12 Jobs Working With Animals (That Actually Pay Pretty Well)

If you love animals and want to make a career out of it, one of these 12 jobs working with animals might be for you.

“When I grow up I want to be a veterinarian,” some children say when you ask about their dream job. Of course, considering the level of schooling this career requires, coupled with the student loan costs and the level of commitment, that changes for some people once they become adults. But the love for animals and the desire to work with animals might remain.

One of the more difficult tasks job seekers face is finding a career that pays enough money, as well as one they will enjoy. The old saying, “Do what you love, and the money will come,” is true to a point. But money also matters, and like it or not, it has to be a priority. The key is finding a balance. That is, doing what you love for money, as opposed to doing what you love in hopes that you will earn money.

If animals are your passion — the field that makes you want to get up and do something — then you can certainly achieve this balance. The typical job working with animals brings in about $55,775, according to 2015 U.S. Census data. Aside from a veterinarian career, there are a variety of jobs working with animals that also pay decent wages. These jobs bring in close to that median income or even higher. (Note: While your income doesn’t impact your credit scores directly — these are the five factors that do — but making higher wages can certainly help you pay for the items you need. Want to see how your credit is doing? You can see two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

Here are 12 jobs working with animals that could pay the bills.

1. Groomer

  • Median Salary: $21,260
  • Salary Range: $17,160 to $34,780
  • Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

Groomers help pets look their best by cleaning them and trimming fur. Those who make the highest salary earn more than $34,000 a year. Groomers who work in Hawaii, California and Rhode Island typically make the most money.

How to Become One: Animal caretakers must have at least a high school diploma. Most training takes place on the job, but some choose to study at a grooming school. Employers generally prefer candidates to have some experience working with animals. If you want to care for animals in a zoo, you will likely be required to have a bachelor’s degree in animal science, biology or a similar field.

2. Kennel Attendant, Pet Sitter & Dog Walker

  • Median Salary: $21,260
  • Salary Range: $17,160 to $34,780
  • Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

Kennel attendants, pet sitters and dog walkers care for pets while owners are traveling or unavailable. The highest-paid workers usually earn up to $34,780 a year. Those who work in states including Hawaii, California and Rhode Island usually earn the most.

How to Become One: Generally, most kennel attendants, pet sitters and dog walkers must a obtain a minimum of a high school diploma. They learn additional skills on the job. Most employers prefer candidates to have previous experience taking care of pets. Those who work in kennels or shelters can learn more about the job by taking classes through the Humane Society of the United States and the American Humane Association. Pet sitters can obtain additional education through the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. The organization offers courses, such as caring for parrots, dogs and dealing with pet behavioral issues.

3. Veterinary Assistant

  • Median Salary: $24,360
  • Salary Range: $18,060 to $36,690
  • Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

Veterinary assistants work in a clinic or animal hospitals, helping veterinarians care for animals. They are responsible for helping veterinarians with routine tasks. The best-paid veterinarian assistants earn $36,690 a year. Those who work in states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine tend to earn the most.

How to Become One: If you want to become a veterinary assistant, you should at least have a high school diploma. It also doesn’t hurt to love animals. Most veterinary assistants learn their trade on the job. Certification isn’t required, but it may help you get promoted or obtain an advanced position.

4. Laboratory Animal Caretaker

  • Median Salary: $24,360
  • Salary Range: $18,060 to $36,690
  • Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

Laboratory animal caretakers work in labs with animal scientists, biologists or veterinarians. They feed, care for and monitor the well-being of lab animals. The best-paid laboratory animal caretakers can earn as much as $36,690 a year. Those who work in states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine, earn the most.

How to Become One: Laboratory animal caretakers are required to at least have a high school diploma. Most laboratory animal caretakers learn their trade through on-the-job training. Certification isn’t required to become a laboratory animal caretaker, but some employers prefer it. Having a certification could also help you get promoted or obtain an advanced position.

