What the experts say
Think more, spend less
“Your spending problem is all in your head,” said Michelle Singletary in The Washington Post. After years of counseling financially challenged people, I’ve found that most personal financial crises arise not because someone lacks funds or a cool budgeting app; it’s because he or she is “bad at making good financial decisions.” And “recent advances in technology may actually be making it easier to stumble,” because systems such as mobile pay and the ubiquity of credit cards encourage “painless” spending. Remove pain from the equation and you “spend more, more easily, and more often.” A simple, immediate solution is to step back and “think more.” And use cash for purchases. “Pain helps you pause,” and “when we use cash, we immediately feel the pain.”
Expect a holiday bonus, not a pay raise
“The holidays are a time for giving, and that’s no exception for employers,” said Catherine Campo in CNBC.com. But most bosses will be handing out holiday bonuses this year, not pay raises. Just 38 percent of workers got a raise this year, according to a recent Bankrate.com survey, and most of those pay bumps came from “promotions and new job responsibilities.” Bonuses are a far more likely holiday treat for employees: Sixty-three percent of companies say they plan to disburse some extra cash before the end of the year, according to a study by Accounting Principals, a financeand- accounting staffing agency. This year’s average payout is expected to be to $1,797—an increase of 66 percent from last year.
Dividing retirement accounts in divorce
For couples “dissolving their marriages without significant legal involvement, divvying up retirement accounts, particularly pensions, is thorny,” said Beth Pinsker in Reuters.com. Although “low-cost, do-it-yourself” divorces are increasingly popular, splitting up without signing a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) for how to divide retirement accounts and pensions can “stick you with a hefty tax bill and penalties” down the road, or leave one party with nothing. “Experts say you should expect to pay $500 to a few thousand dollars” for a QDRO. Look for an attorney with financial training, because “most family law attorneys will not know how to do it right.” Another good tip: “Start first by asking the retirement-plan sponsor for its model agreement, then adjust” for your own state’s laws. ■