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?

How to have a ‘no regrets’ retirement

Most retirees regret not saving more. A 2018 study by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found 73% wish they’d put aside more money on a consistent basis, and half felt they waited too long to get serious about retirement saving.

But retirement is about more than the balance in your 401(k). Even people with sizable nest eggs can wish they handled certain aspects of retirement differently.

Hoping to learn from others’ mistakes, I asked advisers with the Financial Planning Association and the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners to share their clients’ biggest regrets about retirement. In my latest for the Associated Press, the common themes in their responses.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to take charge of your credit this year. Also in the news: Several Chase cards will earn more rewards of Lyft rides, 6 inspired ideas for traveling smarter this year, and how much you need to save every month to earn $50K a year in interest for retirement.

How to Take Charge of Your Credit This Year
Take a crash course in credit.

Several Chase Cards Will Earn More Rewards on Lyft Rides
A boost for rideshare customers.

6 inspired ideas for traveling smarter this year
Rethinking old travel habits.

How much you need to save every month to earn $50,000 a year in interest alone for retirement
Crunching the numbers.

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.

How to create a retirement ‘paycheck’

Your expenses don’t end when your paychecks do, but creating a reliable income stream in retirement can be tricky. The right choices can result in sustainable income for the rest of your life. The wrong choices could leave you uncomfortably short of cash.

In fact, retirement includes so many important, potentially irreversible decisions that most people could benefit from a few sessions with a fee-only, fiduciary financial planner. (Fiduciary means the adviser is committed to putting your interests ahead of their own.) These ideally would start about 10 years before retirement. In my latest for the Associated Press, key concepts that could make those discussions easier — or keep you from making serious mistakes if you take a do-it-yourself approach.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 6 empowering money moves to boost your financial confidence. Also in the news: Credit card fees likely to hit $40 in 2020, when everything will go on sale in 2020, and why saving for retirement is about to get easier.

6 Empowering Money Moves to Boost Your Financial Confidence
A confidence boost for the new year.

Credit Card Late Fees Likely to Hit $40 in 2020
The case for autopay.

Here’s When Everything Will Go on Sale in 2020
Shop strategically.

Saving for Retirement Is About to Get Easier
Introducing the SECURE Act.

Q&A: When savings are meager, it might be time to unretire

Dear Liz: I’m 67, retired and have $83,000 in a 401(k) that I left with my employer. Should I see a certified financial planner? Based on my current income, I either need a job, or I have to start pulling $10,000 from my 401(k) each year, which will clean out my account in eight years.

Answer: You definitely need a job.

You could burn through your nest egg even faster than you expect if the stock market drops or an unexpected expense crops up. And retirement is loaded with surprise expenses, from healthcare bills to home repairs to long-term care. Even in a best-case scenario, you’re likely to run short of money long before you run out of breath.

A planner could have warned you about this and suggested that a few more years of working, saving and delaying Social Security could have given you a far more comfortable retirement.

It may not be too late.

If you can return to work full-time, you could suspend your Social Security benefit. That would allow it to grow by 8% each year until you turn 70. If you’re married and the higher earner, that also would increase the survivor benefit that one of you will have to live on once the other dies.

Even if you can’t work full time, a part-time job could ease the drain on your 401(k). If you’re a homeowner, you also could consider a reverse mortgage that would allow you to turn your home equity into a lifetime stream of monthly checks, a line of credit or a lump sum.

A fee-only advisor — one who is paid only by clients’ fees, rather than by commission — could help you review your options. The Garrett Planning Network offers referrals to fee-only planners who charge by the hour.

Another option for people on a budget: accredited financial counselors or financial fitness coaches. These folks aren’t certified financial planners, but they can help with budgeting, debt management and retirement planning. You can get referrals from the Assn. for Financial Counseling & Planning Education.

Q&A: This forgotten account shouldn’t turn into a spending spree

Dear Liz: I just got a message about thousands of dollars I have in a 401(k) account from a job I had over 10 years ago. They are asking me what I want to do with the money, roll it over into an IRA or cash it out. What should I do?

Answer: Don’t cash it out.

Unexpected money can feel like a windfall, and it’s natural to dream about potential splurges you could afford. But this cash didn’t fall out of the sky. This is money you earned and that could grow substantially if you make the right moves now. If you cashed it out, you’d lose a substantial chunk to taxes and penalties, plus you’d lose all the future tax-deferred growth that money could earn.

Your best option probably would be to transfer the money directly into your current employer’s retirement plan, if you have one and it allows such transfers. Employer plans may offer lower-cost access to investments than you’d get with an IRA, plus consolidating the old plan into the new means one less account to monitor. Also, employer plans may offer more protection from creditors, depending on where you live.

Rolling the money directly into an IRA is another good option. You’ll need to open an account, preferably at a discount brokerage that keeps costs low. An IRA would give you access to more investment options, but beginning investors might just want to opt for a target date retirement fund or a robo-advisory service that invests using computer algorithms. With either option, the mix of investments and the risk over time would be professionally managed.

Whichever you choose, make sure the old plan sends the money directly to your chosen option, rather than sending you a check. If a check is sent to you, 20% of the money would be withheld for taxes and you’d have to come up with that amount out of your own pocket within 60 days or that portion would be considered a withdrawal that’s taxed and penalized.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 ways to take command of military discounts. Also in the news: The best credit cards to use when buying airfare, Black Friday strategies that actually work, and how to spend your retirement savings without triggering a tax penalty.

5 Ways to Take Command of Military Discounts
Thank you for your service.

Buying Airfare? Use These Cards to Maximize Your Points
Getting the most for your purchase.

Shoppers Share Black Friday Strategies That Actually Work
Tackling your holiday shopping.

How to spend your retirement savings without triggering a tax penalty
Draw down your money at the right time.

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.