Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What free college might actually look like. Also in the news: How to get rid of credit card debt by opening another card, how to fix credit report errors, and how to figure out the size of your next stimulus check.

What Free College Might Actually Look Like
Separating fact from fiction.

One Way to Zap Credit Card Debt? Open Another Credit Card
Yes, getting a balance transfer credit card means yet another piece of plastic — only this kind may let you pay down debt over time at 0% interest.

Your Credit Report May Be Wrong — Here’s What to Do About It
Complaints about credit report issues surged in 2020. Here’s how to verify the data that makes up your credit score.

Figure Out the Size of Your Next Stimulus Check With These Calculators
See what you’ll get in the next round of checks.

Q&A: How much debt can you afford to pay each month? Put it in perspective

Dear Liz: I’m paying down credit card debts. At what ratio of debt to income would you consider my personal finances healthy?

Answer: The healthiest level of credit card debt is none. Credit card interest rates tend to be high and variable, which makes this kind of debt toxic to your financial health. Congratulations for making progress on getting rid of yours.

There are a number of measures you can use to judge whether an appropriate amount of your monthly income goes to debt payments. Among the most common:

◆ Traditionally, mortgage lenders preferred home loan payments to be 28% or less of your gross monthly income and total debt payments, including mortgage, to be 36% or less.

◆ Debt payments, including mortgages, that exceed 40% of gross monthly can be an indication of financial distress, according to the Federal Reserve.

◆ Under the 50/30/20 budget, all your must-have expenses — including housing, utilities, transportation, insurance and minimum loan payments — would be 50% or less of your after-tax income (your gross income minus income and payroll taxes). That leaves 30% for wants and 20% for savings and extra payments on debt. If a loan payment fits under the 50% limit with all your other must-haves, then it may be considered affordable.

You typically don’t need to rush to pay off lower-rate, potentially tax-deductible debt such as mortgages or student loans. Still, you’ll probably want to have all your debts paid off by retirement so you aren’t draining your nest egg to make the payments.

Speaking of retirement, are you saving enough for that goal? Do you have a sufficient emergency fund? Are you adequately insured? Are you able to enjoy your life without excessive stress about money? Financial health includes all those components in addition to paying down debt.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Hotels turn to elopement package to attract those planning weddings. Also in the news: Ideas for paying off credit card debt, how the pandemic has changed Americans’ financial thinking, and how President Biden’s executive orders will affect your debt.

Hotels Turn to Elopement Packages to Attract Those Planning Weddings
These deals can save you money on your wedding, and earn you points — as long as you keep the guest list small.

Ideas for paying off credit card debt
Tackling your debt in the new year.

‘Financial security is fun now.’ Many Americans want to keep saving more and spending less
A pandemic shift to a simpler financial life—how you can do it, too

How Will Biden’s Executive Orders Affect Your Debt?
Another extension on student loan payments.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Choosing the right vehicle for your off-road adventures. Also in the news: Why a new fee shouldn’t stop you from refinancing your mortgage, what to do when you’ve paid off your credit card debt, and how to manage any credit card debt you may have racked up the last few months.

Choose the Right Vehicle for Your Off-Road Adventures
A versatile SUV can take you almost anywhere, but prepare for trade-offs the farther you venture off-road.

The Property Line: Don’t Let New Fee Stop You From Refinancing
Millions of homeowners could still benefit from refinancing their mortgages to get a lower interest rate.

You paid off all of your credit card debt—what to do next?
Don’t cut up those cards just yet.

How to manage any credit card debt you may have racked up the last few months
Talk to your lenders.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 3 ways to skip your bank’s long phone lines. Also in the news: Keeping your credit in shape, even if you don’t have debt and don’t plan to borrow, 25 ways to save yourself from your debt disaster, and how to set up a 60/40 budget.

3 Ways to Skip Your Bank’s Long Phone Lines
When phone wait times are long, try to reach your bank via live chat, Twitter or message instead.

Keep your credit in shape, even if you don’t have debt and don’t plan to borrow
Good credit is important year-round.

25 Ways To Save Yourself From Your Debt Disaster
Climbing out of the debt hole.

How to Set Up a 60/40 Budget
Focus on two buckets.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 7 credit card rules you can break in an emergency. Also in the news: How Gen X can start tackling its credit card debt, 6 tips to help your portfolio weather the coronavirus crash, and how to prep for and spend your government relief check.

7 Credit Card ‘Rules’ You Can Break in an Emergency
Times are different.

How Gen X Can Start Tackling Its Credit Card Debt
Don’t put it off any longer.

6 Tips to Help Your Portfolio Weather the Coronavirus Crash
Slow and steady.

How to Prep for and Spend Your Government Relief Check
Getting the most from your check.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to have a ‘no regrets’ retirement. Also in the news: How to sell your car to family and friends, the debt payoff method that can also help your credit, and your last chance to file an Equifax breach settlement claim.

How to Have a ‘No Regrets’ Retirement
Putting off travel, buying a retirement home too hastily and not discussing expectations are common mistakes.

How to Sell Your Car to Tough Customers: Friends and Family

The Debt Payoff Method That Can Help Your Credit, Too

Today (Wednesday) is Your Last Chance to File an Equifax Breach Settlement Claim
A few more hours to submit your claim.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to get traction paying off your credit cards in 2020. Also in the news: 8 moves to consider for IRAs and 401(k)s under the new Secure Act, using points and miles for wedding travel, and the 5 best states for retirees in 2020.

How to Get Traction on Paying Off Your Credit Cards in 2020
Finding the right strategy for your situation.

8 Moves to Consider for IRAs, 401(k)s Under New Secure Act
Looking at the major changes to retirement savings plans.

Ask a Points Nerd: Should I Use Points and Miles to Book Wedding Travel?
To pay or not to pay?

Here are the 5 best states for retirees in 2020
Which one sounds good to you?

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 8 million student loan borrowers must do this in 2020. Also in the news: 5 ways to get credit-healthy in the New Year, how to take charge of your credit this year, and where to file state and federal taxes for free.

8 Million Student Loan Borrowers Must Do This in 2020
Time to renew your income-driven repayment plan.

5 Ways to Get Credit-Healthy in the New Year
No better time to get started.

How to Take Charge of Your Credit This Year
How to make your credit shine.

Where to File State and Federal Taxes for Free
Filling begins January 27th.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Turn your next car purchase into a vacation. Also in the news: The new version of layaway, how soon you’ll recover from holiday spending, and why Travelex users need to lock down their financial information right now.

Turn Your Next Car Purchase Into a Vacation
The car you want might be cheaper in another state.

You can have the item now. But can you really afford it?
There’s a new version of layaway.

How Soon Will My Credit Recover From Holiday Spending?
It’s going to take a bit.

Travelex Users: Lock Down Your Financial Info Right Now
A serious data breach.