Saturday, September 23, 2006


You can kind-of figure out your credit score based on the number of unsolicited card offers you receive in the mail. Frequency matters, as does the interest rate offered and its duration and associated fee. Usually, there is a fee, something like three percent, "no less than $5 and no more than $150," one of my recent ones read. For paying off one credit card with another equals a cash advance. I consider it refinancing.

Currently, I am nothing like my 70-year-old friend who went against his wife's wishes and purchased thousands of dollars of video recording and computer equipment; he's paying hundreds of dollars a month in interest. A balance transfer would suit him well, and he tells me that's what he's waiting for. My father is also of high debt and 70 years, and he periodically retells me the cautionary tale of how banks are allowed to raise your rate at any time for whatever reason. Yes, I think that man on the AM radio talks about that all the time. Too bad it's not better-packaged and retransmitted in something appealing to the younger people who need such advice.

If I were to preach, I'd say that schools are not teaching consumer finance. Wouldn't you think that managing money would be a priority skill to bestow on your "future?" Please tell me if I'm wrong about today's secondary curriculum, but "when I was in school" (can you hear my bones creak?), we did not learn anything as practical as how to balance a checkbook.

I would have to say that the kind small-town staff at Cloverleaf Bank taught me. Perhaps it was the printed instructions on the book? I am one for picking up things the "regular," academic way. I was lucky to adapt to the presented (forced) model of compulsory education. I also, ring my privleged bell, happened to aviod public schools until the university level, which, of course, is also not free of charge. Part of my father's debt comes from his charging his portion of my tuition.

(It was split with his ex/my mom, the part left after what was covered on an increasing basis by generous scholarships was deducted - merit-based, never upon "need"; somehow the world thinks that loans are an acceptable way to handle higher education. My brother will provide an interesting case study on this in less than a year.)

But just because ones parents did not demonstrate the making of decent investments doesn't mean that one couldn't break such a cycle by learning finance in school. Math class would be more compelling, at least if it offered some of the time, such quantifyable truths as, "if you screw up too much here and don't graduate, you'll likely have a minimum wage job and be considered as living below the poverty level. This is especially true if you want to have children or already do. You literally will not be able to afford them."

Does anyone want to be poor? I don't know, it seems if you put it to them like that they'd get the picture. Do they "get" how much it costs to rent and utilify a stupid apartment?

On a side note, when did the custom of waiting until one had enough money to establish a household before marrying or shacking up or getting serious end? No one plans very well, it seems to me. At least not the people I'm looking at on a daily basis. Remember, I have little access to the world of the $3,000/sq.ft. people.

I used to be a saver. I don't know what happened, probably mostly travel, clothes and travel. Car things. Time off from job months. My seemingly instinctive money-management habits were mostly accidental. I'm sure I remember my mom saying something about the importance of saving. She's still a better manager of money than I am, and certainly she's better than my father at it.

Unlike my old-man friend, my dad chooses to live off his small retirement and some Social Security or something and not get a job. He seems to have a good health plan, despite his bitterness at the feds for failing to increase such things on a cost-of-living basis.

I'd say my own wages don't keep up with my material desires. I always pitch those as quite small. I can't judge myself there; I would need an outside entity and a private discussion. I can say that I am learning to be a saver again. It's been a bitch. I hate dumping carts of cash to past purchases.

I think I've mentioned, however, my crappy car. My health insurance premium went up, and I won't even be able to decipher the "look at your options" pages that they sent in case I wanted a lower monthly payment and crummier coverage without consulting the agent.

Even though my credit is good and the feds did manage to hold interest rates steady once again, I always want more money and always don't want to spend it on a car or anything not investment-like. Cars do nothing but depreciate and suck money from your savings.

Cars necessitate yet more insurance, too. The only "good" thing about that kind, though, is that it goes down as the vehicle ages, unlike health insurance. (Yes, I compared us to vehicles.)

