Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 back-to-college lessons on building credit. Also in the news: Focus on just one thing in order to retire early, 4 salary negotiation tactics that actually work, and what you need to know before switching to a cheaper phone plan.

5 Back-to-College Lessons on Building Credit
Preparing for a solid future.

To Retire Early, Focus on Just One Thing
Save like mad.

4 Salary Negotiation Tactics That Really Worked
How to get what you’re worth.

What You Need to Know Before Switching to a Cheaper Phone Plan
There will be changes.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The average American saves less than 5%. Also in the news: Strategies for lowering your closing costs, how to make money with YouTube, and should credit card perks coax you to go steady with a bank?

Average American Saves Less Than 5%
See how you stack up.

Strategies for Lowering Your Closing Costs
Saving as much as you can.

How to Make Money With YouTube
Monetizing your cat videos.

Should credit card perks coax you to go steady with a bank?
A one-sided love affair?

Stop counting other people’s money

Your neighbor pulls up in a sweet new ride. Your co-worker announces she’s taking yet another trip abroad. Your best friend upgrades to a bigger house in a better area of town.

You’re pretty sure these people don’t make a lot more than you do.

So how are they able to spend that kind of money?

Maybe they’re up to their ears in debt, or they’re trust fund babies, or they’ll never be able to retire. Or maybe they’ve figured out the secret to money, which is: You can have anything you want. You just can’t have everything.

The new car, that house and that exotic trip are the shiny end results of a series of decisions hidden below the surface. What we don’t see, typically, are the trade-offs – or their consequences.

In my latest for the Associated Press, why you need to focus on your own finances instead of counting other people’s money.

Make your teen a millionaire this summer

Gary Sidder set up Roth IRAs for his sons when they turned 13. Each year, the Littleton, Colorado, certified financial planner and his wife, Francie Steinzeig, a school psychologist, contributed an amount equal to whatever the two boys earned cutting lawns, shoveling snow and doing odd jobs. As the sons’ earnings increased, so did the parental contributions.

“Initially we started with $400, and now we do $5,500 for each,” the annual maximum allowable contribution, says Sidder, whose sons are 32 and 27. “Now that their accounts are worth more than $100,000 and $65,000, respectively, they do see the value of saving and starting early.”

Even if no further contributions are made, both sons could see their accounts top $1 million by retirement age, assuming conservative 7 percent average annual returns.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how setting up your kids with an IRA could pay off big dividends for their future.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to have healthy finances. Also in the news: Credit cards to pack for your road trip, learning about a Solo 401(k), and ten ridiculously easy ways to save $300 a month.

Want Healthy Finances? Start Here
Getting your finances in shape.

Credit Card Perks to Pack for Your Road Trip
Getting the biggest bang for your buck.

What Is a Solo 401(k)?
A retirement plan for the self-employed.

10 ridiculously easy ways to save $300 a month
You can do it!

When your emergency fund runs out

You’ve cut spending to the bone, sold excess stuff and hustled every side gig imaginable. But your emergency fund, if it ever existed, is on fumes.

What you do next may determine how fast — or even whether — you recover from the setback of losing your job.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how to survive a lack of emergency funds without making things worse.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Stocks at a crossroads: 3 things to watch for in June. Also in the news: Why kids should stash summer job cash in a Roth IRA, millennials are stressed about their finances, and why now is the time to buy a used car.

Stocks at Crossroads: 3 Things to Watch for in June
Watching the market.

Why Kids Should Stash Summer Job Cash in a Roth IRA
It’s never too early to save for retirement.

Study: Millennials are stressing about their finances
Feeling worse off than their Baby Boomer parents.

Why Now Is the Time to Buy a Used Car
Getting the most for your money.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 7 ways to ready your finances for divorce. Also in the news: Tips for the Class of 2017, simplifying your savings, and how a credit union raised the roof on credit card rewards.

7 Ways to Ready Your Finances for Divorce
Preparing for a difficult time.

Class of 2017: Get a Jump on Adulthood With These 7 Tips
No more kidding around.

Simplifying Saving with the 52-Week Money Challenge
You can do it!

How a Credit Union Raised the Roof on Credit Card Rewards
A Chicago-based credit union is taking rewards to the next level.

Q&A: Money in the bank isn’t safe from inflation

Dear Liz: I am 68 and not in very good health due to heart disease. I’m not sure what do with my savings of over $1 million, which sits in online bank accounts, earning 1.25% to 1.35% in 18-month certificates of deposit. (No account contains more than $250,000 to remain under the FDIC insurance limits.) The money will eventually go to my daughter, though I could use it for my retirement. I don’t have the appetite for market swings. What should I do with my money?

Answer: Your money currently is safe from just about everything except inflation. If you want to keep your nest egg away from market swings, you’ll have to accept that its buying power will shrink. There is no investment that can keep your principal safe while still offering inflation-beating growth.

If you do want a shot at some growth, you could keep most of your savings in cash but also invest a portion in stocks — preferably using low-cost index mutual funds or ultra-low-cost exchange-traded funds.

Before you know how to invest, though, you’ll need to think about your goals for this money. A fee-only financial planner could help you discuss the possibilities and come up with a plan. You can find fee-only planners who charge by the hour through the Garrett Planning Network, www.garrettplanningnetwork.com.

‘Smart’ money moves that aren’t so smart

The odds of winning a lottery are infinitesimal. Yet inevitably, someone does. Inspired by the idea of a huge payoff, millions of people burn money on lottery tickets.

The financial strategies below aren’t as much of a long shot as the lottery. More than a handful of people may actually benefit. But many who are tempted to use them don’t understand how high the odds are stacked against success. In my latest for the Associated Press, what seem like smart money moves on the surface may hide perils underneath.