Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to handle debt in an unequal recovery. Also in the news: 6 ways to save at the pump, worrying about the right thing with estate taxes, and 4 in 10 Americans are struggling financially one year after the pandemic began.

How to Handle Debt in an Unequal Recovery
Navigating the K-shaped economy.

Put the Cap on Gas Prices: 6 Ways to Save at the Pump
Here’s how experts recommend managing your fuel budget with oil prices on the rise.

Worry About the Right Thing With Estate Taxes
Few people pay estate or gift taxes, but many benefit from an inheritance tax break that may be axed.

4 in 10 Americans struggling financially, one year after coronavirus struck the U.S.
How things look a year later.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why you may not want to be an executor. Also in the news: 5 ways to foil catalytic converter thieves, 3 money habits to carry forward from the pandemic era, and how to avoid fees when paying your taxes.

Why You May Not Want to Be an Executor
Settling someone’s estate can be time-consuming and difficult, plus you could be sued.

5 Ways to Foil Catalytic Converter Thieves
Catalytic converter thefts have soared during the pandemic.

3 Money Habits to Carry Forward From the Pandemic Era
According to a new survey, 78% of Americans report that the pandemic spurred them to take financial action.

How to Avoid Fees When Paying Your Taxes
Some options are better and cheaper than others.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to prioritize debt payments in the pandemic. Also in the news: The fairness of airline fees, the influence of 2020 on investing, and how to avoid paying certain car dealership fees.

How to Prioritize Debt Payments in the Pandemic
The rules have changed.

Ask a Travel Nerd: Are Airline Fees Fair?
The process of buying a plane ticket can be misleading because you aren’t shown all of the fees upfront.

Will 2020 Make Us More Empathetic Investors?
Investment dollars can make an impact, so be sure your impact is a good one.

Avoid Paying These Car Dealership Fees
Know which fees you have to pay, which ones you can negotiate, and which ones you can avoid altogether.

How to prioritize debt payments in the pandemic

A singular crisis has led to extraordinary relief options for borrowers. Interest and payments have been paused on federal student loans. Homeowners can request nearly a year of mortgage forbearance. Credit card issuers and other lenders dramatically expanded hardship programs.

Still, many Americans say they took on more debt last year because of the pandemic, according to NerdWallet’s household debt survey.

If you are one of them, or if you have other household debt that’s been put on hold, you may not want to rush to pay that money back even if you can. In my latest for the Associated Press, how to be strategic when dealing with pandemic-related and other debt.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 3 things to know if you’re new to gig work. Also in the news: How to craft smarter money goals in 2021, the do’s and don’ts of getting and using a paycheck protection program loan, and 5 steps you can take to pay off consumer debt.

3 Things to Know if You’re New to Gig Work
To the IRS, you’re a small business.

How to Craft Smarter Money Goals in 2021
The pandemic has changed everything.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting, Using a Paycheck Protection Program Loan
Best practices that can help small businesses owners get their PPP loan funded and forgiven.

5 steps you can take to pay off consumer debt
Creating the right plan.

Q&A: Should you pay down debt with extra cash? It may not be the best plan during a pandemic

Dear Liz: I’m a teacher on an income-based repayment plan for my federal student loans. I don’t qualify for any loan forgiveness programs for teachers because I teach in an affluent area. Right now, interest and payments on federal education loans have been suspended because of the pandemic.

I’m trying to decide what to do when payments have to restart. Should I pay down a chunk of the loans from the money that accumulated in my savings from not having to make loan payments since April? Or pick back up where I left off with making near-double payments to get down the principal (slowly) and pay off loans in another five to six years? Or only make the minimum income-based payments while waiting to see if the new administration offers more comprehensive loan forgiveness for teachers? Thank you for any insights.

Answer: Although you may not qualify for loan forgiveness through programs meant to help underserved communities, you can still qualify for the federal public service loan forgiveness program. This program erases debt for schoolteachers and other public servants after they’ve made 120 qualifying payments toward their federal student loans.

You can learn more about this program at the U.S. Department of Education site. Follow the rules carefully because many people who thought they were on track to get forgiveness have discovered otherwise.

If you’re eligible, consider making only the minimum payments on your loans so that the maximum amount is forgiven. Even if you’re not eligible for forgiveness, though, you don’t necessarily want to rush to pay off this relatively low-rate, tax-deductible debt.

You should be on track with your retirement savings, have paid off all other, higher-rate debt and have a substantial emergency fund before you make extra payments on education debt (or a mortgage, for that matter). “Substantial” means having three to six months’ worth of expenses saved. If your job is anything less than rock solid, you may want to set aside even more.

Keep in mind that the money you send to your lenders is gone for good; you can’t get it back should you need it later.

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.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 holiday disasters that are covered by home insurance. Also in the news: How to get started on a post-pandemic budget recovery plan, a new episode of the Smart Money podcast on lessons listeners learned during the pandemic, and 3 mistakes to avoid when you buy a recreational vehicle.

5 Holiday Disasters That Are Covered by Home Insurance
Here’s how home insurance pays for fires, stolen gifts and other seasonal disasters.

How to Get Started on a Post-Pandemic Budget Recovery Plan
Rebuilding emergency funds, paying off debt and planning for the next crisis are top strategies for 2021.

Smart Money Podcast: Listeners Share Money Lessons From the Pandemic
Insights from our listeners.

Three mistakes to avoid when you buy a recreational vehicle

Life and money lessons from the pandemic

I’m a “be prepared” kind of person. I like having money in the bank and a good stock of emergency supplies.

But I wasn’t prepared to see empty shelves at the supermarket, or thousands of cars lined up at a Texas food bank, or nurses dressed in garbage bags because there wasn’t enough protective equipment.

The pandemic showed me that being personally prepared isn’t enough. Our communities need to be better prepared, as well.

That lesson may seem obvious in retrospect — many lessons are. But the revelation made me curious about what other people have learned from this year. In my latest for the Associated Press, four of my buddies in the personal finance realm agreed to share what the pandemic has taught them about money and life.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to maximize travel rewards on holiday spending this year. Also in the news: Your guide to hotel travel with pets, why renting out your RV has become a lucrative pandemic side hustle, and how to avoid this fake Zoom meeting invite phishing scam.

How to Maximize Travel Rewards on Holiday Spending This Year
Think of your once-a-year holiday shopping as an opportunity to earn more points on your travel credit card.

Your Guide to Hotel Travel With Pets
Finding a pet-friendly hotel can seem complicated unless you know what to look for.

Why Renting Out Your RV Has Become a Lucrative Pandemic Side Hustle
Renewed interest in traveling by motorhome or camper van has fueled the growth of the RV rental market.

Avoid This Fake Zoom Meeting Invite Phishing Scam
Not even your boring work meetings are safe.