WASHINGTON — Any driver will tell you that the rearview mirror is vital. Looking back can help you avoid problems as you move forward.

I believe the same is true for personal finance. So here’s a look back at some of the financial stories I wrote about this past year and how they can help you in 2016.

 Major credit-card issuers began giving consumers free access to their credit score. This piece of information is key not just to getting credit but to securing an apartment, good insurance rates, a job or even a security clearance. If you’re shopping for a credit card, look for a bank that offers this benefit.

The Obama administration abandoned a plan to take away a generous tax break for college savings. President Obama had proposed to start taxing the earnings in 529 plans. Currently, such earnings grow tax-deferred and are exempt from federal income tax if used to pay for qualified higher-education expenses. In initially defending its proposal, the administration argued that 529 plans benefit a lot of high-income families who don’t need the tax break. As I wrote, painting these accounts as a tax haven for the rich sent the wrong message about a great way for families of all income levels to save for college. You can learn more about 529 plans at savingforcollege.com.

The Internal Revenue Service spent the year warning folks about telephone calls or emails from people pretending to be from the agency. The scammers typically try to pressure people into sending money for bogus tax bills. The 2016 tax season is not far away and this scam probably won’t go away. Don’t get swindled. Go to IRS.gov and search for “IRS Urges Public to Stay Alert for Scam Phone Calls.”

Thomas J. Stanley died. He, along with William D. Danko, wrote “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy.” Stanley and Danko’s research contributed so much to the field of personal finance by showing that ordinary folks can achieve extraordinary wealth. In a live online chat with my readers and me in 2010, Stanley wrote: “The social pressure from colleagues, friends to spend is enormous. Add to that the pressure from marketers, and it’s hard to believe that anyone saves money today. It’s really hard to remain frugal. However, you have to think differently than the crowd and take pride in doing so. As many financially successful people have told me, you must constantly focus on where you’re going versus what others are spending.” If you haven’t already, read “The Millionaire Next Door.”

An agreement was reached between the three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian – and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that could address people’s aggravation with correcting errors in their credit reports. The bureaus introduced the “National Consumer Assistance Plan,” a nationwide effort that includes a number of initiatives such as training employees to review consumers’ disputes involving fraud, identity theft or mixed-up information. The changes are slated to happen over the next three years. In the meantime, have you gotten your free credit reports this year? If not, go to annualcreditreport.com.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that a remake of the $10 bill will include a portrait of a woman. But whose will it be? You can still suggest your choice on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram by using the hashtag #TheNew10, or by going to www.thenew10.treasury.gov.

The Labor Department beat back assaults to a proposal that could go a long way to reduce excessive fees and conflicts of interest when advisers make recommendations for retirement accounts. Currently, an investment adviser who has a “fiduciary duty” must act in the best interests of clients. Investment professionals who are not fiduciaries don’t have to adhere to this standard. Instead, the law says they only have to make sure their advice is “suitable” for the client. At stake are billions of dollars in retirement assets. Many in the financial services industry don’t want the rule to be implemented, so there’s sure to be continuing opposition in 2016. It’s in your best interest to learn more about the fiduciary rule, and you can do so at www.dol.gov/ProtectYourSavings.

The Federal Reserve increased interest rates for the first time in almost 10 years. The decision means it’ll cost you more to borrow other people’s money. As you head into the new year, set a goal to reduce your debt – all of it.

Spend some time catching up on what happened in 2015 so that you’re better prepared for the year to come.

Michelle Singletary can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: SingletaryM

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