The Key to Handling Credit Card Trouble: Don't Procrastinate!

by Elliot Raphaelson

Consumers can find themselves with insurmountable debt for any number of reasons. Unwise use of credit cards ranks near the top. As a Florida certified county mediator for the last 12 years, I have seen cases involving failure to pay credit-card debt increase markedly over time.

It is not unusual for an account with a limit of $2,000 to rack up a balance of, say, $4,000 within a few years. How does this happen?

Many, if not most, consumers fail to read the initial agreement when they sign for a credit card; they assume they will always be able to make sufficient payments. When they cannot make the required minimum payments, or when they charge more than the limit on their card, bad things happen. Failure to make minimum payments results in an increase in the interest rate and a monthly charge for not making a minimum payment. Exceeding the card's credit limit brings additional charges.

When faced with hard times, many people naturally pay mortgage and car payments first, putting off paying their credit card debt. Given the high interest rates and fees this triggers, their debt can quickly spiral out of control.

Once you stop making minimum payments on your credit card bill, your card issuer will send you statements showing additional fees and higher interest rates. If you do nothing, these fees and charges will continue to accumulate.

If you do nothing and procrastinate until faced with a lawsuit, your options become limited. The credit-card issuer, or its representative, is entitled to legal expenses as well as court costs, if it can demonstrate that you owe the amount in question.

Along the way, however, you may have options you are not aware of to get a resolution more in your favor.

For example, once you have failed to make minimum payments for several months, the creditor recognizes that it is unlikely that you will be able to pay off the account in full. If it is forced to sell this account to a collection company, it will do so at substantial loss, so it may be willing to negotiate with you. If you offer to pay off some portion of the balance over a short time frame, such as two to three months, you may be able to receive a substantial discount.

If you are unable to negotiate successfully with your creditor, you can get help from a local nonprofit counseling agency. Contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (www.nfcc.org, or call 800-388-2227) to help you find one.

If the issuer has increased the interest rate on your account because of missed payments, try to renegotiate the rate. (When you call the creditor's customer service line, you can ask to speak with a supervisor.) Indicate you are now able to make minimum payments -- if the company is willing to reduce the interest rate. You have nothing to lose.

What can you do once you have been sued by a debt collection firm for an account on which you have not made payments for several years? If you do not believe you owe the money, or if you believe the amount is incorrect, send a certified letter (requiring acknowledgement of receipt) asking for documented proof.

When an account is purchased by a debt collection firm, especially if it has been sold many times, the firm may not have sufficient documentation. This helps your bargaining position. If the case is heard by a judge, the plaintiff will have to provide proof to the judge that the debt is owed. Once you request such proof from the debt collection firm, they know they are dealing with an educated consumer.

State and local laws and procedures vary. Your case may be heard by a mediator initially, who cannot offer you advice. If you believe your case is strong, you should insist on an appearance before a judge. If you do not want to appear before a judge, you should negotiate with the collection firm; there is no downside in asking for favorable terms for repayment and lower and/or no future interest charges. The collection firm may not want to appear before the judge either, especially if it has insufficient documentation. If you have requested documentation, and it hasn't provided it, it probably doesn't have it.

If you have credit card debt you can't handle, don't procrastinate. Find ways to pay off the debt at a discount, or have the interest rate reduced. Otherwise, the debt will increase quickly, and it will become even more difficult for you to resolve the problem.

 

Elliot Raphaelson welcomes your questions and comments at elliotraph@gmail.com

(c) 2012 ELLIOT RAPHAELSON. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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Elliot Raphaelson

A retired executive of Chase Manhattan Bank, Elliot Raphaelson joined The Savings Game after decades of experience as an advisor, teacher and author in the field of personal finance. He has taught courses in personal financial planning at The New School for Social Research and at the Military Academy at West Point, as well conducting seminars for Chase, Dow Jones & Co. and other corporations.

Past publications include Planning Your Financial Future (Wiley, 1982), and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, Town & Country, Vogue, Self, Savvy and Working Woman magazines. For ten years he has worked as a certified mediator and trainer in a Florida county court, where he helps resolve personal financial problems of every description.

Celebrity Inc

As part of her MoneyZen series, women and money expert Manisha Thakor highlights every day personal finance lessons that can be extracted from Jo Piazza's new book Celebrity, Inc. 

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A "Hair"-oing Tale: What Does It Mean For Your Career?