5. Trainer

  • Median Salary: $26,610
  • Salary Range: $18,160 to $57,170
  • Minimum Qualifications: no formal education requirements

Animal trainers are responsible for training animals for tasks, such as riding, performance, obedience or assisting the disabled. They also help animals become more comfortable with human interaction. The highest-paid animal trainers can earn an annual salary of up to $57,170. Those who work in states such as Minnesota, New York and California can make the most money.

How to Become One: There are no formal education requirements to become an animal trainer. Those who work in the animal-training field usually receive on-the-job training. In addition, animal trainers can receive education through organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States.

6. Veterinary Technicians

  • Median Salary: $31,800
  • Salary Range: $21,890 to $47,410
  • Minimum Qualifications: an associate degree

Veterinary technicians perform medical testing with the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. They help diagnose an animal’s injury or illness. Veterinary technicians who are in the 90th percentile of earners take home an annual salary of more than $47,000. Those who work in states such as Alaska, Massachusetts and New York earn the most.

How to Become One: Those who desire to become veterinary technicians are required to complete a college-level program with the American Veterinary Medical Association. Candidates must enroll in either a two- or four-year program. Technicians are required to pass an exam and become registered, licensed or certified, depending on the state where they are employed.

7. Animal Control Worker

  • Median Salary: $33,450
  • Salary Range: $20,830 to $53,190
  • Minimum Qualifications: varies by location

Animal control workers help ensure the proper treatment of animals, investigate cases of mistreatment, and locate abandoned animals. Those who are among the top earners can make more than $53,000 a year. Animal control workers who work in states, such as Nevada, California and Washington, earn the most.

How to Become One: Animal control workers are required to have a minimum of a high school diploma or the equivalent. Additional training usually takes place on the job. The National Animal Care & Control Association offers training programs. In addition, some states require certification in animal control.

8. Conservation & Forest Technicians

  • Median Salary: $35,430
  • Salary Range: $25,430 to $54,860
  • Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

Conservation and forest workers keep track of wildlife, gather data, suppress forest fires and work to improve the health of forests. The top earners make more than $54,000 a year. Those who work in states such as Massachusetts, New York and Georgia earn the most.

How to Become One: A valid driver’s license and a high school diploma are the minimum requirements to become a forest and conservation worker. Most workers receive on-the-job training, such as the proper procedure for planting or thinning trees. They also learn how to safely operate and maintain forestry equipment. Some employers prefer candidates to have an associate degree in forestry technology or a related field. Programs should be accredited by the Society of American Foresters. In addition, some states require that employees receive training and sometimes obtain a license in the appropriate use of commercial pesticides.

9. Breeder

  • Median Salary: $39,380
  • Salary Range: $20,430 to $75,210
  • Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

Breeders select and breed animals according to characteristics and genealogy. The top earners make more than $75,000 a year. Those who work in Ohio, South Dakota and Kentucky earn the most.

How to Become One: Animal breeders are required to have a minimum of a high school education. In addition, breeders learn their skill through short-term on-the-job training. Those who want to breed zoo animals are required to have a bachelor’s degree in veterinary science and, depending on one’s career goals, postgraduate study in zoology.

10. Biological Technician

  • Median Salary: $41,650
  • Salary Range: $26,610 to $69,180
  • Minimum Qualifications: bachelor’s degree

Biological technicians help medical scientists in the laboratory. They are responsible for the setup, operation, and maintenance of laboratory equipment. They also monitor experiments. The top earners make more than $69,000 a year. Those who work in states, such as California, Connecticut and Massachusetts earn the most.

How to Become One: Biological technicians generally need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a similar field. Technicians must also acquire laboratory experience. In addition, it’s important to take computer classes because laboratories have computers and other high-tech equipment.

11. Zoologists & Wildlife Biologists

  • Median Salary: $59,680
  • Salary Range: $39,180 to $97,390
  • Minimum Qualifications: bachelor’s degree

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals and wildlife and how they interact with their environment. The top earners make more than $100,000 a year. Those who work in states such as Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island earn the most money.

