3 lessons I wish I’d learned sooner about travel

Almost every trip teaches me something about myself, the world and what not to do next time.In my latest for the Associated Press, three hard-won travel lessons that may help you learn from my mistakes.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: A special episode of the Smart Money podcast on Queer money talk. Also in the news: How to shop for back-to-school during inflation, renting an EV for a gas-free road trip, and is owner financing ever a good idea?

Smart Money Podcast: Queer Money Talk
This week’s episode is dedicated to a conversation with David Auten and John Schneider of the Queer Money Podcast about the personal finance challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community.

Amid Inflation, Shop Back-to-School Early — But Not All at Once
Just as school-aged kids ease into summer break, the state of the economy forces many parents to put back-to-school shopping on the radar early.

Want a Gas-Free Road Trip? Consider Renting an EV
You can find EVs at some locations of major car rental companies or through car sharing alternatives.

Is Owner Financing Ever a Good Idea?

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How LGBTQ+ Americans can overcome barriers to building credit. Also in the news: How to protect your vacation budget, the pros and cons of “Travel now, Pay later,” and 58% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck after inflation spike.

How LGBTQ+ Americans Can Overcome Barriers to Building Credit
LGBTQ+ people report lower than average credit scores. Here’s why that is a problem and steps to overcome.

Your Vacation Budget Is Still at Risk — Here’s How to Protect It
The travel landscape is improving, but having a plan for cancellation remains a wise move amid ongoing uncertainty.

Should You Use Buy Now, Pay Later Services for Travel?
Buy Now, Pay Later services may come with hidden fees, so you should only use them for necessary travel expenses.

58% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck after inflation spike — including 30% of those earning $250,000 or more
Even top earners say they are stretched thin, the report found.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to approach buying home insurance for the first time. Also in the news: How to get PrEP with or without insurance, could this be the summer of debt forgiveness, and these credit cards come with sweet airport perks.

How to Approach Buying Home Insurance for the First Time
Proactive research will make the home buying process easier.

How to Get PrEP With or Without Insurance
Here’s what health care experts say about how to get PrEP for HIV prevention, with or without insurance.

Will This Be the Summer of Student Debt Cancellation?
The “will he, won’t he” summer of student debt cancellation is upon us.

These Credit Cards Come With Sweet Airport Perks
You may already have access to a fancy airport lounge and not even know it.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 4 items for your midyear money checklist. Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on small business and inflation, a potential student trap, and store loyalty programs worth signing up for.

4 Items for Your Midyear Money Checklist
Review your expenses, deal with debt, plan for holiday shopping and sort out taxes and benefits.

Smart Money Podcast: Small-Business Inflation, and Sign-Up Bonuses
This week’s episode starts with a discussion with NerdWallet data writer Liz Renter about the impact of inflation on small-business owners.

Is ‘Learn Now, Pay Later’ Just Another Student Debt Trap?

These Free Store Loyalty Programs Are Actually Worth Signing Up For
If you’re going to shop at these places anyway, you might as well get your money’s worth.

Q&A: How previous home sales might affect your capital gains taxes

Dear Liz: I am selling my house and will not be buying another one. I believe that I know the rules of capital gains taxes in general. However, must I include the capital gains of previous homes, even those experienced many years ago?

Answer: Possibly.

Before 1997, homeowners could avoid capital gains taxes by rolling their profits into another home, as long as the purchase price of the new house was equal to or greater than the home they sold. Homeowners 55 and older could get a one-time exclusion of up to $125,000.

The rules changed in 1997. Now homeowners can exclude up to $250,000 of home sale gains as long as they have owned and lived in the home at least two of the prior five years. A married couple can exclude up to $500,000.

If you have not sold a home since the rules changed, however, any previously deferred gains would lower the tax basis on your current home.

Let’s say you bought your current home for $300,000 prior to 1997. Normally, that amount (plus certain other expenses, including qualifying home improvements) would be your tax basis. If the net proceeds from your sale were $500,000, for example, you would subtract the $300,000 basis from that amount for a capital gain of $200,000.

