Personal finance tips: How your credit score affects your car insurance, and more

Three top pieces of financial advice — from how to check social security benefits to why salary transparency could be a good thing

Credit and cars
(Image credit: (iStock))

Credit scores and car insurance

Bad credit could be driving up your car insurance, said Andrea Coombes at The Wall Street Journal. A new study of five large auto insurers has found that credit history can make or break a driver's premium, leaving motorists with no credit paying 65 percent more than those with good credit. Depending on where you live, that differential can go even higher. In Washington, D.C., drivers with no credit can pay premiums 126 percent higher than those with good credit. Drivers in California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii can rest easy — those states ban the use of credit histories to set car insurance rates. But for everyone else, the findings are another reminder to keep your credit in check.

So long to salary secrecy

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Are workers becoming more open about their paychecks? asked Alina Tugend at The New York Times. "Discussing money, as it is often said, is the last taboo." But thanks to a push by federal authorities for more pay equality and the rise of salary-comparing websites like Glassdoor.com, that taboo may be "on the wane." Finding out that a co-worker is earning more might be upsetting, but pay transparency can be a good thing. "Studies show that when pay is confidential, workers often believe the salary distributions are more unfair than they really are." And "when pay is open," workers "can directly ask why someone is earning more and how to equalize the salaries." Widespread transparency may be a long way off, but employees should "know they are allowed to talk about salaries and can't be punished for it," because of federal laws that say employers can't forbid workers from discussing wages.

Check your benefits

It's never too early to look at your Social Security statement, said Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post. "It used to be that a few months before each birthday, you would get a statement from the Social Security Administration telling you your estimated benefit." The agency pulled the plug on paper statements a few years ago, but workers who want a peek at their future can view their statements online. The portal, at SocialSecurity.gov, requires setting up an account, but retirees "can get benefit-verification letters, change their address and phone number, and input or change direct deposit information." For those of us who are still working, the website is a good way to make sure earnings are correctly reported.

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