How to Become One: A bachelor’s degree is necessary for those seeking entry-level positions. A master’s degree is usually required for advanced or scientific positions. Those who want to lead independent research or work at a university must have a doctoral degree.

12. Conservation Land Managers

  • Median Salary: $60,220
  • Salary Range: $37,380 to $91,830
  • Minimum Qualifications: bachelor’s degree

Conservation land managers work with conservation groups, landowners or other entities to protect specific wildlife and land. The top earners tend to make more than $90,000. Those who work in states such as Alaska, Rhode Island and New Jersey make the most money.

How to Become One: Conservation land managers must obtain a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, preferably in natural resource management. In addition, experience can be gained through internships and volunteer work. Some states require those desiring to become foresters to obtain a license.

This article originally appeared on The Cheat Sheet.

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5 Strategies to Help You Get the Salary You Want

Talking about money can be challenging and uncomfortable, but there are a few ways to rise above the awkwardness to help you get the salary you want.

Few moments in the career growth process are more satisfying than receiving a coveted job offer, though for many, the contentment is short-lived once the conversation turns to salary. The topic of money can be challenging and downright uncomfortable, but there are a few ways to rise above the awkwardness to secure the salary you feel you deserve. Here are five strategies to help you prepare for that moment.

1. Practice

While the average job applicant prepares for an interview, it’s easy to overlook what experts deem the more difficult portion of the hiring process: Salary negotiations.

“The best thing to do is practice, because it’s just like an interview; the more often you practice, the better off you’re going to be,” Lisa Andrews, Ph.D., a career services manager for the Certified Financial Planning Board of Standards, Inc., said. Andrews recommends going through a few scenarios, including “one where your offer is accepted right away and the handshake happens and everyone’s happy, one where the person pushes back on you and one where the person gives you a low offer and you really have to negotiate.”

“Practicing several scenarios over and over is definitely going to help you have a very successful negotiation because you will have already said the words out loud,” Andrews said. “When you do that and you hear yourself saying it, you’re going to become a more effective negotiator.”  

2. Research Your Worth

Nailing down your professional value is possible thanks to online recruiting and career databases. For example, in addition to location, services like Glassdoor can give job-seekers insight into compensation based on company, job title and experience level. If you crave specific salary parameters, it’s a good idea to put these types of online tools to work. Learning from your professional peers could help you gain insight during the negotiation process.

3. Use Social Science to Self-Advocate

Don’t allow the question of salary to catch you off guard. When asked what you’d like to earn, a Columbia Business School study suggests providing a “bolstering” range (i.e., your ideal salary as the minimum amount) to gain a competitive edge in the conversation. For example, if your ideal salary is $80,000, the co-authors of the study suggest proposing a small range of $80,000 to $85,00. This strategy allows you to bolster your potential earnings by placing your ideal income at the low end of the range.

Why is this method effective? According to Ames and Mason, it comes down to social norms. “… We posit a politeness effect: We believe that an unaccommodating counteroffer seems less polite in response to a range offer compared with a point offer, thereby leading to more conciliatory responses to range offers.”

Translation: Managers are likely to reward friendliness and flexibility in kind.

4. Gauge Your Flexibility

When deciding how flexible you plan to be, it’s important to remember that negotiations may include more than base salary. You might also consider how health benefits, paid time off, flexible spending, stock options, 401K, bonuses and other perks factor into the equation. How do these variables impact your willingness to negotiate base pay? Are you prepared to make concessions in one area to benefit another? Ask yourself these questions as you calculate your salary requirements.

5. Set Aside Emotion

The days following a job offer can be full of conflicting emotions, including fear.

“People tend to be weary of salary negotiation because they think that it may somehow disqualify them for a position they were just offered,” Andrews said.

