Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Today Is The Day Of Internet Radio Silence

Friday, June 15, 2007

If you could only have one Bookmark, make it Consumerist

But if you have 2, make the second www.moneyorbust.com.

Seriously, we all have just a little downtime everyday. I unequivocally recommend everyone read the consumerist. These folks work tirelessly to bring important news about evil companies and shine a light on good companies. (Not much light is really available.)

So give them a try... www.consumerist.com.

Creative Financing Doesn't Pay

Let me put it this way.... if the finance person across the table has to be "creative" to get you a loan, the bank doesn't think you will be able to re-pay it! If the bank, who's job it is to deal with money, doesn't think so... maybe you should reconsider!?

A report just came out from the Boston Globe that shows May Foreclosures were up 90% in May. Rest assured, if it was a different time those same customers that are now closing would have never got a loan... but thankfully they were shown the "creative light" and lead to the devil under the A.R.M. of the finance guy.

Here is what you need to know. When you go to buy a car/house/sofa, it is in the dealership/mortgage lender/furniture store's best interest to make the sale happen. Once you leave the building they get paid from the lender for the item you buy. THEY DON'T CARE IF YOU CAN PAY FOR IT!!! They are going to lie, cheat, steal, and get you to find a co-signer to make the sale happen so they get paid. I repeat, they simply DO NOT CARE if you can actually make the payments.

Of course, the solution, pay cash for everything. But when that isn't feasible remember these few things...
  1. If you can't afford to buy it, but will be able to afford it in the next 3 years you can probably wait and save the money yourself.
  2. If you have to get a loan, try to get it from somewhere different than the place you are buying the product. Go to your credit union and get preapproved for your Car Purchase. Don't go to the mortgage company your realtor recommends. NEVER USE STORE CARDS.
  3. If your lender has to be "creative" to finance you, you can't afford it. Examples of creativity are: need of a co-signer (even your spouse), need for a non-standard loan such as A.R.M. or balloon payments, need for multiple loans (cards or mortgages) to cover the entire purchase.
  4. Finally, as Dave Ramsey says, "90 Days is not the Same As Cash." Finance promotions are a RIP OFF. They are designed to make you mess up!!! Think about it, why would they give you money to use for free?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Gas Prices

Yesterday the US House of Representatives passed a bill giving the Federal Trade Commission power to investigate the Oil company profits. President Bush's Admistration says they will veto any such bill if it passes the Senate.

The representative that introduced this bill, Bart Stupak, D-Mich., should be commended for his hard work on this issue. On his website he says this...

While consumers are being forced to pay up to $3.00 a gallon for gasoline, oil companies continue to reap record profits. Last year, Exxon Mobil posted $36 billion in profits, the largest profit for any corporation in United States history. Moreover, over the past year, refineries have increased their prices 255 percent. As these profits increase, so does the potential for price gouging.

When talking about refinery profits, economists refer to the “crack spread,” which is the price difference between a barrel of crude oil and an equal amount of refined gasoline. Typically, a crack spread of $4-5 per barrel will cover a refinery’s costs. Anything over this amount is usually profit, although this can differ from one refinery to another. If a refinery has a crack spread of $8-9 per barrel, economists consider this spread as a good, consistent profit. It has been estimated that refineries’ current crack spreads are as much as $20 to $30 per barrel. Refinery companies are raking in these excessive profits at the expense of working Americans. This is price gouging, and Congress should give the Federal Trade Commission the tools to investigate these profits and prosecute those refineries that engage in unfair practices.

Read The Whole Article

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Student Loans

One thing is for sure, when I started college I had no idea how BIG of a part my student loans were going to play in my first 10 years of life. Most 17-18 year old students applying for loans have no idea that when they choose a vendor they are choosing who to marry for the next 10-15 years.

Most student loan companies are scum, many will:
God Forbid you default:

  • Your interest rates more than double
  • Refer you to a collection agency... who will violate your rights
  • Forbid you from consolidating
  • Offset all of your tax refunds (steal them back, legally)
  • Garnish your wages without a COURT ORDER!
You see if you are a loan company you want to be in the student loan business because the loans are guaranteed by the US Government. If you fail to pay, they can get the money by the government. And since the Government is cheap when it comes to they will get their money!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Forever Stamp

Today starts the Forever Stamp and the new 41 Cents Per stamp rate hike. Also, there are new rules about how THICK an envelope may be... must be under 1/4"... failure to do so will result in a fee for not being flat machineable. (80 cents instead of 41 on a First Class Stamp)

So, go on out there and pickup your new stamps. Wahoo! $20 says there will be some type of "emergency" rate hike before the year ends due to gas prices... stay tuned.

