Money Matters - Simplified


What Comes First: Debt or Savings?

If you have substantial debt, you have a tough decision to make.

On one hand, you'd like to start saving and investing toward your financial goals. But with credit card interest rates well into double digits, eliminating that debt is an immediate return on your money that's hard to duplicate with savings or stocks. So what should you do?

Get Paid in People's Court

We've all had it happen -- some small injustice occurs that costs us money.

Maybe it's a landlord who held back several hundred dollars of your security deposit for no legitimate reason. Someone you paid to do work for you didn't finish it or bungled the job. Whatever it is, you may find yourself out hundreds or even thousands of dollars -- money that you'd like to get back.

Battling for Payday Loans

When my Foolish colleague Selena Maranjian extolled the virtues of banning payday loans for members of the military, I knew it was because she wants consumers to run their financial lives Foolishly. After all, living from paycheck to paycheck and making regular use of short-term loans is not a particularly wise use of one's financial resources.

Credit Card Fine Print

If you're thinking of starting up your own credit card company and you'd like to sneak a bunch of unsavory terms and conditions by your customers with few people noticing or objecting, put them in tiny print in a long document that no one will want to read. That's what the big card companies seem to do.

Lending Money to Loved Ones

Lending money to a friend or relative? Many folks will tell you, "Don't do it." Or at least never lend more money than you can risk losing. Unless you clearly define the terms of your loan at the outset, you may just as well have called it a gift and called it a day.

Mortgage Inflation: How Bad Is Bad?

I know the basics about mortgages, just as I suspect you do: Fixed-rate mortgages offer few surprises. Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) offer lower introductory rates, but eventually begin fluctuating with the interest-rate environment. Fixed-rate loans can be good if you plan on staying put for a long time; ARMs can be good if you plan to sell and move within a few years.

Get a Cheap Loan Fast ... From Yourself

When you're in a bind, the last thing you want to hear is a list of reasons why you shouldn't borrow the money you need. Often, however, that's exactly what you'll hear about taking out a loan against your retirement plan at work.

Ask Mrs. Riches: Get Organized

Dear Mrs. Riches:
I'm nearing 40, so you'd think I would have gotten my financial life in order by now. But alas, I haven't. I have virtually no system for keeping track of my bills, and avoidance is my most-used money management strategy. I don't even want to think about how much I pay in late fees, much less lost opportunity costs. I need some suggestions for how I can finally get myself on track, on a budget, and better organized. (By the way, please don't tell me to use money management software; I have tried a couple of programs and I can't get them to work.) Can you help by providing some good, practical suggestions?
-- Fiscally Unfit


Finally, Fine Print You Can Read!

You can't avoid the headlines when the Federal Reserve peers into its proverbial teacup to divine evidence of recession, inflation, or other economic woes. But here's something you might have missed: Those same sage economists want you to understand your credit card better and avoid some costly mistakes.