If this is how you’re feeling, you aren’t alone in your trepidations. A Salary.com survey found that only 37% of employees always negotiate salary, while 18% avoid the topic entirely. Those who don’t negotiate salary may be forfeiting years of long-term earnings according to Margaret A. Neale, a Stanford University professor specializing in business negotiation.

“Suppose that at age 22 an equally qualified man and woman receive job offers for $25,000 a year,” Neale said. “The man negotiates and gets his offer raised to $30,000. The woman does not negotiate and accepts the job for $25,000. Even if each of them receives identical 3% raises every year throughout their careers, by the time they reach age 60 the gap between their salaries will have widened to more than $15,000 a year.”

In Neale’s example, failing to negotiate during the initial interview would cost the woman $361,171 over the course of 38 years; a sizable — and perhaps, unnecessary — sacrifice.

When your financial security is at stake, it’s a good idea to leave emotion at the door. Rely on your research and professional qualifications to communicate with enthusiasm instead.

[Editor’s Note: It’s important to remember that many employers review a version of your credit reports as part of the application, so it’s a good idea to know where yours stands. You can view a free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.]

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Here’s A Quick Way to Find Out if You’re Getting Paid Enough

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“Am I earning what I deserve?” It’s the question every worker has asked herself at least once. How do you know you’re being paid fairly given your experience and what your peers are earning? You could ask around the office, but even in 2016, salary discussions are still a taboo topic around the water cooler.

Jobs marketplace Glassdoor.com has developed a new tool to help employees estimate their own job market value. The “Know Your Worth” tool is intended to help you cut through the fog, and get a pretty decent estimate of your true earning potential.

“[Know Your Worth] is all about empowering people to do their research and really know what their market value is,” Scott Dobroski, a spokesperson for Glassdoor, told MagnifyMoney. Dobroski said Glassdoor hopes the release of the tool will encourage employers to be more transparent with their employees about how their pay is determined.

How It Works

The “Know Your Worth” tool is free to use. The tool ask for five pieces of information: your title, employer, salary, location, and years of work experience. The tool then uses an algorithm to tell you the median base salary you could earn in your location — and, most important, whether you’re overpaid or underpaid and by how much.

The market value estimates are not perfect, and everyone will not be able to get a result from the tool, Glassdoor admits. The company relies on millions of pieces of data collected from Glassdoor users over the years, as well as its own proprietary research of supply and demand for jobs in a range of fields.

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Who the Tool Is Best For

The tool has its limitations. So far, the Mill Valley, Calif.-based company says it has enough data to deliver results to roughly 55% to 60% of the U.S. workforce. However, the tool will “learn” more as more Glassdoor users continue to submit their salary and job information.

“An employee should not see [their results] and just go and ask for more money,” Dobroski said.

MagnifyMoney asked about a dozen workers in various cities across the U.S. to test-drive the beta version of the tool. The majority of workers, each of whom requested to remain anonymous, were able to get estimates successfully. Two workers were told the tool could not offer them a market value yet — one, a 23-year-old landscaper based in Atlanta, Ga., and the other, a 31-year-old hospital scheduling specialist in Onalaska, Wis.

One person who used the tool, a project supervisor working in New York, N.Y., said he was surprised by his results. Based on his market value, the Glassdoor tool informed him he was underpaid by 3.3%.
“I thought I was overpaid,” said the worker. Another worker, an entry-level sales representative in Buckhead, Ga., said he was surprised by his results as well. The tool alerted him that he was underpaid by 7.2%. He balked.

“I know what my peers make because we all graduated with the same degrees and went into sales with different companies,” said the worker, 24. “My base [salary] is the highest among the people I know.”
People with more straightforward and common job titles in more densely populated cities might have an easier time getting accurate results.

“I would definitely use this tool before my next interview,” said Jazmine Calhoun, a 24-year-old freelance writer based in Atlanta. “It was an effective tool for the millennial just starting to enter the workforce without knowledge of their true value.”

