Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Remote Check Deposit

Between the collection of rent checks and reimbursements from work, I can find myself at the Wells Fargo ATM depositing checks multiple times in one week.  While I'm happy to have the money, each of those trips to the ATM takes at least 15 minutes.  And, for some reason my local ATM seems to be out of order on a regular basis so at least one in ten trips requires a second trip to the next ATM.

I just recently learned, while I was at the ATM on Saturday, that Wells Fargo now has smartphone deposits.     I already had the Wells Fargo app for my iPhone so it was easy to simply click on a tab on the app to add remote deposits to my available services.  One of the helpful Wells Fargo bankers walked me through how it works and the process is super easy.  You simply sign into your account on your iPhone, you select mobile deposit from the menu options, take a photo of the front of the check and then the bank, select the account where you want the money to go, type in the amount and deposit the check.  Then you hold onto the check for fourteen days and then destroy it.

I'm very excited about this new option and I think its going to save me at least an hour of time a month.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Free Credit Report

Following up on my earlier post about free credit reports, I decided it was probably time for me to review my credit report.  My last review of my credit report was when we were refinancing our primary home last summer and at that time I purchased my report and score from MyFico.com.

This time around I obtained my report from the official site where consumers can obtain a copy of their credit report from the big three agencies.  Most of the information appeared to be accurate and up to date, with the exception of my home address, which is reported with a variety of errors.  But, I was pleased to see that our home mortgage was accurately reflected as paid in full with Wells Fargo and our new refinances loan with CitiMortgage.

The most interesting part of the report, to me, were the credit inquiries.

American Express is, basically, in love with me in that they inquire as to my status every other month.  In 2012 they checked on me six times and I haven't had an account with them for more than 10 years.  Clearly, they want me back.

I also was intrigued by the number of credit inquires that occurred in the month following our mortgage refinance.  Clearly those who would offer us credit received some kind of notification that we had just taken on a new loan.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

2013 Goals - Post Bonus Update

(1) Max out 401k(s) -        $7644 (22%)   (goal is $35,000)
(2) Max out IRA(s) -         $4508 (41%)    (goal is $11,000)
(3) Add to e/r fund -          $2400 (24%)   (goal is $10,000)
(4) Pay down mortgage -   $830 (17%)     (goal is $5,000)
(5) Trading account fund - $50  (1%)        (goal is $5,000)
(6) House projects -          $600 (20%)      (goal is $3,000)

Total:  $16,032 (23%)

With Mr. Sam's added bonus monies, we are currently $109 ahead of where we should be for the year.  Whoo-Hoo!!  I doubt it will last, but I enjoy being ahead.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bonus Plan

Mr. Sam recently received a small bonus at work.  Nothing huge, but every little bit counts.

First, the bonus was subject to his 401k withholdings, so a chunk has gone to the 401k, which left a couple thousand.

Second, since its Mr. Sam's bonus he wanted to take a chunk, a third to be specific, and put it in his everyday checking account.  His point is that he struggles with our allowance system (true) and he'd like to have a cushion.  I wasn't in favor of this plan because I believe that Mr. Sam will spend as much money as is available to him (hence the allowance system) and that this "cushion" won't last 90 days.  But, he convinced me to let him try* and I guess we'll see what happens.  We probably should have made a friendly wager.

Third, the rest of the money will be put towards our savings goals.

*In our house any expenditure over $300 has to be discussed and agreed and we counted this experiment as such.  I  don't want the impression to be that Mr. Sam's is "hen-pecked" as this rule works both ways.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Doctor Will See You

I'm not surprised at all about that this NBC News.com article identifies south Florida as a hot spot for identity theft by and at health care providers.  Time after time staff at Florida hospitals and doctor's offices are in the news for stealing patient's Social Security numbers for identity theft purposes.

Think about it, every time you see a new doctor and fill out an intake form there is a spot for your Social Security number and most people think you have to provide it.  "Quick said: 'you do not have to provide your Social Security number, but you do have to provide enough information for you to be distinguishable from other people.'"

I stopped providing my SS number to doctor's offices long ago and from time to time I get some push back on it.  A couple of years ago I was trying to make an appointment with a new health care provider, a dermatologist, and the intake person would not give me an appointment unless I gave her my Social Security number.  I declined and sought out care from another provider.  That has been the only time I had a real problem with declining to provide the number to a health care provider.

If you are utilizing a government health care insurance system, i.e. Medicare, Medicaid the VA, you, unfortunately, have to provide your Social Security number because that is the way those programs identify you.  But most private insurance companies no longer utilize Social Security numbers as an identifier and there really is no reason for a doctor to need this information from you except to increase there ability to collect a debt.

This handy list from the IRS provides the situations where there is a legal requirement to fork over your numbers.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Free Report or Free Snoop

You may have heard that public officials, like Hillary Clinton and Vice President Biden, as well as celebs, like  Beyonce and Jay-Z, were the victims of hacking and that their personal finance information was disclosed.

