What Not to Do With Your Finances in 2006
- Monday, February 06, 2006
If your To Do List for the New Year already has you in a state of overwhelm, take a deep breath. Relax.
There are a few things you can put on a Do Not Do List.
Do not close multiple credit-card accounts. If you’d predicted that in 2006 I would be advising you to not close all but one of your credit-card accounts, I would have said you are nuts. But you’re not and I am. Advising you, that is.
Times have changed and while reaching $0 balance on all of your
credit-card accounts is a major tenent of debt-proof living, closing a number of accounts at the same time can wreak havoc on your credit score. It is true that having too much available credit is not good for your credit score. But once you have multiple accounts, closing them does not undo the damage. And closing several in a short period of time may make things even worse.
Best advice: Stop using all but one account by cutting up the cards so you are not tempted to use them.
Do not make PIN-based debit card transactions. A PIN-based debit card, sometimes called an ATM card, requires a personal identification number or PIN, to complete a transaction. The money is deducted from your checking account immediately.
A "signature-based" debit card with a MasterCard or Visa logo is similar to a credit card without the credit. You can sign for your purchases and the money is debited from your checking account within two to three days.
One recent survey shows that 89 percent of banks now charge a fee ranging from 25 cents to $1.50 for each PIN-based transaction, and often without warning the consumer. And the trend is spreading.
Best advice: Always opt for a signature-based transaction. Press the "credit" key, sign your name on the receipt and no fee is charged.
Do not choose college savings over retirement funding. Retirement preparation, says Liz Weston author of Deal With Your Debt (Pearson, 2005), needs to be a high priority for almost everybody. It should take precedence over just about every other goal — including your child’s college fund. Her reasoning? If worse comes to worst, your kid can borrow money for school. No one will lend you money for retirement.
Best advice: Put funding your retirement at the top of your financial goals.
Do not prepay your mortgage while you have other debts. If you have credit-card debt, student debt, car debt or any other kind of debt and are paying more on your mortgage each month than the required payment, you’re paying off the wrong debt. Because mortgage interest is deductible on your tax return, the effective rate is likely 4.5 percent or less depending on your tax bracket. It is likely your cheapest debt and becomes cheaper as time passes because of inflation.
Best advice: Make your mortgage the last debt you pay off.
Do not borrow from your 401(k) or other retirement accounts. Of course you know that cashing in a retirement account prior to the approved age is not anywhere close to being a smart move. The penalties plus taxes that become due are just too steep. But borrowing from that account seems to many people to be a wise move. The rationale is that because you are borrowing your own money, you’ll be paying yourself interest. But that is not smart, either.
If you leave that job for any reason, the loans becomes due and payable. If you can’t come up with the cash, the balance on the loans will be considered a cash withdrawal, and you’ll owe a ton in taxes.
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