Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial advice, gathered from around the web:
For free checking, try credit unions
"Free checking accounts are slipping away," said Gail MarksJarvis at the Chicago Tribune. Banks have been cutting back on freebies as the costs of combating fraud and complying with post–financial crisis regulations rise. Only 46 percent of U.S. banks still offer free checking to their customers, down from 78 percent in 2009. Now, the perk is mostly reserved as a reward for customers who have "broad relationships" with the bank, such as those who use investment services. Your best bet to find free checking is through a credit union; nearly three-quarters of them still offer the benefit in order to attract new members.
Help for frustrated taxpayers
Paying taxes is painful enough, but trying to reach an actual human at the Internal Revenue Service can be the "real nightmare," said Tom Herman at The Wall Street Journal. Taxpayer services have suffered amid congressionally ordered budget cuts, making it harder to get timely help resolving things like tax disputes. But "if you're stuck in an IRS bureaucratic quagmire, don't despair." The IRS's Taxpayer Advocate Service, which operates independently within the agency, gets high marks from accountants, lawyers, and tax specialists for its effectiveness at cutting through red tape. You may be eligible for help if your IRS problem is causing financial hardship, or if you believe an IRS procedure "just isn't working as it should." The most common problem is tax-related identity theft, which can tie up refunds for months.
Check your robo-adviser's math
Robo-advisers are facing their first big test as markets plunge, said Tara Siegel Bernard at The New York Times. Online investment platforms are increasingly popular with people who have small amounts to invest, but there's no designated "warm-blooded professional" on call when markets go haywire. These services generally follow the same tried-and-true investment philosophies as human investment managers: assembling diversified, low-cost portfolios focused on long-term financial goals. But there could be a big difference between "how much risk the robots believe you can afford to take — and what your stomach can truly handle." For example, one robo-adviser initially recommended I pursue a 90 percent stock allocation. That's theoretically appropriate for young investors with years to recover from a crash. "But it could be a rocky ride."