Women & money expert Manisha Thakor explores the impact on long term women's economic empowerment of pieces that deride professional women for the very bodies they were born with. In this case, she examines the backlash facing former News Corp International CEO Rebekah Brooks' choice to appear in Parliament with... gasp... her real hair down.

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Turn Your Kids Into Personal Finance Champs

by Manisha Thakor

Do your children think you are a walking ATM?

If you are tired of "must-have-that-toy-right-now" tantrums as you walk down the aisles of Target or Toys “R” Us, go straight to your nearest bookstore and buy Alisa T. Weinstein's new book, EARN IT, LEARN IT.  Alisa tosses the old allowance-based system of teaching your kids about money and replaces it with: J.O.B.S.  But not in the way you might think...

Innovative learning lessons can transform a child's life. When I was growing up one of my pivotal memories was sitting down with my dad who showed me how to calculate how much money I'd have in my IRA down the road if I contributed my babysitting and lawn mowing money to it and it grew at 6%, 8%, 10%, etc.  Yeesh. Once I saw that if I saved $2,000 a year (the annual max contribution back then) for 50 years and earned 8% average annual returns I'd have over $1,000,000 - I was hooked. It changed my attitude about money forever. Learning to be responsible with money became fun. Now most kids aren't as wonky as I was so punching the keys of an HP12C financial calculator might not do it for them, but I have a strong hunch Alisa's unique approach will.

How did you come up with this concept of using jobs to teach kids about money?

I credit my daughter completely. She wanted “one more lip balm Mommy!” and I thought 13 lip balms were plenty for a four-year-old (a four-year-old!). In my exasperation I told her to “get a job.” As soon as I said it, I just knew that was how she was going to earn her allowance: by test-driving real jobs.

How does EARN IT, LEARN IT work?

For the book, I interviewed 49 people with 49 different careers. I then translated their day-to-day responsibilities into kid-friendly tasks, many of which take 15 minutes. So when Mia was a Toy Designer, she cut out a paper version of her favorite stuffed toy and we talked about things like hard costs (which she apparently doesn’t have because “Mom, I don’t pay for [that stuff]. You do!”)

What is the most surprising reaction you've had so far from a child?

I say this with a big smile: the most surprising reactions don’t come from kids. The real surprise reactions are from parents, who didn’t realize it could be so easy, and take so little time, to get their kids engaged in something totally worthwhile.

What is the most common challenge parents have today when teaching their children about money?

It has to be just getting started. Talking about money makes people uncomfortable. On top of this, the traditional methods (paying for chores, odd jobs, or no strings attached) aren’t much fun. Since we’re all so busy, it would seem easier to avoid the subject altogether. But then you end up with a kid who thinks the world exists to provide her with another lip balm.

What have you personally learned about money while writing this book?

I was lucky. My parents taught me early on that what we do to earn money can be even more valuable than the money itself. Which means being more open to finding a career that simply makes us feel good. And this not only makes life richer, it makes living with (and learning about) money a lot more fun. [You can follow Alisa on Twitter at @EarnMyKeep]

What experiences have you had teaching your kids about money?


[Want more financial love? You can follow Women's Financial Literacy Initiative founder, Manisha Thakor, on Twitter at @ManishaThakor or on Facebook at /MThakor.]

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Manisha Thakor

From Manisha's linkedin profile page:

Manisha Thakor is the Director of Wealth Strategies for Women at Buckingham Strategic Wealth and The BAM Alliance. 

Manisha and her colleagues provide both evidence-based wealth advisory services for high-net-worth households and core asset management solutions for women and families nationwide with $80,000 or more in investible assets. 

An ardent financial literacy advocate for women, Manisha is the co-author of two critically acclaimed personal finance books: ON MY OWN TWO FEET: a modern girl’s guide to personal finance and GET FINANCIALLY NAKED: how to talk money with your honey. She is on Faculty at The Omega Institute and serves as a Financial Fellow at Wellesley College. Manisha is also a member of The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Experts Panel, a member of the 2015 CNBC Financial Advisor’s Council, and wearing her financial educator’s hat serves as a part of TIAA-CREF’s Women’s Initiative. 

Manisha's financial advice has been featured in a wide range of national media outlets including CNN, PBS, NPR, The Today Show, Rachel Ray, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The LA Times, Real Simple, Women’s Day, Glamour, Essence, and MORE magazine.