BTW, UPS raised their "Fuel Surcharge" on May 7th from 3.5% to 4%.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Trapped like a Lobster...

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about, "Are You Financially Ready?" And I know this is a money blog, but I think it is important to point out some changes in our borders that recently happened. As of December 2006, you pretty much need a passport to enter the country, no matter from witch country you travel.

In other words, if there were a national emergency, you needed to leave the country and you didn't already have your passport you will be waiting in line behind all those who didn't plan either!!!

My recommendation, even if you don't plan on entering or exiting the country anytime soon... get a passport. These booklets are excellent forms of identification in the case of an emergency, often times used as backup or primary sources of ID!

What you need to know:

  • If you have never applied before you will need to apply in person.
  • You fill out the form online, print it out... DO NOT SIGN IT!!!!
  • You will need to present proof of US Citizenship (Birth Certificate)
  • You will need to provide Proof of Identity (Drivers License)
  • Two identical photos of you (Walgreens/Kinkos - Cost around $15)
  • $97.00 (Check/Money Order)
  • Go to a "Passport Acceptance Facility" (Usually a Post Office)
  • You can check the status.
If you haven’t received your passport and are traveling within the next 7 days... call or email the National Passport Information Center.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Financial Peace University - Dave Ramsey

I am going to be a table leader at the upcoming Financial Peace University at Westside Family Church in Lenexa, KS. The class I will be at is on Tuesday nights starting in June. (See information below) I am sure that you might have heard our Dave Ramsey story before, so I'll tell you a new one.

This week, my Jeep's starter went out. In the past, my life would have been devistated with the repair costs. I would have put off the repair until I had the money. I would have had trouble sleeping because I knew that I was going to bounce checks. I would have put the repair on my credit card.

Today though, I live a different life. Even though I still have not completed all the steps from Financial Peace University, I plan on doing so soon. Thanks to these steps, my wife and I have $1000 in an emergency fund plus another $500 in a car emergency fund. It was no big worry when the car didnt start. This time I procrastinated getting it repaird because I wasn't concerned, not because I didn't have the money. It's an wierd feeling to no longer worry about car issues... I like being weird!

Financial Peace University
91 Days To Beat Debt & Build Wealth!

FPU is a video driven 13-week life-changing program that empowers and teaches you how to make the right money decisions. To achieve your financial goals and expirence a total money makeover. It will be offered on site at Westside Family Church. Material cost is $96.25 (couples share) and should be ordered through the church since the materials are more expensive direct from Dave Ramsey. See a Video

Lenexa Campus - 8500 Woodsonia Drive
1. Sundays beginning June 3 from 6:30 to 8:30PM (Orientation on May 20 at 6:30 PM)
2. Tuesdays beginning June 5 from 7:00 to 9:00PM (Orientation on May 22 at 7:00PM)

Overland Park Campus - WFC Offices at 9154 W 135th St
Sundays beginning June 3 from 7:00 to 9:00PM (Orientation on May 20 at 7:00PM)

For More information visit Dave Ramsey's Website or Westside Family's registration page if you are ready to register. Also, you may contact Niki Ezzell at nezzell@westsidefamilychurch.com or 913-890-4243.

How Much Money is in the Federal Reserve?

Trick question! The Federal Reserve System is neither Federal nor a Reserve! The Federal Reserve system was developed in secret by the BANKing industry and DELIVERED to congress for approval over many years of legislation and lobbying.

The Federal Reserve loans money to "member banks" so that they can lend more money than they actually have in reserve. The Federal Reserve chairman can produce more or less money as well as increase or lower interest rates charged to the "member banks." Doing these two things can help control inflation.

Inflation is the DEVALUATION of the dollar so that consumer good's prices seem to appear to increase. Inflation is caused by the basic economic principle of Supply and Demand. The more money available to the public, the less valuable it is.
Little known fact: When the government needs money to fund things like the war, they can go to the Federal Reserve Chairman and request those funds. The chairman then writes a check to the US Treasury for the amount needed and CREATES those dollars. Thus flooding the market with money that did not exist the day before.

