Money Talk with Liz Weston: Handling family property, when to take retirement and building credit history

Credit cards
Retail cards are often easier to get than credit cards, although these days people also can start their credit histories using secured cards or credit-builder loans, certified financial planner Liz Weston writes.
(Associated Press)

Dear Liz: My wife and I plan to leave our house to our four children. My concern is that one may want to sell and split the proceeds; another may want to keep the house, rent it and divide up the income; and of course there’s always the real possibility that one may want to move in and live in it (we live in a nice community in California). My goal is to prevent doing anything that drives a wedge between them. Any advice on how best to approach this issue short of requiring the house be sold?

Answer: You’ve identified some of the complicating factors of leaving property to multiple heirs. There are many others, including changing circumstances and inclinations. The one who now wants to move into the property may be nicely settled elsewhere when the time comes. Or the one who’s keen on creating a rental may decide that screening tenants, collecting rent and fielding 3 a.m. calls about plumbing problems is too much hassle. Some of the heirs may be in a better position than others to absorb the ongoing costs of maintaining the home, including taxes, insurance and repairs. Even if their financial circumstances are roughly equal, they may have trouble agreeing on the timing and cost of repairs or improvements. And that’s assuming there are no reversals of fortune. Someone who is adamant about keeping the home may find themselves in need of funds later. And so on.

Your life isn’t immune to change either, by the way. You, or your widow, may want to downsize someday or need to sell the house to fund long-term care needs.


An experienced estate planning attorney can help you sort through your options because this is a common scenario and one that can be approached in different ways, including requiring the house to be sold, creating a trust or forming a family partnership to manage the property.

The attorney also can help you frame the discussion you’ll want to have with the kids. Knowing their current preferences and circumstances may be helpful, but given your goal, it’s also a good opportunity to emphasize the importance of family unity. Let your kids know you expect them to put family first and that harmonious relationships are worth more than any piece of real estate could be.

Dear Liz: I am recently divorced but was married for 20 years. My ex is 12 years older and he waited until 70 to start collecting Social Security benefits. I am 62 and self-employed. My retirement benefit is greater than half of his (but not by much). It is my understanding that after his death I can collect his full benefit, provided I am at least 67 when I apply, even if I start taking my own benefit now at 62. Is that correct?

Answer: Yes, but he could live a long time. Starting your own benefit now means you’ll get much smaller checks for years, perhaps even decades, compared with what you’d get by waiting. Plus, any benefit you take before your full retirement age would be subject to the earnings test, with $1 withheld for every $2 you make over a certain amount ($22,320 in 2024).

You may not have much choice, but if you do, waiting to apply is usually the best option.

Dear Liz: You recently answered a question from someone who was rejected for a credit card because of a lack of credit history. Years ago, my wife was rejected for similar reasons. She signed up for a card with a local retailer, then successfully reapplied for the credit card six months later. Maybe the industry has consolidated enough that this won’t work anymore, but it did then.

Answer: Retail cards are often easier to get than credit cards, although these days people also can start their credit histories using secured cards or credit-builder loans. Secured cards offer a credit line equal to a deposit made to the issuing bank. With a credit builder loan, the borrowed amount is stored in a savings account or certificate of deposit that the borrower can claim after a set number of monthly payments.


The original questioner already had a credit history, however, along with high credit scores. The issuer that rejected their application cited a lack of an installment loan history. In other words, there was no mortgage, student, auto or personal loan showing on their credit reports. That’s not something that typically would keep someone from getting approved for a credit card, hence the recommendation that the questioner call the issuer and ask for a reconsideration.

Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner®, is a personal finance columnist for NerdWallet. Questions may be sent to her at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at