Well now, it sounds like, according to this report, that some of that information came from AnnualCreditReport.com.  AnnualCreditReport.com is the site which the three credit reporting agencies set up so consumers can gain free access to their credit reports.  Scary stuff to hear that, possible, hackers were able to defeat the security features of the site (which I've had trouble answer for myself).  But, I guess, now that I think about it, if your bio details are out in the public domain someone with time and energy could probably answer the questions posed by this site.

The last time I checked my credit report was right before our refinance.  This news story reminds me that it is probably time to check again.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sounds Familiar

Today on Slate, in the Dear Prudence column there was an inquiry from a young professional swimming in debt.

I’m an attorney with a mountain of student and credit card debt. Before I got married, I told my wife about this, but thought I owed about $100,000. It turns out to be about $170,000. When I finally added up the total eight months ago and told her, she accused me of lying previously. My job barely pays me enough to cover our monthly expenses, but I’m supposed to be moving up. I continually look for new jobs and am trying to advance in my company, but that takes time. My wife is in her early 30s and is desperate to have kids and buy our own home, but she insists we can't because of our financial situation. When I have gone to interviews and was not hired, she blamed me for doing something wrong to blow it. A few days ago she found out one of her friends had a couple interviews for a much higher paying job. She became extremely frustrated, insulted my work ethic, and now won't speak to me. I don't know what to do. Should I stay in a relationship that is this unsupportive?
—No Pots to Piss in

I'm afraid this is a common problem, and it seems to only be getting worse and college, graduate school and professional school go up in price.  A quick review of the ABA tuition charts show that tuition at a private law school in 2001 ran about $23,000, but in 2011 was up to $39,000.  According to the New York Times, 90% of law students finance their education and the average debt in 2001 was $70,000 and in 2011 was $125,000.  So, $170,000 in debt for a private law school education doesn't seem that far off from these "average" numbers.

Here is Prudie's response:
Dear Pots,
It’s too bad your wife is incapable of procuring one of those high-paying jobs she thinks are so easy to get. Sadly, there are so many young people in your situation—people who wonder if crushing debt will ever allow them to start families or have a normal life. When you told your then-fiancĂ©e you were one of those burdened people, the two of you should have looked closely at your finances and started figuring out a long-term plan toward solvency. If that didn’t interest her, she should have walked. Instead, you now have another burden: a punitive spouse who blames you for everything. I hope your health insurance covers couples counseling. Even if it doesn't, paying for a few sessions will clarify whether you can save a marriage in which you get the silent treatment because someone else got a job.

Before Mr. Sam and I moved in together we had a major financial summit, in which we brought our credit reports and a list of debts and assets.  At the point of our financial summit we were in love and in a committed relationship.  I remember that I was worried about what I was going to learn and if it was going to impact our relationship and our plan for the future.  Luckily, his disclosure was better than I thought and I could see a way forward together.  But, we didn't actually create a joint plan for killing the debt or for our financial futures until a couple of years later when we were married.
For the couple in the Dear Prudie column, it seems like they didn't have a financial disclosure discussion until they were already engaged and the disclosure wasn't complete.  I also find myself wondering about the wife's career and how much she is contributing to killing the debt.

How about you, did you have a financial summit with your significant other before you married?  Have you walked away from a relationship due to a person's poor financial skills/habits?  Has student loan debt impacted your life choices?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Chase-ing My Credit Card Payment Date

I'm not a fan of credit cards, but we have one general credit card (Chase Rewards) which we use for travel, both business and pleasure, and we've used it for a couple of recurring charges including a charity payment and an alarm payment related to one of our rental homes.

Since I don't use a credit card with frequency I seem to struggle to integrate payment of the bill into our spending plan.  Last month I paid the Chase bill on the last day of the month and had to have an interest payment reversed (there was a snag with their system).  This month, I missed paying the bill all together by two days.  I just paid it in full, the statement charges, charges to date this month, and the late payment, but I know they'll ding me for interest as well next month.  

Part of the problem is that the Chase bill due date is the 5th of the month.  Based on how I get paid, how we collect rent from our tenants and how I pay our bills I don't normally pay the beginning of the month bills until the end of the first week.  So this month, March, I've not paid our early month bills yet.  I plan to pay them on Thursday when I get paid.  As such, the timing of this bill has tripped me up a couple of times.  

The other part of the problem is that I was waiting on a $700+ reimbursement from my company due to travel in Feb.  I've asked my assistant to timely process my reimbursements, but it is still taking too long to get my money back (which is why I put it on the credit card in the first place) and I'm reluctant to pay the bill with my present cash.  But of course, the end result is that I only deposited my reimbursement check this morning and I still had to pay the Chase bill out of my own pocket.  

Brainstorming about this problem, I have already sent Chase a message to see if the due date for the bill can be changed to the second half of the month or changed to a date later into the month.  I'm also just going to have to come to terms with paying the Chase bill even if I'm awaiting funds from my company.  I should realize that I will have gotten a 15 or 20 day float and paying the bill myself will only mean the loss of those funds for a few days.