3 Common Money Floods: (Causes of Inflation)
  • As stated previously, borrowing by the government.
  • Borrowing by the "member banks". Member banks can loan up to 9 times for every actual dollar they have in reserve. So, if they choose to streatch their dollar, they are actually creating dollars for the loan.
  • Frozen Money. Money is frozen for many reasons; stuck in retirement funds, overseas in government vaults, savings by businesses for trade.
When you hear these three things on the news, remember, it's your TAX dollar that is paying for these! When we as a nation are at the highest national debt ever, you and I are being taxed. When the US citizens have more debt than ever, you and I are being taxed. When China buys US debt, they are doing so to help the dollar (since we are their biggest importer), when they sell it... it will tax us. Inflation is a tax!

Most Americans have no understanding of inflation. My statements are not political, if we must go to war... then we must go, but do not under any circumstance believe that it's paid for by anyone but YOU!

It is important that if you are saving money that your savings plan has at least a 6% gain over the long term. (3% inflation plus 3% taxes) Failure to do this means you could be moving backwards by saving.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Gas Prices (First Post of Many)

Well... there are a milion issues when we talk about gas prices. While there are a ton of issues that effect Gas prices, the issues are all Supply and Demand related. Sometimes even a 1% possibility of a supply change will cause our pump prices to increase.

According to CNBC... Gas prices are at an all-time high, averaging over $3.07 per gallon, the previous record high was $3.03 on August 11, 2006.

Things to know about Gas:

  • There are two different supply chains.
    -The supply of Crude Oil from various sources including the Middle East.
    -The supply of refined Gasoline.
    This is the fundimental part most people don't understand. It is possible for us to have a great supply of oil and still not have enough refined gasoline, because that Crude oil is shipped to us and we have to convert it to gasoline for use.
  • While we blame the Middle East for many of our gas supply problems, in reality/as of late, our gas prices are more effected by local production.
  • When Crude Oil is refined, the oil is broken down into:
    -Natural Gas
    -Propane Gas
    -Automotive Gasoline (Liquid)
    -Kerosene (Liquid)
    -Jet Fuel (Liquid)
    -Disel Fuel (Liquid)
    -Industrial Fuel Oil (Liquid)
    So, when "gas prices" are up, usually all of the the above are effected in one way or another.
  • The gas in the pump has already been paid for, the price you pay is based on what the station owner believes they will be paying to replace the gas you take.
  • Supply and Demand says... When supply is up and demand stays the same, the price will go down. When deman is up and supply stays the same, the price will go up.
    In this graph, you can see that our demand [consumption - red line] is higher than last year's demand. Assuming that production is the same then, the prices must be higher than last year. (And they are) Graph: AG Edwards - Gasoline Chartbook - 05-02-2007 - Eric Wittenauer

Find Gas Prices in your Area at: Gasbuddy.com A cool new feature of the web site is the Gas Temperature Map.

When Will Gas Prices Affect Your Driving Habits?
When asked, “How high will gas prices need to get before you drastically alter the amount of driving you do?” 42% of respondents stated that they had already altered their driving, 25% said they would alter their driving at $4 per gallon, 20%stated they would alter their driving at greater than $5 per gallon and 13% said they would alter their driving at $5 per gallon.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Dave Ramsey Book Signing

Tonight there was a book-singing by Dave Ramsey. He is in town because he is having a live event on Saturday. We had him sign our Financial Peace University book for us.

Lotto Winner goes from $5.5 Million to Broke

Lotteries, two big problems. I've had the debate a million times with a friend of mine, you know who you are.

Lotteries target people who are poor at managing money, it's not the amount of money you have... it's your ability to live within your means.
Lotteries target people who are bad at math. Odds are you aren't going to win!

So, let's look at the first, "Lotteries target people who are poor at managing money." We know this because if you investigate the numbers, the average person who plays the lottery spends $35 a month. Anyone who is good at money management would never spend this amount for no return. (Just the chance of a return.)

An article appeared on April 30 JS Online about a guy who won $5.5 million dollars in the lottery has now had to sell his house and lives on a pension because he's broke.

His fiscal downfall followed what has emerged as something of a pattern among lottery winners nationally: Someone with little training in dealing with vast sums of money gets a sudden windfall, only to see it tumble maddeningly into the wind.

The second, $35 into a growth stock mutual fund monthly over a 40 year time span will give you a Million Dollars EVERY TIME! Why would you spend that money on the "hope".

Dave Ramsey says... "If people were good at math, they wouldn’t be in debt in the first place." This is also a case where Dave's "selling crock pots, not microwaves."
JS Online - Lottery winner blames bad advice for his losses

Thursday, May 3, 2007

When reducing mail don't forget about Charitiable Giving

If you have ever sent a gift to a charity or non-profit orginization you know that you will get soliticitations and "updates" from them until you die. I ran across a blog post today from USA Today where the author suggests...
"Try Internet giving sites. Network for Good and Justgive.org are non-profit groups that process online donations to thousands of charities. Both websites let you make anonymous contributions to the charity of your choice."

