Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Savings rates are staying low. Here’s why, and what to do. Also in the news: Ask a Points Nerd on how to celebrate the holidays without traveling, renting hotels for big events is dirt cheap at the moment, and the benefits of a ‘second chance’ checking account.

Savings Rates Are Staying Low. Here’s Why, and What to Do
Savings rates will likely remain low for a while after moves by the Federal Reserve, but you should still save.

Ask a Points Nerd: How Can I Celebrate the Holidays Without Travel?
Think of it as an opportunity to relax and try new things, instead of a sad alternative to the normal holidays.

Renting Hotels for Big Events Is Dirt-Cheap … for Now
The cost of booking a hotel for conferences and weddings has plummeted, but don’t expect it to stay that way.

Do You Need a ‘Second Chance’ Checking Account?
Making up for past mistakes.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How your mental health can affect how you save money. Also in the news: The holiday shopping episode of the Smart Money podcast, how to protect your credit when shopping for the holidays, and how to choose a secure credit card.

Your Mental Health Can Affect How You Save Money
How your state of mind can affect your wallet.

Smart Money Podcast: The Holiday Shopping Episode
Answering your holidays shopping questions.

How to Protect Your Credit When Shopping for the Holidays
Start by understanding your credit score, then set a spending limit and be strategic when shopping.

How to Choose a Secured Credit Card
Finding the right card to build your credit.

Q&A: A bill shows up twice in a credit report. Now what?

Dear Liz: I have been doing everything to raise my credit scores, which were horrible. I see some medical bills on my credit reports that seem identical. Should I try to dispute them or just let them go? I heard that if you try to dispute them, it allows the creditor to restart the clock on paying them, potentially keeping them on your report for seven more years.

Answer: You heard wrong, fortunately. Disputes don’t extend the limit on how long negative information can be reported.

You may be confusing the seven-year credit reporting time limit, which is part of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and restricts how long negative information stays on a credit report, with state statutes of limitation.

Statutes of limitation are supposed to limit how long a creditor may sue you over a debt. (The key phrase is “supposed to.” Collectors do file lawsuits on debts that are too old, hoping that the debtor won’t show up in court to point that out.)

Statutes of limitation can range from two to 15 years, depending on the state and the type of debt. In some states, it’s possible to restart the statute of limitations by making a payment on a debt, or even acknowledging that the debt is yours. (In California, the statute of limitations is four years for most debts.)

You’ll want to avoid either until you’re sure the bills are correct. You can start by disputing the bills with the credit bureaus.

If that doesn’t remove the duplicates, you can contact each collection agency in writing. Ask them to validate that the unpaid bill actually belongs to you and that they have the right to collect. Mention that if they cannot validate the debt, you want the bill removed from your credit reports. Also ask the collector to respond to your letter within 30 days.

Removing any duplicates may help your scores. Actually paying the collections typically won’t. It’s up to you whether you want to try settling the debts and risk reviving the statute of limitations, or simply wait until the debts fall off your credit reports after the seven-year mark.

Q&A: To sell or not to sell that collection

Dear Liz: You’ve twice advised collectors to sell their collections while they’re still alive, rather than leave the task to an executor who won’t have the collector’s intimate knowledge of the market for these items. Collectibles bring joy to the collector and are probably most valued the closer the end approaches. It would bring sadness rather than joy to unload them right at that point in life. Right now, I’m trying to declutter my house and even the stuff that has been moldering in boxes for decades hurts a little to let go of. I’m named as the executor in a buddy’s trust and will need to move his tools. Even if his old arthritic hands can’t operate the lathe anymore, he looks at the machine and I can see the memory of turning a bowl in the expression he wears. I say, accept the responsibility of an executor fully.

Answer: If you haven’t served as an executor, you may not fully understand how daunting and time consuming the task can be even without having to deal with a large collection.

No one is suggesting that people divest themselves entirely of a prized collection. But letting go of stuff can be immensely freeing, as well as a real gift to the people we leave behind.

If you need motivation to continue your decluttering, consider reading Margareta Magnusson’s book, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Make Your Loved Ones’ Lives Easier and Your Own Life More Pleasant.”