As the tool gathers new data, it will update your market value on a weekly basis. Your market value is also plotted on a 12-month chart. Logically, it should go up as time goes on and you gain more job experience, but shifts in supply and demand for your given field could also alter your market value.
You can also compare your “worth” to the median pay that others receive for doing similar work in your area.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

It’s free

Who doesn’t like free things? To top that, no cost makes the tool a good fit for a cash-strapped individual looking for a simple way to get a rough estimate of their market value.

You can use the tool to weigh potential job offers

One of the tricky parts about salary negotiations is knowing how much or how little to ask for. If you have multiple offers, you might be able to use the Glassdoor tool to find out if one job’s offer is on par with what people in your field and at your experience level are currently earning. If it’s way low, you might want to ask for more or at least do more research.

You can apply directly to better-paying jobs
The results page presents you with the salaries and links to apply for jobs with similar titles in your location, or for jobs that might be a common next move for those in your field. That could be helpful if you’re thinking of making a career shift soon.

A 21-year-old assistant media planner at an advertising agency in New York discovered she was underpaid by 24%, but wasn’t surprised. “I was warned of my company’s low salary rates, but I was striving to get my foot in the industry door,” she said.

Cons:

Missing about 40%-45% of occupations
As we mentioned, at this time the tool can only give an estimated market value for about 55% to 60% of the U.S. workforce. If the tool can’t give you your market value, try using Glassdoor’s salary explorer instead. This tool lets you play with a variety of pay factors and other types of jobs in the market.

Doesn’t factor in compensations or other benefits
All of the other things that go into a person’s pay such as bonus compensations or benefits aren’t considered in the calculation, so the base pay may not be reflective of the total compensation a worker gets. Perhaps you are underpaid on your base salary, but you are given generous benefits like a 401(k) match, 100% employer-paid health care, or several months’ paid maternity and paternity leave. Those benefits have true monetary value that can add to your base salary.

Glassdoor says as the learning algorithm gets smarter it plans to add variables like benefits to the model.

No cost of living comparison
There’s a feature on the bottom of the results page that lets you tinker with your inputs to see what you would be paid if you lived in another city, or had more job experience, etc. It gives you a base pay estimate, but doesn’t reflect the city’s cost of living to give an idea of whether or not your lifestyle would change if you moved. For now, you can use PayScale’s Cost of Living Calculator to get around that.

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Final Verdict

The tool is a great starting point for those who are looking to negotiate their pay or who are on the job hunt currently. But it shouldn’t be the only factor you consider before you decide to ask for more pay or switch jobs. Ask colleagues or mentors for guidance about how much you should expect to earn. Also, ask your employer or human resources department for information about how raises and promotions typically work, ideally before you take the job. Some employers have more structured salary guidelines than others.

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not knowing that you are underpaid is enough motivation to ask for a raise or switch jobs. A lot of the time, that decision could depend on whether or not you like your job, as it did for a 22-year-old project manager working in Santa Monica, Calif. The tool said he was underpaid by 20%, but it wasn’t enough to scare him off. The company has been struggling financially, but he’s happy enough with his current job to stick around.

“I feel like I haven’t learned everything from this job just yet,” he said. “I have a lot to learn from all of the people that are above me in [management] positions that are like mine before I move on to the next thing.”

The post Here’s A Quick Way to Find Out if You’re Getting Paid Enough appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

6 Ways to Get Paid What You’re Worth

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Although your net worth isn’t a factor in credit scoring, it does influence your ability to purchase necessities, pay bills and keep your accounts current.

For some professionals, the topic of salary can be more uncomfortable than the interview itself. A Salary.com survey revealed that 18% of job candidates don’t negotiate annual compensation at all, sacrificing the potential for greater earnings and career satisfaction. While there are limits to every job offer, there are a few strategies that could help you in the negotiation process.

1. Improve Your Resume

Learning what skills employers in your industry are looking for is one of the first steps toward earning higher pay. Review open positions online and create a list of common requirements. Research desirable credentials and think about highlighting the skills you have that meet these requirements. You might even consider earning a higher degree or certification to solidify your skills.