"Make privacy a condition of your gift. Look for charities that have a written policy stating that they won't sell or trade your information. Some charities let donors "opt out" of receiving solicitations. "

Either way, I suggest you always be careful when giving out your personal information, getting on the wrong list could make your phone ring for years.

What my wife and I do is practice cheerful giving while not telling the complete truth. (God is understanding.) We have a fake phone number we use for all of our bills, utilities, credit, movie rentals, and chairties. We use the same number so its easy to re-reference us by our phone number... you just can't call us there. We also each have a junk e-mail address.

USA Today Blog - Charitable givers can kiss a lot of junk mail goodbye if they're careful

Also, see this previsous post on Reducing Mail and Telemarkers.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

When was the last time you READ your Bills?

The Wall Street Journal had a blog post yesterday by Nathan Koppel about a Sanford Professor that did a study about billing abuse by attorneys. He pulled 5000 attorneys and found that many of them pad the bills and preform "unnecessary" tasks to bump up the rate.

Ross polled 5,000 attorneys from various walks of life throughout the country, and 251 responded. He worked with Reed Business Information to generate a random sampling of lawyers who work at law firms. Two-thirds said they had “specific knowledge” of bill padding ─ a finding virtually identical to one reached by Ross in a 1995 billing survey. Also, 54.6% of the respondents (as compared with 40.3% in 1995) admitted that they had sometimes performed unnecessary tasks just to bump up their billable output.

Now this post is about Attorneys, but really... how often do you read your bills in detail? Do you know what your credit card rates are, would you know if they changed one month? Do you know what your banking fees are and if you were charged $2 extra for "POS Debit Fee" would you have any idea if you were supposed to?

Having worked in the phone industry, doing contract negotiation, I know that many of the "regulatory fees" are actually phone company charges that stay right in the phone companies pocket.

Chances are you are being ripped of by someone! You should read your bills in detail every month, often, if you pay the bill then you agreed to it's contents and getting credits for longstanding "mistakes" is very difficult.

My recommendation, start negotiating more of your bills. When you call and discuss your utility bills and what you can do to get it reduced you will learn a lot about what you're actually getting billed. Take this negotiation as an opportunity to learn about the business, the better educated you are the better you will understand how to protect your budget. And... think of it as a game, what's the worst that could happen?

Ask questions that have nothing to do with why you are calling... get out of your comfort zone... ask the phone rep if he is paid by the sale or just hourly. Ask if they get in trouble for discounting your bill. Ask if they have a record of how many credits they have already given you, even better, if they have a limit. (annual, monthly, daily, percent) All of these little tid-bits of information will drive you to better negotiate and better understand your bill so you won't get ripped off anymore.

I'll give you one more tip... read these... I know the bill you are negotiating might not be your cell phone bill but read these posts they will give you a real understanding about how customer service reps are paid and think.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Facts About Credit Cards

This article from Blueprint for Financial Prosperity offers some of the old history of Credit cards which still exist today. Extremely interresting read.

7. The Visa logo colors were chosen because the blue represented the sky and the gold represented color of the hills in California where Bank of America was founded.

13. Wonder why minimum payments are so low? It allows consumer to carry more debt while keeping to the same low minimum payment. You can give someone with the ability to pay $100 per month a credit limit as high as $5,000 if they only had to pay 2% a month. If the minimum payment were 5%, they could only have a credit limit of $2,000. The lower the minimum payment, the deeper in debt someone could be in.

Blueprint for Financial Prosperity

Are you ready for a Financial Emergency?

I wrote the title of this post and didn't realize exactly how extra ordinary that question is. Are you ready? Do you have your and your family's documents in place, an emergency plan, emergency stash of food and money? What would happen if, God forbid, your family was suddenly hit with an emergency and had to leave in a matter of minutes?

House Deed?
Birth Certficates?
Last Year's Taxes?

These are all items you would need to get your life re-set after a catastrophic event. Having this information ready for a split second move could mean the difference between waiting hours for aid or years.

My suggestion, my wife and i have a complete Emergency Financial First Aid Kit and we each have a Personal Disaster Preparedness Guide . As the operation hope website says...

