MONEY Wireless

Sprint Is Giving Away a Year of Free Wireless Phone Service

Sprint Store
Betty LaRue—Alamy

Sprint's latest deal is either brilliant or desperate.

DirecTV customers, soak it in: Wireless operators are bidding on you.

AT&T purchased DirectTV earlier this summer for $48.5 billion, and it is offering a combined $10 discount to customers who bundle DirecTV and AT&T wireless service together.

This week, though, Sprint launched a deal exclusively for DirecTV customers that trumps AT&T. All DirecTV customers who open a line with Sprint can get a full year of free wireless phone service. For a single line, the Associated Press reports, that’s a value of about $50 per month—or $600 over the course of a year.

Sprint’s move has drawn mixed reviews as a business strategy. Craig Moffett, a senior analyst at MoffettNathanson, expressed doubts to the AP about its strategic value. “Sprint is already losing money and is burning through its remaining cash at an incredible rate,” he said. “Offering free service for a year will only make a bad situation worse.”

AT&T described the price undercut as, in the words of the AP, “an act of desperation.”

But Roger Entner, who works as an analyst for Recon Analytics, said that the costs Sprint will incur—$600 per year per line, plus extra payments towards terminating customers contracts elsewhere—can be seen as a reasonable investment in growing the company’s market share. “When you’re No. 4, you can’t afford to play it safe,” he said of Sprint.

So what about for DirecTV consumers—is this something you should consider?

If your priority is saving money and you’re willing to tolerate Sprint’s reputedly terrible network service, then yes. No company offers deals like this.

Still, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. If you already have an account with Sprint, you have to open another line to qualify. There’s a $36 activation fee, plus taxes and surcharges (similar to those you would pay at AT&T). And the offer only lasts a year, which means that come year two, you’ll be paying anywhere from $50/month per line to $180/month for five lines (also similar to what you would pay elsewhere).

Finally, there’s a 2GB data cap on each line, and no such thing as shared plans. So before buying, check out your current data usage. If it’s over 2GB, calculate how much the monthly overage would cost you at a rate of $15/GB, and consider whether that’s still such a bargain.

Read Next: The Best Cellphone Plans of 2015

MONEY groceries

This Is How Much More You’ll Spend at Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe’s

An employee bags groceries for customers at a Whole Foods Market Inc. store in Oakland, California, U.S., on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Unless you're living on frozen peas.

When it comes to bourgeoisie supermarkets, stereotypes abound. The regular Whole Foods shopper is obsessed with kale, yoga, and SoulCycle, and “Whole Paycheck” does not, in fact, cost anywhere close to his or her whole paycheck. Trader Joe’s, on the other hand, is for the hipster shopper who’s bougie but broke.

But what about the reality: Is Whole Foods really that much more expensive than Trader Joe’s?

According to a staff writer at SFGate who recently did a cost comparison of popular items, yes. A trip to the store rounding up 30 standard supermarket items will cost you about 20% more—$133.18 as opposed to $109.27—at Whole Foods than it will at Trader Joe’s. This isn’t an exact apples-to-apples comparison because each store has its own brands, but you get the idea.

Previous shopping experiments have yielded similar results. A price comparison of 20 items conducted by Cheapism found that 14 of the 20 items were cheaper at Trader Joe’s than Whole Foods; a DCist comparison shopping excursion found that a bag of quinoa was half the price at Trader Joe’s, and a gluten-free cheese pizza was only two-thirds of the price.

As Business Insider explains it, Trader Joe’s is able to undercut Whole Foods (and other supermarkets) by selling in-house products rather than brands, and by sticking to an efficient “no frills” interior in small stores. The strategy reportedly earns Trader Joe’s twice the sales per square foot, and a clientele that views its products as high quality at bargain prices.

Still, while Whole Foods tends to be more expensive on average (“sometimes because the product is of a high-quality or carries Non-GMO Project verification and sometimes for no apparent reason,” as SFGate pointed out), there were a number of items on the reporter’s list that were priced almost identically at the two stores. Namely, 100% Florida Orange Juice, low-fat organic yogurt, apple sauce, flour, almond butter, Hell or High Watermelon beer, and Clif Bars. What’s more, a basic pack of frozen organic peas was actually more expensive at Trader Joe’s.

In the past year Whole Foods strategically cut prices on some items, and launched a new “values matter” slogan to appeal to consumers who have grown weary of its high prices. Whole Foods is also launching a new low-price supermarket model called 365. So one can be hopeful that the list of more affordable items at Whole Foods-owned stores may grow.

For the time being, shop where you will—but we’d recommend against splurges of the asparagus water variety.

