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IVF: How to Pay for an Expensive and Emotional Process

After struggling to get pregnant, Nikki and Mike McDermott of Lake Worth, Florida, were determined to do whatever it took to have a family. She took the fertility medication Clomid, underwent $500 in diagnostic tests and tried intrauterine insemination, all without success.

McDermott is far from alone. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Survey of Family Growth (2011-2013), 11.3% of women ages 15 to 44 — that’s 6.9 million women — have received fertility services.

It’s an expensive and emotional path, and success is not guaranteed.

“At that point emotionally, I was like, I can’t keep doing this up and down rollercoaster,” Nikki McDermott says. “We wanted something that had a higher success rate, so we did in vitro fertilization.”

Yet even a single cycle of IVF can be out of reach for many couples.

The high — and typically uncovered — cost of IVF

The McDermotts were quoted $14,000 for an IVF package including medications and procedures. At the time, McDermott was on her husband’s employer’s insurance plan, which offered no fertility coverage. To cover the bulk of treatment, the McDermotts took out a $10,000 fertility loan from a lender partnered with her doctor’s office at a sizable interest rate of just under 22%.

The first IVF cycle was successful for the McDermotts.  Having her son, Mikey, now a toddler, was worth the emotional and financial stress, McDermott says. “At the end of the day, we pay the monthly fee for the loan, and we just joke around that he can’t go to college,” she says.

According to data collected on 3,192 IVF patients and provided to NerdWallet by FertilityIQ, an online resource for those seeking fertility treatments, the national average cost for one IVF cycle, including drugs and the procedure, is $19,857. Some doctors offer packages or bundles at a discount, but the costs are still significant.

Some states mandate that health insurance cover fertility treatment, but the majority do not. According to the study by FertilityIQ, which involved more than 3,000 patients who received 7,141 IVF cycles in total, 28% had 76%-100% of treatment costs covered by insurance. But 56% of surveyed users had zero coverage, and the remainder of patients had only partial coverage. (Disclosure: NerdWallet CEO Tim Chen is an investor in FertilityIQ.) See the methodology below.

Making financial tradeoffs and saving for IVF is the best case scenario, says Shane Sullivan, a certified financial planner with United Capital in Austin, Texas. But for those eager to move forward without adequate savings, financing may be the answer. For the McDermotts, that answer was a fertility loan. Other IVF funding options, summarized below, include loans from credit unions, online lenders and credit cards.

Paying for IVF

If you’re seeking IVF treatments, whether you plan to buy a package or pay as you go, your credit history plays a large role in determining which financing options are available to you.

» MORE: Check your credit score

FERTILITY LOANS

Lenders that focus specifically on fertility financing typically partner with doctor’s offices, and you can usually use this type of financing only if your provider offers it. Fertility-specific lenders may have higher interest rates, but the doctor’s office typically coordinates with the lender and receives the funds directly, removing some headache for patients. One of the most well-known fertility lenders is CapexMD, which offers loans through participating fertility clinics.

CREDIT UNION LOANS

These personal installment loans have fixed rates with monthly payments. Credit unions are often the best choice for personal loans, as they usually have the lowest interest rates available, often starting as low as 7%, and can be open to lending to members with less-than-stellar credit. Federal credit unions are required to cap their interest rates at 18%. Credit union loans usually require a lot of paperwork and documentation, and they can take longer the online loans to be approved and funded.

ONLINE PERSONAL LOANS

If you’re in a hurry to pay for IVF treatment, online installment loans are approved and funded faster than loans from credit unions, sometimes within one day. They may also have more options when it comes to term length and amount. Interest rates are fixed and can be low for those with excellent credit.

Popular lenders for fertility treatments include Prosper, Lending Club and LightStream. Numerous other online lenders offer generic personal loans you can use for fertility treatment. NerdWallet recommends comparing offers from multiple lenders. The easiest way to compare actual rates is to pre-qualify online, which entails a soft credit check that won’t affect your credit score.

