Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: IRS tax payments are now due in July. Here’s what that means for you. Also in the news: Taking your banking online during social distancing, why a used EV should be your teen’s first car, and what to do about your rewards travel plans.

IRS Tax Payments Are Now Due in July. Here’s What It Means for You
You still need to file by April 15th.

Social Distancing During the Coronavirus? Take Your Banking Online
It’s both convenient and safe.

Your Teen’s First Car: A Low-Cost, Low-Upkeep Used EV
A combination of factors make it an ideal choice.

What to Do About Your Rewards Travel Plans
Sorting through the confusion.

Tax traps that side hustlers should avoid

Millions of Americans earn extra money outside their regular jobs — as ride-hailing drivers, Airbnb hosts, eBay sellers and freelancers of all kinds. Their side hustle income may help make ends meet, but it also can create tax traps.

Side gigs usually count as self-employment, which triggers different rules, additional tax forms and plenty of confusion for people accustomed to filing as employees, tax experts say.

In my latest for the Associated Press, find out how to avoid surprises when it comes to tax time.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Even in a financial crisis, you have options. Also in the news: When will it make sense to travel again, robo-advisors bring access to a new crop of investors, and Apple Card will let you skip a payment this month.

Even in a Financial Crisis, You Have Options
Take a deep breath.

Ask a Points Nerd: When Will It Make Sense to Travel Again?
Uncertain times.

Robo-Advisors Bring Access to a New Crop of Investors
A good option for new investors.

Apple Card Will Let You Skip Your Payment This Month
But it’s not automatic.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Your last chance for high CD rates is right now. Also in the news: How a credit card can help home improvement plans, how to search for scholarships without getting lost in spam, and a new episode of the SmartMoney podcast on credit scores.

Your Last Chance for High CD Rates Is Right Now
The impact of Fed rate changes.

Got Home Improvement Plans? How a Credit Card Can Help
Rewards and sign-up bonuses.

How to Search for Scholarships, Not Get Lost in Spam
Finding legit offers.

SmartMoney Podcast: ‘Why Did My Credit Scores Suddenly Drop?’
Sorting through the reasons.

Q&A: Which to tap first: IRA or Social Security?

Dear Liz: I retired in 2015 but have not started Social Security. My wife and I are living on a pension and savings. I read an article saying that taking early IRA withdrawals and holding off on Social Security can help minimize the so-called tax torpedo, which is a sharp rise and fall in marginal tax rates due to the way Social Security benefits are taxed.

I made a spreadsheet to compare the cumulative income we could expect by starting IRA withdrawals now and delaying Social Security until age 70, versus starting Social Security now and delaying the IRA withdrawals. The spreadsheets indicate that by taking early IRA distributions and delaying Social Security, we would get a significant increase in total cumulative income as the years go by.

We feel we need a professional to verify our results and perhaps advise us as to which might be our best route, as well as getting an assessment of our income tax implications for the next five years or so. My wife thinks we should ask a Certified Public Accountant and is concerned about the price of a fee-only advisor.

Answer: Your findings are similar to what researchers reported in the July 2018 issue of the Journal of Financial Planning. The tax torpedo increases marginal tax rates for many middle-income households. One solution is to delay Social Security until age 70 and tap IRAs instead. That maximizes the Social Security benefit while reducing future required minimum distributions.

It’s always a good idea to get an objective second opinion on retirement distributions, however. Mistakes can be costly and irreversible. A fee-only certified financial planner should have access to powerful software that can model various scenarios to help confirm your results and guide your next steps.

Q&A: This innocent oversight can torpedo your credit scores

Dear Liz: My wife just had a credit card closed due to late payments, and we need some advice. It was a mileage card that she stopped using, but in November she made a charge for $120. She forgot about the charge, and in December they added the annual $60 fee. We weren’t monitoring the card, as it wasn’t being used, so we missed paying the two charges for three months. They closed the account and refused to reopen it even after we paid the balance.

This was an account my wife had for 17 years, always making payments on time, with a $26,000 credit line. Is there a way to get the company to reopen the account? Would you suggest writing a goodwill letter asking the bank to remove the account from our credit record? This was a stupid oversight on our part, and now I fear it’s going to kill our credit score!

Answer: Let’s take the good news, bad news approach.

The good news is that there is no such thing as a joint credit score. If this account was in your wife’s name alone, then only her credit scores have been affected. If you were an authorized user on the card, then the late payments may be affecting your scores as well, but you have some recourse. You can call the issuer and ask to be removed as an authorized user from the closed account, or you can dispute the account with the credit bureaus and (hopefully) get it removed that way.

Now, the bad news. If your wife’s credit scores used to be high, they aren’t anymore. That first skipped payment probably knocked 100 points or more from her scores. The next two skipped payments just exacerbated the damage. The account’s closure didn’t help matters, but most of the damage happened when she missed the first payment.

She can try writing a letter asking the issuer for mercy, but she shouldn’t get her hopes up. The issuer no longer wants her business and has little incentive to accommodate her.

Fortunately, credit score damage isn’t permanent, but it may be a few years before her scores are back to where they were.

This is a good reminder to consider putting all credit accounts on automatic payment, so at least the minimum payments are made each month. It’s also smart to monitor at least one of your credit scores and get alerts if there’s a sudden drop. Many banks and credit cards offer free scores, as do financial websites.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to protect your finances and credit in tough times. Also in the news: Squash these 4 common tax-season stresses, how to weather a market downturn during or approaching retirement, and how to handle – and head off – a tax bill.

How to Protect Your Finances and Credit in Tough Times
Prepare instead of panic.

Squash These 4 Common Tax-Season Stresses
How to overcome the 4 biggest stresses.

Retired or Nearly There? How to Weather a Market Downturn
Diversification is key.

How to Handle — and Head Off — a Tax Bill
Preparing in advance.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Your kids don’t want your stuff. Also in the news: Don’t become a victim of Coronavirus shopping frenzy, what to do if the Coronavirus is affecting your finances, and why you shouldn’t get too excited about cheap gas.

Your Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff
But don’t take it personally.

Don’t Become a Victim of Coronavirus Shopping Frenzy
Beware of price gouging.

What to Do if the Coronavirus Outbreak Is Affecting Your Finances
What companies are doing to help.

Don’t Get Too Excited About Cheap Gas
It’s only temporary.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How mortgage refinancing could save you money even if your loan is new. Also in the news: Where to stash your savings when cash management account rates take a dive, how to stock up wisely, emergency or not, and what the “history” part of your credit score really measures.

Mortgage Refinance Could Save Money — Even If Your Loan Is New
A typical refinance can save at least $150 a month.

Where to Stash Your Savings When Cash Management Account Rates Take a Dive
Taking a look at CDs and online accounts.

How to Stock Up Wisely, Emergency or Not
Stocking up strategically.

What the ‘History’ Part of Your Credit Score Really Measures
It isn’t just how long you’ve had credit.

Your kids don’t want your stuff

Estate appraiser Julie Hall advises downsizing clients not to take it personally when their adult kids don’t want their furniture and other possessions. But when Hall asked her 23-year-old daughter what she might want from the four-bedroom family home, the younger woman mentioned just three items.

“And I said, ‘Out of this whole house? Honey, we have nice things!’” says Hall, author of several books, including “How to Clean Out Your Parents’ Estate in 30 Days or Less.” “I started to sound like my clients.”

In my latest for the Associated Press, how to not take it personally when your kids don’t want your treasures.