 

MONEY Kids and Money

Why You Need to Give Your Kid an Allowance

parent putting coins in child's hand
Marc Debnam—Getty Images

A study identifies the best ways to teach children the money basics.

Want to teach your kids some basic understanding of financial basics? It’s time to stop stalling and set up an allowance.

Children who receive an allowance are more likely than those who do not to say they are knowledge about managing personal finances (32% vs. 16%), understand the value of a dollar (90% vs. 81%), and feel smart about money (40% vs. 25%), according to a new study by T. Rowe Price.

And once you’ve handed out the cash, resist the urge to micromanage your kids’ spending: The study found that it’s important to allow your kids to make mistakes and mishandle those funds. Children who’d made money blunders reported feeling two to three times more knowledgeable about managing finances (36% vs. 16%) and investing (26% vs. 8%) than those who had not.

Yet the survey also noted that communication remains vital. Kids who have frequent conversations about money with their parents — in addition to real-life experience, like getting an allowance and making money mistakes — are far more likely to think they are smart about money (70% vs. 15%). They also feel more empowered and confident than those who do not.

“It’s intuitive that talking to kids about money gives them financial knowledge,” says Judith Ward, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price, who was quoted in the company’s press statement. “But we were surprised to see the extent to which letting kids experience money may have an impact.

“If parents talk about money but don’t let their kids experience it, it’s like telling them how to play the piano without letting them touch one and expecting that they’ll be able to play a sonata.”

To find out exactly how much you should be giving your kid and what to reward, see The Right Way to Give Kids An Allowance.

MONEY college costs

4 Tips to Save Big on College Textbooks

hand holding college textbooks
Dave and Les Jacobs—Getty Images

And even get a tax break.

With a fresh crop of college classes comes another round of wallet-crushing textbook shopping.

The high price of the textbooks is news to no one. For years, students and parents have been shocked by their price tags, with a single book for one course routinely topping $200. Earlier this year, the news broke that prices have surged 1,041% since 1977.

It may be surprising, then, to learn that on average, students spent less on textbooks last year than they did the year before. In fact, the $563 students spent on books in 2014-15 is 20% less than they spent in 2007-08, according to the National Association of College Stores.

That’s thanks in large part to the growth of rental companies and digital books. Renting, or buying used, can reduce the cost of a title by one-third to one-half, according to the association.

But while all the new options may mitigate the problem, they don’t solve it, says Ethan Senack, higher education advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Alternatives aren’t always available, and ultimately, their price is still based on the cost of the brand new print editions, which have gone up every year for the past 30 years.

A 2014 report Senack wrote found that 65 percent of students had decided not to buy a book because it was too costly, even though most thought that was harming them academically.

Four tips to help cut your textbook tab:

Check out MONEY’s 2015-16 Best Colleges rankings

1. Ask the prof.

Before you even start shopping, check with your professors to make sure they’re really going to use all the books on the class syllabus. Often, they may plan to use only a few chapters of a text, and that can make your decision about whether to buy the book or look for a copy at the library much simpler.

2. Use comparison tools

Several websites can help you compare the prices at multiple sellers with one quick search.

The University Network’s Textbook Save Engine, for example, says it will find the lowest prices on the Internet, turning up rentals or used titles that are an average 85% off the original price. (We spot-checked a handful of titles and found the rentals do consistently offer savings of more than 80%, while used and new editions had smaller, but still significant, discounts.)

Another site, Campusbooks.com, will provide a side-by-side analysis of prices and buyback history to help you decide whether to rent or buy, based on how much the book is forecast to be worth in six months. The website also will search local library listings by zip code for free options.

More campus bookstores also are offering this type of comparison shopping. At least 350 college stores have tools on their websites to compare their prices with those of other major sellers or renters, such as Amazon and Chegg.

3. Know these traps

When you’re shopping online, use the ISBN number on the book to be sure you’re getting the same edition as you would in a bookstore. If you’re buying used, check to make sure there are no online access codes that you’ll be forfeiting. And if you’re buying a digital book, bear in mind that it may available for only a set number of days and could have restrictions on the number of pages you can print.

Finally, check the return policy. Most campus bookstores allow full returns up until the end of the college’s drop/add period. But you may lose that flexibility with a title purchased from a less expensive online seller.

Check out the new MONEY College Planner

4. Saves your receipts for tax time

Students (or their parents) can get a tax credit for money spent on textbooks through the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which will defray up to $2,500 spent on out-of-pocket college costs, including course materials, fees, and tuition. To qualify, single filers must have an adjusted gross income under $90,000. For couples filing jointly, the tax credit phases out at an AGI of $180,000.