But now let’s say you rolled $200,000 of capital gains from previous home sales into your current home. That amount would be subtracted from your tax basis, so your capital gain would be $400,000 — the $500,000 net sale proceeds minus your $100,000 tax basis.

Before selling any home, you should consult with a tax pro to make sure you understand how capital gains taxes may affect the sale. You don’t want to find out you owe a big tax bill after you’ve spent or invested the proceeds.

Q&A: Riding the market waves

Dear Liz: Today’s stock market is one of the most volatile of all time. So many issues affect it, and there seems to be no end in sight to war in Ukraine, inflation, high fuel prices, the pandemic, China conflict concerns and more. Any one of these would cause the market pain, but together it’s scary. I have a broker who’s used to riding ups and downs, and says to me to be patient. In the meantime I’ve lost 25% of a portfolio that was extremely fruitful until January of this year. Please give me guidance on working with a broker, finding one who knows how to navigate this market and isn’t mired in some tradition of riding waves. I need one who sees opportunity and knows how to take advantage and get out appropriately.

Answer: The reason your broker is “mired in some tradition of riding waves” is because that’s the one approach that consistently works. It’s the advisors who promise you that they can “see opportunity” and “get out appropriately” that can cost you big time. Advisors who try to time the market — which is what you’re asking them to do — inevitably fail. They might get out in time to avoid the crash but rebounds happen so swiftly that they’ll miss a good chunk of the recovery before they get back in.

There is no reward without risk, and riding out inevitable downturns is how investors get ahead over time. Trying to outsmart the market just leads to extra costs that lower your ultimate returns.

Q&A: Finding divorce papers

Dear Liz: My ex passed three years ago. I have done everything to try to get a copy of our divorce papers. I’ve lost out on three years of divorced survivor benefits. Social Security said I must have a copy of the papers before I apply. I have contacted the last places where he lived and sent money orders to the capital cities of those states to no avail. I’m at a loss.

Answer: You need to contact the court clerk in the county where your divorce was finalized and ask for instructions on getting a copy of the documents. Sending out money orders at random won’t do anything but waste your cash. (You may be able to get some money back if the money orders haven’t been cashed, however. You’ll need to contact the issuer, provide a receipt and pay a cancellation fee.)

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Is medical debt disappearing from your credit report? Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on tackling the racial wealth gap, using the 25-year-rule to buy a cool, cheap are, and how to check if your new circuit breaker is part of a serious recall.

Is Medical Debt Disappearing From Your Credit Report?
Health care bills are about to become far less threatening to the financial well-being of millions of Americans.

Smart Money Podcast: Taking On the Racial Wealth Gap
This week’s episode is dedicated to a conversation with journalist Kimberly Atkins Stohr. We discuss her series about how to solve the racial wealth gap.

Use the 25-Year Rule to Buy a Cool, Cheap Car
Tiny ’90s-era Japanese imports are having a moment. Here’s what you need to know.

Check If Your New Circuit Breaker Is Part of This Serious Recall
Approximately 1.4 million electric panels are included in the recall.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to afford summer road trips amid high gas prices. Also in the news: A Travel Nerd on what the strong dollar means for summer travel, saving at summer music festivals, and how a business can move towards pay equity.

How to Afford Summer Road Trips Amid High Gas Prices
Travelers can save on road trips by traveling through regions with low-cost gas and by renting electric vehicles.

Ask a Travel Nerd: What Does the Strong Dollar Mean for Summer Travel?
Amid the anxiety of inflation, U.S. travelers can take comfort that their dollar will go further abroad.

Fine-Tune Your Music Festival Budget and Save
Music festivals can be pricey. Here’s how to see your favorite artists without breaking the bank.

How a Business Can Move Toward Pay Equity
Beyond avoiding litigation and reputation damage, pay equity is about fairly compensating workers for their experience and skills.