Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Changed travel plans on the menu this Thanksgiving. Also in the news: Online shopping already hit holiday-lvel peaks this year, when you can apply for a credit card after bankruptcy, and how the pandemic has made the racial retirement gap worse.

Changed Travel Plans on the Menu This Thanksgiving
Three in 5 U.S. adults who had Thanksgiving travel plans say these plans have been affected by the pandemic, according to a NerdWallet survey.

Online Shopping Already Hit Holiday-Level Peaks This Year
Shopping looks a little different this year.

When Can I Apply For A Credit Card After Bankruptcy?
Your options are limited.

The pandemic has made the racial retirement gap worse. Here’s how individuals can close it.Closing the racial retirement gap for people of color, even in this pandemic, could begin with broadening access and financial education.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Travel insurance options for digital nomads. Also in the news: What to do if you’ve been denied student loan refinancing, a new set of shopping tips in the pandemic, and what really happens when you file bankruptcy.

Travel Insurance Options for Digital Nomads
Digital nomads might travel for extended periods of time, so their needs are different than the average traveler.

Denied for Student Loan Refinancing? What to Do Next

A New Set of Shopping Tips in the Pandemic
Keeping yourself safe.

What Really Happens When You File for Bankruptcy
A look at each type of bankruptcy.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why playing the market right now is an especially bad idea. Also in the news: Is student loan discharge in bankruptcy within reach, the difference between being preapproved and prequalified for a credit card, and how your credit score is determined.

Playing the Market Is a Bad Idea, Especially Now
Brokerages have reported a surge in day trading, but the vast majority would be better off in low-cost funds.

Is Student Loan Discharge in Bankruptcy Now Within Reach?
Recent court rulings and lawmakers’ support to expand relief could help borrowers meet the stringent standards.

What’s the difference between being preapproved and prequalified for a credit card?
An unsolicited approval from a credit card issuer can be a red flag—they could be trying to sell you on a card you don’t need or want

How Your Credit Score Is Determined
Unraveling the mystery.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Mortgage Outlook: A pre-election pause for October rates? Also in the news: A new episode of the SmartMoney podcast on the unequal employment recover and the case for used cars, many avoid bankruptcy out of fear, and how to opt out of pre-screened credit offers.

Mortgage Outlook: A Pre-Election Pause for October Rates?
Rates are standing still.

Smart Money Podcast: Unequal Employment Recovery, and the Case for Used Cars
Used cars are a no-brainer if you’re trying to save money.

Many avoid bankruptcy out of fear
People often wait too long to file, draining retirement accounts or other assets that would be protected

How to Opt Out of Pre-Screened Credit Offers
Reducing your junk mail.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Fear of bankruptcy holds too many people back. Also in the news: Saving for a down payment is only the start for homeowners, pressing pause on private student loans, and it’s time to revise your pandemic budget.

Fear of Bankruptcy Holds Too Many People Back
Many people could benefit from bankruptcy relief but don’t file because of fear, myths or misplaced optimism.

For Homeowners, Saving a Down Payment Is Only the Start
The down payment is just one cost to save for.

Should You Press Pause on Private Student Loans?
Forbearance isn’t the only way to get a more manageable private student loan payment.

It’s Time to Revise Your Pandemic Budget
Budgeting is more important than ever.

Fear of bankruptcy holds too many people back

The mystery isn’t why so many people file for bankruptcy each year. It’s why more people don’t.

Each year, only a fraction of the Americans who could benefit financially from bankruptcy actually seek relief. Economists say some don’t file because collectors aren’t aggressively pursuing them, while others may strategically delay filing because bankruptcy could benefit them more down the road.

Many bankruptcy attorneys have a much simpler explanation: Fear, a lack of information and misplaced optimism keep people from getting a fresh start. In my latest for the Associated press, why bankruptcy may be the best option for those struggling with debt.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Start thinking bankruptcy now to maximize your options later. Also in the news: Why this is the perfect time to teach teens about credit, how to protect your stimulus relief check from debt collectors, and how to return a deceased relative’s stimulus check.

Start Thinking Bankruptcy Now, to Maximize Your Options Later
Timing is everything during the pandemic.

This is the perfect time to teach teens about credit
5 ways to prepare Gen Z for the real world of debt and finances.

How to protect your stimulus relief check from debt collectors
Turn that check into cash quickly.

How to Return a Deceased Relative’s Stimulus Check
Unfortunately, you can’t keep it.

Start thinking bankruptcy now, not later

If you’ve lost your job or struggle to pay your debt, you may need to file for bankruptcy. If that’s the case, you should ignore some common financial advice and start thinking defensively.

The coronavirus pandemic that upended the economy is also expected to send unprecedented numbers of people and businesses to bankruptcy court. Millions are out of work, and economic disruptions could continue until a vaccine is widely available, something that may be more than a year away.

“I am gearing up for having a tsunami of new cases,” says Jenny Doling, a bankruptcy attorney in Palm Desert, California, who serves on the American Bankruptcy Institute’s Chapter 13 Advisory Committee. “I think there will be a whole lot more people filing than what anyone’s ever seen before.”

In my latest for the Associated Press, what you need to know now if bankruptcy is in your future.

Unlock the debtor’s prison of student loans

Earlier this year, a judge denounced the myth that student loans can’t be erased in bankruptcy court as she excused a Navy veteran from having to pay $221,000 in education debt. Bankruptcy judge Cecelia G. Morris’ decision garnered plenty of headlines, along with speculation that the ruling might make such discharges easier.

The battle isn’t over, though. A few days later, Morris’ ruling was appealed by the Education Credit Management Corporation, a nonprofit company that guarantees and services federal student loans for the U.S. Department of Education.

In my latest for the Associated Press, what the American Bankruptcy Institute’s Commission on Consumer Bankruptcy recommends to begin freeing borrowers from their loans.

Q&A: Options for high debt, low income

Dear Liz: I’m 87 and drowning in debt, owing more than $21,000 with an income of $23,000 from Social Security and two small pensions. I don’t like the idea of debt consolidation but is that better than bankruptcy? My only asset is a 2003 car.

Answer: Debt consolidation merely replaces one type of debt (say, credit cards) with another, typically a personal loan. You are unlikely to qualify for such a loan and even if you did, your situation wouldn’t improve much if at all because your debt is so large relative to your income.

You may be confusing debt consolidation with debt settlement, which is where you or someone you hire tries to settle debts for less than what you owe. Debt settlement can take years and may not result in much savings, since the forgiven debt is considered taxable income and hiring a debt settlement company can cost thousands of dollars. In addition, people in the debt settlement process risk being sued by their creditors. Bankruptcy is typically a better option for most people because it costs less, is completed more quickly and ends the threat of lawsuits.

You may not need to file for bankruptcy, however, if you’re “judgment proof,” which means that even if you stop paying your creditors and they successfully sue you, the creditors wouldn’t be able to collect on those judgments. That’s typically the case when someone’s income comes from protected sources, such as Social Security and certain pensions, and they don’t have any assets a creditor can seize.

Please discuss your situation with a bankruptcy attorney who can review your options. You can get a referral from the National Assn. of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys at www.nacba.org.