MONEY Ask the Expert

How to Control How Heirs Spend Your Money

Ask the Expert - Family Finance illustration
Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: I’m 71 and my estate will be divided between my daughter and son; there are no grandchildren. My son and I differ radically on some political views. Is there any way to stipulate that none of my money will go to his causes? — Janet S.

A: The only way you can influence how heirs spend your assets from beyond the grave is with a trust, says CPA and financial planner Dina Lee, managing director of the Colony Group’s New York offices. This document goes beyond a will in that it not only outlines who will receive your property (and how much of it), but also helps guarantee your legacy and your intentions.

You can control the trust while you’re alive by drafting a living will with an estate planning attorney, but you will need to carefully appoint someone — be it a friend, family member, or third party like a bank — to manage the assets and distribute funds to beneficiaries after your death, following your instructions.

Beyond determining who inherits how much, a trust lets you include additional instructions to create hoops for heirs to jump through. An incentive trust, for instance, might force an heir to meet certain requirements — earning a degree, say, or passing a drug test — to receive funds. Staggered trust distributions allow your estate to pay out money incrementally over a certain timespan; such instructions are often aimed at allowing more money to be disbursed as heirs mature.

In theory, you can make the trust as restrictive as you like as long as those restrictions don’t break any laws — forbidding an heir from entering an interracial marriage, for instance.

But this is where your specific restriction may run into trouble. While you can specify that you don’t want heirs to give any of their trust funds to a specific political party, or certain political causes, your son could challenge that restriction in court — and the court could overturn it by finding it to be a violation of freedom of expression.

Alternate Strategy

A wiser tactic, suggests Washington estate planning attorney Bill Sanderson, would be to “only permit that which you want to permit.” Rather than trying to exclude certain activity, simply spell out which expenses you feel comfortable supporting, he suggests; the list could include such items as mortgage payments and rent, healthcare bills, insurance, and education costs.

This strategy is easier on the trustee, adds Sanderson, because he or she can simply ask beneficiaries to show proof of an expense and then issue a reimbursement — without having to play detective.

Understand, however, that such restrictive arrangements can cause resentment from heirs.

And there’s another issue. Lee points out that even if you craft the trust in a way that limits its use for political donations, simply giving your son money will increase his wealth, and thus free up more funds that he can give to those causes you disagree with.

Says Lee: “Indirectly, you are still enabling him to support his political beliefs — and accepting that the trust can’t change his behavior is part of letting go.”

MONEY Student Loans

11 Myths About Student Loan Forgiveness

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DNY59—Getty Images

Here's when you can -- and can't -- qualify for college debt relief.

If you have more student loan debt than you can handle, or if you’ve been paying and paying (and paying) and can’t make headway, chances are you’ve wondered about student loan forgiveness. As you look into your options, keep in mind that everything you read (or hear — even from your student loan servicer) may not be accurate. We asked experts who work with borrowers all the time to share the most common myths they hear about student loan forgiveness. Here are their top picks.

Myth: You have to pay someone to get loan forgiveness help.

“There are lots of online scams that charge borrowers for things that are available for free from the government. The truth is you don’t have to pay anyone,” says Pauline Abernathy, vice president The Institute for College Access and Success. Borrowers can use the free tools offered by the Department of Education — starting with the National Student Loan Data System. If more help is needed, they may want to seek advice from a reputable counseling agency or consumer protection attorney who is well-versed in student loan law.

Myth: Student loans can’t be wiped out in bankruptcy.

“The bankruptcy laws require you to show that being held responsible for the student loans will amount to what’s called an ‘undue hardship.’ Though this standard can be difficult to meet, it’s not impossible,” says Jay S. Fleischman, a lawyer who concentrates in the fields of student loan resolution and consumer bankruptcy. He goes on to explain that if you attempt to discharge your student loans in bankruptcy, you’ll have the advantage of dealing with an attorney, rather than a debt collector. “Those attorneys often have the ability to resolve payment disputes more readily than non-lawyer collectors,” he says. “Many people who seek a discharge of their student loans in bankruptcy end up settling on a reduced balance or affordable payment plan, which may accomplish your goal of bringing the payments in line with your financial abilities.”

Make the college search easier with MONEY’s College Planner

Myth: Only Corinthian students get relief from debts involving school fraud.

Students may be eligible for cancellation of federal loans from schools that committed fraud or broke state laws. It’s called a “defense to repayment,” and the Department of Education is working on a process to make it easier for borrowers who attended other schools to apply for this relief. More information is available from the Department of Education. “The Education Department is developing a comprehensive system to assist students defrauded by any school and to hold schools accountable for their actions that result in loan discharges,” said Abernathy. Borrowers who have been victims of fraud by their schools may also want to look into state tuition recovery funds. StudentLoanBorrowerAssistance.org maintains a list of state tuition recovery funds.