Prior to joining the Buckingham team, Manisha spent over twenty years working in financial services. On the institutional side she worked as an analyst, portfolio manager and client relations executive at SG Warburg, Atalanta/Sosnoff Capital, Fayez Sarofim & Co., and Sands Capital Management. After this she moved to the retail side and ran her own independent registered investment advisory firm, MoneyZen Wealth Management. 

Manisha earned her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1997, her BA from Wellesley College in 1992 and is a CFA charterholder. She lives in Portland, OR where she delights in the amazing Third Wave coffee scene and stunning natural beauty of the Pacific NorthWest. Manisha’s website is MoneyZen.com.

Are Your Bonds Safe?

by Manisha Thakor

"Last year I invested in a bond fund and now I've lost money. What happened? I thought bonds were supposed to be safe investments!" 

Recently several people have asked me this same question. Given the turbulent economic times we're (hopefully!) coming out of, it's understandable that folks want to find a "safe investment" to hunker down in.

Alas, the phrase "safe investment" is an oxymoron. The whole point of investing is taking on some risk with the hope, but not the guarantee, of earning a higher return than you'd get from doing something risk free.

So how did bonds get the reputation of being "safe?" Well, at their core, bonds are loans. You lend money for a pre-determined period of time. In return you receive interest at specified intervals. When your loan (a.k.a. bond) matures you get back the money you originally loaned - if the entity hasn't gone bankrupt.

It is the return of that original investment that has caused people to view bonds as "safe" investments. Alas, there are always risks with any investments. The two classic ones for individual bonds are:

  1. Credit Risk: This is the risk that the entity you lend to goes belly up and can't pay you back.

  2. Interest Rate Risk: Bonds are like seesaws. When interest rates go up, the price of bonds go down. If you hold your bond until it matures, the impact is all on paper. But if you are forced to sell your bond before its maturity date and interest rates are higher than when you bought that bond, the price you'll receive will be less than you originally invested.

Another problem with individual bonds is you often need a pretty hefty chunk of change to buy them. This is where bond mutual funds come in. For example, if you had $10,000 to invest you might be able to buy one bond. But by pooling your money with other people's money, bond mutual funds enable you to take that $10,000 and spread it out over many different bonds. That helps you spread out your risk.

However, when individual investors decide to take their money out of a bond fund, the portfolio manager may be forced to sell bonds at less than desirable prices to give them back their money. You could call this liquidity risk. Over the past year, as interest rates have inched up and there have been concerns about credit quality, the price of some bond funds has declined as these risks all reared their heads.

What does this mean for you? It means that like stock funds, bond funds also have some risk associated with them. They should not be thought of as "100% safe" substitutes for FDIC insured savings accounts. Rather, they are intended to be part of a well-balanced portfolio. Another way to keep your risk low is to invest in bond funds that have average maturities of 5 years or less because they seesaw around less violently as interest rates move.

What additional questions do you have about bonds or bond funds?


Want more financial love? You can follow Women's Financial Literacy Initiative founder, Manisha Thakor, on Twitter at @ManishaThakor or on Facebook at /MThakor.

Comment /Source

Manisha Thakor

From Manisha's linkedin profile page:

Manisha Thakor is the Director of Wealth Strategies for Women at Buckingham Strategic Wealth and The BAM Alliance. 

Manisha and her colleagues provide both evidence-based wealth advisory services for high-net-worth households and core asset management solutions for women and families nationwide with $80,000 or more in investible assets. 

An ardent financial literacy advocate for women, Manisha is the co-author of two critically acclaimed personal finance books: ON MY OWN TWO FEET: a modern girl’s guide to personal finance and GET FINANCIALLY NAKED: how to talk money with your honey. She is on Faculty at The Omega Institute and serves as a Financial Fellow at Wellesley College. Manisha is also a member of The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Experts Panel, a member of the 2015 CNBC Financial Advisor’s Council, and wearing her financial educator’s hat serves as a part of TIAA-CREF’s Women’s Initiative. 

Manisha's financial advice has been featured in a wide range of national media outlets including CNN, PBS, NPR, The Today Show, Rachel Ray, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The LA Times, Real Simple, Women’s Day, Glamour, Essence, and MORE magazine.

Prior to joining the Buckingham team, Manisha spent over twenty years working in financial services. On the institutional side she worked as an analyst, portfolio manager and client relations executive at SG Warburg, Atalanta/Sosnoff Capital, Fayez Sarofim & Co., and Sands Capital Management. After this she moved to the retail side and ran her own independent registered investment advisory firm, MoneyZen Wealth Management. 