Q&A: When paying debt hurts credit score

Dear Liz: You recently answered someone whose credit scores dropped more than 30 points after they paid off a mortgage. You mentioned that the big drop was probably because the mortgage was the person’s only installment loan. Credit scores like to see active use of both types of credit, installment loans and credit cards. Because this person’s scores were so high, they almost certainly were still actively using credit cards. But you should remind people that if they stop using credit, eventually they won’t have any credit scores at all.

Answer: Consider them reminded. There’s no need to carry balances; just using credit cards regularly is enough.

A few other readers wrote in suggesting the letter writer get a personal loan as a way of increasing their scores. Although personal loans can be a great help to people building credit, there’s really no point in increasing scores once they’re above about 760 on a 300-to-850 scale. Higher scores only get you bragging rights, and it would be a little silly to pay a lender unnecessary interest to get those.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Financial advice that rarely fits all. Also in the news: Telehealth gets a boost among Medicare recipients in the pandemic, things to keep your holiday packages safe, and when you should transfer your credit card balance to a low-interest card.

Financial Advice That Rarely Fits All
One size doesn’t always work.

Telehealth Gets a Boost Among Medicare Recipients in Pandemic
Medicare dramatically expanded benefits for remote health care in response to COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know.

Do These Things to Keep Your Holiday Packages Safe
You can invest in a security camera or send packages to a secure location, like the post office.

Should You Transfer Your Credit Card Balance to a Low-Interest Card?
Look out for the introductory period.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How small businesses can help workers save. Also in the news: 8 housing and mortgage trends for 2021, 45% of federal student loan borrowers unsure they can pay, and how to get your collectibles appraised.

How Small Businesses Can Help Workers Save
Small businesses can offer inexpensive ways to help workers save automatically through payroll deduction.

The Property Line: 8 Housing and Mortgage Trends for 2021
Low mortgage rates, strong home sales and evictions are among the trends expected in 2021.

Survey: 45% of Federal Student Loan Borrowers Unsure They Can Pay
Millions face the return of their monthly bill in January as the automatic pause for federal student loans ends.

How to Get Your Collectibles Appraised
Just how much is that signed baseball worth?

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Grace period over? Refinance these student loans ASAP. Also in the news: smart tactics for Millennials flocking to buy life insurance, how senior insulin users may benefit from Medicare savings model, and how to stay on track with a budget calendar.

Grace Period Over? Refinance These Student Loans ASAP
New graduates shouldn’t wait to see if they can refinance their private student loans.

Smart Tactics for Millennials Flocking to Buy Life Insurance
Millennials applying for life insurance can skip medical exams, simplify the process and pay less than they expect

Insulin Users May Benefit From Medicare Senior Savings Model
Seniors with diabetes may pay less for insulin with this program, which debuts in some Medicare drug plans in 2021.

Stay on Track With a Budget Calendar
One day at a time.

How small businesses can help workers save

Donna Skemp of Bend, Oregon, struggled to save before she signed up for an automatic savings plan offered by her employer’s payroll services company. Now, some of her pay goes into a federally insured, interest-paying savings account that she can access any time with a debit card.

“It’s painless, and it’s so easy,” says Skemp, accounting and office manager for the nonprofit Every Kid Sports, which pays sports registration fees for children from low-income families.

Skemp is lucky — more than one-third of private-sector workers don’t have access to workplace savings plans via payroll deduction. Many small-business owners may think such plans are too expensive or complicated to administer. In my latest for the Associated Press, find out why that isn’t so.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Changed travel plans on the menu this Thanksgiving. Also in the news: Online shopping already hit holiday-lvel peaks this year, when you can apply for a credit card after bankruptcy, and how the pandemic has made the racial retirement gap worse.

Changed Travel Plans on the Menu This Thanksgiving
Three in 5 U.S. adults who had Thanksgiving travel plans say these plans have been affected by the pandemic, according to a NerdWallet survey.

Online Shopping Already Hit Holiday-Level Peaks This Year
Shopping looks a little different this year.

When Can I Apply For A Credit Card After Bankruptcy?
Your options are limited.

The pandemic has made the racial retirement gap worse. Here’s how individuals can close it.Closing the racial retirement gap for people of color, even in this pandemic, could begin with broadening access and financial education.