Myth: Forgiveness applies only to federal loans.

While it’s true that private loan forgiveness programs are few and far between, some borrowers are able to settle private student loans for less than the full balance says Steve Rhode, founder of GetOutofDebt.org and a Credit.com contributor. “Settlement offers I’ve seen have been in the 45% to 50% range with up to two years to pay,” he says on his site.

How long until my loan is paid off?

Myth: Only consolidated loans can take advantage of public service loan forgiveness (PSLF).

Not true, says Joshua Cohen, aka The Student Loan Lawyer. “As long as all of your loans are Direct Loans, they qualify.”

Myth: Payments don’t count for PSLF until an employer certification form is completed.

Or until it is transferred to FedLoan (a student loan servicer), or until you’ve enrolled in the program etc. … “Where is this stuff coming from?!” Cohen asks. The employment certification form is encouraged, but not required. And the reality is that qualifying payments made on Direct Loans while working for a qualifying employer made after Oct. 1, 2007, currently count toward the 120 payments required under this program.

Myth: If you are a teacher, you automatically qualify for PSLF.

“There are specific requirements and if you work for a for-profit school you may be out of luck,” says Rhode. (Here’s more information on teacher loan forgiveness.) Similarly, those working in other professions that may be eligible but can run into some hurdles when trying to qualify. Nevertheless, is important for borrowers who are hoping to take advantage of PSLF to understand the requirements of the programs for which they may be eligible, so they don’t wind up missing out on an important benefit.

Myth: Student loan forgiveness is for everyone.

“In reality, it really only provides relief to those with very large debts and/or low incomes,” says Andrew Josuweit, founder of StudentLoanHero, where this issue is explored in detail.

It makes sense that borrowers who are able to afford their payments aren’t going to be able to take advantage of the most popular forgiveness options, many of which require a certain number of payments under an income-driven plan. A recent report from Equifax found that the income group most at risk of defaulting on their student loans were those earning less than $30,000. “This rings true across all age groups, with those earning less than $30,000 suffering from triple or even quadruple the delinquency rates of their higher-earning peers within the same age group,” say the authors of the report, Dann Adams and Naser Hamdi.

But even high earners may run into a situation where they lose their income, and for anyone who isn’t working, even small debts can become unaffordable. Additionally, there are programs for lawyers, doctors, nurses and other higher-earning professionals, too. No one should automatically assume they aren’t eligible. (And don’t always rely on servicers to provide correct information. Sometimes they don’t.)

Myth: Parents are out of luck.

While it’s true parents with Parent PLUS loans aren’t eligible for Income-Based Repayment (IBR), they may be eligible for Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR), and that’s a “qualifying payment plan for PSLF,” Cohen points out.

Myth: Miss a payment or change jobs, and you start over.

If you miss a payment under one of these programs, “you just delayed it by a month for the missed payment, but you don’t start over,” says Cohen. However, if you were making payments under IBR and then consolidated you “ended the old loan and created a new loan. You start from Day One,” he notes.

Myth: I don’t have to worry about taxes on forgiven loan. (Or the reverse: Canceled student loans mean a tax bill.)

The truth is, it depends. Certain types of student loans canceled under PSLF are not taxable, but student loan debt discharged due to Total and Permanent Disability may be, unless you qualify for an exclusion. And currently, balances forgiven after completing an income-driven repayment plan are not tax-exempt. We’ve heard from borrowers who were shocked to learn that they owed large tax bill after they became disabled and were able to get their remaining balances canceled. Others were relieved to discover they qualified for the insolvency exclusion and wouldn’t have a tax bill to worry about. (Here’s a primer on taxes after student loan cancellation.)

Student loans can trap borrowers in debt for decades, and can make it difficult to buy a home or a car. If a student falls behind on payments, those late payments can ruin their credit scores for years to come. Even if loans are paid on time, debt can affect your credit scores. The programs today aren’t perfect and they can’t help everyone, but they can provide immediate relief for some. So borrowers will want to make sure they fully explore all their options for student loan repayment and forgiveness programs in order to take advantage of the programs available to them. It’s also wise to review your credit reports and scores to find out how your loans affect them.

Find the best college for your child and your wallet.

More from Credit.com

MONEY Budgeting

4 Money Dilemmas Couples Face When One Partner Earns More

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Tetra Images—Getty Images

Income inequality can stress your relationship. Here's how to deal.

When Ali Green* and her husband, Craig, met, she was a recent grad earning $28,000 a year as a newspaper columnist, and he was a chef pulling in $50,000.

