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Jul 13, 2011

Stern Advice: Here comes the CFPB

WASHINGTON, July 13 (Reuters) – The much vaunted and feared
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officially opens for
business next week.

When it does, it will most likely have a laundry list of
consumer issues to manage, a smaller budget than it asked for,
and an empty chair where its director should sit.

Jul 12, 2011
via Reuters Money

Now or later? AARP’s new Social Security calculator


When should you turn on the tap that gets your Social Security benefits flowing?

If you’ve got an itchy finger you might want to check out the brand-new calculator unveiled today by the AARP. It’s a clear and multi-featured tool that professes to help workers and retirees decide when they should start taking benefits. But what it really does is encourage everyone to wait as long as possible before they start collecting.

Jul 7, 2011
via Reuters Money

New free credit scores: What you need to know now


There’s an irony about the new credit score disclosure rules issued by the Federal Reserve Board on July 6, and this is it: Would-be borrowers who are most likely to get their credit scores for free are still the people who may find it advantageous to buy their scores.

The borrowers who won’t get their scores may find they don’t need to buy them, either.

Jul 6, 2011

Stern Advice: How to help your kids buy a house

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In some circles, the graduation gift du jour is a Manhattan apartment, according to a recent New York Times story. Note to my kids: Sorry, we are not in those circles.

Still, it would be nice. Given current market conditions, a compelling argument could be made for helping your kids buy their first home.

Jul 5, 2011
via Reuters Money

Life insurance: Will your heirs get what you’ve paid for?


Gotta love those life insurance companies.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, some of them will scour state mortality lists to make sure they aren’t paying out any lifetime benefits (such as from annuities) to people who have died. But they won’t bother to check those lists for life insurance policyholders whose beneficiaries may have some money coming to them.

“That’s not their job,” said fee-only insurance consultant Peter Katt. “It’s in their business interest to avoid paying death claims.”

Jul 1, 2011
via Reuters Money

Retirement solvency “a growing challenge” says GAO


The risk that retirees will outlive their assets is a growing challenge, the federal Government Accountability Office said in a not-so-newsy report released on Friday. To meet that challenge, experts advise retirees to delay the start of their Social Security benefits, avoid spending down their nest eggs too fast and consider using annuities in some situations, says the study.

The report could be used to nudge forward policy initiatives already under consideration that would encourage companies to offer annuity choices to their retiring workers. The report was requested by Senator Herb Kohl, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. He has cosponsored a bill, called the Lifetime Income Disclosure Act, that would require 401(k) statements to include an annuity equivalent number — the amount of monthly income that the savings accumulated would support.

Jun 29, 2011
via Reuters Money

Poll: Should debt deal include tax hikes for the wealthy?


President Obama took aim at tax breaks for the wealthy at his press conference today, saying, “You can afford it. You’ll still be able to ride on your corporate jet. You’re just going to pay a little more.”

Ooh, snap!

Obama singled out oil and gas subsidies “for oil companies that are making money hand-over-fist” and “wealthy” CEOs and hedge fund managers. He predicted that Republican anti-tax legislators would eventually have to come around and accept some tax increases as part of a big budget-cutting/debt-ceiling-hiking compromise package. The Administration has said the U.S. would not be able to meet all of its obligations if the federal debt ceiling isn’t increased by August 2.

Jun 29, 2011

Stern Advice: Negotiating retirement with your spouse

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – You would think that after a few decades of marriage, raising kids and going through the ups and downs of life together, retirement would be a cakewalk for couples. But you’d be wrong.

Spouses who have managed to negotiate a lifetime of decisions together are finding that their well-oiled partnership machine may break down when they face those post-career issues.

Jun 28, 2011
via Reuters Money

Best banks and cards for changing dollars to Euros: Study


If you’re planning a hop across the pond this summer, think carefully about how you’re going to convert your dollars into Euros. Doing it the wrong way could cost you almost 15 cents of every dollar you exchange, according to a new study by Card Hub, a web-based comparison site.

The best way to convert money now is with your credit card; especially if the card is a Visa with no additional currency conversion fee, the study said. Visa was offering the best exchange rates today, at $1.42 per euro.  Next closest was MasterCard cards, offering Euros for $1.43.

Jun 23, 2011
via Reuters Money

Mortgage Poll: Are strategic defaults ethical?


I know a guy — let’s call him Fred — who has a plan for walking away from his home and the $400,000 mortgage on it.

Fred lives in Phoenix, one of those particularly hard hit real estate markets in a state that prohibits banks from coming after borrowers for additional money once a home has gone into foreclosure. The home he bought for more than $400,000 is now worth about $225,000, by his estimates. He’s saved up quite a bit of money and can keep making the payments. But he’s nearing retirement, and figures that, the way he’s going, he’ll never have home equity.

    • 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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