CREDIT CARDS

If you qualify, zero-interest credit cards can be an ideal way to fund at least some of your fertility treatment — the few thousand dollars needed to meet an insurance deductible, for instance. Credit cards typically have lower credit limits than the amount you could borrow with a loan, and you won’t know your credit limit until you are approved.

Emily Starbuck Crone is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: emily.crone@nerdwallet.com.

FertilityIQ Methodology: FertilityIQ’s data was collected between July 10, 2015 and February 19, 2017 via a survey of 3,192 patients who underwent at least one complete IVF cycle in the United States. The total number of IVF cycles completed by all patients was 7,141.

How to Build Credit in (Exactly) 250 Words

What credit is: Your credit reports are records of how you have repaid debt in the past. Credit scores are three-digit numbers that estimate how likely you are to repay a lender or card issuer as agreed in the future. A “credit check” may look at either or both.

Why it matters: Good credit gives you a better shot at borrowing money at a favorable interest rate. It can also mean lower car insurance bills and lower or no utility deposits.

How to begin: Start using credit, which is easier said than done. See if you can get a credit card, perhaps a secured credit card to start. Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s card may help. Student loans, car loans and credit-builder loans also build credit history.

Do I have to go into debt? No. One of the best ways to build credit is using a credit card lightly and paying the balance in full every month.

Understand your score: Most credit scores are on a scale from 300 to 850. It’s smart to monitor your score; you can get a free credit score from some credit card issuers or personal finance websites, like NerdWallet.

Know what affects your score: The biggest things you can do to boost your credit are:

  • Pay bills on time, without exception
  • Use little of your credit limit (under 30%, and under 10% is better)

Other things help, too:

  • Have both credit cards and loans
  • Keep older accounts open
  • Limit applications for credit

Bev O’Shea is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: boshea@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.

Wedding Gone Wrong? Insurance Could Help Set Things Right

When Dan Gerecht bought a wedding insurance policy for his daughter Yvonne’s big day last year, he did it because the event was scheduled during hurricane season and he was worried that weather might force them to cancel.

But it turned out the Gerechts needed the policy for a different reason: The venue, the Winery at Elk Manor in North East, Maryland, shut down just two months before Yvonne’s 2016 Labor Day wedding, Gerecht says. They found themselves scrambling for a new location — and out the $30,000 Gerecht had already paid to Elk Manor.

Vendors who can’t fulfill contracts are the most common cause of wedding insurance claims. Here’s how insurance can help.

Wedding disaster No. 1: Vendor fails

Vendor issues, like the venue going out of business, make up 30% of wedding insurance claim dollars — the largest share — paid by Travelers Insurance. Wedding insurance policies will often reimburse you if you have to book a last-minute vendor or reschedule the wedding if a vendor backs out.

Gerecht says he was tipped off that something was awry when the caterer emailed and told him the venue hadn’t paid as promised. Fortunately, the $355 policy he’d bought from Travelers covered the venue closing.

Wedding insurance “is such a small cost compared to what you could lose if something goes wrong,” says Anne Chertoff, wedding trends expert at WeddingWire.

The Gerechts were lucky; they found another venue for the same day. “Some families sued [the venue], but thankfully we didn’t have to” because we had wedding insurance, Gerecht says.

Wedding disaster No. 2: Someone gets injured

Weddings are fun. Often they’re so much fun that someone gets hurt. If there’s an injury at your wedding, you could be held liable — and that’s what wedding liability insurance is for. Wedding liability insurance is typically a separate policy from cancellation insurance, though they can be purchased in a bundle.

“As you might expect, we do see many injuries that occur on the dance floor,” says Steve Lauro, vice president at Aon Affinity, parent company of WedSafe, a seller of wedding insurance. Among claims to WedSafe, 28% are for injuries or accidents that occur at weddings.

In some cases, you could also be held liable if someone drinks too much and causes an accident. Liquor liability coverage may be sold as add-on coverage for wedding liability policies or included at no charge.

» MORE: Life Insurance for married couples

Wedding disaster No. 3: Extreme weather

When you’re booking the venue months beforehand, you cross your fingers and hope for good weather. Of wedding claims to Travelers, 16% of dollars paid out are due to extreme weather.