But before long, Ali’s paycheck started to climb—moving well past Craig’s.

In 2012 she got a huge promotion and began raking in $90,000 a year. The income gap between them had turned into a chasm—and it was taking a serious toll on their relationship.

“He’d always been excited whenever I got a salary boost, but now I noticed there was an edge to his comments,” Ali, 34, says. “Once, he mentioned that if we weren’t together, he’d have to live with four people in a studio. He said it jokingly, but there was tension.”

And her salary has only continued to climb—she now owns an SEO consulting company—while 33-year-old Craig’s earning potential is limited.

“He makes one third of what I make now, and will often compare us, griping that even though he works long hours, he earns a fraction of what I do,” Ali says.

“When there’s a big difference between a couple, the inequality can threaten to erode your bond, unless you address it head on,” says psychotherapist Kate Levinson, Ph.D., author of “Emotional Currency.” “Unfortunately, we don’t like to acknowledge that money influences our intimate relationships—it’s like a hidden operating system whose presence is undetected, but has the potential to influence everything.”

The need to constantly compare salaries isn’t the only issue that can creep into a relationship. With the help of relationship and money pros, we dig into four common dilemmas that couples often face when the digits on their paychecks don’t align.

Read next: How To Level The Financial Playing Field When She Makes More Than You

Dilemma #1: The High Earner Makes Unilateral Money Decisions

Joseph Morgan*, 34, a real estate investor who makes five times as much as his freelance writer wife, Jenny, 34, once purchased pricey concert tickets for them and two friends. When Jenny asked whether their friends had paid him back, he told her that he’d never asked them.

“I was annoyed that she was making such a big deal about it,” Joseph says. “So I replied, ‘Why do you care how I spend my money?’”

Big mistake.

Jenny then asked if he believed that she shouldn’t have a say in such situations because he made more money.

“I realized that she was right, and apologized on the spot,” Joseph says.

While the Morgans addressed their power imbalance head on, many couples either avoid the matter—or may not even realize it exists.

“We often make tiny bargains that are largely unconscious,” Levinson explains. “But each time the underearner feels disempowered, it builds a brick of resentment.”

If you feel like your voice is being ignored—or perhaps you’re the one taking advantage of the extra digits on your paycheck through power plays—Levinson suggests jotting down your thoughts about a recent decision-making scenario like the one the Morgans had.

And before you roll your eyes at the idea, consider that numerous studies have shown that expressing your emotions on paper can help you better process them.

“Ask yourself how the influence of money played out in the situation,” Levinson says. “The goal is to really shine a light on the problem, so you can begin to disentangle it.”

So let’s say your partner is footing the bill for the family vacation—and feels the destination is his decision to make. Even though you’d rather go to the sea than the mountains, you give in and Tahoe it is.

Once you’ve had time to put pen to paper to reflect on how finances factored into the outcome, then broach the topic with your partner. “And be sure to harness an attitude of curiosity, rather than confrontation,” Levinson says.

You may have to go through this exercise a few times before the real equity lessons seep in, says Levinson, but in time, whenever you have a difference of opinion, you’ll likely both be more cognizant of how money may be affecting your dynamic.

Dilemma #2: One Person Ends Up Paying All the Bills

When it comes to managing household finances, it isn’t just the breadwinner who’s guilty of missing the big financial picture.

“One of the most common issues I see is that the person who earns less views the breadwinner’s income as ‘our money,’ but considers their own salary ‘their money,’ ” says Deborah Price, author of “The Heart of Money. “If left unmanaged, this attitude can start to fracture the relationship.”

One culprit, say our experts, is a sense of entitlement. The underearner may feel jealous and think that they shouldn’t be expected to pitch in, since their partner makes so much more. Or the non-contributor may be doing it because they feel financially vulnerable, and hoarding their own cash gives them a sense of security.

The solution?

Well, it’s not that simple. Understanding what’s driving the behavior is the first step toward changing it. But it can take a long time to overhaul deep-rooted patterns, so start by tackling the problem from a more practical place.

One strategy, says Price, is to have the lower earner manage the household budget—and help decide who’s going to pay for what.

“Often, [individuals who exhibit this behavior] tend to be avoidant about financial matters,” Price says. “But in order to move from a place of helplessness to empowerment, you need to be knowledgeable about money.”

In the Green household, for example, Craig keeps track of the family’s bottom line, paying bills and even depositing Ali’s paychecks. “It allows him to take responsibility and have a more equal say,” Ali explains.

Dilemma #3: The Breadwinner Feels Burdened—and Resentful

For breadwinners, feeling like they are responsible for supporting the whole family can be overwhelming.

