Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How one person’s travel credit card benefit saved them over $1000. Also in the news: How to file a complaint against your bank, how to buy the car you loved in high school without losing your shirt, and these states will pay off your student loan debt for moving there.

How My Travel Credit Card’s Benefit Saved Me Over $1,000
When the unexpected happens, a credit card’s trip cancellation or interruption insurance may recover the cost of nonrefundable expenses.

How to File a Complaint Against Your Bank
Work with your bank and if that fails, submit a complaint that specifies the problem and your proposed solution.

Buy the Car You Loved in High School (Without Losing Your Shirt)
Shop wisely.

These States Will Pay Off Your Student Loan Debt for Moving There
A look at the Smart Buy program.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 9 money numbers you need to know. Also in the news: The case for going back to school, how to avoid pet scams, and when to consider an FHA-backed mortgage.

9 Money Numbers You Need to Know
Give yourself a quick financial health check-up by seeing where you stand on a handful of important measurements.

College, Interrupted: The Case for Going (Back) to School
Skipping out on college, delaying enrollment or not finishing a degree can affect lifetime earnings.

Scam Alert: How to Get a Pet and Not Get Taken
Avoid online animal listings, and take steps to protect yourself when buying in person. Consider a shelter animal.

When to Consider an FHA-Backed Mortgage
The pros and cons.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Start early to get your house retirement-ready. Also in the news: Why these federal student loan borrowers are out of luck, 5 options for people who can’t afford their tax bills, and why big tax refunds aren’t as great as they seem.

Start Early to Get Your House Retirement-Ready
Most homes aren’t ready for “aging in place,” but you could take steps now to make your home better for retirement.

These Federal Student Loan Borrowers Aren’t Getting Relief
FFEL borrowers are out of luck.

5 Options for People Who Can’t Afford Their Tax Bills
If you can’t afford your tax bill, consider an installment plan or an offer in compromise if you qualify.

Why Big Tax Refunds Aren’t As Great as They Seem
You’re giving the IRS a loan.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Does Medicare cover COVID testing and vaccines? Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on procrastination and paying student loans vs investing, 3 ways COVID has reshuffled our finances, and how the car you drive can raise your auto insurance rates.

Does Medicare Cover COVID Testing and Vaccines?
In general, Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans cover COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.

Smart Money Podcast: Procrastination, and Paying Student Loans vs. Investing
How to stop procrastinating on big money tasks.

3 Ways COVID-19 Reshuffled Our Finances
Three financial trends we can chalk up to the coronavirus pandemic.

How the Car You Drive Can Raise Your Auto Insurance Rates
The cost of your car isn’t the only way your vehicle affects your auto insurance bill.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to finally tackle tough money tasks. Also in the news: It’s now easier than ever for your boss to pay your student loans, 6 Black financial pros to follow in 2021, and 3 budgets apps for couples who want to align on money.

How to Finally Tackle Tough Money Tasks
Completing financial tasks can be intimidating, but breaking big goals into small, manageable actions makes it easier to whittle down your to-do list.

It’s Now Easier Than Ever for Your Boss to Pay Your Student Loans
Your employer can pay down your student loans, tax-free.

6 Black Financial Pros to Follow in 2021
Financial experts offer their thoughts about the banking industry, and new money goals after 2020.

3 Budget Apps for Couples Who Want to Align on Money
Finding the romance in finance.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Discriminatory practices leave Black Americans with less life insurance. Also in the news: How to keep your student loan payment at $0, a new episode of the Smart Money podcast on the lessons learned from Gamestop, and how to protect yourself from gas pump skimmers.

Discriminatory Practices Leave Black Americans With Less Life Insurance
Years of discrimination have led to a life insurance coverage gap between Black and white Americans.

How to Keep Your Student Loan Payment at $0
Take a look at income-driven repayment.

Smart Money Podcast: GameStop Lessons and Talking About Money With Your Partner
Understanding what the heck happened with Gamestop.

How to Protect Yourself From Gas Pump Skimmers
Scammers never rest.

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.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What the new COVID relief package means for you and your money. Also in the news: Second relief bill and vaccine rollout attract fraudsters, taking advantage of student loan breaks before 2020 ends, and why a down payment is just the beginning of buying a new home.

What the New COVID Relief Package Means For Your Money
It includes $600 checks for millions of Americans and revives federal unemployment aid and loans for small businesses.

Scam Alert: Second Relief Bill, Vaccine Rollout Attract Fraudsters
Staying skeptical and reading up on common schemes can help you keep your money and personal financial info safe.

Take Advantage of Student Loan Breaks Before 2020 Ends
Consider making a lump-sum payment, addressing defaulted loans or refinancing private loans before the year ends.

Want to buy a home? A down payment is just the beginning
What can go wrong, will go wrong, and you’ll need cash to pay for repairs and everything else for your new home

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Calibrate your emergency fund to a crisis-prone world. Also in the news: How to give stock as a gift, what you need to know about Joe Biden’s student loan plan, and the pros and cons of Buy Now, Pay Later retail loans.

Calibrate Your Emergency Fund to a Crisis-Prone World
Financial advisors are urging clients to consider expanding their emergency funds.

How to Give Stock as a Gift (And Why Tax Pros Like The Idea)
Is it better to give than to receive? Certainly. But giving while receiving a tax benefit is pretty good, too.

Will student loans be forgiven in 2021? Here’s what you should know
What you need to know about Joe Biden’s student loan plan.

Are ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Retail Loans a Good Deal?
The pros and cons.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How the pandemic disrupts holiday travel. Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on charitable giving and using your savings to pay student loans, how to insure an expensive present, and how to plan for the end of student loan forbearance.

Change of Plans: How the Pandemic Disrupts Holiday Travel
More than two-thirds of Americans who had December holiday travel plans (68%) say these plans have been affected by the pandemic, according to a new NerdWallet survey.

Smart Money Podcast: Charitable Giving, and Using Savings to Pay Student Loans
Is using savings a good idea?

Bought a Pricey Present? Here’s How to Insure It
If you’re splurging on an amazing gift this year, it makes sense to protect your purchase.

How to Plan for the End of Student Loan Forbearance
January 31st is the new cutoff.