Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 tips for cutting the cost of having your taxes done. Also in the news: How to find the dirt on your tax preparer, making the most of a gig economy to pay down debt, and 11 smart ways to spend your tax refund.

5 Tips for Cutting the Cost of Having Your Taxes Done
How to rein in the costs.

How to Find the Dirt on Your Tax Preparer
Don’t give your info to just anyone.

How I Ditched Debt: Making the Most of a Gig Economy
A woman pays down over $25K in three years.

11 smart ways to spend your tax refund, according to personal finance experts
Don’t think of it as a windfall.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The biggest financial mistake women make. Also in the news: 4 business credit card mistakes you can’t afford to make, 5 divorce mistakes that can cost you, and why you might owe taxes this year.

The Biggest Financial Mistake Women Make
Investing is important.

4 Business Credit Card Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make
Don’t get in over your head.

5 Divorce Mistakes That Can Cost You
No talking on Twitter.

Why You Might Owe Taxes This Year
About that tax break…

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: This winter, your credit should freeze, too. Also in the news: 5 keys to picture-perfect TV buying, when to hire someone to do your taxes, and 5 things consumers should watch out for now that the Fed hasn’t raised rates.

This Winter, Your Credit Should Freeze, Too
Protecting your personal info.

5 Keys to Picture-Perfect TV Buying
Just in time for the Big Game.

When to Hire Someone to Do Your Taxes
When Turbo Tax isn’t enough.

5 things consumers should watch for now that the Fed has NOT raised rates
Bad news for savers.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Could you live on your retirement savings for 23 years? Also in the news: How a new pilot manages $116,000+ in loans, what your tax refund will look like this year, and the top 10 colleges for financial aid.

Could You Live on Your Retirement Savings for 23 Years?
How long will your money last?

Debt Diary: How a New Pilot Manages $116,000+ in Loans
A payoff strategy.

What Your Tax Refund Will Look Like This Year
It might not be as much as you think.

The top 10 colleges for financial aid
Some colleges are quite generous.

Q&A: Independent contractors face a wealth of tax consequences

Dear Liz: My son was recently hired in his dream job, but his employer has classified him as an independent contractor rather than as an employee. This would be his first time drawing pay without all the taxes, benefits, insurance and so on taken out. I’m afraid he’s only seeing the good wage and not the flip side.

He’s a newlywed and doesn’t need his mama telling him what’s what. I thought if I sent him this “anonymous” letter that appeared in your column, that advice would be coming from you and he might just listen!

Answer: If your son doesn’t listen, that dream job could turn into a tax nightmare.

Tax pros often suggest their self-employed clients put aside half of what they earn to cover taxes and other obligations. Independent contractors have to pay both the employer and employee portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes, or roughly 15.3% instead of the 7.65% regular workers pay. That’s in addition to whatever federal, state and local income taxes he’ll owe.

He’s now required to make quarterly estimated tax payments because ours is a “pay as you go” system. Employees typically have those taxes withheld, but independent contractors must make quarterly estimated tax payments by Jan. 15, April 15, June 15 and Sept. 15. (The deadlines are moved to the following Monday if those dates fall on a weekend.) If he waits until he files his annual tax return to pay, he’ll probably owe penalties.

He also may need to register his business with his city or county and get a tax registration certificate.

If he doesn’t get health insurance through his spouse, he’ll need to find a policy, probably through an Affordable Care Act exchange. He also should save at least something for retirement. Although the self-employed have several good options for retirement savings, including SEP IRAs and solo 401(k)s, he’ll have to do without the “free money” that company 401(k) matches represent.

Business insurance may be another concern. He may need coverage to protect against lawsuits, disabilities and other potential setbacks.

Your son would be smart to hire a tax pro, such as an enrolled agent or CPA, to help him navigate this brave new-to-him world of self-employment.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What the government shutdown means for home loans. Also in the news: How to stay afloat financially during the shutdown, how Medicare premiums could be the key to itemizing your taxes, and how to start investing right now.

What the Government Shutdown Means for Home Loans
Prepare for delays.

How to Stay Afloat Financially in a Federal Shutdown
Get ready to spend some time on the phone.

How Medicare premiums could be the key to itemizing your taxes — and saving money
Your premiums could be deductable.

How (and Why) to Start Investing Right Now
The sooner the better.

It’s time to fix Social Security’s tax burden

People on Social Security need a tax break. The rest of us need to make sure they get it — for everyone’s sake.

When Congress made Social Security benefits taxable in 1983, lawmakers didn’t index the tax thresholds to inflation. They “forgot” inflation again when adding a second layer of taxation in 1993.

That means the proportion of recipients who have to pay federal income taxes on their benefits keeps increasing. Initially, only 1 in 10 Social Security recipients had to pay any federal tax. Now, it’s over half.

In my latest for the Associated Press, why this sneaky way of boosting taxes is unfair to those who have already paid their dues.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to prevent gift card fraud this holiday season. Also in the news: Those “live checks” promise cash but come with a catch, renovation loans expand your home buying options, and the 2019 tax brackets.

How to Prevent Gift Card Fraud This Holiday Season
Keep an eye out for scams.

That ‘Live Check’ Promises Cash, but There’s a Catch
It could come with a whopping interest rate.

Renovation Loans Expand Your Homebuying Options
Move-in ready homes are becoming harder to find.

These Are the 2019 Tax Brackets
Small changes for 2019.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Avoid costly mistakes with the car buyer’s checklist. Also in the news: How to be the holiday host with the most credit card rewards, what you should know before making your first student loan payment, and illegal tax moves to avoid.

Avoid Costly Mistakes With the Car Buyer’s Checklist
Take this list with you to the dealership.

Be the Holiday Host With the Most Credit Card Rewards
Reward yourself for being an excellent host.

Read This Before Making Your First Student Loan Payment
The first day of the rest of your payment life.

Illegal Tax Moves to Avoid
Tiny fibs can lead to big trouble.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to make the most of the Child Tax Credit this year. Also in the news: 4 reasons to ditch your old debit card, getting to know your 401(k) plan, and how to choose the best tax software.

How to Make the Most of the Child Tax Credit This Year
The tax credit is doubling for 2018.

4 Reasons to Ditch Your Old Debit Card
New card, new perks.

Get to Know Your 401(k) Plan
Everything you need to know about your retirement savings.

How to Choose the Best Tax Software for You This Year
DIY vs finding a pro.