“Animosity can arise if you start to feel like you’re keeping everybody else afloat,” Levinson says.

It’s a sentiment that certainly resonates with Ali.

“A couple of years ago, I was stuck in a job I hated, but I couldn’t leave because we had a mortgage,” Ali says. “While Craig was supportive, he also reminded me that we needed to make a certain income. The responsibility is always hanging over my head. If I lose my job, we’re screwed. If he loses his, it’s just a blip.”

Ali’s annoyance over Craig’s paycheck came to a head when they were forced to move because they couldn’t afford the cost of living in their area.

“I felt frustrated knowing that if he made as much as I did, we could send our kid to a better day care, and we wouldn’t have to leave this place that we loved,” she says.

If you’re in this predicament, one thing that can help diffuse your anger is to recognize there are more ways to contribute than simply opening a wallet.

Perhaps your partner supports you emotionally, keeps the household running smoothly, or takes care of time-consuming projects such as vacation planning and home repairs. So try to shift your focus from how they fall short fiscally to where they excel in other areas.

And whatever you do, don’t just sit there seething.

“Talking about your worries with your partner can bring some comfort,” Levinson says. “Your spouse might be limited in terms of how much they can contribute financially, but at least you can split the emotional load.”

You can also discuss reworking your current arrangement. “Even if you came to an agreement when one person was making more in the beginning of your relationship, you aren’t beholden to that forever,” Price points out.

One way to bring more balance to the equation is to periodically revisit your household budget—especially when one of you changes jobs or nabs a raise or promotion—by setting ongoing monthly money meetings.

Read next: Why Couples Need to Get Financially Naked

Dilemma #4: One Person Isn’t Pulling Their Weight … at Home

Another common issue that can creep up for couples with uneven income situations: The high earner skips out on household cleanup detail and child care duties.

Just take it from Monica Miller*, a 26-year-old entrepreneur in Cheyenne, Wyoming, who’s still building her business and only makes several hundred dollars a month—compared to her engineer husband’s $35,000 salary.

“Even though I’m busy working during the day, the brunt of household chores falls on me,” Monica says. “At times I feel taken advantage of, like a maid instead of a wife.”

According to Price, this imbalance often manifests when the underearner feels guilty about their lack of earning power. “They overcompensate by pitching in more around the house, but may end up doing the equivalent of two jobs,” she says.

Miller can relate.

“I sometimes feel like a burden to my husband,” she says. “I want to put money on the table, too—and when I can’t, I get frustrated. Even though my husband is very kind, I feel like I’m failing him and not showing him my true worth.”

Price’s advice to Miller? Resist the urge to make up for the lack of zeroes in your paycheck by overdoing it on the home front.

While things don’t necessarily have to be split down the middle, she says, both of you should be doing a reasonable amount respective to your other obligations.

To get back on even footing, tell your partner, “I’ve been feeling stressed out lately about managing things. Can we talk about how to divide and conquer a bit better?”

Chances are, your spouse isn’t upset that you’re not pulling your weight financially—and simply hearing them say so can help you devise a more equal household workload plan.

Ultimately, regardless of your unique income dilemma, it all comes down (surprise! surprise!) to communication, which can help minimize the fiscal gulf in any relationship.

*Names have been changed.

More From LearnVest:

MONEY College tip of the day

8 Most Common Things Students Forget to Pack

girl sitting on top of stuffed suitcase
Getty Images When you think you have everything, check the bathroom for your toothbrush.

Don't leave home without 'em.

No matter how many boxes and duffle bags you stuff, packing for college usually means forgetting something—and ending up in line at the college store or nearest Target to buy one.

So we recently surveyed some members of the National Association of College Stores, an organization that represents more than 3,000 campus retailers in the U.S. and Canada, about the kinds of things students most often leave behind.

Among the biggies:

  • Coaxial cables
  • HDMI cords
  • Phone-charging cables
  • Shower shoes
  • Surge protectors
  • Toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Towels
  • Umbrellas

R. Todd Smith of Clayton State University in Morrow, Ga., suggested that last item, while also managing to slip in a shameless plug for buying one at the college store. “Ours are much cooler and more dependable than the umbrellas students might purchase from the well-known discount store across the street,” he said.

(In addition to Mr. Smith, special thanks to J. Bryson Baker of Oklahoma State University, Chad Schreier of Montana State University Billings, and Danielle Capstick of Assumption College in Worcester, Mass.)

For a list of things not to pack, especially if you’ll be living in campus housing, see our recent compilation of 12 Banned Items to Leave Off Your College Shopping List.

You can find more tips and tools for college-bound students and their parents at the MONEY College Planner website. And if you’re still in the process of picking a college, rather than packing for one, try our new Find Your Fit tool on for size.