The Emergency Financial First Aid Kit is a simple tool to help Americans minimize the financial impact of a natural disaster or national emergency. It helps users identify and organize key financial records and serves as a quick reference to their most important financial documents. The companion piece to the EFFAK is the Personal Disaster Preparedness Guide (PDPG) which guides individuals through the survival and recovery steps to be taken prior to an emergency.
Both of these premade forms are extremely enightening and will quickly make you aware of what financial information you do not have ready. Additionally, it will make you find documents that you don't regularly look for.

My recomendation, fill out the whole thing. Put all the supporting documents in a three ring binder and slicky inserts. Copy the entire thing twice. Keep one copy in a locked cabinet or locker at work. Give the other copy to a close relative or friend in a sealed envelope explaining that it has very detailed personal information in the case of an emergency. Retain the originals in a fireproof safe in your basement or in a safety deposit box. However, remember, you should keep a small amount of cash with this kit so if you choose a safety deposit box, find a good place to hide your emergency-emergency fund.

Operation Hope

Compound Interest

Question: Why are we so blind?
Answer: We were taught this way... P = C (1 + r/n) nt where P = future value, C = initial deposit, r = interest rate (expressed as a fraction: eg. 0.06), n = # of times per year interest in compounded, t = number of years invested

I mean really? Were we ever expected to actually use, apply, and remember for the future what this meant? This was taught between 4th and 6th grades. When you were 12 did you even have an understanding for credit or savings? When I was 22 I still didn't have an understanding for credit or savings.

You need to spend some time actually calculating this again now that you are an adult! You will be amazed what numbers really mean. Did you know that when you are saving, the difference between a 6% mutual fund preformance and a 12% mutual fund preformance is not DOUBLE!

Compound interest is a product of the banking industry. It is designed to confuse you and make their pockets bigger. If it wasn't, who in their right might mind would ever pay 18% interest to borrow money on a credit card, while they were only getting back 1.22% interest on their savings account?

Using this link, you can put a credit card balance in, the amount you owe and how much it will be worth if you pay minimum interest. (kind of) As well, you can put savings amount in, expected interest, and see where you will be.

Pictured, Albert Einstein explaining the rule of 72, it's a great picture but I am not sure Einstein is credited for this formula... I don't think picture is real. The rule of 72 is a quick way to find how many periods of time it takes for your money to double. (Or the banks debt on you.)

Dave Ramsey is Bad at Math or is He?

If you have ever done any Internet searches for Dave Ramsey, you know that an article appears called "Dave Ramsey is Bad at Math" from fivecentnickle.com. When I first read this article I did what most Dave Ramsey fans would do... I quoted Dave in my head...
It’s not about the math! If people were good at math, they wouldn’t be in debt in the first place.

To date, this article appears in searches for Dave Ramsey. The author has even done a follow up article where he explains how Dave Ramsey uses psychology. Both articles are good reads.

The author is correct, mathematically the debt snowball isn't the best way to pay off debt. But, in reality, most people won't stick with the plan unless they are motivated to do so.

Not familiar with Dave? Read my past posts. Try this online debt snowball calculator.

Drive Free. Retire Rich.

It's amazing the look you get when you tell people that you intend on living debt free. I actually had a person tell me that "in today's society, it is impossible to get ahead without debt." This would only be true if we were talking about my bank. Debt is a product (financial asset) for my bank, not me!

Check out this video from Dave Ramsey on how to get a free car... Drive Free. Retire Rich.

AAA Fuel Cost Calculator

So you are out of debt and deserve a trip. (Because you saved up for it.) How do you budget your fuel costs? The AAA has a new solution for you, a Fuel Cost Calculator.

Just enter your start and end point and then your type of vehicle.


PS. "That is one fine automobile."

Monday, April 30, 2007

One Day Blog Silence

One Day Blog Silence

Friday, April 27, 2007

United States National Debt

Thought you would find this interresting... we Americans really do have an affection for overspending. I'm not in it for the "who's the worst president" part, just the gross mismanagement by all really.

Steve McGourty - United States National Debt

Are You Debt Free?

You'll find out quickly that I am a fan of Dave Ramsey. While he may not use the best mathematics to determine what your best option, he knows people, he helps you pick the best option for YOUR life. If you haven't had a chance to listen to him on the radio, pick up one of his books, attend one of his classes, or see him live you really should do so.

My wife and I took the class as a recommendation from our Financial Advisor. I was talking to him one day and explaining my money problems and housing arrangement. I told him that my wife and I were wanting to purchase a house but our money was dictating what we could afford. (A very real statement.)

