy quiz you need to pass.

Budgeting for Newlyweds: Figuring Out Family Finance
Now comes the fun part.

May 2017 Fed Meeting: 7 Questions (and Answers)
What you need to know.

Ask Brianna: Should My Partner’s Debt Keep Us From Marrying?
Things to consider.

A retirement literacy quiz you need to pass
Knowing the essentials.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: NerdWallet’s best credit card tips for May 2017. Also in the news: VA loan funding fees, the best banks for multiple savings accounts, and 401(k) myths you can’t afford to believe.

NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for May 2017
Which cards you should be considering.

VA Loan Funding Fee: What You’ll Pay and Why in 2017
Don’t be caught off-guard.

Need Multiple Savings Accounts? Here’s Where to Bank
Which banks offer the most bang for your bucks.

401(k) myths you can’t afford to believe
Time for some myth busting.

Q&A: The confusing balancing act between government pensions and Social Security benefits

Dear Liz: I am a public school teacher and plan to retire with 25 years of service. I had previously worked and paid into Social Security for about 20 years. My spouse has paid into Social Security for over 30 years. Will I be penalized because I have not paid Social Security taxes while I’ve been teaching? Should my wife die before me, will I get survivor benefits, or will the windfall elimination act take that away? It’s so confusing!

Answer: It is confusing, but you should understand that the rules about windfall elimination (along with a related provision, the government pension offset) are not designed to take away from you a benefit that others get. Rather, the rules are set up so that people who get government pensions — which are typically more generous than Social Security — don’t wind up with significantly more money from Social Security than those who paid into the system their entire working lives.

Here’s how that can happen. Social Security benefits are progressive, which means they’re designed to replace a higher percentage of a lower-earner’s income than that of a higher earner. If you don’t pay into the system for many years — because you’re in a job that provides a government pension instead — your annual earnings for Social Security would be reported as zeros in those years. Social Security is based on your 35 highest-earning years, so all those zeros would make it look like you earned a lower (often much lower) lifetime income than you actually did. Without any adjustments, you would wind up with a bigger check from Social Security than someone who earned the same income in the private sector and paid much more in Social Security taxes. It was that inequity that caused Congress to create the windfall elimination provision several decades ago.

People who earn government pensions also could wind up with significantly more money when a spouse dies. If a couple receives two Social Security checks, the survivor gets the larger of the two when a spouse dies. The household doesn’t continue to receive both checks. Without the government pension offset, someone like you would get both a pension and a full survivor’s check. Again, that could leave you significantly better off than someone who had paid more into the system.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Making a habit of checking your financial health. Also in the news: Online business ideas for couch potatoes, how one couple paid off $20K of debt in 18 months, and how Trump’s tax plan may affect your 401(k).

Start a New Habit: Check Your Financial Health
Almost as important as your physical health.

3 Online Business Ideas for Couch Potatoes
Make money from your recliner.

How I Ditched Debt: Active Budgeting Pays Off
How one couple paid off $20,000 in 18 months.

How Trump’s tax plan may affect your 401(k)
Digging into the details.

Q&A: Social Security survivor benefits

Dear Liz: I have been with my significant other for over 30 years. We have an adult son. My significant other has a much larger Social Security benefit than I will have when it’s time for me to retire. I understand that if we were to marry and something happened to him, I would receive his benefit. But the law on Social Security is confusing. It says you have to be married several years to collect your spouse’s benefit unless you have a child. If we were married soon, would I be eligible for his benefits if something happened to him or would we have to be married for many years?

Answer: Social Security benefits can be confusing, but you don’t have to be married for many years to receive benefits.

To qualify for survivor benefits, you typically must have been married for at least nine months. To qualify for spousal benefits, you generally have to be married a year. If you have a natural child together and that child is a minor, the one-year requirement for spousal benefits is waived.

Survivor benefits are what you get when a higher-earning spouse dies. The benefit is 100% of what the deceased spouse received (or earned, if he hasn’t started benefits), but the amount is reduced if you as the surviving spouse begin benefits before your own full retirement age. The current full retirement age is 66 and will rise to 67 for people born in 1960 and later.

Spousal benefits are what you can receive while a spouse is still alive. This benefit is typically equal to half that spouse’s benefit and is reduced to reflect early starts.

You’ll need a longer marriage to get benefits should you divorce. The marriage must have lasted 10 years, and you must not be currently remarried to receive divorced spousal benefits based on your ex’s work record. For divorced survivor benefits, the marriage also must have lasted 10 years but you’re allowed to remarry at age 60 or later.