Manisha earned her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1997, her BA from Wellesley College in 1992 and is a CFA charterholder. She lives in Portland, OR where she delights in the amazing Third Wave coffee scene and stunning natural beauty of the Pacific NorthWest. Manisha’s website is MoneyZen.com.

Gen X & Gen Y – Dialing Financial 911

by Manisha Thakor

Six Reasons Why Gen X & Gen Y Need Some Serious Financial TLC  

  • They’re scared: They’ve entered their adult years during a gut-wrenching economic and job market. With unemployment over 9.5%, they’ve seen their parents struggle. Over 7 out of 10 Americans are now living paycheck-to-paycheck.

  • They are making poor decisions: As a result of that fear they are not making the best long-term decisions for their futures. A recent ICI study shows only 34% of investors under age 35 are willing to take substantial risk with their retirement money – the exact time in their lives when they should take that risk.

  • Something as “simple” as a 20-year head start can give you 5x more money: Let’s take 2 people. Jane starts saving $5,000 a year at age 25 for her retirement every year until age 65 and gets an average return of 7%. Jane has a $1 million nest egg by retirement. Joe starts saving $5,000 a year at age 45 for retirement every year until age 65 and also gets an average return of 7%. Joe has $200,000 in his next egg. That 20-year head start gave Jane 5x more money. That’s why learning the basics of personal finance – how to budget, get out of debt, and save so you can get that retirement fund funded in the key early years is so vital.

  • Young adults consume information differently so there’s a delivery challenge when it comes to education: Studies shows that young adults want their financial education delivered in a 21st Century way. They want it web-based with robust, interactive tools. And unlike their “I’ll do it myself” parents, these emerging adults want help and guidance.

  • Nearly half of Gen Y has below average financial fluency: A study by The National Foundation for Credit Counseling showed that nearly half of this generation did not understand how to save and budget and that 45% of them have no savings!

  • The financial world is geometrically more complex: Part of the reason for the above statistic is due to the fact that financial literacy is not taught in schools as a core life skill. Young adults often rely on parents who were brought up in “financially simpler” times and aren’t equipped to help. They are also bombarded by so many more unrealistic media images about what “normal” lives are like.

So, what’s the solution?

If you or someone you love is a Gen X or Gen Y-er… encourage them to self-educate.  Here are some of my favorite personal finance sites – all of which I’ve either written for or read regularly myself:

What about you – any additional resources to recommend to Gen X & Gen Y?

[For more MoneyZen in your life, follow Manisha on Twitter at @ManishaThakor, on Facebook at /ManishaThakor, or visit MoneyZen.com.]

Comment

Manisha Thakor

From Manisha's linkedin profile page:

Manisha Thakor is the Director of Wealth Strategies for Women at Buckingham Strategic Wealth and The BAM Alliance. 

Manisha and her colleagues provide both evidence-based wealth advisory services for high-net-worth households and core asset management solutions for women and families nationwide with $80,000 or more in investible assets. 

An ardent financial literacy advocate for women, Manisha is the co-author of two critically acclaimed personal finance books: ON MY OWN TWO FEET: a modern girl’s guide to personal finance and GET FINANCIALLY NAKED: how to talk money with your honey. She is on Faculty at The Omega Institute and serves as a Financial Fellow at Wellesley College. Manisha is also a member of The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Experts Panel, a member of the 2015 CNBC Financial Advisor’s Council, and wearing her financial educator’s hat serves as a part of TIAA-CREF’s Women’s Initiative. 

Manisha's financial advice has been featured in a wide range of national media outlets including CNN, PBS, NPR, The Today Show, Rachel Ray, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The LA Times, Real Simple, Women’s Day, Glamour, Essence, and MORE magazine.

Prior to joining the Buckingham team, Manisha spent over twenty years working in financial services. On the institutional side she worked as an analyst, portfolio manager and client relations executive at SG Warburg, Atalanta/Sosnoff Capital, Fayez Sarofim & Co., and Sands Capital Management. After this she moved to the retail side and ran her own independent registered investment advisory firm, MoneyZen Wealth Management. 

Manisha earned her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1997, her BA from Wellesley College in 1992 and is a CFA charterholder. She lives in Portland, OR where she delights in the amazing Third Wave coffee scene and stunning natural beauty of the Pacific NorthWest. Manisha’s website is MoneyZen.com.

Have Less Holiday Financial Stress

by Manisha Thakor  

Does holiday shopping & spending stress you out?