He said, "have you ever heard of Dave Ramsey?" He explained that he is actually one of Ramsey's "Endorsed Local Providers" and that people come to him for financial advise by referral from Ramsey, a radio money guru. He suggested I pick up his book or CDs and give him a try.

Shortly after that my wife and I took a trip to Iowa and listened to the first 4 CDs during the trip. We were amazed at how real Ramsey is and how much we were doing wrong. We decided then that starting September 1 our life was going to be on purpose. Today, we are not out of debt, but we have a fire in us to do so. Since that date we attend the Financial Peace University class at a local church and we have really come to love sharing the program.

Try listening to him free online, listen to him on the radio, read a book (you haven't done that in a while), attend a class, or go see him LIVE... it's a life changing experience.

If you have taken the class you might enjoy this link, a summary of his investing class.

PS. While it seems like I'm trying to sell you something here, you should know that I do not have advertisers and I am only posting this with your best interest in mind. In the interest of full disclosure, I do receive a gift card when you purchase books from Amazon.com through this site. I plan to use those gift cards to buy more books to evaluate for future posts. Thanks for your support.

Do Stores "Trick" You Into Spending?

I've worked in the Sales, inside/outside and retail, for over 10 years. There is no doubt that there are tricks into making customers purchase things they wouldn't have otherwise. The upsale is the biggest trick, getting you to spend additional dollars for a better product or an accessory.

MSN money did this article, "15 ways stores trick you into spending" where they describe the many ways you are "tricked". Very interresting as many do not realize how easy it is to manipulate the human mind.

Studies show that most customer's desire to turn right as they enter the store. So most stores will make you enter on the right side so you are forced to turn left causing you to be out of sync before you even get started.

2. Desirable departments are far away from the entrance. Most of the items I go to a department store to buy, such as light bulbs and laundry detergent, are located many, many aisles from the entrance. This means I spend my time walking by a lot of consumer goods on my way to find the item I want. Because these consumer goods are effectively marketed to me, there's a good likelihood that I'll spy something that I don't necessarily need and toss it in the cart.

6. Items that aren't on sale are sometimes placed as though they are on sale, without using the word "sale." I noticed this over and over with diapers; the department store would display a rack of them with a huge sign above them displaying the price, but it would be the same price I paid for them a week ago. Unsurprisingly, the diapers displayed like that were always the most expensive kind.
Just remember, it's their goal to get you to go past items many, many times because the more you pass them the more likely you are to "remember" it was something you "needed."

MSN Money - "15 ways stores trick you into spending"

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rising Credit Card Fees

Do you know what percent you pay on your credit card? Have you ever wondered why your APR is larger than the rate they show monthly? The APR is figured including all [well most] of the hidden fees that are also charged to you.

Not only is your monthly interest rate going up, your fees have doubled over the past 10+ years...

This article from MSN Moeny describes the different charges and the changes that have happened.

MSN Money - "Bank fees are more outrageous than ever"

Monday, April 16, 2007

Deleting Info From Your Credit Bureau

The fair credit reporting act gives specific measurements for how long a NEGATIVE item can stay on your credit report. Additionally, they leave POSITIVE items on indefinately. So through time is is possible to fix your credit yourself, as long as you don't keep messing up! (I'm working on posts on how to stop messing up.)

It is NOT true that a credit item can be "reactivated". A debt might be able to be "reactivated" with a court action, but the credit bureaus are a reporting agency and must abilde by the law. But that's the catch, the law says how and what they can report, unless you fix mistakes (50% of Americans have them) then items could stay on your credit forever!

Cleaning your credit...
  1. Change your bad habits, start paying on time. Fixing your credit is a waste if you are going to mess it up again. There should be a brightline where you move forward to fix your debt.

  2. Get your credit report. Why guess where you stand, when you can see the major reports completely free? www.annualcreditreport.com DO NOT GO ANYWHERE ELSE, THERE ARE MANY FRAUDLENT PLACES.

  3. Look for simple mistakes, dispute them. If the charge doesn't belong to you, dispute it, they will have to prove it does. Follow dispute information on the bureau website, they make it pretty easy to do now.

  4. Look for big mistakes. Put all of your negative items in a piece of paper. Calculate when the debt was FIRST deliquent.... use this list to determine what is out of "range". If it shouldn't be on there dispute it. In the credit world, you have the beneift of the doubt, they have to prove you are wrong.

