How to score a home makeover bargain

Three top pieces of financial advice — from Goldman's consumer loans to shielding heirs from taxes

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Here are this week's top pieces of financial news and advice:

Goldman's consumer loans

Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs is looking for Main Street clients, said Michael Corkery and Nathaniel Popper at The New York Times. After 146 years building a reputation serving "the powerful and the privileged," the financial services firm plans to offer consumer loans to ordinary Americans via an online lending unit. Though Goldman requires a minimum balance of $10 million to become one of its private wealth clients, its new unit will offer consumers loans of $15,000 to $20,000. The loans would not be backed by collateral like a home or automobile, allowing Goldman to charge higher rates. The effort will be based on startups like Lending Club and Prosper, which have been disrupting the $840 billion consumer loan business.

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Shielding heirs from taxes

"Your death could be more taxing than you imagine," said Jonathan Clements at The Wall Street Journal. If you die owning traditional retirement accounts like a 401(k) or IRA, your heirs still have to pay the income taxes owed on withdrawals. These accounts are typically the second-largest asset owned by families approaching retirement age. To protect your heirs, "you might shelve the standard advice for retirees," which is to tap taxable accounts first. That's because the value of an asset like a stock that has appreciated in value will automatically rise to its current value at your death for tax purposes, which could eliminate a capital gains–tax bill. Or you might convert part of your traditional retirement accounts to a Roth IRA, where it will grow tax-free.

Home makeover bargains

Pay attention to the calendar if you're thinking about redecorating, said Cameron Huddleston at Kiplinger. If you are in the market for furniture, sales often come in January and July, since new furniture models tend to be released in February and August. Retailers like IKEA and cut prices as much as 70 percent over February's President's Day weekend. For mattresses, Memorial Day sales offer the biggest discounts — as much as 80 percent — and the best selection. "If price is more important than quality," Thanksgiving week is a great time to buy an off-brand high-definition television. You can also scoop up steeply discounted prior-year models in the run-up to the Super Bowl. For patio furniture, "rock-bottom" prices can be found in October and November, when retailers are trying to clear out their summer inventory.

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