Personal Finance Tips Delivered Weekly
A first-time global financial literacy study shows that the keys to successful personal finance education are student perseverance and an openness to problem solving.
January 16, 2015
Considering Life Without Owning a Car
Most baby boomers couldn't envision their early adult years without a car. However, times are changing and younger commuters are leading the way.
January 9, 2015
Pros and Cons of Reverse Mortgages
Over the last decade, reverse mortgages have been marketed as an easy way for seniors to cash in their home equity to pay for living expenses. However, many have learned that improper use of the product – such as pulling all their cash out at one time to pay bills – has led to significant financial problems later, including foreclosure.
January 2, 2015
Resetting Your Life for Retirement
The phrase "downsizing for retirement" is popular with Baby Boomers, the youngest of whom turned 50 last year.
December 26, 2014
Yours, Mine and Ours: Planning Stepfamily Finances
The Pew Research Center reports that four in ten American adults have at least one steprelative, defined as a stepparent, a step-or-half sibling or a stepchild, in their family. While the Pew study says that many stepfamilies operate harmoniously, it also notes that adults "feel a stronger sense of obligation to their biological family members than they do to their step kin."
December 19, 2014
Medicare Primer 101
If your 65th birthday is around the corner or you're anxious about the Medicare open enrollment period (closing Dec. 7), it's a good time to start focusing on your options.
December 12, 2014
Planning a Home Remodel That Actually Pays Off
There was a time when contractors building McMansion-style home additions or Michelin-worthy kitchens were a regular sight in many neighborhoods – until around 2006, when the Great Recession began to take hold.
December 5, 2014
IRS Pension Update: New Limits for 2015
Is it ever too late to plan for retirement? No, as long as you're willing to be thrifty and extend your working years and be mindful of your individual and employer-based retirement savings options. Building a successful, comfortable retirement depends on a variety of individual factors, including where you live, how long you plan to work, your health and your other investments and assets.
November 28, 2014
Smart Tax Moves To Consider Before New Year's Eve
The flurry of activity during the last weeks of December can make it difficult to pay attention to finances. If you want to save on your tax bill come April, now's the time to make some critical moves.
November 21, 2014
Smart Financial Moves for Transitioning Vets
The latest generations of veterans face a particularly complicated financial picture, attributed to multiple deployments, a tough civilian economy, predatory lending threats at home and disability and health issues.
November 17, 2014
What You Need to Know Before Reading New Social Security Statements
No matter how far away you are from retirement, it's important to understand your Social Security benefits – and there's a particularly good reason to do it now.
November 7, 2014
6 Must-Know Facts About Obamacare Open Enrollment
If you buy your own health insurance, add this important date to your yearend to-do list: November 15.
October 31, 2014
7 Ways to Cut Your Holiday Expenses
When it comes to holiday spending, waiting in store lines all night and jostling for discounts will mean very little if you don't have a budget that shapes your finances year-round. With the average U.S. household spending $600-$700 in 2014 for the holidays, putting that money together shouldn't be a game of chance. Here are some tips to get it right.
October 24, 2014
Are Extended Warranties Worth the Cost?
Are these costly add-ons worth the expense or simply a sucker bet intended to boost the seller's bottom line? It depends on whom you ask.
October 17, 2014
Weigh 2015 Medicare Part D, Advantage Plan Choices Carefully
If you're currently enrolled in Medicare, what you do or don't do over the next few weeks could determine whether you can secure the best, most affordable coverage next year. Here's why.
October 10, 2014
Do You Need ID Theft Insurance or Credit Monitoring?
You'd have to be living under a rock not to be concerned about identity theft. It seems like every other month there's a new report about another massive data breach somewhere in the world.
October 3, 2014
Flexible Spending Accounts, Commuter Benefits Cut Your Taxes
For millions of Americans, 2015 open enrollment for employer-provided benefits is right around the corner. While it may be tempting to simply opt for the same coverage you have this year, doing so could cost you hundreds – or thousands – of dollars in tax savings.
