Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 ways to take command of military discounts. Also in the news: The best credit cards to use when buying airfare, Black Friday strategies that actually work, and how to spend your retirement savings without triggering a tax penalty.

5 Ways to Take Command of Military Discounts
Thank you for your service.

Buying Airfare? Use These Cards to Maximize Your Points
Getting the most for your purchase.

Shoppers Share Black Friday Strategies That Actually Work
Tackling your holiday shopping.

How to spend your retirement savings without triggering a tax penalty
Draw down your money at the right time.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Speedier payment systems could curb your costs. Also in the news: Black Friday vs. Prime Day: How they stack up, 5 signs an online loan is a debt trap, and everything you need to know about your 2020 taxes.

Speedier Payment Systems Could Curb Your Costs
Real-time payments could save Americans billions.

Black Friday vs. Prime Day: How They Stack Up
71% of Americans plan to shop on Black Friday.

5 Signs an Online Loan Is a Debt Trap
Look for the warning signs.

Here’s everything you need to know about your 2020 taxes
There’s a new tax code.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 signs an online loan is a debt trap. Also in the news: 6 surprising sales to shop on Black Friday, secrets of a Black Friday shopper, and 5 common financial fears and how to conquer them.

5 Signs an Online Loan Is a Debt Trap
Things to look out for.

6 Surprising Sales to Shop on Black Friday
Virtually everything is on sale.

Secrets of a Black Friday Shopper
Get in on the action.

5 common financial fears and how to conquer them
Ignorance isn’t bliss.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Should you use miles to book holiday travel? Also in the news: How one woman paid off $51K of debt, 4 times it actually makes sense to buy miles, and what to do first when you get a raise.

Should You Use Miles to Book Holiday Travel?
Good idea? Or waste of rewards?

How I Ditched Debt: From ‘Extravagantly Broke’ to Comfortably Frugal
How one woman paid off $51K of debt in less than three years.

4 Times It Actually Makes Sense to Buy Miles
A few compelling reasons.

What to Do First When You Get a Raise
Don’t leave it to chance.

Speedier payment systems could curb your costs

Here’s an illustration of the many ways slow payment systems can inconvenience you and cost you money.

Let’s say Homer is two days from payday. The family checking account at First Bank of Springfield is on fumes. There’s just enough in the account, Homer thinks, to gas up his Plymouth sedan and buy Bart a Squishee at the Kwik-E-Mart.

But Marge checked the account balance too, and thought she could safely buy groceries. Because Homer and Marge didn’t realize they were spending the same money, one of the transactions triggers an overdraft fee. Plus, they forgot the power bill is due, and utility owner Mr. Burns charges a wicked late fee.

Homer hits up Lenny and Carl for a loan, but Lenny uses Venmo, Carl uses PayPal and Homer uses only Zelle. Lenny writes Homer a check, but it’s from National Bank of Springfield, so First Bank puts a hold on the deposit. Desperate, Marge breaks into Lisa’s piggy bank for money to pay the power bill, but has to pay a fee to “expedite” a same-day bill payment.

The animated “Simpsons” television show might use this scenario to get laughs, but it’s not funny for Americans who pay billions of dollars in overdraft charges and late fees , thanks in part to antiquated payment systems. The most vulnerable people turn to high-cost payday loans to bridge cash flow gaps, and some leave the banking system altogether because of high, unpredictable fees.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how a change at the Federal Reserve could speed up payments dramatically.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to stop anxiety from ruining your finances. Also in the news: How to not let try-before-you-buy shopping bust your budget, a new episode of the SmartMoney podcast, and what bad money habits did your parents teach you.

How to Stop Anxiety From Ruling Your Finances
Knowing your attitude towards money.

Don’t Let Try-Before-You-Buy Shopping Bust Your Budget
Pay close attention to fees.

SmartMoney podcast: ‘Which Accounts Can Make Me the Most Money?’
Putting your savings to work.

What Bad Money Habits Did Your Parents Teach You?
Our bad habits had to originate from somewhere.

Q&A: This nurse needs a Social Security checkup. Here’s how to check yours

Dear Liz: I’m a certified nurse midwife who is salaried. When we are fully staffed, I work 55 hours a week on average. If we cover extra shifts, we are paid a lump sum rather than hourly. (If we were paid hourly, it would work out to far less than minimum wage.) We are paid twice a month, but my pay stub shows that I only work 70 hours per pay period. I work almost that many hours in a single week! When I work extra shifts, it is reported on my check under “miscellaneous” with the lump sum listed. I asked our administrators about this and they just told me it wasn’t a big deal, but I’m not convinced that’s true. Do the hours reported on my paycheck affect my Social Security income later? I just don’t want to lose out on Social Security benefits when I work my butt off!

Answer: The hours you work don’t affect your future Social Security benefit, but your earnings do. At least they should. Your employer is supposed to report your full salary to Social Security, and to deduct the appropriate amount of Social Security tax from your paychecks. If your pay is underreported, your future benefits could be shortchanged.

Here’s a quick way to check if your earnings are being reported properly. On your paycheck, there should be a line that says either “Social Security,” “OASDI” or “FICA.” If the line says Social Security or FICA, the amount listed should be 6.2% of the money you earned for the pay period, up to a maximum annual amount of $8,239.80 for 2019. (There’s a ceiling on the amount of wages subject to Social Security taxes, which this year is $132,900.)

Some employers don’t break out Social Security taxes from Medicare taxes, and include them both in a line for FICA, which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act. The FICA amount should be your Social Security tax (6.2% of your earnings up to $132,900) plus 1.45% for Medicare. (There’s no cap, so all earnings are subject to the Medicare tax.)

If the tax amounts shown don’t include that “miscellaneous” lump sum, please call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to report the situation.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: You owe interest on a 0% APR credit card. How did that happen? Also in the news: How to choose the right health plan, how to win big on Black Friday, and how your travel plans affect which Medicare coverage you should choose.

You Owe Interest on a 0% APR Credit Card. How Did That Happen?
Could be several reasons.

How to Choose the Right Health Plan
Happy Open Enrollment season!

Win Big on Black Friday by Buying This — and Not That
Creating a Black Friday strategy.

How your travel plans affect which Medicare coverage you should choose
Yes, you read that correctly.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to choose the right health plan. Also in the news: Your data is out there: how to take action, 7 retirement savings mistakes financial advisors see too often, and what to do if you haven’t filed your taxes in years.

How to Choose the Right Health Plan
Open enrollment season is here.

Your Data Is Out There: Don’t Freak Out, Do Take Action
Taking preventative measures.

7 Retirement Savings Mistakes Financial Advisors See Too Often
How they help their clients recover.

What to Do If You Haven’t Filed Your Taxes in Years
Time to come clean.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Your student debt doesn’t always die with you. Also in the news: 10 ways to meet a credit card’s minimum spend requirement, how today’s Fed rate cut affects you, and how to churn credit cards without getting penalized.

Your Student Debt Doesn’t Always Die With You
It all depends on the type of loan.

10 Ways to Meet a Credit Card’s Minimum Spend Requirement
Don’t let your rewards slip away.

Here’s how the Fed rate cut affects you
Cheaper loans, lower interest on savings.

How to Churn Credit Cards Without Getting Penalized
Targeting those sign-up bonuses.