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Paying off Credit Cards

We’ve been discussing ways to pay down outstanding credit card balances (and by “outstanding”, we don’t mean “really good”). You should start by negotiating with your current credit card providers to try to get a lower interest rate, and perhaps see if you can leverage one provider’s offer against another to cut your interest costs. But if those methods don’t help, it’s time to get a little more drastic. Here are some potential solutions, in order of “most preferable” to “worst-case scenario”. Read More...


Reducing Credit Card Interest Rates

By now this month’s credit card bills are starting to roll in, providing tangible evidence of how heartily you celebrated the holiday season. Hopefully you have the cash to pay the debts off right away. If not (or if you have been carrying a balance for a while), you might like some assistance in reducing what you owe as quickly as possible. Read More...


Holiday Shopping Precautions

The holiday season is supposed to be about spiritual celebrations, time with friends and family, spreading joy, and exchanging gifts. But some Grinches and Scrooges can ruin what should otherwise be a time of glad tidings. Here are some ways to ensure that your next few days are merry and bright, and all your Christmas giving goes alright. Read More...


Wise Uses for Home Equity

With interest rates low (and perhaps on the rise), real estate valuations relatively high, and lenders about as friendly as one could expect, it’s a good time to consider tapping any home equity you have via a mortgage, loan, or line of credit. But there are certain good and not-so-good uses of that money. Here’s when and why you should think about borrowing against your home equity—as well as when you shouldn’t. Read More...


The Best Ways to Use Your Home Equity

With mortgage interest rates rising for the first time in a long time, it’s a good time for homeowners to consider the various ways they can borrow against their home equity for various needs. Here’s how mortgages, home equity loans, and home equity lines of credit work, and the best reasons to use each type of loan. Read More...


How to Handle Higher Mortgage Rates

One of the lesser-discussed post-election events we’ve witnessed is a slight uptick in mortgage rates. The reasons for it may include concerns over a looming hike in interest rates by the Federal Reserve, or a shift in investor preference from bonds to stocks. Read More...


Savings Bonds for Retirement and College

We are finally finishing up our series on the ways families can save for their most important financial priority (retirement), yet still have some money for future college costs and maybe qualify for need-based financial aid. We’ve already talked about contributing to at-work retirement plans, IRAs, and Roth IRAs, and you should probably use those vehicles before considering any other ways to save. But there’s one more vehicle that will appear to boring, yet has a certain attractive feature for families who start saving early enough. Read More...


IRAs for College

We’re still discussing ways families can save money for top financial goals (like retirement), qualify for need-based financial aid, and yet use their savings to pay for their kids’ college costs if the need (and opportunity) arises. We’ve already talked about the most important tools, like pre-tax retirement accounts (401ks and 403bs), and Roth IRAs. This week will talk about the ways parents can use money in traditional IRAs to cover higher education expenses. Read More...


Financial Aid

According to the 2016 How America Pays for College report from education lender Sallie Mae, on average families get about a third of the cost of an undergraduate education from grants and scholarships. Generally, this “free” money is more likely to be awarded by schools with higher tuition costs (especially private colleges), and/or to families with lower income and assets. Even when students are fortunate enough to earn grants and scholarships from a school, the money awarded still often only covers a portion of the total expenses. 13% of the average cost of college is paid for by loans, and another 29% comes from parents’ income and savings. The remaining portion is paid for by student income and savings (12%), parent borrowing (7%), and money from relatives and friends (5%). To qualify for most institutional financial aid and federal student loans, students and their families have to apply for financial aid. Read More...


Life Insurance

If you are either one of the regular readers of this column, you know that September is “Make a Will Month” (don’t ask us who makes these declarations). During the past few weeks we’ve extended the spirit of this admonition to other estate planning issues. This week we’ll cover the fascinating topic of life insurance, and help you get the right amount and right kind from the right place. Read More...


Writing a Will

According to the unknown people who decide these things, September is “Make a Will” month. With the leaves turning brown and the days soon to get colder, this month is probably a good one to associate with our own inevitable mortality. Read More...


Helping Young Adults Save for Retirement

Last week we noted that Millennials (usually thought of as Americans age 18 to 35) were aware of the need to save for retirement, but weren’t optimistic about their odds of eventually becoming financially independent. Read More...


Paying for College from Loans, Savings and Income

We’re spending a few weeks helping families of college students figure out how to pay the bills for the upcoming semester (and beyond), and hopefully offering some smart money moves to make during this very important (and stressful) time. Read More...


Off to College

In a few weeks millions of young “adults” are heading off to college. The biggest financial concern of theirs (and their parents) is usually making sure tuition and living expenses are covered. But there are some other smaller-but-still-important money moves that should be considered, both to protect the kids from potential dangers, and get them off on the right financial foot. Read More...


Handling Long Airport Security Lines

Whether you’re just about to fly out for a summer vacation trip, or planning one for the holidays later in the year, you should know that you’re likely to get an unpleasant greeting once you get to the airport: long lines at the security checkpoints. Read More...


Prioritizing Home Improvements

We’re finally finishing up our series of columns on “home remodeling and improvement.” This week we’ll talk about how to prioritize the work so that what needs to get done gets done, but you can still get some of your “wants” out of the way without wasting a lot of time and money. Read More...


Financial Independence

Don’t look know, but the Fourth of July is right around the corner. And in what’s become a time-honored tradition, we use the celebration of our nation’s independence to discuss how you can become (and remain) financially-independent. Read More...


Air Conditioning

If you ventured outside in the past few days, you won’t be surprised to find out that this is typically the hottest time of the year in Wisconsin. Hopefully you have air conditioning, and it’s providing you with reliable, affordable cooling. Here’s how to make sure that continues for the rest of the summer, and beyond. Read More...



Paying for Home Remodeling

We’re in the middle of a series of columns on home improvement and remodeling, and after you’ve decided to spruce up your place, the next obvious question is, “How are we going to pay for the work?” Read More...


Home Remodeling Intro

If you’re a homeowner who has the urge to remodel, update, or renovate your place, you’re not alone. For many reasons, there is no time like the present to tackle this task. Read More...


Wedding Day Dollars

We’re back with more information on the expenses associated with weddings, and all of the pre- and post-nuptial events and activities. Today we’ll take a look at the actual wedding itself. If you haven’t paid for one for a while (or ever), you may want to brace yourself for what some people are spending. Read More...


Wedding Spending

We’re heading into prime wedding season, and the planning, scheduling, arranging, and worrying is hitting a peak during the next few weeks. Read More...


Estate Planning

Whether it’s a friend, family member, co-worker, or celebrity, when someone you know or know of dies suddenly and too soon, a natural eventual reaction is to consider what might happen if you were to suffer a similar fate. Read More...