Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Start early to get your house retirement-ready. Also in the news: Why these federal student loan borrowers are out of luck, 5 options for people who can’t afford their tax bills, and why big tax refunds aren’t as great as they seem.

Start Early to Get Your House Retirement-Ready
Most homes aren’t ready for “aging in place,” but you could take steps now to make your home better for retirement.

These Federal Student Loan Borrowers Aren’t Getting Relief
FFEL borrowers are out of luck.

5 Options for People Who Can’t Afford Their Tax Bills
If you can’t afford your tax bill, consider an installment plan or an offer in compromise if you qualify.

Why Big Tax Refunds Aren’t As Great as They Seem
You’re giving the IRS a loan.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: College costs far outpace wages many students could earn. Also in the news: A look at earning hotel elite status in 2021, how California theme parks have adjusted to the pandemic, and how to claim your $10,200 unemployment tax break.

College Costs Far Outpace Wages Many Students Could Earn
Working can help cover college costs, but avoiding student loan debt with a part-time job is nearly impossible.

Is Hotel Elite Status Worth Considering in 2021?
With reduced elite status qualifications, this might be a good year to earn status that’s valid until ’22 or ’23.

Traveling to California? At Theme Parks, Food Is Main Attraction
For now, theme parks are turning into outdoor food venues.

How to Claim Your $10,200 Unemployment Tax Break
THere’s an important new provision in the American Rescue Plan.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How many funds you should own to save for retirement. Also in the news: COVID tax breaks could open door to student loan forgiveness, better savers spend less money on these 3 things, and how to track your third stimulus payment.

How Many Funds Should I Own to Save for Retirement?
How many mutual funds investors should have depends on the type of fund — owning shares in one fund may be enough.

COVID Tax Break Could Open Door to Student Loan Forgiveness
Could we see student loan forgiveness this year?

Better Savers Spend Less Money on These 3 Things
Better savers spend less, as a percentage of income, on housing, food and beverage, and transportation.

How to Track Your Third Stimulus Payment
Payments have begun hitting bank accounts.

Start early to get your house retirement-ready

Many people want to remain in their homes after they retire rather than move to a senior living facility or community. Unfortunately, most homes aren’t set up to help us age safely and affordably.

If your goal is to “age in place,” some advance preparation could help make that possible — or point to better alternatives.

“Somewhere in your 50s, hopefully, you’re starting to think seriously about are you going to be able to stay in the house you’re in? Or are you going to need to make changes?” says DeDe Jones, a certified financial planner in Denver.

In my latest for the Associated Press, changes you need to consider to get your house retirement ready.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Does Medicare cover COVID testing and vaccines? Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on procrastination and paying student loans vs investing, 3 ways COVID has reshuffled our finances, and how the car you drive can raise your auto insurance rates.

Does Medicare Cover COVID Testing and Vaccines?
In general, Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans cover COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.

Smart Money Podcast: Procrastination, and Paying Student Loans vs. Investing
How to stop procrastinating on big money tasks.

3 Ways COVID-19 Reshuffled Our Finances
Three financial trends we can chalk up to the coronavirus pandemic.

How the Car You Drive Can Raise Your Auto Insurance Rates
The cost of your car isn’t the only way your vehicle affects your auto insurance bill.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to do if a fair credit score cuts your credit card options. Also in the news: Should you use points and miles to book 2021 travel, should you purchase travel insurance for your summer vacation, and how often you should be checking your credit report.

What to Do If a Fair Credit Score Cuts Your Credit Card Options
If you have only average credit, appealing credit cards aren’t as easy to come by. But you do have some choices.

Ask a Travel Nerd: Should I Use Points and Miles to Book 2021 Travel?
If you’ve been sitting on a pile of travel points, now might be a good time to start planning how to use them.

Do I Need Travel Insurance for My Summer Vacation?
If you’re making nonrefundable bookings, you might want to consider a travel insurance plan.

How Often Should You Be Checking Your Credit Report?
More often than you’d think.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 things agents wish people knew about insurance. Also in the news: 10 factors affecting COVID-era travel, how the new stimulus bill will affect unemployment, and how to spend your FSA before the grace period expires.

5 Things Agents Wish People Knew About Insurance
Agents from across the U.S. clear up a few of the most common insurance misconceptions.

10 Factors Affecting COVID-Era Travel in 2021
Traveling during COVID-19 means making more advance reservations and planning for vaccine or testing rules.

How the new stimulus bill will affect unemployment
PUA benefits are extended.

How To Spend Your FSA Before the Grace Period Expires
Use it or lose it.

Common tools can save you time, money on taxes

Receipts, like memories, tend to fade with time. That’s just one reason to digitize and track tax-related information. The right apps and habits can save space, time, money and hassle — but only if you use them.

“Apps should make things easier, not more complicated,” says Clare Levison, a certified public accountant in Blacksburg, Virginia. “The definition of a good app is what works for you, not the one that’s the trendiest.”

In my latest for the Associated Press, how to use the tools you already have to make your life easier come tax time.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Some student loan borrowers are 19 months closer to forgiveness. Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on pandemic debt and moving costs, buying life insurance for children, and when you’ll receive the next economic stimulus check.

Smart Money Podcast: Pandemic Debt and Moving Costs
The economy’s K-shaped recovery and how that may affect how you deal with pandemic-related debt.

Some Student Loan Borrowers Are 19 Months Closer to Forgiveness
19 months closer to having no more payments at all.

Should You Buy Life Insurance for Children?
Child life insurance can help secure your kids’ future insurability. Here’s how to decide if it’s right for your family.

When Will You Get Your $1,400 Relief Check?
More help is on the way.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to handle debt in an unequal recovery. Also in the news: 6 ways to save at the pump, worrying about the right thing with estate taxes, and 4 in 10 Americans are struggling financially one year after the pandemic began.

How to Handle Debt in an Unequal Recovery
Navigating the K-shaped economy.

Put the Cap on Gas Prices: 6 Ways to Save at the Pump
Here’s how experts recommend managing your fuel budget with oil prices on the rise.

Worry About the Right Thing With Estate Taxes
Few people pay estate or gift taxes, but many benefit from an inheritance tax break that may be axed.

4 in 10 Americans struggling financially, one year after coronavirus struck the U.S.
How things look a year later.