    Delinquencies (30 – 180 days): Can remain seven years from the date of the initial missed payment.
    Collection accounts: Remain seven years from the date of the initial missed payment that led to the collection (the original delinquency date). When a collection account is paid in full, it will be marked "paid collection" on the credit report.
    Charged-off accounts: Remain seven years from the date of the initial missed payment that led to the charge off (the original delinquency date), even if payments are later made on the charged-off account.
    Closed accounts: Closed accounts are accounts that are no longer available for further use. Closed accounts may or may not have a zero balance. Closed accounts with delinquencies remain seven years from the date they are reported closed, whether closed by the creditor or by the consumer. Positive closed accounts remain 10 years.
    Lost credit card: If there are no delinquencies, credit cards that are reported lost will continue to be listed for two years from the date the card is reported lost. Delinquent payments that occurred before the card was lost are reported for seven years.
    Bankruptcy: Chapters 7, 11, and 12 remain for 10 years from the filing date. Chapter 13 remains seven years from the filing date. Accounts included in bankruptcy will remain seven years from the date they were reported as included in the bankruptcy.
    Child support judgments: Remain seven years from the date the judgment is filed.
    Civil and small claim judgments: Remain seven years from the date the judgment is filed.
    City, county, state, and federal tax liens: Unpaid tax liens remain 15 years from the filing date. Paid tax liens remain seven years from the paid date of the lien.
    Inquiries: Most inquiries listed on your credit report will remain for two years. All inquiries must remain for a minimum of one year from the date the inquiry was made. Some inquiries, such as employment or pre-approved offers of credit, will show only to you.

  5. Make a list of the items that should drop off of your credit over the next year. A year later, pull your credit report again (for free) and compare it making sure that the new items came off.

  6. While your past is important, the last 2 years is the most. Keep your credit clean and wipe off the old stuff... before you know it you'll be setting pretty to buy that house. (You don't need credit for anything else.)

As a final note, just because an item is no longer appearing on your credit report, you are responsible to pay it! It is only right to pay it, otherwise it is theft. But as a side note, an item may no longer be legally collectable if you have not had a court judgement within a certain period of time depending on what state you are in. (Statute Of Limitations) I'm not a lawyer, you'll have to investigate this yourself.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Junk Mail and Telemarketer Call Reduction

Do-Not-Call Registry
Telemarketers should not call your number once it has been on the registry for 31 days. You must enter each phone number you do not want to receive calls, recommend your office, home, fax, and each mobile number in your household. Your registration will be effective for five years.

  • www.donotcall.gov Or Call 888-382-1222
  • The do not call registry does not [technically] work for businesses; however, it is still recommended you put your office phone in because it will likely help to reduce calls anyway since most telemarketers want to clear themselves of all liability by clearing their call lists of the do not call phone numbers regularly.
  • Politicians are exempt from this program; they do not define themselves at telemarketers.
  • Companies you actively do business with can still call as well.

Credit Card Pre-approved Offers
Direct mail and credit companies generate mail based on demographics including zip code, income band and credit payment patterns. Credit bureaus make big money selling this information, information from your PRIVATE credit report without your direct consent. One call does it all for agencies Equifax, Trans Union, Experian and Innovis.

  • http://www.optoutprescreen.com/ Or Call 888-567-8688
  • You just need your address, former address within two years, and social security number. Each adult in the house will need to call.
  • You will be given a choice to opt out for five years or permanently. If you elect to opt out permanently, you will be mailed a Notice of Election from each credit bureau to Opt Out Permanently, which you must sign and return to activate your permanent opt-out. Even though your request becomes effective with within five days of your notification, it may take several months before you see a reduction in the amount of solicitations.
  • If you have a 17-18 year old in your home or someone underage who is already receiving credit solicitations, consider doing this with them also. Perhaps they will be less tempted to get credit cards their first few years of college if they do not get pre-approval letters.

Combat Your Creditors Directly

  • Be sure to READ the privacy statement you receive annually from each creditor. In this statement they will explain what they plan to do with your information and what you can do to limit them. READ this statement and follow the instructions. This will keep your information from being spread to “subsidiaries” and “partners” of your credit card company; apparently they have a lot of “friends.”
  • Here's an Example for you, you'll have to look up the rest on your own: Discover Card. In order to provide you with access to these products and services, we may share the information we collect about you with other members of our corporate family. (The ENTIRE Morgan Stanley Corporation) We may share the information we collect about you with non-affiliated third parties, including those that accept the Discover Card. To indicate your preferences, call Discover Card at 1-800-225-5202 or write to Discover Card, PO Box 30961, Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0961.
  • Write any credit card company that sends you courtesy checks, request for them to not send them at all. These checks are extremely dangerous from a temptation standpoint and even worse from a fraud standpoint. They usually have an extremely high interest rate when you write one. It is very simple for a thief to pass these checks and very difficult for you to get cleared from them… much more difficult than a credit card dispute.

