Color of Money: A hospital pension failed, leaving hundreds of workers without their retirement safety net. Here's why you should care about their plight.

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- Imagine that you've worked decades for the same company, often choosing not to take another job for higher pay because your employer offers an increasingly rare benefit -- a pension plan.

Juanita Aikens-English, 64, doesn't have to imagine. She started working as a nurse for St. Clare's Hospital in Schenectady, New York, in 1985. ...Read more

Color of Money: When family and friends in your social network lack good financial judgment, do you butt in or butt out?

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- On any given Sunday after church services, fellow parishioners seek me out to ask personal-finance questions. I will, when I have time, try to help on the spot.

But I've always found it frustrating that strangers often see the value of my financial wisdom more than the people closest to me.

So, what's a financially astute person ...Read more

Color of Money: It's not just the cost of tipping that upsets customers. It's the lack of price transparency.

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- What is it about tipping that makes people lose their minds?

I'm still reeling from the vitriol that came my way following a recent column in which I argued that tipping should not be about ourselves but about the food-service workers trying to earn a living.

One email -- in all caps -- had so many f-bombs that I stopped counting...Read more

Color of Money: Diners should tip servers 20%, no matter what

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- Tipping is not about you.

When eating out at a restaurant, many diners believe that they should be tipping on a sliding scale based on the service they receive -- good or bad.

In keeping score, the scale may go something like this: Having to constantly ask for the water glass to be refilled? A deduction of 1 percentage point. ...Read more

Color of Money: Dying without a will is hell for surviving relatives

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- Whenever I give a talk about estate planning, I ask the audience to guess the percentage of Americans who do not have a will.

Most people guess in the 90% range.

It's a trick question.

Various studies show that most adults have not prepared a legal will. But the point I'm really trying to make is that everyone has a will in a ...Read more

Color of Money: It's maddening, but here's why your credit score may drop after paying off debt

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- The American pastime isn't baseball anymore. It's watching how your credit score goes up or down.

And having good credit is definitely worth the effort. If you get a home run with your credit score, it can help you qualify for a better mortgage or signal to a landlord that you'll pay your rent on time. Those zero percent auto-loan...Read more

Color of Money: No, you do not have to be in debt to have a good credit score

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- There is a lot of misinformation about credit scores, but when it's coming from someone who should know better, I want to scream.

During a recent online discussion, a reader asked me about something a lender told her.

Here's the backstory: "I am working with a loan officer to refinance a property. This loan officer told me that ...Read more

Color of Money: They are rare, but the percentage of consumers with a perfect 850 credit score is up slightly. Here's how they achieved perfection.

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- The Connecticut Audubon Society launched a rare-bird alert system this summer, texting people when a special species had been spotted.

For some people, a perfect 850 credit score is like a rare-bird sighting. You've heard there are consumers out there with this top number, but you just haven't met one yourself.

FICO credit score ...Read more

Color of Money: The fight over shutting down the CFPB consumer complaint database is over. It's staying.

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- Consumers have won a big victory in favor of transparency for a change.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has decided it won't remove from public view a complaint database that consumers use to ask for help in resolving financial issues, such as problems with a debt collector, mortgage lender or student loan servicer...Read more

Color of Money: If we're being honest, 'degree inflation' is also contributing to the student-loan crisis

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- Whenever I talk to students and parents who have taken on college debt that will choke their budget for decades, they say this: College is an investment.

But is it, though?

In their defense, they've heard over and over again that the debt won't matter because the degree is going to pay off with a higher-paying job.

When compared...Read more

Color of Money: Here's how to retire to a rich life as an entrepreneur

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- You don't have to retire.

Maybe you don't want to be the on-call babysitter for your grandchildren. You have no desire to play golf or travel the world.

What if your retirement meant finally pursuing your lifelong passion of becoming an entrepreneur?

After all, you have a wealth of work experience you can apply to your new ...Read more

Color of Money: Average FICO credit score hits new high

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- I've had a perfect 850 credit score for more than a year.

How has my life changed?

Not one little bit.

I've been getting about the same number of credit card offers as when I had scores in the 700s. And I haven't received any preferential treatment, like when you board an airplane and your elite status gives you the right to ...Read more

Color of Money: I'm not impressed with the Apple Card cash-back reward. Here's why.

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- Please, don't fall for the hype around credit cards that give you cash back. The psychology behind this perk is all about getting you to spend more money.

There's been so much buzz lately about the newly introduced Apple Card. In particular, Apple touts the card's "compelling cash-back rewards program."

OK, let's look at Apple's ...Read more

Color of Money: Hurricane Dorian is a reminder for us all to prepare for a financial storm

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- You may not be in the path of Hurricane Dorian, but it's still a good idea to be financially prepared for a storm.

Think of your financial life as going to the beach. One of the things you need to have on hand is sunscreen. You can't see the harmful UV rays, but if you stay out too long without protection, you can get burned -- ...Read more

Color of Money: When a loan forgiveness program keeps you handcuffed to a job you hate

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- I made a promise to myself early in my career. If my job ever became so unbearable that I got stomach cramps at just the thought of walking into the office, it was time to quit.

But what if staying in your crummy job is the only way to have tens of thousands of dollars in student debt forgiven?

This is the issue vexing a reader, ...Read more

Color of Money: No, splitting a check is not being cheap. And yes, it's wrong to shame someone for leaving a tiny tip.

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- Perhaps it's time for a refresher on the financial etiquette of eating out.

Yes, splitting a check is OK.

No, you should not shame someone for how much he or she leaves as a tip.

Let's start with asking for separate checks.

If I'm eating out with a large group, I always ask the server at the beginning of the meal to provide me ...Read more

Color of Money: The number of 401(k) millionaires reaches record highs

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON - The millionaire next door could very well be a co-worker sitting in the next cubicle.

The number of employees able to reach millionaire status in their workplace retirement plans has hit record levels.

In its latest retirement report, Fidelity Investments said the number of 401(k) participants who had $1 million or more in plans ...Read more

Color of Money: What does it mean to 'max out' your retirement plan?

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- If there is an upside to the concern of a coming recession, it's that people get more interested in understanding their personal finances.

I often have a hard time persuading people to save when times are good and their paycheck is steady. But when there's a downturn in the economy and the stock market swings wildly, they start to...Read more

Color of Money: Young people: don't let the markets scare you away from investing now

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- I was stunned. My family was watching a rerun of the "Teachers Tournament" on "Jeopardy." I got excited because I knew the correct response to this question: "This proposed federal rule would have required all retirement planning advisers to act in their clients' best interests."

But before I could get my answer out, my 21-year-...Read more

Millennials, if you're hosting a party, your guests don't pay -- even if you're broke

Business / The Color of Money /

WASHINGTON -- As you get older, there is the tendency to start sentences with, "Back in my day ... "

What follows is a blast from the past on how certain things were done. But doing the right thing never gets old.

For example, when you receive a gift or someone does something extraordinary for you, the polite thing to do is send a thank you ...Read more


Social Connections


Jimmy Margulies Poorly Drawn Lines Kirk Walters Family Circus The Pajama Diaries Al Goodwyn