Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: NerdWallet’s best bank accounts and credit unions of 2017. Also in the news: Tips for investing in your 30s, using apps to save money without thinking, and the five biggest tax breaks for the self-employed.

NerdWallet’s Best Bank Accounts and Credit Unions of 2017
Where you should do business.

5 Tips for Investing in Your 30s
Taking the long view.

Want to Save Money Without Thinking? Try These Apps
You won’t even notice.

5 biggest tax breaks for the self-employed
How to keep more of your money.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

smartphones_financeToday’s top story: A good retirement savings option for the self-employed. Also in the news: Jobs that could mark you as a risk for late payments, what to ask before giving a cell phone as a gift, and the financial perks of not celebrating Christmas.

A Good Retirement Savings Option for the Self-Employed
Consider a Solo 401(k).

Study: These Jobs Could Mark You as a Risk for Late Payments on Personal Loans
Is yours on the list?

Ask These Questions Before Giving a Cell Phone This Season
What you need to know before making a purchase.

The Financial Perks of Not Celebrating Christmas
The upside to being The Grinch.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

homebuyerToday’s top story: Credit cards that allow you to set spending limits for authorized users. Also in the news: 8 keys to getting approved for a mortgage if you’re self-employed, how to tell if you’re getting a good car deal, and how to find the best mortgage rates and lenders online.

Which Credit Cards Allow You to Set a Spending Limit for Authorized Users?
Setting limits.

Self Employed? 8 Keys to Getting Approved for a Mortgage and Buying a Home
It’s not impossible.

How to Tell If You’re Getting a Good Car Deal
Deciphering the doubletalk.

How To Find The Best Mortgage Rates And Lenders Online
Navigating the online mortgage waters.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

1403399192000-retire-workToday’s top story: Tips on cutting your tax bill. Also in the news: How to get a retirement match from the IRS, money-management tips for the self-employed, and what you need to consider before making a risky investment.

7 Ways to Cut Your Tax Bill
Keep more of your hard-earned money.

Get a $1,000 Retirement Match From the IRS
Introducing the Saver’s Credit.

9 money-managing steps every self-employed person should take
Tips for the 1099ers.

The Factors to Consider Before Making a Risky Investment
Look before you leap.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to begin taking over your parents’ finances. Also in the news: The psychological roots of your money habits, how to buy a home when you’re self-employed, and the best and worst things to buy online.

Taking Over Parents’ Finances: First Steps
How to handle a delicate situation.

Deciphering Your Money Mindset
Getting to the psychological roots of your money habits.

How to Buy a Home When You’re Self-Employed
It won’t be easy, but it’s doable.

The 10 best and worst items to buy online
Some of these may surprise you.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

1594411528_1512b1aad5_zToday’s top story: Capital One faces major backlash against home visit policy. Also in the news: Retirement strategies for the self-employed, how to choose between a will and a trust, a how your taxes could affect your chances of buying a home.

Capital One policy about home visits causes backlash
Customers aren’t thrilled with the idea of Capital One literally knocking on their doors.

Retirement Strategies for the Self-Employed
The best ways to build your retirement nest egg.

Wills vs. Trusts: What’s Best For Retirees?
Important differences to consider.

How Your Taxes Could Hurt Your Homebuying Chances
Saving money on taxes could increase the cost of a future home.

Double Trouble: Being an Identity Theft Victim Can Land You in Jail
Adding insult to injury.

Money advice for the self-employed

Dog walkerIf you’re self-employed, you’ve probably noticed that standard money advice often falls short.

A lot of what you read assumes you receive regular, predictable paychecks with taxes already withheld and benefits covered. Just try finding advice to deal with the following:

  • A major customer abruptly changes payment policies, so that five-figure check you’re counting on to pay the bills lands weeks later than you expected.
  • Your health insurer announces your premiums will increase 39%, and your insurance broker tells you that no other company will cover you for less…or at all.
  • Congress dithers on renewing a key tax break, so your CPA advises (at Christmastime) that you’ll need to cough up thousands more dollars to make yourself “penalty proof.”

These aren’t hypotheticals. Each has happened to me as a small business owner. Predicting income and expenses when you run your own show is often as much art as science. When you’re providing your own benefits, handling your own taxes and doing your own billing, your financial life becomes complex in a way that would confound most of the W-2 world.

This is what has helped me:

A business line of credit. Excellent credit scores helped me land a low-rate line of credit when I opened my business checking and savings accounts. I relied on it heavily when I was getting started to cover those inevitable gaps in cash flow (translation: slow-paying customers). I still use it occasionally to deal with unexpected expenses; I don’t carry a balance for a day longer than necessary, but I’d rather pay a few bucks in tax-deductible interest for a few days than keep a huge wad sitting idle in a business savings account.

A tax pro. I don’t write about taxes often, and almost never about business taxes. So why would I waste time trying to keep abreast of business tax law and struggling to do my own taxes when I can hire someone? Especially since that someone lives and breathes taxes, and can be counted on to represent me in an audit. We small business owners often have trouble delegating, but we’re far better off spending our time making money than wrestling with tax forms.

A simple rule of thumb. Early on, a CPA said he could bill me to make some elaborate projections, but he suggested a simpler way: save half. If I put aside half of every check that came in, I’d be able to cover my taxes and expenses. Ten years later I have a much better handle on cash flow, but it still pretty much boils down to saving half of what comes in.

If you’re an entrepreneur, I highly recommend “The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed: The Only Personal Finance System for People with Not-So-Regular Jobs Paperback” by Joseph D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan, two freelancers who through trial-and-error figured out a money system that really works.

A credit line can help with cash flow gaps

Dear Liz: My husband and I are self-employed. As we pay our bills, we are often a few thousand dollars short as we wait to be paid by our clients. Until now, we’ve been using a home equity line of credit to bridge the gap. We are ultra-responsible about paying it back. But our current 10-year draw period ends this month, and our lender has denied us either a new HELOC or a refinance. Is there another product that would help us? It would be sad if the only way to maintain our life is to sell our house, but that might be where we are if we can’t find some small line of credit.

Answer: Talk to the bank that has your business checking and savings accounts about the possibility of opening a line of credit. This is a standard tool for businesses of all sizes, but can be particularly helpful for small-business owners who have cash flow challenges. The interest rates on business credit lines are typically low, and you may be offered higher limits over time as you use the account responsibly.

If your bank isn’t interested in helping you, ask other entrepreneurs to help you find a more business-friendly financial institution. A community bank may be more flexible and more interested in winning your business than bigger, name-brand banks, but the experiences of fellow small-business owners can guide you to the best options in your community.