Coverage typically doesn’t include a rain shower or a blustery day that might ruin your party’s updos, because the wedding can still go on. But if there’s a tornado, hurricane or other destructive weather that prevents guests or vendors from arriving, a cancellation policy pays for costs to reschedule.

Wedding disaster No. 4: Medical emergency in the family

If someone close to you gets sick or injured right before your wedding, the last thing you want to worry about is the money lost canceling or rescheduling the event.

If the bride, groom, their parents or someone in the wedding party is sick or injured shortly before the wedding and can’t make it, cancellation policies typically cover the costs to reschedule. These represented about 6% of wedding cancellation claims to WedSafe in 2016, Lauro says.

» MORE: Cost of raising a child tops $260,000 — just for basics

Wedding disaster No. 5: Lost or ruined attire

Attire represents just 2% of wedding claim dollars paid by Travelers. However, tuxes and gowns are such an important part of weddings that they are commonly included in wedding cancellation policies.

Avoiding vendor issues

Chertoff recommends getting references from recent weddings that vendor has done and asking the references what their experiences were like.

Lauro recommends that you get all agreements in writing, read contracts thoroughly and check vendors on the Better Business Bureau.

Gerecht says the wedding insurance policy “was a great investment.” And he’s already purchased another one: He has another daughter getting married this year.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today. Lacie Glover is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: lacie@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @LacieWrites.

How Your Selfie Could Affect Your Life Insurance

A selfie reveals more than whether it’s a good hair day. Facial lines and contours, tiny droops and dark spots could indicate how well you’re aging, and, when paired with other data, could someday help determine whether you qualify for life insurance.

“Your face is something you wear all your life, and it tells a very unique story about you,” says Karl Ricanek Jr., co-founder and chief data scientist at Lapetus Solutions Inc. in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Several life insurance companies are testing Lapetus technology that uses facial analytics and other data to estimate life expectancy, he says. (Lapetus would not disclose the names of companies testing its product.) Insurers use life expectancy estimates to make policy approval and pricing decisions. Lapetus says its product, Chronos, would enable a customer to buy life insurance online in as little as 10 minutes without taking a life insurance medical exam.

Life insurers already gather other data with your permission to get insight beyond the information you supply on the application. For example, they often pull motor vehicle records, prescription drug histories and reports from an insurance industry database of certain information disclosed on past individual life and health insurance applications.

» COMPARE: Life insurance quotes

Many life insurance companies are exploring how to use additional data, statistical models, artificial intelligence and other techniques to help make quick decisions to ease the policy buying process and boost sales. Consumers don’t like the wait on the typical application process, which can take weeks and often requires a medical exam.

Time and testing will tell which new approaches prove effective, says Robert Kerzner, president and CEO of LIMRA, a life insurance trade group. “This one may or may not meet the vetting process to make carriers comfortable,” he says.

It’s important for the consumer to feel comfortable, too. It’s one thing to post a selfie on Instagram, another to send it to an insurer for analysis. And it’s crucial for consumers that any technology an insurer uses works. Their claims may not be fully paid if insurers make inaccurate predictions and go belly up.

It’s written all over your face

If Chronos is adopted by an insurer — which would need to get regulatory approval from states to use it in the underwriting process — here’s generally how it would work.

You’d upload a selfie to the insurer online and answer health and other questions. The facial analytics technology would scan hundreds of points on your face and extract certain information, including your body mass index, physiological age (in layman’s terms, how old you look) and whether you’re aging faster or slower than your actual age.

Ricanek says the program can detect makeup, but not plastic surgery. It verifies identity by comparing the photo to the one on your driver’s license.

The insurer would combine the results with your application answers and, if it chooses, any other information it typically pulls. If approved for coverage, you could buy a policy immediately online.

Several of the largest life insurers contacted for this story declined to comment on the Lapetus product or the potential use of facial analytics in the underwriting process.

Ricanek worked on facial recognition technology for the FBI’s Biometric Center of Excellence and is a computer science professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He started Lapetus with S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Lapetus launched Chronos, its first product, in November 2015.

