A game plan for grads struggling with new loan payments

Student-LoansAn improved economy and lower unemployment should reduce the number of recent college graduates who default on the federal student loans they are supposed to start repaying when their six-month grace periods expire – as soon as November for May graduates.

Inevitably, though, some will fall behind even though there is no good reason to do so. Their credit scores will be crippled and they will risk the government garnishing their wages and seizing their tax refunds.

In my latest for Reuters, how new graduates can handle their new loan payments and protect their credit.

At MoneyWatch, the five things you should know about disaster insurance, and the IRS retirement plan contribution limits for 2016.

How you pay your bills may affect your credit

1436536219414Lenders are no longer just interested in whether you pay your bills or not. Increasingly, they are looking at how you pay those bills to determine whether they want you as a customer.

Credit reports now show if you regularly pay your credit cards in full every month – making you a low-risk “transactor” – or if you are a higher-risk “revolver” who carries a balance.

Some lenders use the information to determine what types of credit cards and loans to market to people, while others are starting to use the distinctions in decisions about whether to grant credit at all, as well as what rates and terms to offer.

In my latest for Reuters, a look a how lenders determine what type of risk category you fall under.

As the strongest-ever hurricane barrels toward Mexico and its remnants are forecast to bring more rain to an already flood-weary Texas, homeowners and renters should take a moment to review their coverage against the damages Mother Nature can inflict. In my latest for Moneywatch, the five things you need to know about disaster insurance.

Also in Moneywatch, the IRS has announced the retirement plan contribution limits for 2016.

Finally, in my latest for BankRate, a look at when it’s worth it to refinance a mortgage.