Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to prevent gift card fraud this holiday season. Also in the news: Those “live checks” promise cash but come with a catch, renovation loans expand your home buying options, and the 2019 tax brackets.

How to Prevent Gift Card Fraud This Holiday Season
Keep an eye out for scams.

That ‘Live Check’ Promises Cash, but There’s a Catch
It could come with a whopping interest rate.

Renovation Loans Expand Your Homebuying Options
Move-in ready homes are becoming harder to find.

These Are the 2019 Tax Brackets
Small changes for 2019.

Q&A: Watch out for scams when trying to dump a timeshare

Dear Liz: How do I get out of a timeshare contract? A few years back, we signed up for one that’s associated with a major hotel chain. Promises were implied but not kept. Since then, I continually receive notices from legal groups that say all laws favor the timeshare developer and that my kids will take over my debt unless I pay the attorney thousands of dollars to get out of the contract.

Do you know of legitimate ways to sever the ties? I know I will lose my investment but would rather be out of the contract “for eternity.”

Answer: Timeshares typically include “in perpetuity” clauses meant to keep owners on the hook indefinitely for annual maintenance fees and other charges.

That doesn’t mean their heirs have to be on the hook, however. Your kids can “disclaim” — essentially, refuse to inherit — the timeshare on your death, as long as you haven’t put their names on the deed.

If you’re not happy with your timeshare, though, consider getting rid of it before your death. Check to see if the developer will take it back or if you can sell it on a site such as RedWeek or Timeshare Users Group. Don’t expect to get much, if any, money out of the deal. In fact, you may have to pay a year or two of maintenance fees in advance as a sweetener. That could be a relatively small price to get out of what otherwise might be a lifetime obligation.

It’s unfortunate that most timeshares don’t offer a simpler way out for owners. The difficulty in getting rid of timeshares opens the door for all kinds of scams and shady behavior, with companies charging thousands of dollars and often not delivering the exit they promise.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Fighting auto loan bias, despite Congress. Also in the news: What you should tell your financial advisor, how much you should spend on a Mother’s Day gift, and why you shouldn’t pay anyone to help with your student loans.

You Can Fight Auto Loan Bias, Despite Congress’ Reversal
Preapprovals are key.

What You Should Tell Your Financial Advisor
Everything they need to know.

How Much Should You Spend on a Mother’s Day Gift?
Making Mom happy.

Don’t Pay Anyone to ‘Help’ You With Your Student Loans
Beware of scams.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Plug in 3 numbers to plan your financial future. Also in the news: 10 questions to ask a financial advisor, how to stop scammers from stealing your down payment, and shopping around for car loans.

Plug in 3 Numbers to Plan Your Financial Future
A retirement calculator can help.

10 Questions to Ask a Financial Advisor
Finding the best match.

Stop Scammers From Stealing Your Down Payment

Don’t Forget, You Can Shop Around for Car Loans
You don’t have to accept the first offer.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The scariest thing to find on your credit report. Also in the news: How to spend your day when you’re unemployed, advocates praise student loan scam crackdown, and how to get your student loans back on course.

The Scariest Thing to Find on Your Credit Reports
Beware of surprises.

How to Spend Your Day When You’re Unemployed
Getting off the couch is a good start.

Advocates Praise Student Loan Scam Crackdown, Demand More
The tip of the iceberg.

Ask Brianna: How do I get my student loans back on course?
Course correction.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Want to graduate with minimal debt? Choose the right college. Also in the news: How to budget, save, and even win money with today’s prepaid debit cards, 5 key facts about earthquakes and insurance, and hackers are stealing home buyers’ down payments.

Want to Graduate With Minimal Debt? Choose the Right College
Comparison shopping.

Budget, Save, Even Win Money With Today’s Prepaid Debit Cards
Getting your spending in order.

5 Key Facts About Earthquakes and Insurance
Important information.

Hackers stealing home buyers’ down payments
Targeting hopes and dreams.

Q&A: Watch out for shady companies promising to help you repay student loans

Dear Liz: I’m 32 and have a little over $100,000 in student debt from undergraduate and graduate school. I’m trying to get my professional life on track, and I can’t figure out how to pay the loans off. Everything I see online seems shady. What are the questions I need to be asking myself? What are the things I should be searching for on the Internet to help me get control of my financial situation?

Answer: “Shady” is exactly the right word to describe many of the companies promising student loan debt relief. They’re making false promises and charging troubled borrowers fat fees for government help that’s available for free. Many of these outfits get disciplined in one state, only to pop up in another.

If you’re struggling to pay federal student loans, you have several options for making the payments more manageable. You can research income-based repayment programs at StudentLoans.gov. Private student loans don’t have the same consumer protections or numerous repayment options, but you can contact your lenders directly to see what they offer.

The amount of debt you have is large but not insurmountable, especially if it qualified you for a well-paying job.

You don’t have to rush to pay off the federal student loans because those offer low, fixed rates, but you may want to prioritize paying off variable-rate private loans.

Also, don’t let your concern about your debt prevent you from saving for retirement. That, too, will be expensive, and the longer you wait to contribute to a retirement fund, the harder it will be to catch up.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Don’t get taken by government grant scams. Also in the news: When you should and shouldn’t tap your Roth IRA, using your credit cards to pay for child care, and a report that finds many American teens lack basic financial skills.

Don’t Get Taken by Government Grant Scams
The government doesn’t want to give you money.

When You Should — and Shouldn’t — Tap Your Roth IRA
Let your interest rate be your guide.

Should You Use Credit Cards to Pay for Child Care?
Depends on the card.

Report finds many American teens lack basic financial skills
Not a good sign.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The high cost of bad credit. Also in the news: 5 tips to finding a cheaper flight, auto-paying bills by credit card, and United States workers are losing out on billions of dollars in pay.

How Costly Is Bad Credit? Many Don’t Know, Survey Shows
Ignorance isn’t bliss.

5 Tips to Find a Cheap Flight
Saving a little extra.

Auto-Paying Bills by Credit Card: Help or Hassle? Yes.
It can be both.

Every year, U.S. workers lose out on billions in pay
Getting what you deserve.

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.