Senior Personal Finance Correspondent
Linda's Feed
Mar 16, 2011

Stern Advice: Taking care of your 90-year-old self

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Here’s the greatest challenge to retirement planning: You may live a very, very long time.

That may sound like a silly “problem” — the kind of thing that only an actuary would worry about. But, in fact, the always-improving possibility that you could see your 90s or perhaps live beyond 100 is what makes it so difficult to manage that retirement nest egg.

Mar 15, 2011

Workers gloomier than ever about retirement: new survey

WASHINGTON, March 15 (Reuters) – American workers are more
pessimistic about their retirement outlook than at any other
time in the last two decades, the Employee Benefit Research
Institute reported on Tuesday.

In its annual Retirement Confidence Survey, it found that
worker expectations for their later years withered in the face
of high unemployment, government budget problems, rising health
care costs, lower investment returns and other factors.

Mar 10, 2011
via Reuters Money

Cap One makes big offer to match your miles: fine print here


Capital One just laid down a deal that is worth reporting: Sign up for its Capital One Venture Card, and the company will give you as many airline miles as you already have. The company kicked off its “Match My Miles Challenge” this morning (March 10) by offering to match as many as 100,000 miles per customer, on a first-come, first-serve basis, until it has given out one billion miles.

“This is an especially good offer,” says Bill Hardekopf of, a card comparison website. It’s “one of the most generous new offers to emerge during a season when credit card companies have significantly intensified their marketing efforts.”

Mar 9, 2011

Stern Advice: Busting retirement myths

WASHINGTON, March 9 (Reuters) – Our nation’s retirement
system is a hot topic. In addition to frequent surveys finding
that Americans are ill-prepared and worried about retirement,
there are statehouse disputes about whether public pensions are
too fat.

There is debate in Washington on how to fix Social
Security, and if that is even necessary. And policy wonks,
including some in the Treasury Department, are discussing how
to tinker with 401(k) plans to make them better.

Mar 9, 2011

Stern Advice: Tax breaks for the Sandwich Generation

WASHINGTON, Feb 23 (Reuters) – What can you do when your
parents are struggling to pay medical bills and your kids can’t
land jobs? Why, write checks, of course!

Being surrounded by loved ones can be a costly proposition.
Much has been made of the recession’s effect on recent college
graduates; they’re pouring lattes and surfing sofas. And aging
parents can run through money at rates that would challenge
Donald Trump’s next wife.

Mar 9, 2011
via Reuters Money

Are big down payments better for home buyers?



My friendly neighborhood blogger, Felix Salmon, took after me big time for my post about why it doesn’t pay to wait while you save up for a down payment. Here’s a sample: “Linda’s on a roll here and manages to come out with one of the most astonishing pieces of personal-finance advice I’ve seen.”

My astonishing advice? You’re better off getting into a house now, while mortgage rates are near historic lows and housing prices are down sharply from their highs. Instead of spending five or more years paying rent and accumulating a down payment, borrow more now, and keep your savings for yourself.

Mar 7, 2011
via Reuters Money

Saving up for a big down payment? Sucker! (Corrected)


Remember the Red Queen’s warning to Alice? “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast.”

That must be what it feels like to be saving up for a down payment on a home these days. Washington policymakers are entertaining several proposals that would raise the minimum down payment required for loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Lenders are raising their own minimum cash requirements — the average down payment on new loans for home purchases is now around 27 percent, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. Meanwhile, the Federal Housing Administration, the chief source of low down payment loans, is raising the fees it charges folks who only have minimal amounts of cash to the table.

Mar 2, 2011

Stern Advice: Who’s putting ads in your bank statement?

WASHINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) – What if you went to your
online bank statement and saw a message like this: “Hello, shoe
lover! Here’s 15 percent off the hottest spring styles!” Would
it make you happy to get the discount, or uncomfortable because
somebody at your bank knew you had a weakness for strappy

Get used to it, because banks are quickly adopting new
marketing techniques that target specific interests. They are
using third-party technology companies to pitch specialized
offers at debit and credit-card customers. The offers are based
on the shopping habits of those customers.

Mar 1, 2011
via Reuters Money

Do you really need a bank account?


Here’s a little bit of personal finance heresy: Maybe you don’t need a checking account at all.

With banks raising fees on basic checking account services, the prepaid card industry is making the case that some consumers, especially students and young adults with uncomplicated finances, may find it cheaper and easier to use a prepaid card to manage their money.

Feb 28, 2011
via Reuters Money

What you need to know now about credit scores


Consumers may think they know all about credit scores, but they don’t, a key advocacy group has found.

“The bad news is that consumer knowledge has lagged behind recent changes in the credit score marketplace,” Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, told reporters on Monday, Feb. 28.  The Consumer Federation joined with VantageScore Solutions, a credit scoring company, to survey consumers’ current knowledge about credit scoring. On average, consumers scored a barely passing 60 percent.

    • 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
    • Contact Linda

    • Follow Linda