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: Credit score drop? How to diagnose why and what to do next. Also in the news: Put off debt payments to start saving now, going contactless as a way to pay safer, and many unemployed people aren’t aware of all the relief they may qualify for during the pandemic.

Credit Score Drop? How to Diagnose Why, and What to Do Next
If you got a payment modification and saw a score drop, it’s tempting to think they’re related. They may not be.

Put Off Debt Payments to Start Saving Now
In uncertain times, it makes sense to prioritize building a cash reserve over paying down debt balances.

Looking for Safer Ways to Pay? Go Contactless
Contactless payments like mobile wallets, P2P apps and tap-to-pay cards are easy to use and help lessen risk of contagion.

Many unemployed people aren’t aware of all the relief they may qualify for during the pandemic
Take a look at what’s available.

Q&A: Big debt is bad in the coronavirus downturn. But a consolidation loan might not be the answer

Dear Liz: I have about $40,000 in credit card debt and am considering a consolidation loan. I’m current with my cards. My income is about $130,000 per year. Can you recommend a lender? Any cautions?

Answer: As you probably know, this is a bad time to be burdened with a lot of debt. But taking out another loan may not be the answer.

Personal loans — the type of unsecured loan often used to consolidate other debt — work out best when you can lower the rate on your debt, get it paid off within three to five years and avoid accruing more debt while you do so.

Unfortunately, people who take out consolidation loans often don’t, or can’t, fix the problem that caused the debt in the first place. If the debt came from overspending, for example, they don’t trim their expenses to match their income and wind up borrowing more. If the debt is from medical bills, ill health may cause them to incur more medical-related debt.

Another issue is interest rates. Personal loans typically have fixed rates, which is good, along with fixed payments so you actually pay off the debt over time. That’s in sharp contrast to credit cards, which usually have variable rates and minimum payments that don’t pay down much of your principal.

Unless your credit is good and your income secure, though, you may wind up paying a higher rate than you are now — assuming you can get a personal loan at all. Lenders have tightened their standards considerably in recent weeks because of the current and expected economic fallout from the pandemic.

Many people are better off paying down their debt on their own, making extra payments to get their highest-rate card paid off first, and then moving to the next-highest-rate card, while paying minimums on the rest. (Another approach is to pay the smallest balance first, to give yourself a psychological win that can motivate you to keep going.)

If you can’t pay more than the minimums, then you’re likely in too much debt to dig your way out on your own. Consider making appointments with a credit counselor affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and with a bankruptcy attorney (the National Assn. of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys offers referrals) so you can better understand your options.

Q&A: A shutdown reality check

Dear Liz: Recently a reader asked about withdrawing money from an IRA to pay credit card debt. You mentioned the many ways that was a bad idea, including the fact that retirement money is protected in bankruptcy court. Liz, the writer had only $10,000 in credit card debt. Bankruptcy should be a last resort. A lifestyle change or picking up a second job would be a better route to knocking out the debt.

Answer: “Picking up a second job” — really? Most people will be lucky to hang on to the ones they have in the coming months.

No one suggested that this reader should file bankruptcy, but anyone considering taking money from a retirement plan to pay debt should understand this major drawback — especially now. Bankruptcy experts expect business and personal bankruptcy filings to soar because of the pandemic.

You might want to check your other assumptions, as well. People typically don’t wind up in bankruptcy court because they refused to cut out their lattes or didn’t work hard enough. They get sick or disabled, lose their health insurance, get divorced, have a breadwinner die — or get stuck in a pandemic. Those with higher incomes and more savings may be better able to weather financial setbacks, but few of us are truly immune from their effects.

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.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to create a retirement ‘paycheck’. Also in the news: Handy money rules of thumb for a quick financial checkup, how one woman ditched nearly $60K of debt in less than a year, and the retirement savings blind spot you don’t realize you have.

How to Create a Retirement ‘Paycheck’
Creating a reliable retirement income stream is complex but worth it.

Handy Money Rules of Thumb for a Quick Financial Checkup
Stop winging your way through it.

How I Ditched Debt: A Spender, a Saver and Dreams of a Family
How one woman conquered nearly $60K of debt in less than a year.

The retirement savings blind spot you don’t realize you have
You could be retiring too early.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: When leasing a car is the more frugal option. Also in the news: How to actually achieve your debt payoff resolution, 5 basic features you should expect from your bank, and holiday debt could take years to pay off.

When Leasing a Car Is the More Frugal Option
Car buying has changed enough over the years that leasing may no longer be the costliest choice.

How to Actually Achieve Your Debt Payoff Resolution
Start the new year on the right foot.

5 Basic Features You Should Expect From Your Bank
Services you should expect.

Holiday debt could take years to pay off
Here come the bills.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Letting go of shame over your debt. Also in the news: How to get the highest credit card welcome bonuses, 3 tax mistakes you’re probably making today, and what to do when debt collectors keep calling for someone else.

It’s Time to Let Go of Shame Over Your DebtIt’s counterproductive and does nothing to solve the problem.

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/travel/how-to-get-highest-credit-card-welcome-bonuses/
Get ready to shop around.

3 Tax Mistakes You’re Probably Making Today
Avoid these mistakes at all costs.

What to Do When Debt Collectors Keep Calling for Someone Else
Knowing your rights.

It’s time to let go of shame over your debt

Many of us feel bad about our debt. Most of us probably shouldn’t.

Three-quarters of U.S. households owe money, but the vast majority pay their bills on time and have debt loads that are reasonable given their incomes.

But many people still report being embarrassed about owing money. In one study, nearly everyone with debt believed they would be happier without it. Researchers have also found a “strong relationship” between debt and several mental health issues, including depression.

Sometimes, stress and anxiety over debt is perfectly appropriate. If you’re about to lose your home, have more student loan debt than you could pay in a lifetime or are headed to bankruptcy court, some angst is understandable.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how to put aside the shame over your debt and take back control over your finances.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to do if your parents need financial help. Also in the news: Why no new debt is the best holiday gift to your family, AmEx cardholders report account shutdowns, and why you should get a health insurance cost estimate even if you’re not buying coverage.

What to Do If Your Parents Need Financial Help
Balancing your needs with theirs.

The Best Holiday Gift to Your Family? No New Debt
The gift that won’t keep on taking.

AmEx Cardholders Report Account Shutdowns
Self-referrals appear to be the culprit.

Get a Health Insurance Cost Estimate Even If You’re Not Buying Coverage
You could be eligible for a subsidy.