MONEY Financial Planning

Start Preparing for Same-Sex Divorce

same sex groom figures on cake cut in half
Getty Images

Sometimes you get the bitter with the sweet. Here's how to plan for love not keeping you together.

Now that the US Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage, I’ve been happy to see the celebrations and joyous faces of couples who have longed to make their commitment a legal one. The legal landscape is leveled for married same-sex couples, and the longtime challenge of navigating different state laws is finally over. Congratulations!

But I’m a financial planner who works with divorcing and divorced people, so at the same time that I congratulate all these happy newlyweds, I can’t help thinking ahead to the financial complications that may ensue when some of these marriages break up.

I am painfully aware that in some states, same-sex couples had been hampered in many areas of their lives: property ownership, adoption, employee benefits, inheritance rights, and medical decisions, to name a few. Happily a lot of those hurdles will be gone now. But in a few years, new ones will pop up.

Though divorce laws vary state-by-state, some basic factors commonly guide courts’ approach to financial decisionmaking: how long the couple has been married, how they have contributed financially to each other and to their family, and what property is separate or commingled.

If all goes well, with marriage equality we will have divorce equality. For example, we could factor in that assets acquired during years a gay couple partnered but were not legally wed will be included in the marital pie. Estate plans drawn up earlier to facilitate transfer of wealth between partners could be understood as statements of intent when dividing marital property. The decision by one spouse to be a parent would now be the right for both.

I imagine it will be challenging to evaluate financial and nonfinancial contributions based on an ambiguous timeline and the differing perceptions of two individuals. In marriage, there is a clear demarcation line. Partnered couples who choose to marry have an opportunity and responsibility to understand their many financial and legal entitlements. These entitlements come with the knowledge that all prior planning or lack of planning (unintentional or not) is superseded.

It’s my belief that same-sex couples, in the near term, should sign prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements to clearly identify financial issues and set a clear rational path for disentangling themselves if the unhoped-for situation happens. These agreements could instruct how and what the couple would divide if they separate, their intent concerning financial support for one another, and the basis for how they legally titled assets in their estate planning. Gray areas exist when assets are not jointly titled or beneficiaries are not designated on financial accounts or specifically gifted personal property. Siblings, children, and other relatives may have very different ideas concerning what they should receive vs. what a partner should.

There are other implications for same-sex couples: Spouses who pay alimony can deduct that spousal support on their federal income tax returns. Divorcing couples can divide retirement assets and are entitled to receive qualified domestic relations orders; that helps them avoid federal taxation on some workplace retirement plans such as 401(k)s and pensions. Transfers of all or part of an IRA can be done without incurring federal tax. Social Security is no longer prevented from recognizing same-sex marriages in determining entitlement to Social Security benefits—some of which can be claimed on the basis of a spouse’s work record, even after a divorce.

In the short term, though, until same-sex marriage is no longer a novelty, there are strong financial reasons to prepare for the unthinkable. Until there is equality in the practice and protection under these laws across the states, same-sex married couples need to take control of their financial planning and leave as little as possible to interpretation.

Vasileff received the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ 2013 Pioneering Award for her public advocacy and leadership in the field of divorce financial planning. Vasileff is president emeritus of the ADFP and is a member of NAPFA, FPA, and IACP. She is president and founder of Divorce and Money Matters, serving clients nationwide from Greenwich, Conn. Her website is www.divorcematters.com.

MONEY Insurance

How Hurricane Katrina Changed Your Finances Forever

Walls and ceiling of house blown away, exposing living room, aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Sulphur
Sian Kennedy—Getty Images Walls and ceiling of house blown away, exposing living room, aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Port Sulphur, Louisiana

If you want to brave the storm, you'll first have to brave the insurance market.

Ten years ago this week, a storm gathered spin over the Gulf of Mexico and then let loose onto a city nicknamed the “Big Easy.” Hurricane Katrina was by far the most expensive storm in U.S. history: more than $150 billion in damages; hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents displaced; the city of New Orleans broken down in floodwater and churned like bile. Levees that shouldn’t have broken did. Fences floated away. Living room walls took on water to the ceiling—if they remained standing at all.

Institutional structures proved similarly weak against the strength of the storm, most notably the insurance that was supposed to protect homeowners. Private insurance companies balked on payments: Two years after the storm, the New York Times reported that insurers had paid out an estimated $900 million less in coverage to the approximately 160,000 families who lost their homes in Katrina than the state of Louisiana believed those families were owed.