A few years ago I stopped doing the holidays. My corporate job had me on a plane every 3 to 4 days. My daily work hours were in the double-digits, and the mere thought of picking out - let alone sending - holiday cards was enough to throw me into tears. Shopping for presents... forgetaboutit. I didn't have the emotional energy to face the crowds and stores.

Ironically, saying "Ba-humbug" to "traditional" holiday habits increased my happiness. How? It caused me to reboot my ingrained thinking and come up with a new game plan for how to joyfully participate in the holiday season in a way that felt right to me. If you are reaching a holiday excess breaking point, here are three steps to help you have less holiday financial stress:

1.     Set a shopping strategy & a specific dollar amount. This time of year there are a number of excellent news stories on how to "Avoid Holiday Spending Hangovers" and "Tips For Keeping Holiday Spending In Check." They almost always start by saying set a budget. That's excellent advice. Yet very few people do it - perhaps because "budgeting" sounds like deprivation. So instead, strive to create your own shopping strategy and assign a total dollar amount that you will spend in executing that strategy.  Will you go wide and shallow (low priced gifts for many people) or narrow and deep (few incredible gifts for a handful of people)?  Unless money is no object the key here is to avoid... wide and deep!

2.     Measure your progress. It's an oft-quoted axiom of business that "what gets measured gets managed." An easy way to see how well you are doing at executing your shopping strategy is to write at the top of a piece of paper your total holiday spending budget. At the end of any day in which you shopped for the holidays just add up our receipts, write that number on your tracking sheet and subtract from the total. You'll then have a simple way to know how much you have left with which to enjoy spreading holiday cheer. You can also take this up a notch to spreadsheets and online resources, but the key is it to get it down in writing.

3.     Don't be afraid to think out of the holiday box. The slow grind of this rough economy has caused many friends and families to reset gift-giving practices. But if you haven't yet, this is a great year to ask questions like these:  Should we only give gifts to kids under 18? Should we do a one-name-one-gift holiday grab bag? Or do we want to rethink gift-giving all together and instead donate time or money to charitable causes and enjoy ourselves by simply spending time together? Writer Francine Jay (MissMinimalist.com) has wonderful advice in her upbeat "Gift Avoidance Guide."  Blogger Leo Babauta (ZenHabits.net) shares some wonderful non-traditional thoughts in his "The Case Against Buying Christmas Gifts."

I'm still in the early stages of figuring out what new rituals work for my family, and its been a fun process. What about you? What changes are you making to have less holiday financial stress this year?


[Want more financial love? You can follow Women's Financial Literacy Initiative founder, Manisha Thakor, on Twitter at @ManishaThakor or on Facebook at /ManishaThakor.]

Comment /Source

Manisha Thakor

From Manisha's linkedin profile page:

Manisha Thakor is the Director of Wealth Strategies for Women at Buckingham Strategic Wealth and The BAM Alliance. 

Manisha and her colleagues provide both evidence-based wealth advisory services for high-net-worth households and core asset management solutions for women and families nationwide with $80,000 or more in investible assets. 

An ardent financial literacy advocate for women, Manisha is the co-author of two critically acclaimed personal finance books: ON MY OWN TWO FEET: a modern girl’s guide to personal finance and GET FINANCIALLY NAKED: how to talk money with your honey. She is on Faculty at The Omega Institute and serves as a Financial Fellow at Wellesley College. Manisha is also a member of The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Experts Panel, a member of the 2015 CNBC Financial Advisor’s Council, and wearing her financial educator’s hat serves as a part of TIAA-CREF’s Women’s Initiative. 

Manisha's financial advice has been featured in a wide range of national media outlets including CNN, PBS, NPR, The Today Show, Rachel Ray, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The LA Times, Real Simple, Women’s Day, Glamour, Essence, and MORE magazine.

Prior to joining the Buckingham team, Manisha spent over twenty years working in financial services. On the institutional side she worked as an analyst, portfolio manager and client relations executive at SG Warburg, Atalanta/Sosnoff Capital, Fayez Sarofim & Co., and Sands Capital Management. After this she moved to the retail side and ran her own independent registered investment advisory firm, MoneyZen Wealth Management. 

Manisha earned her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1997, her BA from Wellesley College in 1992 and is a CFA charterholder. She lives in Portland, OR where she delights in the amazing Third Wave coffee scene and stunning natural beauty of the Pacific NorthWest. Manisha’s website is MoneyZen.com.