Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 steps to change homeowners insurance paid through escrow. Also in the news: Getting by on the average retirement income, TSA-Approved ways to cut the airport screening lines, and how to tell if your company’s 401(k) plan is any good.

5 Steps to Change Homeowners Insurance Paid Through Escrow
Seamless transition.

Could You Get By On the Average Retirement Income?
Will you have enough?

TSA-Approved Ways to Cut the Airport Screening Line
You can leave your shoes on.

How to Tell if Your Company’s 401(k) Plan Is Any Good
Is it worth contributing to?

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: One couple’s journey from debt to $1.5 million in savings. Also in the news: What to buy and skip in July, Whole Foods joins Amazon’s Prime Day, and how the lawsuits against student loan service Navient could affect you.

One Couple’s Journey From Debt to $1.5 Million in Savings
Communication is key.

What to Buy (and Skip) in July
Making the most of midsummer sales.

Prime Day Alert: 10% Back at Whole Foods with Amazon Prime Visa
Whole Foods joins the Prime Day excitement.

How the lawsuits against student loan servicer Navient could affect you
Four states are currently suing the student loan giant.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to make June’s Fed rate hike work for your savings. Also in the news: What the Fed rate hike means for your CDs, how to save money on wedding music, and making it easier for your loved ones to figure out your finances if you die.

How to Make June’s Fed Rate Hike Work for Your Savings
Time to reevaluate your savings?

June Fed Rate Hike: What It Means for Your CDs
Look for a little bump.

To Save Money on Wedding Music, Scratch the DJ and DIY
Create the ultimate playlist.

Could your loved ones figure out your finances if you died?
Making things easier during a difficult time.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Here’s how much you should have saved by 30. Also in the news: Taking the smart investor’s vow: to buy and to hold, getting real about the cost of an average retirement, and the MyHeritage hack affects 92 million customers.

Here’s How Much You Should Have Saved by 30
The magic number.

Take the Smart Investor’s Vow: to Buy and to Hold
In it for the long haul.

Let’s Get Real: What an Average Retirement Costs
Breaking down the numbers.

MyHeritage hack affects 92 million customers, reveals more risks with genealogy sites
Another day, another data breach.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 proven ways to increase your home’s value. Also in the news: Paying off debt while saving for retirement, fresh ways to save some green at the farmer’s market, and how some employers are helping to pay student loans in order to attract workers.

5 Proven Ways to Increase Home Value
Enhancing your curb appeal and interior.

Q: Pay Off Debt or Save for Retirement? A: Both
You don’t have to choose.

Fresh Ways to Save Some Green at the Farmers Market
Avoiding high prices at the supermarket.

Employers Help Pay Student Loans to Attract Workers
Now that’s a perk.

Don’t get taken for a ride this summer at the theme park

The best way to save money at theme parks this summer is simple. Don’t go.

Peak season means peak pricing. Admission discounts can be hard to find, and nearby hotels jack up their rates. Add in the always-inflated prices of food, souvenirs and parking, and you’re buying a pretty expensive day out. At the mega-parks operated by Disney and Universal, a family of four can easily spend $1,000 per day.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how to rein in costs while keeping your sanity.

How to build your ‘Oh, crap!’ fund

The emergency fund is a bust.

Millions of Americans don’t have one, and some of those who do resist tapping what they’ve saved. I’d like to propose an alternative for both sets of people: The “oh, crap!” fund, a savings account for not-quite-emergency expenses.

One of the reasons people don’t have emergency funds is misplaced optimism. People think that if they’re healthy, they’ll stay healthy. If they’re employed, ditto. The car will keep running, the roof will never need to be replaced and, since everybody’s a better-than-average driver, there won’t be any accidents. Behavioral scientists call that “recency bias,” which is the delusion that whatever happened in the recent past will continue into the indefinite future.

Everyone, though, has experienced “oh, crap!” moments: the no-parking sign they didn’t see, the crown the dentist says they need, the smartphone dropped in the toilet. In my latest for the Associated Press, how to build a fund that will take the sting out of emergency expenses.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: If you sold fearing a market crash, here’s what to do now. Also in the news: Why you should look under the hood of your target-date fund, a home buyer’s guide to motivated sellers, and is Amazon Prime worth its new price?

If You Sold Fearing a Market Crash, Here’s What to Do Now
Getting back in the game.

It’s Time to Look Under the Hood of Your Target-Date Fund
Taking a closer look.

A Home Buyer’s Guide to Motivated Sellers
Making the right match.

Is Amazon Prime worth its new $119 price tag?
The online giant is raising Prime prices.

Q&A: What’s better, collecting Social Security early or blowing through retirement savings?

Dear Liz: I am married and six months away from my full retirement age, which is 66. I have not filed yet. My wife started collecting Social Security at 62 but does not get very much. We are both in excellent health and have longevity in the genes. We don’t own a home. I have around $960,000 in diversified investments. I take out around $7,000 to $8,000 a month to meet my monthly expenses. Fortunately, the markets have been good, helping my portfolio, but I am not counting on that to continue at the same pace.

Doesn’t it make more sense to be taking less money out each month by starting Social Security now? I know I would receive less money than waiting until 66 or later, but between my check and the spousal benefit my wife could get, I would reduce my annual living expense withdrawals from my account by close to 50%. This would give my portfolio more opportunity to grow, since I will not be taking out so much every month.

I wish I could cut my expenses or could earn more income but cannot at this point. I am shooting for not taking more than 5% a year out of the portfolio going forward.

Answer: You’re right that something needs to change, because your withdrawal rate is way too high.

You’re currently consuming between 8.75% and 10% of your portfolio annually. Financial planners traditionally considered 4% to be a sustainable withdrawal rate. Any higher and you run significant risks of running out of money.

Some financial planning researchers now think the optimum withdrawal rate should be closer to 3%, especially for people like you with longevity in their genes. Chances are good that one or both of you will make it into your 90s, which means your portfolio may need to last three decades or more.

So even if you start Social Security now, you’ll need to reduce your expenses or earn more money to get your withdrawals down to a sustainable level.

Generally, it’s a good idea for the higher earner in a couple to put off filing as long as possible. The surviving spouse will have to get by on one Social Security check, instead of two, and it will be the larger of the two checks the couple received. Maximizing that check is important as longevity insurance, since the longer people live, the more likely they are to run through their other assets. Your check will grow 8% each year you can delay past 66, and that’s a guaranteed return you can’t match anywhere else. In many cases, financial planners will suggest tapping retirement funds if necessary to delay filing.

But every situation is unique. Your smartest move would be to consult a fee-only financial planner who can review your individual situation and give you personalized advice.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What the Fed rate hike means for your CDs. Also in the news: Steps to take if you don’t trust your spouse at tax time, 3 women you should know in investing, and 6 personal finance rules to live by in your 40s.

What the Fed Rate Hike Means for Your CDs
Look for higher rates.

5 Steps to Take If You Don’t Trust Your Spouse at Tax Time
Watch what you sign.

3 Women You Should Know in Investing
Leaders in investing.

6 Personal Finance Rules to Live By in Your 40s
Time to bulk up your retirement savings.