September 26, 2014
How to Pay Less for a New Car
Late last year, my wife and I were in the unenviable position of needing to shop for a new car, since the used car lease I'd assumed was about to expire. I knew it would probably have to last until my kids were well into college, so I spent a long time investigating how to get the best deal on a reliable car I would love driving.
September 19, 2014
Before Cosigning a Loan, Know the Risks
Shakespeare probably said it best: "Neither a borrower, nor a lender be, for loan oft loses both itself and friend." Four hundred years later, people still wrestle with whether or not to help out a loved one by loaning them money or cosigning a loan.
September 12, 2014
Don't Be Surprised by Retiree Healthcare Costs
Retirement isn't cheap. Even though you're no longer drawing a paycheck, you still must pay for housing, food, utilities, transportation and healthcare, to name just a few expenses. As prices continue to escalate, it's not surprising that the ages at which people expect to retire – and when they actually do – have crept up in recent years.
September 5, 2014
Under 26? Should You Stay on Your Parent's Health Insurance?
In their quest to land a job, any job, many young adults will sacrifice what used to be called "fringe benefits" to gain a foot in the door. But many entry-level jobs either offer no healthcare benefits, or the employee's cost share is prohibitive for someone barely making minimum wage. Add to the equation that most twentysomethings are in good health and rarely visit the doctor and it's easy to see why many will forego health insurance in favor of paying other bills.
August 29, 2014
Social Security to Resume Mailed Benefit Statements
Call it a paperless experiment that didn't quite pan out. In 2011, a budget-strapped Social Security Administration (SSA) stopped mailing annual benefit statements to workers over 25 in order to save $70 million on annual printing and mailing costs.
August 22, 2014
Will Your Kids Inherit Your Debt?
Many people finally get around to writing a will in order to safeguard their assets for their heirs. But what if you've got the opposite problem: Your nest egg was decimated by the recession, bad investments or simply living longer than expected and now you've got a mountain of bills you can't pay off.
August 15, 2014
Identity Thieves Target Kids as Well as Adults
I'm sorry to report that child identity fraud is alive and well in 2014. If anything, the problem may be worsening as identity thieves devise new methods to steal – and use – children's personal information. Most commonly, they'll harvest kids' dormant Social Security numbers (SSNs) and use them to illegally obtain jobs or open fraudulent bank and credit accounts, mortgages or car loans.
August 8, 2014
Here's Credit 101 for Your College Freshman
To parents with a freshman entering college this fall: You're probably expecting to shell out major bucks for tuition, room and board and a million other necessities over the next few years. But before you send your kid off, make sure you share one gift likely to steer him or her along the road to financial security – a sound understanding of how credit works.
August 1, 2014
Consumer Reporting Agencies Follow Your Moves
By now, you've probably heard about the Big Three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), which monitor your financial history and issue credit reports and credit scores to potential lenders. But did you know that there are dozens of other specialty consumer reporting agencies that track your history for activities that may not appear on your regular credit reports – things like bounced checks, late utility payments, insurance claims and prescription orders?
July 25, 2014
The Ins and Outs of 529 College Savings Plans
For many people, their biggest expenses in life are funding retirement, buying a home and paying for their children's college education – or a portion of it, anyway. Setting aside money for these and other financial goals is difficult, especially when you're trying to save for them all simultaneously and from a young age.
July 18, 2014
Don't Let Back-to-School Tasks Sneak up on You
Parents, if this is your first time at the back-to-school rodeo, let me share a few lessons my wife and I have learned the hard way. Chances are you'll be spending the next few weeks filling out piles of pre-enrollment paperwork, lining up carpools and, of course, taking the dreaded shopping excursions for clothes and school supplies.
