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Personal finance tips: Outsmarting car repair cheats, and more
Three top pieces of financial advice — from how much retirees should spend to when filing separately makes sense
 
Good mechanics are out there: Use recommendations and reviews to find them.
Good mechanics are out there: Use recommendations and reviews to find them. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Outsmarting car repair cheats
Don't get conned by your mechanic, said Charles Passy at MarketWatch. If you feel you've been hit by one car repair "horror story after another," you're hardly alone: 27 percent of Americans have some gripes with their mechanics, according to Consumer Reports. But there are ways to "get repair work done for less (and done right, I should add)." Recommendations from friends, colleagues, or relatives are best, and the Better Business Bureau and reviews on sites like Yelp.com can also offer important clues. If you get a dubious charge, don't be afraid to question it. Mechanics who work on commission have "a strong incentive" to upsell services. "Materials" and "miscellaneous" fees, for instance, "can often be successfully challenged." There should be no surprises: Pros say that "a reputable repair shop will often fold the fees into any estimate they provide."

How much to withdraw?
Once you quit working, how much can you afford to spend? asked Adam J. Wiederman at DailyFinance. "It's been a long-held rule of thumb among retirement experts" that retirees should withdraw up to 4 percent of their portfolio each year. "But the times, as they say, are a-changin'." With low interest rates and the specter of a stock market that could stop rallying, a 4 percent withdrawal rate may be "too aggressive." These days, it's still "a good starting point," but "there are many variables at play in determining what works for you," such as the size of your nest egg, your life expectancy, and your portfolio's growth rate. The best way to plan is to "start running different growth and withdrawal scenarios," giving yourself time to adjust your plan for your twilight years.

When filing separately makes sense
For married couples, "picking the best filing status can be tricky," said Tom Herman at The Wall Street Journal. Filing jointly is the best option for most couples, but there are some situations "where it may pay to file separately." One is when a lower-earning spouse has big medical expenses, which can trigger a larger deduction on a separate filing. If one spouse may be "hiding taxable income, fabricating deductions or credits, or somehow lying about his/her tax situation," the other should file separately to avoid being on the hook. And if a couple is in the process of divorcing, filing separately will help "avoid post-divorce complications with the IRS."

 
Sergio Hernandez is business editor of The Week's print edition. He has previously worked for The DailyProPublica, the Village Voice, and Gawker.

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