Anticipating that Katrina would not be the last storm of its kind, insurance companies began to restrict coverage, boost deductibles, refuse policy renewals, and raise premiums. By September 2007, many homeowners along the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard had seen their premiums triple; over the past decade some New Orleans residents have faced fivefold increases. Meanwhile, the National Flood Insurance Program, having taken on the risk that private insurance companies shunned, incurred debts to the tune of $18 billion.

Fast-forward to October 2012. That’s when Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, made landfall in New Jersey. Sandy was about a third as costly as Katrina, but many of the storm’s victims fared no better with their insurance companies. In May of this year, evidence that fraudulent damage assessment reports may have been used to lowball insurance payouts prompted FEMA to announce that all of the 140,000 families who filed flood insurance claims in the aftermath of Sandy would be given the opportunity to have their files reviewed. The announcement comes after a three-year period in which, even with the passing of the Flood Insurance Affordability Act in 2014, homeowners have seen flood insurance premiums soar. And increases are only going to keep coming: as of April 2015, premiums may rise as much as 25% per year for those in the riskiest flood zones, thanks to a congressional act aimed at alleviating NFIP’s now $24 billion debt.

The bottom line: For homeowners, navigating the insurance market is ever more challenging—and expensive. Between 2003 and 2013, the average premium climbed 69%, to more than $1,000 a year. But with the increasingly unpredictable weather that comes with climate change, and the number of catastrophic storms on the rise, such protection is also more necessary than ever. Here’s what you need to do.

Don’t skimp on flood insurance. If you own a home in a high-risk zone, Congress has mandated that you must have flood insurance to obtain an insured or federally backed mortgage. If it’s not required, you may be tempted to skip it. That’s a bad idea; homeowners who live near water should have both building property and personal property flood insurance, recommends the Insurance Information Institute.

If you do live in a high-risk zone, you may actually want to opt for excess flood insurance. Coverage by the NFIP maxes out at $250,000 for your home and $100,000 for your personal property. Excess insurance can boost that up another $500,000—coverage you will need if it would cost you more than $250,000 to replace your home.

Read the fine print. It’s always been crucial to know the details of your policy, but insurers’ narrowing of coverage in recent years has only made it more so. For example, does your policy cover “actual cash value coverage” or “replacement cost coverage”? Actual cash value takes into account depreciation when reimbursing you for losses; replacement coverage, though it costs about 10% more on average, goes all the way.

What are the caps and limitations on your coverage? The age of your roof may affect how much you’ll get toward replacing it, or your screened-in patio may not be covered.

Are there filing rules that you need to follow to get your insurance checks? Your policy may require that you notify your insurer of your intent to replace within six months—or, stricter yet, complete the work within six months, which may be a struggle following a major disaster. You can ask for an extension, and if denied, file a complaint with your state insurance department, but if both fail you could be out thousands of dollars.

And finally, in the event of disaster, will your coverage pay for a replacement house that meets modern building codes? If your home is more than 10 years old, you’ll need to allot as much as 20% of your dwelling coverage toward expenses associated with keeping up to code.

Pay attention to deductibles. Most homeowners’ policy deductibles are flat-rate deductibles, usually ranging from $500 to $2,500 (some advocate for much higher). There are exceptions though. Hurricane deductibles—which became more common after Katrina and are now available in 19 states and D.C.—are calculated as a percentage of the home’s value, usually from 1% to 5%.

On a $300,000 home, a 5% deductible means you’d be responsible for $15,000 out of pocket. That’s a lot more cash than the average policy deductible requires you to have on hand, so it’s important to have a plan for where that will deductible will come from if you end up needing it.

Document, document, document! The best way to make sure you get the coverage you’ve paid for in the event of a weather disaster is to obsessively document.

First and foremost, you’ll need a full inventory of the contents of your home, including anything and everything of value. A written list is helpful (for major items, include receipts and serial numbers, if you can), but a list with pictures or video footage is even better. You can even download a free app like KnowYourStuff to help you organize and store the list.

And if you find yourself having to make an insurance claim, keep meticulous records of each step of the process. You may need to provide a rebuilding timeline to your insurer, for example, in which case you’ll need to keep track of meetings with contractors and when you apply for permits. The fraudulent engineering reports that seem to have been used to undercompensate Sandy victims would never have been discovered had homeowners not taken the initiative to keep original reports and follow up when their payments looked insufficient.

Be realistic about where you’re buying. As frustrating as the spike in insurance rates—or, in some storm-prone areas, insurers’ refusals to write sufficient policies altogether—may be, it also sends a message. High premiums signal that an area can be a high-risk place to dwell. If you’re considering buying property in a coastal zone or a “disaster prone” region, you may want to weigh your safety—and your future finances—against that ocean view.

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