Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Ditch the turkey – six ideas for a Thanksgiving getaway. Also in the news: How to get the most out of the Walmart Rewards Mastercard, the potential pros and cons of buying a post-scandal Volkswagen Diesel, and how to get a retention bonus by threatening to cancel your credit card.

Ditch the Turkey: 6 Ideas for a Thanksgiving Getaway
The turkey can wait.

How to Get the Most Out of the Walmart Rewards Mastercard
Maximizing your rewards this holiday season.

Should You Snap Up a Post-Scandal Volkswagen Diesel?
The pros and cons.

Threaten to Cancel Your Credit Card to Get a Retention Bonus
The bank wants to keep you as a customer.

How to choose the right health plan

When we’re given a choice about our health care plans, we often choose badly.

In one study, more than 80% of the employees at a Fortune 100 company picked the wrong plans, often choosing low-deductible options that ultimately cost them more. Another study found that inertia — sticking with the same plan, rather than evaluating the options each year and choosing a better one — cost workers an average $2,032 annually.

In my latest for the Associated Press, steps to help you pick a better plan.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to vanquish 5 common financial fears. Also in the news: Will you get what Social Security promises, how to save money online with these sneaky tricks, and 10 better money habits to start now.

Vanquish 5 Common Financial Fears
Time to put these fears to rest.

Will You Get What Social Security Promises?
Making smarter decisions about claiming your benefit.

Save Money Online Shopping With These Sneaky Tricks
Thinking beyond coupons.

10 Better Money Habits to Start Now
The right habits can boost your savings.

Q&A: Triggering the windfall elimination provision

Dear Liz: After working and paying into Social Security for more than 40 years, I took a city job at age 60. This job does not pay into Social Security and will afford me a small pension upon retirement in a few years (I’m now 64). Will this pension amount be deducted from my Social Security payments?

Answer: Normally, people who get pensions from jobs that didn’t pay into Social Security face the “windfall elimination provision,” which can reduce any Social Security benefits they may have earned. If, however, you have 30 or more years of “substantial earnings” from a job that paid into Social Security, then this provision does not apply. The amount that counts as “substantial earnings” varies by year; in 2019, it’s $24,675.

Q&A: Medicare vs. spouse’s health plan

Dear Liz: I am planning to retire in a few months at 65. My husband, who is five years younger, works for a corporation that provides excellent health insurance. When I sign up for Medicare, will I still be able to stay on my husband’s health insurance? Which insurance will be listed first for coverage?

Answer: The rules are different depending on whether your husband’s insurance is considered a large employer plan or a small employer plan.

If the plan covers 20 or fewer employees, his employer can boot you off the plan or make it secondary to Medicare. If the plan covers more than 20 employees, though, the employer typically can’t treat you differently from younger employees and spouses and must allow you to stay on the plan, which would remain your primary insurance with Medicare as the secondary insurer.

Medicare penalties are another issue to consider. Medicare Part A, which covers hospital visits, is usually premium-free, but people generally pay premiums for Medicare Part B, which covers doctor’s visits, and Medicare Part D, which covers prescription drugs. If you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B and Part D when you’re first eligible, you could face permanent penalties that would raise your monthly premiums for life.

These penalties don’t apply if you put off signing up for Part B and Part D because you’re covered by a large employer health insurance plan from current employment, either yours or your spouse’s. Once that employment or coverage ends, though, you’ll need to sign up for Part B and Part D promptly or the penalties kick in.

Notice the use of the words “typically,” “normally” and “generally” in the paragraphs above. Medicare’s rules and exceptions can be tricky to navigate. Talk to the benefits manager at your husband’s company so you know where you stand, and what parts of Medicare to sign up for as you turn 65.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: AmEx makes it easier for immigrants to access credit. Also in the news: Retirement savings mistakes financial advisors see too often, big changes could be in store for student loan borrowers, and why you shouldn’t tell the person you just started dating about how much money you have.

AmEx Makes It Easier for Immigrants to Access Credit
How the new feature works.

7 Retirement Savings Mistakes Financial Advisors See Too Often
How to avoid them.

Big changes could be in store for student loan borrowers
Rewriting the rules.

Don’t Tell the Person You Just Started Dating How Much Money You Have
Keep it to yourself for now.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Will you get what Social Security promises. Also in the news: 3 things to do when you get a salary increase, 4 winter wellness experiences you can book with points, and using teen debit cards to teach your kids real-world lessons about money.

Will You Get What Social Security Promises?
Your estimate may not always be accurate.

3 Things to Do When You Get a Salary Increase
Making the most of it.

4 Winter Wellness Experiences You Can Book With Points
Making the winter months tolerable.

Teen debit cards: A real-world way to teach your kids about money
Real-world responsibility.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 6 places to shop on Black Friday. Also in the news: Is a 580 credit score good or bad, a new bill would make for-profit colleges ineligible for federal student loans, and what to do if a stranger sends you money on Venmo.

6 Places to Shop on Black Friday — Big-Boxes and Beyond
Thinking outside the big box.

580 Credit Score: Good or Bad?
Steps to take to get out of the bad place.

Bill would make for-profit colleges ineligible for federal student loans
Many of these schools aren’t accredited.

What to Do If a Stranger Sends You Money on Venmo
The latest scam.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Buy a real car now before they become extinct. Also in the news: How Shea Couleé of ‘Drag Race’ fashions her finances, 8 credit card strategies, and 3 things to do when you get a salary increase.

Buy a Real Car Now Before They Become Extinct
Sedans are disappearing.

Money/Makers Q&A: How Shea Couleé of ‘Drag Race’ Fashions Her Finances
Drag isn’t cheap.

8 Credit Card Strategies — And Some Surprises, Too
Strategic uses to improve your life.

3 Things to Do When You Get a Salary Increase
Celebrate, then plan.

Will you get what Social Security promises?

The Social Security Administration will happily forecast your future monthly retirement check. Trouble is, it’s often off the mark. Understanding the sometimes-flawed assumptions underlying the estimate can help you make smarter decisions about when to claim your benefit.

First, of course, you should know how to access those estimates. You can find yours online by creating a “My Social Security” account at the Social Security Administration’s site, or you can call 800-772-1213 to request a paper version. (The agency automatically sends paper copies to people 60 and over if they haven’t yet started benefits or created an online account.)

Social Security projects how much you’ll receive if you start benefits at the earliest age, 62, as well as what you’ll get if you start instead at your full retirement age — currently 66 and rising to 67 for people born in 1960 or later — or at 70, when benefits max out.

In my latest for the Associated Press, find out how Social Security estimates your benefits.