Shortening the wait

Insurers are in a tough spot because consumers are used to buying products instantly. But it can take a month or longer to approve coverage if the insurer requires a medical exam.

Exams cost insurers money, says Samantha Chow, a life insurance and annuities senior analyst for Aite Group, a research and advisory firm in Boston.

And fewer people are buying. In 2016, an estimated 9.4 million individual policies were sold, down from 17.7 million individual policies in 1984, according to LIMRA.

Consumers don’t like waiting. Only 42% of consumers said it was OK to wait a month for policy approval, and less than 18% said waiting for two months was acceptable, according to a 2015 study by LIMRA and Life Happens, another trade group.

Chow tested the Lapetus platform as part of research of automated underwriting for Aite. She says the ease of the process could appeal to consumers who want a quick way to buy coverage.

Photo ops

Ricanek says his company’s market research found that consumers are willing to share photos with insurers if they get something back, such as the opportunity to buy coverage quickly.

Amy Bach, executive director of consumer advocacy group United Policyholders, says such technology could be good for consumers if it makes the application process easier.

But she says she is concerned that insurers may rely too heavily on new technology and find later that their risk projections were off.

Meanwhile, Lapetus is exploring how facial analytics may identify early signs of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease or dementia. And it’s developing a feature that it says will be able to tell whether someone ever smoked. Among the clues are early signs of crow’s feet around the eyes and under-eye bagging.

“Smoking is going to be written on your face,” Ricanek says. “Even if you stopped smoking, once it’s written, it’s there.”

Barbara Marquand is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: bmarquand@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @barbaramarquand.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

 

Mobile Wallets Kill Off Plastc’s Smart Card

After three years in development, the Plastc “smart” credit card is dead — without ever having been released to the public.

Plastc was supposed to be able to store information from 20 cards, including credit, debit, loyalty and gift cards, on a single card-like device. But Plastc and similar products saw much of their prospective market eaten up by mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay.

Unable to secure financing to finish development of its product, Plastc Inc. ceased operations on April 20, 2017, and announced on its website that it was exploring bankruptcy options. Customers who pre-ordered the product won’t have those orders filled, according to the company.

Plastc was one of several companies developing smart cards. It stood out from competitors like Coin, Swyp and Stratos by promising a large touchscreen, biometric security features and the ability to do such things as unlock the device with a PIN and use it to review card balances and other information.

These devices typically had to be managed with a smartphone app. When digital wallets came to smartphones — most notably Apple Pay in late 2014 — smart cards became a needless complication for many. Also, mobile wallets were basically free, while Plastc planned to charge $180 for the device and an 18-month subscription, followed by an ongoing $50 annual fee.

It’s not looking good for other smart cards, either. Coin was acquired by Fitbit in 2016, and its service is being discontinued. Swyp wasn’t taking orders as of April 2017; the company’s social media accounts haven’t had new posts since 2016. Stratos was recently acquired by the Danish company CardLab; as of April 2017, it was not shipping new cards.

Not all merchants accept mobile wallets, and not all consumers trust them. But the technology appeals to the same kinds of early adopters who were targeted by Plastc, Coin and others, helping hasten the demise of smart cards.

Melissa Lambarena is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mlambarena@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @LissaLambarena.

Mobile Wallets Kill Off the Plastc Smart Card

After three years in development, the Plastc “smart” credit card is dead — without ever having been released to the public.

Plastc was supposed to be able to store information from 20 cards, including credit, debit, loyalty and gift cards, on a single card-like device. But Plastc and similar products saw much of their prospective market eaten up by mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay.

Unable to secure financing to finish development of its product, Plastc Inc. ceased operations on April 20, 2017, and announced on its website that it was exploring bankruptcy options. Customers who pre-ordered the product won’t have those orders filled, according to the company.

Plastc was one of several companies developing smart cards. It stood out from competitors like Coin, Swyp and Stratos by promising a large touchscreen, biometric security features and the ability to do such things as unlock the device with a PIN and use it to review card balances and other information.

