Senior Personal Finance Correspondent
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May 9, 2012

Stern Advice-Good student debt, bad student debt

WASHINGTON, May 9 (Reuters) – It wasn’t that long ago that
high school seniors and their parents met astronomical college
loans with a shrug and a signature: Whatever it took to send
junior to his “first choice” school was a small price to pay.

Now, opinion seems to have moved 180 degrees in the opposite
direction. With total student loan indebtedness topping $1
trillion and outpacing total credit card or auto loan debt, many
are talking about the “bubble” in college financing. Any loan is
a bad loan and students who take them out will soon be trapped
in interest-impoverished lifestyles, goes the new argument.

May 2, 2012

Stern Advice: Should you retire with a mortgage?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pay off the house before you retire. That’s the conventional wisdom, and there’s some evidence that people are following it.

Older families aggressively rid themselves of mortgages between 2007 and 2009, according to Federal Reserve data. Some 45.5 percent of households headed by people between 65 and 74 had mortgages in 2007; by 2009, only 41.6 of the same households held home loans. Only 15.1 percent of households headed by people over 75 (in 2007) still had mortgages in 2009.

Apr 25, 2012

Stern Advice: Earnings season shortcuts

WASHINGTON, April 25 (Reuters) – Every day for the next
several weeks, dozens of publicly held companies will release
their quarterly reports. Welcome to earnings season.

Sigh. So many companies, so little desire to slog through
all those financial statements.

Apr 18, 2012

Stern Advice: Countdown to retirement

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Usually, when people talk about someone “going through a stage” they are talking about a 2-year-old or a teen. But there’s another age at which people go through a key transitional period, also marked by angst and rebellion: Call it pre-retirement.

It sets in by the time workers hit their late 50s, even though they are told they should work for another decade or so to maximize their retirement security. But it hits for real about five years before an expected retirement date. It’s the period that Prudential Financial Inc calls “the red zone” and another insurance company, Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, calls “the transitional phase.”

Apr 11, 2012

Stern Advice: Apple is bigger than my brain

WASHINGTON, April 11 (Reuters) – By various accounts, Apple
Inc. is now bigger than Spain, Portugal and Greece
(combined), or the entire retail sector of the U.S. economy, or
13 Warren Buffetts. What are we to think about that?

First, a disclosure. In my two-person household are three
Apple laptops, two Apple desktops, two iPhones, one iPod, two
healthy iTunes accounts, a fair amount of iPad lust, and 200
shares of Apple stock, purchased by my husband roughly two
decades ago, and making up a large share of his retirement

Apr 4, 2012

Stern Advice: Don’t worry, Grandma will cover it

WASHINGTON, April 4 (Reuters) – The generation that invented
“helicopter parenting” is moving into its grandparenting years
with a wad of cash and strong ideas about how their precious
posterity should live, so get ready for Granny and Grandpa Baby
Boomer to shake things up.

Already, today’s first-time grandparents are the youngest
ever, with an average age of 47, according to an AARP survey.
Boomers have the highest median household income of any age
group, according to the U.S. Census; by some accounts they
control as much as 70 percent of American net worth and stand to
inherit another $8 trillion or more.

Mar 28, 2012

How to haggle for that college money

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Over the next week, most colleges will give high school seniors the good news — who got in where — and the bad news — how much it will cost.

Then it will be crunch time for a full month, as parents try to make the numbers work so their kids can give colleges their final answers by May 1.

Mar 28, 2012

Stern Advice: How to haggle for that college money

WASHINGTON, March 28 (Reuters) – Over the next week, most
colleges will give high school seniors the good news — who got
in where — and the bad news — how much it will cost.

Then it will be crunch time for a full month, as parents try
to make the numbers work so their kids can give colleges their
final answers by May 1.

Mar 26, 2012

Treasury renews savings bond push

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Treasury will unveil a new savings bonds website on Tuesday in an attempt to win consumers over to traditional government-issued, small-denomination bonds, despite their low interest rates.

Currently, Series EE bonds are paying a fixed rate of 0.60 percent. I bonds — which have variable rates including an inflation component that tracks the Consumer Price Index — are currently paying 3.06 percent interest, but that rate changes every six months and will next be adjusted on May 1, 2012.

Mar 21, 2012

Stern Advice: New angles on reverse mortgages

WASHINGTON, March 21 (Reuters) – Reverse mortgages used to
be the last recourse of the little old lady: A way for her to
get money for household help and stay in her home until she

But now, baby boomers are sniffing around these backwards
loans, looking for a way to pay off other debts and provide
bridge funding for the early years of retirement. In a reverse
mortgage, a lender pays money to a homeowner, but the homeowner
has no monthly payments. The loan, plus interest, is repaid when
the home is sold.

    • About Linda

      "Linda Stern is an award-winning personal finance journalist who loves to write about how the big picture affects your pocketbook. A former contributing editor at Newsweek magazine and a long-time Reuters columnist, Stern covers everything from credit cards to retirement planning to investing. As a Washington-based correspondent, she sneaks in as much tax and economic policy as her editors will allow. She tweets at And when she expresses opinions, they are her own and not those of her employer."
      Joined Reuters:
      October 2010
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