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Auto Insurance

Do I Have to Report My Fender Bender?

Knight Kiplinger answers your ethics questions about reporting an auto accident and trading stocks.

I recently caused a small fender bender. No one was injured, no policeman was summoned, and I readily accepted responsibility. I told the other driver I'd rather pay him directly for the minor damage to his car (less than $500) and not put the claim through my insurer. He went along with this but seemed to feel as if I was acting a little shady. Your thoughts, please.

Auto insurers require you to report all accidents, even if no claim is filed, and they may take the report into account when pricing your policy renewal. But some consumer activists (with whom I agree) would not consider your conduct unethical -- if you have a good driving record and you believe that you are a safe driver.

I sympathize with your not wanting to be unduly penalized for one small, careless mistake. Just don't make a habit of it.

My friend boasts that she gets great stock tips from her full-service broker, then buys the shares through a deep-discount online brokerage. What do you think about this?


I think it's pretty shabby. Her broker is entitled to be compensated for the advice, either by commissions or a wrap fee (a percentage of the assets in her account). She should trade the recommended stock purchases with the full-service firm and use her online account only for trading stocks that she selects on her own.

Have a money-and-ethics question you'd like answered in this column? Write editor in chief Knight Kiplinger at