These devices typically had to be managed with a smartphone app. When digital wallets came to smartphones — most notably Apple Pay in late 2014 — smart cards became a needless complication for many. Also, mobile wallets were basically free, while Plastc planned to charge $180 for the device and an 18-month subscription, followed by an ongoing $50 annual fee.

It’s not looking good for other smart cards, either. Coin was acquired by FitBit in 2016, and its service is being discontinued. Swyp wasn’t taking orders as of April 2017; the company’s social media accounts haven’t had new posts since 2016. Stratos was recently acquired by the Danish company CardLab; as of April 2017, it was not shipping new cards.

Not all merchants accept mobile wallets, and not all consumers trust them. But the technology appeals to the same kinds of early adopters who were targeted by Plastc, Coin and others, helping hasten the demise of smart cards.

Melissa Lambarena is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mlambarena@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @LissaLambarena.

How to Invest $100,000

Have $100,000 burning a hole in your bank account? It may sound like an unlikely pipe dream, but windfalls happen: You sell a larger home to downsize; you find a buyer for your small business; a relative leaves you an inheritance. Or maybe you’ve simply squirreled away a lot of money over the years and are ready to put that savings to work.

Investing smaller windfalls, like a four-figure tax refund or five-figure check from selling a midlife-crisis car, deserve thoughtful consideration. But with a six-figure payday, the effects of the investing decisions you make are amplified — for better (investment growth, future financial freedom) and worse (taking a tax hit, giving up gains to financial fees).

How to invest money If you want to make your money grow, you need to invest it. Learn the fundamentals, how best to reach your goals, as well as plans for investing certain sums, from small to large. Read more »

For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you’re already standing on solid financial ground: You have no revolving high-interest (credit card) debt, you’ve got an adequate cash cushion to cover any emergency expenses, you’re able to easily cover your monthly expenses and have any money you need for nearer-term expenses (home improvements, tuition, family cruises) set aside and not invested in the stock market.

Now, let’s get to work on getting that $100,000 invested.

1. Avoid triggering an unnecessary tax bill

In most instances we’d say that you shouldn’t rush into a decision with the money. But there are a few situations that may require immediate action in order to avoid unwanted attention from the IRS:

  • Liquidating a 401(k) when leaving a job: You have just 60 days after an employer cuts you a check for money saved in a workplace retirement account to get that money into another retirement account, either a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA. Otherwise you’ll trigger a pretty hefty tax bill consisting of income taxes (the IRS treats the money as earned income for the year) and a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re not yet eligible to tap your retirement savings. » MORE: How to roll over a 401(k) to an IRA
  • Inheriting an IRA: You may also have to take action on a tight deadline if you’ve inherited an IRA. The rules about what beneficiaries can and cannot do and how much time they have to do it without incurring penalties or triggering extra taxes depends on your relationship to the deceased (surviving spouses have different options than other beneficiaries), whether or not the former owner had started taking distributions before they died, and what type of IRA it is (Roth or traditional). » MORE: IRS’ rules on inherited IRAs
2. Put as much money as possible where the IRS can’t get to it

Don’t even think about the Cayman Islands. There are legal ways to dodge the IRS, at least for a while, and one of the best is to stuff as much of that $100,000 as possible into tax-favored retirement savings accounts.

Employer-sponsored retirement plans, like a 401(k) or 403(b), and individual retirement accounts, like Roth or traditional IRAs, can help shield tens of thousands of your dollars from taxes. And with $100,000 at your disposal, you can afford to max out both a 401(k) and an IRA if you’re eligible. If you’re under age 50, that comes to $23,500 a year ($18,000 for the 401(k) and up to $5,500 for an IRA). It’s $30,500 for those age 50 and older when you add in the catch-up contributions (an extra $6,000 in a 401(k) and $1,000 for an IRA).

» MORE: Roth vs. traditional IRAs  |  Retirement plans for self-employed  |  IRAs vs. 401(k)s

3. Pay yourself even more

Even after maxing out your workplace plan and IRA, you’ve still got roughly $70,000 of that $100,000 to work with. Perhaps you’re thinking, “With this kind of money we can pay cash for the kids’ educations so they can graduate without any student loan debt!”