Anyway, you can have the banks stop cruising your credit rating and wasting paper junking up your mail box with things others could potentially steal and use in your name by writing to the three credit-reporting agencies. You also can opt out online.

If you can judge your credit-worthiness by the amount of junk mail you get, you can also start to notice the tellingness of your age by the number of meds lying around the place, no longer confined to the "medicine cabinet."

As president of me, my cabinet includes a number of notable Secretaries of Health. I hate them all and their invasion of my self-government. I'm almost done with my stupid ear-infection killer-pills, and yet I still can't hear half the time due to fluid. I feel like I'm swimming again. I looked up my "anti-nausea" things and it turns out they are actually an antihistamine that can kill you.

Upon further inspection, I noticed that all that junk I bought was generic; those shitty high prices were not for name-brand drugs, and even after my "insurance" did its thing, I still paid out the equivalent of a 100-degree-month electric bill for air conditioning (an apartment; about a Franklin).

Even though I hate their pill butterflies and drug flowers on that commercial, I am almost proud of Wal-Mart's balls-out move to continue to low-ball everyone else on the planet by offering 291 'scripts for only $4. It's funny they're starting in the retirement state with that. Their next market could be Phoenix, I hear.

For some reason, the announcement made its stock fall 17 cents to $48.70. At last trade, it was $48.29. It doesn't seem to move much throughout the year.

Maybe it's this:

In a conference call with reporters, (Bill) Simon (executive vice president of the company's professional services division) said that the generic drugs would not be sold at a loss to entice customers into the stores, a strategy that has been used in Wal-Mart's toy business.

Maybe the business world can't believe Wal-Mart admitted that you can make a profit by selling people their meds for only four bucks.

At any rate, I'm still not going to shop there.


hearmysong said...

i'm with you. i just keep wondering, when i hear those announcements, how many people aren't able to eat meals because of $4 scrips.

cars are an evil necessity in today's society. i wish we had light rail here, although with two kids, i don't know how much i would use it. getting them in the car, out of the car, to the grocery (or wherever), keeping them nearby or corraled, then back in the car, then out of the car, then unloading whatever necessity we bought--that's a full-time job! letting them have free reign on a moving vehicle without seatbelts? not so much.

drugs are outrageous. the only thing keeping us afloat at the moment is a home equity line that we thought would be paid off (e.g. moved) by now. again, not so much, since the housing market is tanking. but at least interest rates on 30 yr mortgages aren't in the 8% range anymore. that's a bonus for whenever we do sell.

you ear hurts again? maybe you need steroids this time.

DKC said...

Really, this is just a way for Walmart to put the hurt on individual, freestanding pharmacies as well as their larger competitors and look good doing it. It's a little like John D. Rockefeller passing out dimes to people on the street.... "Oh, ain't he a wonderful man."

hearmysong said...

apparently, you and cincy enquirer folk are thinking alike about the lack of money skills in today's population. thanks to students' requests, university of cincinnati is offering a personal finance/money management class.

trAcy said...

college is too late! and too optional. needs to be in compulsory (especially public) schools.

: )

yeah, didn't rockefeller fund women's suffrage and such expressly to break up homes and cut wages?

DKC said...

Personally, I don't think women should suffer. The dime idea wasn't even his own.... it was a PR firm.

Susan said...

I'm with you all the way sister! finally learning - quite grudgingly - to save, or rather, to pay off stuff more intelligently... I'm saving for summer this year much better than normal but it's not enough really to call saving plus I know it will be eaten up in bills in 9 months anyway (since I'm a 9-mo employee at the U - we still get bennies over the summer, luckily, but no paycheck, so I always _say_ I'm going to save for the next summer but never have been successful until this year...) Based on your credit card/transfer offer equation I guess my credit rating must be improving, and tho I do see that I've come a long way, there are leagues yet to go... alas. When I was in 9th grade they still covered budgeting in Home Ec but briefly - I didn't retain much of the lesson anyway.