What the experts say
Consolidating debt with a loan
“Should I take out a loan to pay my debts?” It’s one of the most common questions asked of financial planners, said Anna Bahney in CNN.com. The ads from personal loan firms can certainly be compelling: “Would you rather pay 16 percent on your credit card or 6 percent on a loan?” And if you have multiple credit cards, the idea of paying a single bill each month can be tempting. Yet there’s plenty to be wary of when considering a personal loan. If you have a low credit score, the interest rate you’re offered might be no better than that of your credit cards. “You’ll also want to compare the life of the loan.” Lenders may offer a 3-, 5-, or 7-year loan with rates that increase over time. To make sure your cost of carrying debt goes down, “calculate how much interest you’ll pay on the life of a loan.”
A postdivorce financial education
For many women, divorce can lead to a “financial reckoning,” said Suzanne Woolley in Bloomberg.com. More than half of married women—56 percent—let their spouses handle the majority of financial decisions, according to UBS Global Wealth Management. This division of responsibilities leaves them vulnerable “when separation or death strikes.” Some 56 percent of divorcées and widows said they discovered financial surprises, including outdated wills, and hidden spending and hidden debt. But not all discoveries were negative: Some unearthed previously unknown 401(k) plans. In hindsight, 94 percent of widows and divorcées say they would “insist on complete financial transparency with their spouse.”
A trade war’s cost to consumers
If President Trump makes good on his threat to slap tariffs on certain imports, it “could have a major effect on the wallet of every American consumer,” said Matthew Frankel in CBSNews.com. Take the effect of a 25 percent tariff on imported steel. If an automaker uses $600 worth of foreign steel to make a car, the tariff would add $150 in costs, which “would most likely be passed on to the consumer.” And if U.S. tariffs and retaliatory measures drive prices up across the economy, the Federal Reserve might rapidly hike interest rates to slow inflation. Rates for credit cards are linked to the federal funds rate, so if the Fed hikes it by 2 percent, a 16.49 percent credit card APR would rise to 18.49 percent. Mortgages and auto loans aren’t directly tied to the Fed rate, but tend to rise in line. Any trade war will definitely be felt on the home front.