Before you go down that road, consider this: In the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for finances, “pay yourself first” forms the foundation of the triangle. Therefore, in the “save for retirement versus save for my child’s college tuition” standoff, your needs come first.

The kids can get scholarships, loans or work their way through school. Retirees can’t get loans or scholarships to cover rising health care costs and any emergency expenses that arise. And Social Security — the closest thing to financial aid for retirement — may not cover all your expenses. Consider that in 2016 the average monthly benefit for a retired couple who both receive Social Security benefits was $2,212, according to the Social Security Administration.

Investing the remaining $70,000 windfall and earning a 6% average annual return would mean an extra $300,000 in 25 years — the kind of padding that makes it less likely you’ll run out of money and have to move in with the kids.

» MORE: Use a retirement calculator to see how extra dollars affect when you can retire and how much monthly income you’ll have in the future.

4. Don’t let fees drain your fortune

Remember back before you were a one-hundred-thousandaire and you were vigilant about every little extra investing cost? Keep it up. Now there’s even more of your money at stake.

Investing fees are like a distant relative you helped out that one time who now hounds you for bigger and bigger handouts. Not only is every dollar you hand over money you’ll never recoup, but it’s also one less dollar you have to invest for your future. And a dollar that’s not invested has no chance to compound and grow with all your other dollars.

Even the smallest extra fee can take a huge bite out of your investment returns. We calculated that a millennial investor paying just 1% more in investment fees than her peer sacrifices nearly $600,000 in returns over time. The fix? Investing in low-cost mutual funds and exchange-traded funds as opposed to paying the higher price for actively managed funds.

» MORE: Understanding investment fees: What you should pay and how to ferret them out

5. Resist the urge to make a major strategy shift

Don’t scrap your existing asset allocation plan (that carefully crafted pie chart indicating how much of your money is in cash, bonds, stocks, real estate, etc.) in order to accommodate new money. Unless you’re in the midst of a major life change, such as retirement or liquidating assets for an upcoming expense, changes to the current makeup of your portfolio and your risk tolerance profile are probably unnecessary.

But with this new money in hand, now’s a good time to review where you are:

  • Take an asset allocation snapshot. Look at the overall mix of investments you have in all of your accounts, including current and old 401(k)s, IRAs, taxable brokerage accounts, bank accounts, the sock drawer, and so on.
  • Identify areas where your portfolio may have become unbalanced. Position sizes morph over time as investments grow and contract. Rebalancing your portfolio by using some of the windfall money to restore the underrepresented assets will reduce your exposure to risk from lack of diversification.
  • Consider asset location, too. Like asset allocation, asset location is about tax diversification. With your 401(k) and in IRAs, you’ve got the tax-deferred angle covered. Because you’re not taxed on investment growth, it makes sense to hold investments that generate taxable income (such as corporate bond funds, high-growth stocks or mutual funds that buy and sell a lot) in these accounts. Even better if you can hold them in Roth versions of these accounts, where withdrawals in retirement are tax-free. In a taxable account, such as a regular brokerage account, growth and interest are subject to yearly income taxes, so investments that are slow, steady growers (large-cap stocks or index funds and index ETFs) belong here.

» MORE: Four ways to rebalance your portfolio

6. Find the right kind of help

Finding the right help depends on the type of advice you want, how much guidance you want, and how hands-on or hands-off you want to be:

  • Full-service help: Hiring a financial advisor (we recommend fee-only) is going to be the costliest option. But you get someone to make investment recommendations and manage your windfall as well as review and address other financial planning tasks on your list. » MORE: How to find and evaluate a financial advisor
  • Do-it-yourself: If you’re the hands-on type (or want to learn how to buy stocks), it’s cheaper — and easier — than ever to create, research and manage your own portfolio. » MORE: Best online brokers  |  Best brokers for beginners  |  Best IRA account providers
  • Automated or hybrid help: Robo-advisors offer automated portfolio management for less than you’d pay a human to do the same thing. The price you pay is composed of investment fees (each fund or ETF’s expense ratio) and whatever management fees the robo-advisor charges. If the low-cost/low-hassle setup of a robo-managed investment account sounds good but you crave the human touch, too, Vanguard and Personal Capital offer both in one package. What you get for your money is access to financial advisors for your investing questions as well as the ability to customize the investment mix in your portfolio. » MORE: Compare the best robo-advisors and see whether a hybrid service or fully automated one is right for you.