Stop Junk Mail
The Direct Marketing Association estimates that listing with their mail preference service will stop 75% of all national mailings. Requests are kept active for five years. It can take up to six months for your request to be fully processed. You can also opt-out online or mail them your request, this service is $1 per person, but it’s worth it!

  • https://www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailing
  • Mail Preference Service
    Direct Marketing Association
    PO Box 643
    Carmel, NY 15012-0643
  • Include your complete name, address, zip code and a request to "activate the preference service". And… a check for $1.

To stop mail addressed to former residents, or a former spouse
If the former residents neglected to fill out a Post Office change of address card, or it expired, you can fill one out for them. You must fill out one card for each unique last name. Write "Moved, Left No Forwarding Address" as the new address. Sign your own name and write "Form filled in by current resident of the house, [Your Name], agent for the above". You must write "agent for the above". Hand this form directly to your carrier, if possible, as your carrier must approve the form and see that it gets entered into the post service National Change of Address (NCOA) database. This is very effective.

Mail From Any Source
Start with the Direct Marketing Association. But, if that doesn’t work you’ll need to go directly to the source. Look for the return mailing address or phone number of the company. Call or write asking to be removed immediately, request written confirmation of your removal.

Phone Calls From Any Source
Request to be put on the “Do Not Call List” but don’t make the mistake of hanging up! Ask them for their company name, address and phone number. Get their verbal confirmation that you are now on the do not call list. Ask them how long it will take for your request to become effective. Keep a record of the call, call the Federal Trade Commission if it doesn’t stop.

Be careful not to search for these web sites as you could come upon a phishing site, a fraudulent site designed to look legitimate and obtain your info. Type these web addresses directly in the Address Entry box on your browser. Oh and I took some of this information from a web site long before I started this blog.. don't remember who.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Dealerships Rip You Off With The "Four-Square," Here's How To Beat It

This is one of the most informative articles I have ever read about high pressure sales and the specialized techniques car dealerships use. This is a MUST READ for anyone who owns or will ever own a car... new or used.

Read the whole article, it's long, it's important, and it will save you thousands... for example.

Sometimes, if the manager feels especially nasty (or has gone a few rounds with you via the worksheet), they'll come out of the tower and say "Folks, I'm (Douchey Douchebag), the sales manager here. Congratulations! You've just bought a car! We were able to get the payments to $310 - I know you wanted $300, but that was the best we could do. That's close enough, right?" They'll nod their head (another psychological trick to get you to agree), and almost every time the person says "Yea, that's fine!" The problem is, they didn't realize that a $10 payment bump over a 5-year loan nets an extra $1k in profit for the dealership. It's called "the $10 (or $15, or $20) close", and I only saw it fail when a person was really, really exasperated with us. The deal ends, and you wake up in a year realizing that, somehow, you're $6,000 upside down on your car, while the dealership is laughing all the way to the bank.
The Consumerist - Dealerships Rip You Off With The "Four-Square," Here's How To Beat It

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Paying off your Bad Debt might get your Phone to Start Ringing

The credit bureau Experian is now signing up debt collectors up into their new program... good news for Experian... bad news for us. Apparently, they are monitoring our credit bureaus and when a creditor puts us on the watch list they will get notification if our situation to pay improves.
The introduction of additional trigger criteria and attributes within Collection Triggers increases the ability for companies to act quickly whennew information is available. Subscribers to Collection Triggers arenotified within 24 hours when the financial status of a consumer withintheir collection portfolio has improved.

So, Jimmy bounced a check. A collector has been trying to collect for some time now. The collector puts him on Collection Triggers with Experian. Two years later Jimmy gets his act together and pays off a credit card, finally. This action might just be an action that would notify his debt collector that he has some money availabe to pay his old debt.

Personally, I believe that this "service" is an infringement and goes way beyond what the purpose of the credit bureau was. Credit bureaus were designed so consumers could gain the trust of a company by showing a postive history. Since then, the bureaus have turned into a marketing company selling off your name and addresses and now your private credit information.

PRNewswire - "Experian Now Empowers Collectors With 'Improved Ability to Pay' Consumer Intelligence "