2. Avoid Specific Salary Requirements

Do your best to resist the urge to list a specific figure requirement on an application unless pressed. If you must, you might want to write “competitive” or “negotiable” to keep the conversation open. Disclosing your salary history can also lead to fewer bargaining options. In fact, earlier this year, Massachusetts passed state legislation prohibiting employers from considering past salaries in their hiring practices. It’s a good idea to discuss your workplace merits and skills before discussing money.

3. Consider Your Local Market Value

Location is a vital component of earning potential. According to Glassdoor.com, the average salary for a senior-level mechanical engineer in Chicago is $85,601, while the same position in Seattle yields $134,127. Consider cost of living and your own market value during the negotiation process. Your research will help you set realistic expectations.

4. Prepare a Counter-Offer

It’s a good idea to assess your worth and have an amount in mind that you can use for a counter-offer if you don’t like the first offer a company gives you. Make sure you consider base salary, benefits, signing bonuses, vacation time and other perks. It’s a good idea to make the counter-offer higher than what you’d settle for to give you negotiation room. Mutual flexibility is key here.

5. Share Your Ideas

An effective way to demonstrate value is to come prepared with ideas to help productivity. Research the company’s work and create a list of tasks you would like to complete if hired for the role. Early initiative shows enthusiasm and creativity, two qualities worth consideration during salary discussions.

6. Avoid Limiting Your Job Search

Salary negotiation is easier with a little competition. Pursue multiple job openings with the hope of securing more than one offer. It may be helpful to use competing salaries as leverage to land the position you prefer.

Preparing in Every Way

Many employers look at a version of your credit reports as part of the application process. It may not have a direct impact on your salary, but it’s still a good idea to know where your credit stands so you go into every interview as prepared as possible (which will likely only boost your value to your potential employer). You can see where your credit currently stands by taking a look at a free snapshot of your credit report, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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The Places With the Highest Paychecks

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Poor? You’re Going to Pay More for Car Insurance, Research Finds

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Lower-income individuals may be paying more for car insurance, according to recent research by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

“Insurance companies are penalizing good drivers by hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars each year based on economic and social status, and the end result is that the poor pay more, much more,” J. Robert Hunter, CFA’s director of insurance, said in a press release.

According to the study, those who have a higher economic status pay an average of $1,144 for car insurance each year, while premiums increased about 59% (to $1,825 each year) for those with a lower economic status.

Methodology

The study looked at the five factors most insurance providers use to give an insurance quote that can help determine economic status: education level, occupation, marital status, homeownership status and whether they have owned a car for the past six months.

From there, the CFA used the online portals for the five largest auto insurers in the nation — Allstate, Farmer’s, Geico, Progressive, and State Farm — to get quotes for a typically-mandatory basic liability car insurance policy in 15 major U.S. cities.

The research team established four different hypothetical personas used to apply for these policies: two men and two women who had opposing socio-economic characteristics, but were the same age, drove the same car, lived at the same address and had the same good driving record.

For example, “Female A” is a bank executive with a master’s degree, owns a home, is married, and has had car insurance coverage with the same provider for three years. Her counterpart, “Female B,” is a bank teller with a high school degree, is a renter, hasn’t had a car for the past six months (so no auto insurance), and is single.

According to the CFA study, two drivers with the same driving record and living at the same house paid two different premiums — the one who had a characteristic of a lower economic status paid higher premiums 92% of the time.

Breaking it Down by Provider & Location

The study found that four of the nation’s largest five auto insurers often charged 40% to 92% more (about $600 to $900 annually) to drivers because of their lower economic status, despite having perfect driving records.

Allstate and Farmer’s Insurance were found to charge the largest increases due to lower economic status drivers, CFA said, with increases of $915 and $900 respectively. Neither of these providers immediately responded to Credit.com’s request for comment about the study.

