Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to finally tackle tough money tasks. Also in the news: It’s now easier than ever for your boss to pay your student loans, 6 Black financial pros to follow in 2021, and 3 budgets apps for couples who want to align on money.

How to Finally Tackle Tough Money Tasks
Completing financial tasks can be intimidating, but breaking big goals into small, manageable actions makes it easier to whittle down your to-do list.

It’s Now Easier Than Ever for Your Boss to Pay Your Student Loans
Your employer can pay down your student loans, tax-free.

6 Black Financial Pros to Follow in 2021
Financial experts offer their thoughts about the banking industry, and new money goals after 2020.

3 Budget Apps for Couples Who Want to Align on Money
Finding the romance in finance.

Q&A: Couples and their accounts

Dear Liz: You’ve been writing about things people should do after a spouse dies. May I recommend that before your spouse dies, be sure every account is in both your names.

It took six months to cancel my landline phone after my husband died and I moved out of our home. Apparently when we moved in 30 years ago, the service was in just my husband’s name. (I finally reached someone who said, “I don’t know why you’re having so much trouble with this!” and fixed it.)

Also, it took 1½ years, plus hundreds in lawyer fees, to get access to the safe deposit box that he’d had with his parents. This is despite a trust and will leaving everything to me. I was told that “banks don’t care about wills.”

Answer: That’s an excellent suggestion. It’s a lot easier to add a spouse to an account while you’re both alive. It’s a good idea to review all your accounts periodically to make sure the right people are on them, either as joint account holders or as beneficiaries.

Not every account can or should be in both spouses’ names, of course.

Modern credit card accounts, for example, typically aren’t jointly held but instead have a primary cardholder and an authorized user. Also, retirement accounts are in one person’s name alone, although the spouse typically is the beneficiary.

Banks aren’t the only entities that can ignore wills. Typically a payable-on-death account will go to the beneficiary, regardless of what a will or trust says. And speaking of estates, sometimes accounts will be held separately for estate planning purposes.

If you have an estate planning attorney, check with that person before changing how accounts are held.

Q&A: Different approaches to marital finances

Dear Liz: Thank you for mentioning that many couples like to keep their finances entirely or mostly separate. Our solution was to create a joint bank account just for paying joint expenses, such as rent, food, entertainment together, vacations and so on. We each funded this account proportionately, based on our income (for example, the person earning 65% of the total income contributed 65% of the funds). Expenses, such as gifts to our separate children, entertainment on our own, car payments and all personal expenses were paid out of our own separate accounts. Each year at tax time, we’d revise the proportion of the joint account, if necessary, based on our separate tax return figures. It was so simple and tension-free. This was a second marriage for both of us, and we never had disagreements about money.

Answer: Congratulations for finding an approach that worked so well for both of you. As you demonstrate, there’s no one right way for couples to handle their money. Some prefer to have everything in joint accounts, others keep everything separate, and most are somewhere in between.

Q&A: Handling money after marriage can be complicated. Mom and Dad should butt out

Dear Liz: My son just married. He and his wife are keeping totally separate finances, though he makes much more than she does. She is spending way more than she should on household items and services. Is this the new norm for relationships? What kind of professional do we contact that could help them with merging their finances?

Answer: You don’t contact any kind of professional. Your son and his wife can find help on their own. If your son starts complaining about his wife’s spending again, you might gently suggest that before changing the subject.

In answer to your first question, though, separate accounts aren’t the norm but they’re quite common. A 2018 Bank of America study found 28% of millennial couples kept their finances separate. Many prefer the sense of control and privacy that separate accounts offer.

But of course it’s still important for couples to work out budgets and joint goals together. That can take time, a lot of discussion and the willingness to compromise. It wouldn’t be fair for your son to dictate what they spend just because he makes more, just as it wouldn’t be fair for your daughter-in-law to purchase whatever she wants and assume he’ll chip in.

Again, however: It’s not your business, it’s theirs, and it will be better for all concerned if you keep out of it.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Be your financial Valentine. Also in the news: 44% of adults admit to keeping money secrets from a partner, most consumers have already broken their resolutions, and how to reset your finances after a breakup.

Be Your Financial Valentine
The best gifts you can give yourself.

44% of adults admit to keeping money secrets from a partner
Financial infidelity.

Most Consumers Have Already Broken Resolutions
Have you kept yours?

How to Reset Your Finances After a Breakup
Putting the pieces back together.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Should your student loans and your spouse’s get hitched? Also in the news: Investing vs paying student loans, the blunt truth about medical expenses, marijuana, and your tax returns, and how to figure out your finances when you’re single.

Should Your Student Loans and Your Spouse’s Get Hitched?
A look at the pros and cons.

SmartMoney Podcast: ‘Should I Invest or Pay Down My Student Loans?’
Where should your money go?

Blunt Truths About Medical Expenses, Marijuana and Your Tax Return
The IRS needs to chill.

How to Figure Out Your Finances When You’re Single
Making the budget that works solely for you.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Smart ways to establish credit in 2020. Also in the news: 3 strategies to recover from holiday overshopping, the pros and cons of merging money when married, and how to downgrade your Chase card without losing your points.

Smart Ways to Establish Credit in 2020
Sorting through the options.

Overshopped in December? Try These 3 Strategies to Recover
Beating the holiday shopping hangover.

Does Marriage Have to Mean Merging Money?
A look at the pros and cons.

How to Downgrade Your Chase Credit Card Without Losing Your Points
A change in annual fee has customers thinking twice.

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.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Taking a “micro trip” before the holidays. Also in the news: Money summits for couples, the best and worst US cities for retirement, and the top 10 most regrettable mistakes retirees made in the 20s.

Need a Break Before the Holiday Break? Consider a ‘Micro Trip’
A little relaxation before the holiday rush.

Start With a Money Summit to Hit Your #couplegoals
A meeting of the minds.

Here are the best and worst US cities for retirement
Did yours make the list?

Top 10 Most Regrettable Mistakes Retirees Made In Their 20s
Learning from others.