July 11, 2014
Divorcing? Protect Your Finances, Personal Data
No doubt you've seen many warnings against sharing personal or financial information with strangers, but what about your spouse – or ex-spouse? A recent study by McAfee uncovered some unsettling results:
July 4, 2014
Read Contracts Carefully Before Signing
If you always stop to read the fine print before signing anything, congratulations – your parents trained you well. If you don't, beware: Your signature could commit you to a long-term gym membership you don't really want, an apartment you can't afford or worst of all, paying off someone else's loan you cosigned.
June 27, 2014
Claim a Tax Credit for Summer Daycare Expenses
For harried parents, the definition of true panic is realizing in April that you forgot to enroll your kids for summer day camp and now all the slots are filled. Cut to: as the school year ends, you're feverishly trying to find adequate daycare because neither of you can take time off work to watch the kids.
June 20, 2014
What to Do if You Inherit Someone's 401(k)
Talk about good news wrapped in bad: In the midst of grieving the loss of a loved one, you learn that you were named beneficiary of their 401(k) plan. Chances are you've got too much on your mind to make any sudden decisions about what to do with the money.
June 13, 2014
Make Sure Your Family Has a Disaster Plan
June 1 marked the beginning of hurricane season. Meanwhile, across much of the Western U.S., major droughts have greatly increased the danger for summer wildfires. And don't forget last winter's record-breaking winter storms – or the ongoing potential for earthquakes, tornados, floods and other natural disasters.
June 06, 2014
Job Search Tips for New Grads
To the roughly 1.6 million college graduates in the class of 2014: You have my heartiest congratulations – and my sympathies. I graduated during the early 1990s recession when finding a decent job was very difficult, so I have an inkling of the challenges many of you now face.
May 30, 2014
Financial Advice for New Fathers
Each year when Father's Day rolls around, I'm reminded that I wouldn't trade the experience of raising my two kids for the world. But when I think back to how naïve my wife and I once were about the costs of raising children, I can't help wishing we'd been better prepared.
May 23, 2014
Don't Fall Prey to Medical Identity Theft
By now, most people know about the perils of identity theft, where someone steals your personal or financial account information and makes fraudulent charges or opens bogus accounts in your name.
May 16, 2014
Explore Medicare Before You Turn 65
Each day, approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 – and thereby become eligible for Medicare.
May 9, 2014
Keep a Lid on Vacation Costs
Summer vacation is right around the corner. I'm not a big believer in pre-planning every single detail – sometimes the best vacation moments are spontaneous. But unless your rich uncle is paying for the trip, you'll need to do a certain amount of preparation or your budget will fly out the window.
May 2, 2014
Providing Financial Literacy to the Unbanked
In today's world of Internet banking, smartphone shopping apps and web-based access to investment accounts, it's easy to forget that billions of people around the world – including millions in our own country – lag far behind when it comes to accessing even the most rudimentary financial management tools.
April 25, 2014
Help Your Mom Get Organized for Mother's Day
Mother's Day is May 11. If you're wracking your brain for ways to show your mom appreciation for all the sacrifices she made while raising you, here's a thought: Why not offer to spend some time helping to sort through her financial, legal and medical paperwork to make sure everything is in order?
April 18, 2014
Why Disability Insurance Is Critical
Most people understand why having life insurance is a good idea: Nobody wants to leave their survivors in a financial lurch if they were to die suddenly. But what if you suffer an accident or illness and don't die, but rather, become severely disabled? Could you or your family make ends meet without your paycheck, possibly for decades?
April 11, 2014
Reining in Prom Expenses
If you've got teenagers, you already know how expensive high school can be. Besides food, clothing and school supplies, a whole host of extracurricular activities are competing for a share of your wallet – even as you frantically try to save for college and your own retirement.
April 4, 2014
Demystifying Credit Scores
One of the few positive outcomes of the 2008 financial crisis was that it helped shine a light on the importance of understanding and staying on top of your credit profile. Along with that heightened visibility, however, has come a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding – particularly around the all-important credit score.
March 28, 2014
Spend Your Tax Refund Wisely
Last year the IRS doled out over 110 million income tax refunds averaging $2,803. Another way to look at it is that collectively, Americans overpaid their taxes by nearly $310 billion in 2012.
