How to spot a great 401(k)

Any 401(k) can help you save for retirement. A great 401(k) allows you to save a whole lot more.

The difference between a mediocre plan and a great one could translate into tens of thousands of dollars in future retirement money. Plus, a 401(k)’s quality can show how serious a company is about attracting and retaining good workers.

That’s not to say you should leave or turn down a job if it doesn’t offer a great 401(k). But knowing how to spot a best-in-class retirement plan can help you evaluate job offers, negotiate a raise to compensate for what you’re missing and perhaps encourage your employer to make its plan better. In my latest for the Associated Press, learn three features of great 401(k)s.

 

This week’s money news

This week’s top story: Smart Money podcast on buy now, pay later loans and credit reports. In other news: What to do if your homebuying plan got scrapped this year, when the car market will return to normal, and 3 steps to lower the cost of your debt.

Smart Money Podcast: Money Hot Takes, and Too Many Credit Cards
This week’s episode starts with two hot takes from our hosts about buy now, pay later loans and credit reports.

What to Do If Your Homebuying Plan Got Scrapped This Year
Elevated prices, rising interest rates and steep competition are interrupting millennials’ plans to buy homes.

When Will the Car Market Return to Normal?
Car prices skyrocketed during the pandemic. It’s unlikely they’ll drop significantly anytime soon, experts say.

3 Steps to Lower the Cost of Your Debt
There are ways you can reduce the expense, but it helps to know each method’s details and trade-offs.

How to handle your medical bills

When she was 19, writer Emily Maloney found herself facing about $50,000 in medical debt after hospital treatment for a mental health crisis. The debt followed her throughout her twenties, hurting her credit and leading to stressful calls from collection agencies.

Her experience is all too common: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports that about 1 in 5 U.S. households carries medical debt. People with medical debt are more likely to face anxiety, stress or depression and avoid filling prescriptions because of the cost.

In Kimberly Palmer’s latest for the Associated Press, learn how to handle your medical bills.

This week’s money news

This week’s top story: Smart Money podcast on what the Fed news means for you, and choosing a new bank. In other news: October mortgage rates that will continue to rise, 3 common types o f life insurance fraud and how to stay savvy, and Medicare Part B 2023 premiums dip, bucking inflation trends.

Smart Money Podcast: What the Fed News Means for You, and Choosing a New Bank
This week’s episode starts with a discussion about the Fed’s most recent interest rate hike.

October Mortgage Rates Will Continue to Rise, Haunting Home Buyers
Mortgage interest rates will likely rise in October as lenders contend with the Federal Reserve’s more aggressive stance.

3 Common Types of Life Insurance Fraud — and How to Stay Savvy
Misleading a life insurance company might mean your loved ones never see the money you intended for them.

Medicare Part B 2023 Premiums Dip, Bucking Inflation Trends
Medicare beneficiaries will save a little over $5 per month on Medicare Part B compared to the previous year.

How to cultivate a happier retirement

Researchers have identified several factors besides money that contribute to a happier retirement, including good health, strong relationships and a sense of purpose.

But setbacks are inevitable, in life and in retirement. Not everyone enjoys good health — and no one enjoys it forever. Loved ones die or move away. The pursuits you thought would give your life meaning may not, or may not be possible: Think of all the activities and plans canceled because of the pandemic.

Yet many retirees continue to be happy despite difficulties. In my latest for the Associated Press, learn how to cultivate a happier retirement.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Smart Money Podcast on beating money procrastination, and when to unfreeze credit. In other news: 5 ways small businesses can offset high gas prices, how to shop on TikTok without overpaying, and the cost difference between using LED and incandescent lightbulbs.

Smart Money Podcast: Beating Money Procrastination, and When to Unfreeze Credit
This week’s episode starts with a discussion about how to stop putting off financial decisions.

5 Ways Small Businesses Can Offset High Gas Prices
Financial forecasting and energy efficiency improvements can help small businesses save money, regardless of how gas prices change.

How to Shop on TikTok Without Overpaying
Not everything for sale on the app is a good deal.

The Cost Difference Between Using LED and Incandescent Lightbulbs
What to know in order to save on your energy bills.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to do with your remaining student loan debt. Also in the news: Unlock the college financial aid you need starting Oct. 1, and how to negotiate with debt collectors (and why you always should).

What to Do With Your Remaining Student Loan Debt
For the 23 million borrowers with debt left over, now is the time to develop a payoff plan.

Unlock the College Financial Aid You Need Starting Oct. 1
Applications for the 2023-24 school year open on Oct. 1, and those who apply early stand the best chance of getting more free money for school.

How to Negotiate With Debt Collectors (and Why You Always Should)
Don’t ignore calls from collectors when you can find a way to talk the debt down.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How the September 2022 fed rate increase will impact your bank account. Also in the news: 6 new rules for smarter European travel, how to weigh the risks and rewards of buying a used EV, and Fed boosts rates yet again, pushing down home affordability.

How the September 2022 Fed Rate Increase Will Impact Your Bank Account
Expect higher rates on savings accounts and CDs. Don’t hold your breath on interest checking accounts.

6 New Rules for Smarter European Travel
If you’re planning a trip to Europe, consider the following tips to save money and have a better experience.

Is a Used Electric Vehicle a Bargain or a Trap?
Here’s how to weigh the risks and rewards of buying a used EV.

Fed Boosts Rates Yet Again, Pushing Down Home Affordability
The Federal Reserve continued to shout from the rooftops Wednesday that it will do what it takes to get inflation under control.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The downsides of hotel free night certificates. Also in the news: travel prices that are coming back to earth, if your airline miles and hotel pointes are worth less now, and a hotel kitchen that may not save you money after all.

The Downsides of Hotel Free Night Certificates
Free night certificates can be a major pain to use. You’re often better off pursuing hotel loyalty program points.

Travel Prices Are Coming Back to Earth
Falling prices and a strong dollar mean U.S. travelers could finally see some relief in the coming months.

Are Your Airline Miles and Hotel Points Worth Less Now?
The value of your points and miles is up slightly, but it may not be enough to keep pace with inflation.

A Hotel Kitchen May Not Save You Money After All
Look for other ways to cut food costs on trips, like planning no-cook meals or prioritizing free hotel breakfast.

6 new rules for smarter European travel

Tourism rebounded this summer in Europe — and Europe wasn’t ready. Pandemic-related staff shortages led to massive lines and flight cancellations at many airports; meanwhile, prices for hotels and taxis soared.

Then there were the record-breaking temperatures that caused roads, airport runways and railroad tracks to buckle , leading to further disruptions.

Our family of three visited Europe this summer — our first trip there in three years — and had a great time despite the challenges. Still, climate change, growing crowds and lingering effects of the pandemic have altered the way we travel. In my latest for the Associated Press, learn tips to save money and have a better trip experience to Europe.