Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Dodge dealership dread with online used car sellers. Also in the news: What first-time home buyers should know about fixer-uppers, how to save for the future when it’s uncertain, and how long it takes for paid debt to be reported to credit bureaus.

Dodge Dealership Dread With Online Used Car Sellers
Car shop from your couch.

What First-Time Home Buyers Should Know About Fixer-Uppers
Don’t get trapped in a money pit.

How to save for the future when it’s uncertain
An emergency fund is crucial.

Here’s How Long It Takes for Paid Debt to Be Reported to Credit Bureaus
Be patient.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 3 sites to help aging parents organize vital details. Also in the news: How much you’ll really pay for that student loan, financial records to keep in your “go bag”, and online games that encourage savings.

3 Sites to Help Aging Parents Organize Vital Details
Keeping important documents straight and accessible.

How Much You’ll Really Pay for That Student Loan
The totals can be shocking.

Keep These Financial Records in Your ‘Go Bag’
Documents to have in case of an emergency.

People are paying to play online games that encourage them to save
Contradictory? Or incentivizing?

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What not to buy for your vacation. Also in the news: How to tidy up your finances so each dollar sparks joy, how to save on road trips, and how your retirement savings compares to others in your age group.

What Not to Buy for Your Vacation
What to buy to save money and time.

‘Tidy Up’ Your Finances So Each Dollar Sparks Joy
The Marie Kondo effect.

How to Save on Road Trips
Don’t blow all of your money on fuel.

Find Out How Your Retirement Savings Compare to Others in Your Age Group
Are you ahead or behind?

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: In the points and miles game, blind loyalty can cost you. Also in the news: The best mortgage lenders with no origination fee, how a personal loan affects your credit score, and how thinking like an optimist could help you save more.

In the Points and Miles Game, Blind Loyalty Can Cost You
You could end up losing the points game.

Best Mortgage Lenders with No Origination Fee of 2019
They’re not easy to find.

How Does a Personal Loan Affect Your Credit Score?
A chance to improve your score.

To Save More, Think Like an Optimist
The saving power of positive thinking.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news


Today’s top story: Why you should love robo-advisors. Also in the news: 7 ways to trim your tax bill in retirement, how Roth IRA taxes work, and how to save money for the future when it’s uncertain.

Why You Should Love Robo-Advisors
Keeping costs low and advice honest.

Taxes in Retirement: 7 Ways to Trim Your Bill
Ideas that can reduce financial stress in retirement.

How Roth IRA Taxes Work
A good investment at tax time.

How to save for the future when it’s uncertain
Preparing for a variety of outcomes.





Q&A: Here’s a big mistake to avoid when planning your wedding

Dear Liz: Would you advise taking money out of your 401(k) for your wedding if you’re getting a lump sum of money within the same year and can pay the full amount back?

Answer: How about postponing the wedding until you can pay for it in cash?

That would be so much better than starting your life together “betting on the come” — in gambling parlance, counting on cards that haven’t yet been dealt into your hand. There are so many ways that can go wrong and only a few where it can go right.

The most obvious risk in borrowing from your 401(k) is that you will lose your job and won’t be able to pay back the money before the balance is deemed a withdrawal, incurring taxes and penalties. Plus, you can’t put the money back, so you’ve lost all the future tax-deferred compounding those savings could have earned.

You’re also setting a seriously bad precedent for your marriage when you borrow money for a luxury, which is what a wedding is. (You also might want to read the Emory University study that found the duration of a marriage was inversely proportional to how much was spent on the engagement ring and wedding. The more spent, in other words, the shorter the marriage.)

It’s easy to get in the habit of borrowing rather than making hard choices or having hard discussions. But a good marriage, and sound finances, requires plenty of both. Give yourselves the gift of a wedding you can afford, when you can afford it.

Q&A: Ask yourself these questions before using savings to pay off student debt

Dear Liz: I’m wondering whether I should use part of my emergency fund to pay off student loans. I currently have $15,000 in an emergency fund to cover three to six months of my living expenses and owe $18,000 in federal student loans. I’ve been feeling the itch to pay off a chunk of my student loans to reduce the years (and interest) I have to keep paying. I’d like to use $5,000 to $6,000 of my emergency fund to put toward the loan. For context, I’m already contributing 15% to my 401(k) and have no other debt.

Answer: First of all, well done. The fact that you have any emergency fund puts you ahead of the game, plus it’s great that you’re also saving for your retirement and avoiding credit card debt.

There are a few things to consider before using savings to pay down your loan. “Prepaying” a student loan is different from paying down credit cards. Reducing credit card debt typically frees up additional credit that you could use in an emergency. Paying down credit card debt also can help your credit scores by reducing your “credit utilization,” or the amount of your available revolving credit that you’re using. Extra money sent to a student loan lender, by contrast, can’t be clawed back if you should need it and doesn’t help your scores as much.

Federal student loan debt has other advantages. Interest rates tend to be low, and up to $2,500 of interest can be subtracted from your income even if you don’t itemize. That is a valuable “above the line” adjustment that can help you qualify for other tax breaks.

You shouldn’t hang on to debt just because of the tax savings, of course, since the value of the tax break usually is much less than the interest you pay. But most people have better things to do with their money than pay down low-rate, tax-deductible debt, especially if they have other types of debt, haven’t maxed out their retirement savings and don’t have an adequate emergency fund.

Which brings us back to your situation. You’ve checked all those other boxes. If your job situation is reasonably stable, then using a chunk of your savings to pay down debt can make sense — particularly if you have access to credit or other funds, such as help from friends or family, as a backup while you rebuild those savings.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 3 things that will change when you’re a homeowner. Also in the news: 3 times you can pay taxes with plastic and come out ahead, eight ways you can save money right now, and what happens if you default on a loan.

3 Things That Change When You’re a Homeowner
All you’ll think about is money.

3 Times You Can Pay Taxes With Plastic and Come Out Ahead
Build up your rewards.

Eight Ways You Can Save Money Right Now
Automate your savings.

What Happens if You Default on a Loan?
Don’t take it lightly.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to resist online ads and keep your money. Also in the news: Avoiding a common student loan scam, a NerdWallet special report on home buyers, and why you should schedule an extra student loan payment on the day the interest is lowest.

How to Resist Online Ads and Keep Your Money
Fighting temptation.

She Fell for a Common Student Loan Scam. You Don’t Have To
Don’t get duped.

Recent Home Buyers Stretched, Future Hunters Optimistic
A NerdWallet special report.

Schedule an Extra Student Loan Payment on the Day the Interest Is Lowest
Make sure the payment is applied correctly.

3 money tasks you need to do right now

Most financial to-do lists focus on what you need to get done by Dec. 31, but there’s also a brief window early in the new year to save yourself some significant cash.

In my latest for the Associated Press, three tasks to consider doing now.