March 21, 2014
Resist the Urge to Tap Retirement Plans Early
I have yet to meet anyone who thinks they're saving too much money for retirement. On the contrary, most people admit they're probably setting aside too little. Retirement accounts must compete with daily expenses, saving up for a home, college and unexpected emergencies for every precious dollar.
March 14, 2014
New Mortgage Rules Protect Against Risky Loans
Good news for people shopping for a mortgage – and for current homeowners facing foreclosure because they can no longer afford their home loan: New mortgage regulations drafted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently took effect and they provide a slew of new rights and protections for consumers.
March 7, 2014
Don't Forfeit Past Tax Refunds
Does this sound familiar? A few years back your yearly earnings were pretty low so you figured you wouldn't owe any income tax. Thus, when April 15 rolled around the following year you didn't bother filing a tax return, knowing you wouldn't be penalized.
February 28, 2014
Money-Saving Tips for Seniors
We all love a good bargain, no matter what our age. But if you're a senior citizen on a fixed income, finding discounted goods and services can mean the difference between making ends meet and going without.
February 21, 2014
Self-Employed? Don't Forget These Tax-Filing Tips
Calculating income taxes is a royal pain, even when your situation is uncomplicated enough that you can file a 1040EZ Form. And if you're self-employed, be prepared for extra layers of complexity. Not only must you file an annual return with numerous additional forms and schedules, you're also responsible for paying quarterly estimated taxes, which can mean having to write a pretty hefty check while waiting for your clients to pay their overdue bills.
February 14, 2014
Foreign Money Transfers Just Got Safer
If you're among the millions of U.S. residents who each year send tens of billions of dollars to family, friends or foreign businesses overseas, here's good news: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently instituted new rules governing international electronic money transfers to better protect consumers against hidden fees and improve dispute resolution policies.
February 07, 2014
Should You Buy Pet Insurance?
One topic I've learned to avoid with new acquaintances until I know them better (along with politics and religion) is where they stand on the treatment of pets. Some people, when their dog gets sick or badly injured, say, "It's an animal – that's just part of the circle of life." Others consider Rover a close family member and would take out a second mortgage to save his life.
January 31, 2014
Don't Fall for Valentine's Day Scams
On Valentine's Day, people's emotions run all over the map &ndash some are head-over-heels and want to shower their loved one with gifts, while others are despondent because currently they have no one special in their life.
January 24, 2014
Rule Changes Tighten Reverse Mortgage Eligibility
Reverse mortgages have become increasingly popular in recent years, as cash-strapped seniors seek ways to keep pace with rising expenses – not to mention cope with the pummeling their retirement savings took during the Great Recession.
January 17, 2014
How to Spot a Bad Moving Company
Moving is already traumatic and expensive enough; the last thing you want to worry about is getting ripped off by your mover. Yet each year, the Better Business Bureau receives thousands of complaints against moving companies, mostly alleging lost or damaged property, not showing up on time, overcharging – or, in extreme cases, stealing or holding customers' possessions hostage while demanding more money than originally agreed upon.
January 10, 2014
A Guide to Managing Someone Else's Finances
Anyone who's ever been asked to step in and manage their parents' or someone else's personal finances can tell you that it's an awesome responsibility – and by "awesome," I don't mean "totally cool." It's more like "inspiring an overwhelming feeling of fear."
January 03, 2014
Retirement Plan Limits Largely Unchanged in 2014
Anyone who's bought groceries, filled their gas tank or paid insurance premiums recently would probably be surprised to learn that, according to Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (CPI-U), the rate of inflation is relatively flat – only 1.2 percent from September 2012 to September 2013.
December 27, 2013
What If Your Car Gets Totaled?
Each year, auto insurance companies declare millions of vehicles to be "totaled," meaning it's not worth the cost to repair them. It doesn't matter whether the car was damaged in a collision, during a flood or after a thief's joyride went bad.
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