Dayana Yochim is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website: Email: dyochim@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @DayanaYochim.

Ask Brianna: How Do I Deal with a Mooching Friend?

“Ask Brianna” is a column from NerdWallet for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to askbrianna@nerdwallet.com.

Nothing kills a night out with friends like people trying to dodge the check. One person may regularly “forget” his wallet. Another doesn’t protest — ever — when you offer to pick up the tab.

Ongoing spending differences may strain your relationships and hurt your financial goals. A budget calculator will reveal just how generous you can afford to be. But if you’re unhappy with a friend who consistently doesn’t pay her share, fix it before resentment takes hold. Here’s how.

Identify the underlying issue

You will have a range of financial personalities among friends. Sort out the ones you can live with from the ones who make you feel shortchanged.

The nickel-and-dimer: Some friends prefer to pay only for what they consumed, down to the penny, even when the group wants to split the check evenly.

While stinginess isn’t exactly mooching, it may breed a similar feeling of resentment. Still, though your friend’s preference is different from yours, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. In this instance, it’s up to you to accept your friend can’t or doesn’t want to pay extra, and move on.

“A sensitive friend looks at the big picture and says, ‘OK, this might be a quirk that I don’t have, but it’s also probably the fairest way to go about this,’” says Andrea Bonior, a clinical psychologist and author of “The Friendship Fix.”

That’s especially true if your friend forgoes costly cocktails or orders less-expensive dishes. A number of mobile apps exist to simplify check-splitting.

The cash-crunched: A friend who is between jobs or who just put a security deposit on a new apartment might not have spare fun money. But if he’s not a frequent bill dodger and you want to go out with him, picking up the tab occasionally is fine, says Irene S. Levine, a psychologist and creator of The Friendship Blog. Again, understanding your own budget constraints can help you gauge the right frequency.

If your friend’s cash crunch is longer-term — he has a lower-paying job than you, say — consider cheaper entertainment like a night at home binge-watching “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” You’ll save money and patience, and your friend won’t feel endlessly indebted to you.

The chronic freeloader: The trouble starts when your generosity becomes expected. Some friends actively avoid paying their share. Perhaps they conveniently retire to the bathroom before the check comes or, when you travel together, don’t reimburse you for the hotel until months later, if at all. This can lead to anger and bitterness. If you care about saving the friendship, a mature, respectful discussion is your next step.

Talk it out

Instead of holding a grudge, Bonior suggests you pick a time to have a private conversation that’s not in the moment — not, for instance, when your friend says her paycheck is late and she’ll cover drinks next time.

When you’re in a place where you both feel comfortable, say, “This is really awkward, but remember when you put that concert ticket on my credit card? You still haven’t paid me back, and I could really use the money.” Or “I feel a little frustrated because you haven’t thrown in cash for drinks lately.”

Go with “I” statements, which focus the conversation on how you feel, rather than attacking your friend’s character.

Know when to move on

Friends may take time to address your concerns. But if three months later the same issues continue to crop up, say something. Again. If you have a sense of how much money you’ve expended covering shortfalls since you first talked, let your friend know. At this point, it may be time to re-evaluate your relationship.

“If a friendship consistently makes you feel drained, put upon, used or stressed, it’s time to move on,” Levine says.

That doesn’t require announcing your friendship is over. Start by turning down your friend’s invitations and slowly extricating yourself from daily interactions. If your friend asks what’s going on, you can be honest; but remember you don’t have to feel guilty for letting the friendship fizzle. Your happiness — and bank account — are too precious to squander.

Brianna McGurran is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: bmcgurran@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @briannamcscribe.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

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