What the experts say
The perks of a high credit score
Maintaining a high credit score “can pay off in perks,” said Shawn Carter in CNBC.com. A score above 700 is considered good, but if you can nurse it over 740, you’ll likely find many deals worth taking advantage of. Begin by “negotiating your interest rates.” Credit card companies typically charge interest rates of more than 16 percent, but a sturdy record of paying your bills on time and using your credit responsibly can lead to lower interest and annual percentage rates. It might also be time to shop for car insurance; you might be able to get a premium rate reduction with an impressive score. Finally, consider refinancing your home. A score of 740 and above could get you substantially lower interest rates.
Filing for a tax extension
Perhaps you’re waiting on a misplaced W-2 form “or maybe you’re just procrastinating,” said Anna Bahney in CNN.com. With the Internal Revenue Service’s tax day deadline of April 17 fast approaching, you may need to file for an extension on your 2017 return. The good news: The process is straightforward. Simply fill out and return form 4868, which is available on the IRS website, and the IRS will automatically grant you an extension though Oct. 15. But while the extension gives you more time to fill in your paperwork, it does not provide extra time on paying your taxes. You must typically pay at least 90 percent of what you are likely to owe by April 17 to avoid late payment fees.
The real cost of a hospital visit
“When you get really sick, the medical bills may not be your biggest financial shock,” said Margot Sanger-Katz in The New York Times. MIT researchers say that for a significant portion of Americans, “a trip to the hospital can mean a permanent reduction in income.” On average “people in their 50s who are admitted to the hospital will experience a 20 percent drop in income that persists for years,” according to the research. Even those with insurance are not immune. Researchers followed people who had been admitted for a wide variety of ailments, from heart attacks to pneumonia to car accident injuries. Uninsured people owed the hospital an average of $6,000, compared with only $300 for those with insurance. “But the average decline in income for both groups was much larger—an average earnings hit of $11,000 by the third year.” Many people struggled to transition back to work or were “knocked off their career trajectories.”