Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 7 reasons why the IRS will audit you. Also in the news: Big news that could affect your student loans, sneaky ways debt can change how you think, and how the “Once in a Lifetime” mentality screws up your budget.

7 Reasons the IRS Will Audit You
How to avoid triggering an audit.

This News Could Affect Your Student Loans
Heads up.

3 Sneaky Ways Debt Can Change How You Think
Don’t resign yourself to debt.

How a “Once in a Lifetime” Mentality Screws Up Your Budget
Something to watch out for.

Q&A: Deploying a windfall wisely

Dear Liz: I recently received a $38,000 windfall. I have a student loan balance of $37,000. I want to buy a home, but I can’t decide if I should have a large down payment and continue paying down student loans slowly, or make a balloon payment on my student loans and put down a smaller amount on the home. The mortgage rate would be around 4% while the student loans are at 6.55%. The price of homes in my area is at least $250,000 for a two-bedroom house (which my income supports). I want to make a smart decision.

Answer: At first glance, the answer may seem obvious: Pay down the higher-rate debt. But a deeper look reveals that the second option may be the better course.

Student loan interest is deductible, so your effective interest rate on those loans may be less than 5%. If they’re federal student loans, they have all kinds of consumer protections as well. If you lose your job, for example, you have access to deferral and forbearance as well as income-sensitive repayment plans. In most cases, you don’t need to be in a rush to pay off this tax-advantaged, relatively low-rate debt.

A home purchase may be more time sensitive. Interest rates are already up from their recent lows and may go higher. If you can afford to buy a home and plan to stay put for several years, then you probably shouldn’t delay.

A 10% down payment should be sufficient to get a good loan. You’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance, since you can’t put 20% down, but PMI typically drops off after you’ve built enough equity. You usually can request that PMI be dropped once you’ve paid the mortgage down to 80% of the home’s original value. At 78%, the lender may be required to remove PMI. (Note that these rules apply to conventional mortgages and don’t apply to the mortgage insurance that comes with FHA loans.)

You can use the remaining cash to pay down your student loans, but do so only if you already have a healthy emergency fund. It’s smart to set aside at least 1% of the value of your home each year to cover repairs and maintenance, plus you’ll want at least three months’ worth of mortgage payments in the bank. Even better would be enough cash to cover all your expenses for three months.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 4 ways to ride the rising interest rates wave. Also in the news: Why you should set your own credit card limits, reasons why credit isn’t as boring as it sounds, and more than 1 million student loan borrowers are in default.

Fed Rate Hike: 4 Ways to Ride Rising Interest Rate Wave
Only the third increase since the 2008 financial crisis.

Set Your Own Credit Card Limits and Improve Your Life
Knowing your limits.

3 Reasons Credit Isn’t as Boring as It Sounds
It’s about more than just cards.

More than 1 million borrowers defaulted on their student loans last year
The amount owed by borrowers has increased 17%.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: When to consider a student loan lawyer. Also in the news: Why gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will impact your wallet, how much you should expect to pay when applying to college, and why you should try a credit union if you’re looking for free checking.

When to Consider a Student Loan Lawyer
Making a big decision.

Your Wallet Will Suffer If This Agency Is Gutted
It’s on the chopping block.

Applying to College? Expect to Pay at Least This Much
Get ready.

If You Want Free Checking, Try a Credit Union
Avoiding monthly maintenance fees.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: NerdWallet’s best credit card tips for March. Also in the news: Sane ways to pay down student debt, how to avoid a credit check scam while looking to rent, and how to save when you don’t have any extra cash.

NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for March 2017
Finding the best cards.

4 Sane Ways to Pay Down Student Debt
Paying your loans without losing your mind.

Looking to Rent? Avoid a Credit Check Scam
Watch out.

7 Ways to Save When You Don’t Have Any Extra Cash
Every penny counts.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The student loan tip that saves you money year after year. Also in the news: Overlooked small business tax deductions, when you need a cashier’s check and how to get one, and why Americans are drastically under-saved for retirement.

This Student Loan Tip Saves You Money Year After Year
It’s all about auto-pay.

5 Overlooked Small-Business Tax Deductions for 2017
Don’t forget these deductions.

Cashier’s Check: When You Need One and How to Get It
Another form of payment.

It’s worse than you thought: Americans are drastically under-saved for retirement
Are you one of them?

Q&A:Prenup may help with student loan issue

Dear Liz: You recently heard from someone who discovered after marriage that his wife had more than $100,000 in student loans. Would having a prenuptial agreement help in this situation?

Answer: Possibly. Debts incurred before marriage are considered separate rather than joint debts, but creditors still sometimes try to go after joint assets to get paid. A prenuptial agreement, which is a written contract created before marriage, could help a couple limit liability for each other’s debts.

In this case, the husband was willing to help his wife resolve the debts, but knowing about them before marriage would have been helpful — to put it mildly. The loans probably would have turned up during the financial disclosures required when drafting a prenuptial agreement. Even couples who won’t consider a prenup should pull their credit reports together so each knows what he or she is getting into.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to do when you haven’t received your W-2s. Also in the news: When you should use your emergency fund, how overborrowing can add over $100 a month to your student loan payment, and how a millennial couple paid off $20,000 in debt in two years.

Haven’t Gotten Your W-2? Take These Steps
Getting your tax docs in order.

When You Should Use Your Financial Emergency Fund
Determining true emergencies.

Overborrowing Could Add $119 to a Typical Monthly Student Loan Payment
Only borrow what you truly need.

How This Millennial Couple Paid Off $20,000 in 2 Years
Sticking to a plan.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: NerdWallet Survey: Nearly half of Americans emotionally overspend. Also in the news: RushCard holders are in for a $10 million payout, the best way to make extra money, and why some are worried student loan robocalls could increase under Trump.

NerdWallet Survey: Nearly Half of Americans Emotionally Overspend
Are you one of them?

RushCard Holder? You Might Get Slice of $10 Million Payout
Settlement for 2015 system breakdown.

Ask Brianna: What’s the Best Way to Make Extra Money?
Searching for side gigs.

Why some are worried student loan borrowers may get a flood of robocalls under Trump
Loan companies could lose their limits.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 2017 Tax Checklist. Also in the news: How home insurance defends your Super Bowl party mishaps, how using TurboTax could help with your student loans, and new apps to bolster your personal finances.

Super Bowl Party Fouls: How Home Insurance Defends Your Turf
Making sure your party mishaps are covered.

How Using TurboTax Could Help With Your Student Loans
Looking into refinancing options.

2017 Tax Checklist: What to Gather Before Filing
Get your paperwork in order.

Online DIY options to bolster your personal finances
Apps to help you get organized.