State Farm was found to have the smallest increase in rates for lower economic status drivers at $217 more each year, CFA said.

Geico, Progressive and State Farm also did not immediately respond to request for comment on the study. Neither did the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group.

Drivers in Queens, New York; Jersey City, New Jersey; Boston, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Houston and Jacksonville, Florida, saw the highest added expenses, with lower economic status drivers paying an average of more than $700 more each year, the study said.

Los Angeles reported the smallest difference in policy fees between lower-income and higher-income applicants, at $80 per year. This is due to California’s consumer protection laws, which prohibits providers from asking all of the non-driving related questions used in this report, except for marital status.

Applying for Car Insurance

During a tele-press conference on Monday morning, Hunter and Doug Heller, the co-authors of the study, acknowledged that their study did not factor in how a customer’s credit score would alter a premium. When filling out the application for the premium, they did not provide a Social Security number, so the credit scoring was left at a default setting for all policies.

Heller said he felt that if they had factored in credit scores, “it would have made [the discrepancies] a lot worse.”

Before you shop around for car insurance, it’s a good idea to find out where your credit stands. (You can take a look at two of your credit scores for free, updated each month, on Credit.com.) If you discover your scores aren’t up to snuff, you may be able to repair your credit by doing things like paying down high credit card balances and disputing any errors you discover on your reports.

[Offer: Denied from a loan? It may be because of a low credit score due to errors on your report. Lexington Law can help you navigate the credit repair process so you can get back on track. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

More on Auto Loans:

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Is Grad School Worth It?

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Q. I’m thinking of going back to school for my Master’s, but I’m not sure my eventual higher salary will be high enough to make it worth it. How can I decide? — Potential student

A. Going beyond four years of college can be a costly endeavor, and you’re correct to view it as an investment.

Like any investment, there are risks, and you need to determine if this one is worth it.

“We find ourselves in a time when undergraduate degrees have become the equivalent of the high school diploma of the past,” said Steven Gallo, a certified public accountant with U.S. Financial Services in Fairfield, New Jersey. “It seems that graduate school has become a necessity for anyone trying to get ahead in the workplace, the problem being the cost and ultimately the return on your investment.”

In an effort to make the calculation, Gallo said you need to do some research.

Start by looking at your field of study. Compare the average salary difference between candidates with undergraduate degrees and those with a Master’s degree.

Braden Schipke, a certified financial planner with The GenWealth Group in Maplewood, New Jersey, said you should determine a reasonable salary increase after completing your degree. Then, use the salary level, along with a yearly percentage increase for annual raises, to project how much you would make each year until you retire.

“Adding all of the salary figures up will give you an idea of your future lifetime earnings potential,” Schipke said. “Now perform the same exercise using your current salary to project your future lifetime earnings without the degree. Does the difference between the two figures justify the additional cost for your added education?”

You also need to take a look at the actual tuition and associated expenses, like off-campus housing, required to obtain your Master’s degree, Gallo said.

Don’t only look at the tuition costs, but examine the cost to borrow the funds, including the interest rate. If you have the funds saved, Gallo said, you need to examine the opportunity cost of using those savings to pay for your degree rather than having the funds invested.

Gallo said you should be sure to consider the related costs such as time commitment and earnings lost due to time spent on studies and class time. This obviously would vary depending on whether you are planning on attending school on a full- or part-time basis, he said.

Once you have all this information, Gallo said, it becomes a mathematical calculation to come up with the potential return on investment (ROI).

Don’t forget to include the intangible costs involved as well, such as time away from family or friends and the ever-changing job market, Gallo said.

Finally, consider your age and how long you plan to work, Schipke said.

“Generally speaking, it pays to have more working years until retirement so you can realize a greater benefit from a salary increase,” he said.

[Editor’s Note: Remember, your credit should be be in tip-top shape before you apply for a loan, including any private student loans you may be considering. You can see where you stand by checking your two free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com.]

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