Wednesday, November 30, 2011
I work in computers. So there are some things I use that have a free version or that are low priced.
Today I wanted to talk to you about some of those free things that some people are still amazed when I talk about them:
1) Google Voice: Free calls to any US number PLUS your own US number in almost any area code so you can also receive calls. Drawback? you have to have your computer on or get a complex setup like the one I have at pbxes.com (which is free up to 2000 minutes a month)
2) Dropbox: If you have important documents on your computer you have to know something: One day your computer disk will fail and you will loose all of that. Hopefully it will fail in a recoverable way, but most probably the vibrations and heat will make it die suddenly and definitely. You could pay an online backup service $50 a year or so (Carbonite) to back up all stuff on your computer. However if you worry mostly about documents, pictures and the like you can use the free version of Dropbox. They give you 2gb of free storage on their servers.
As an added bonus if you install the same software on other computers and use your own account, your documents will be constantly syncronized among all of them. So if you have a laptop, a desktop a little netbook or even an ipad or iphone, once you put a document on your Dropbox folder it will be available from all the other devices or from their website. and you can even share it with friends (vacation picture or the like). I have to say I don't know how I kept my sanity without it before.
If you do decide to use Dropbox please put a comment below so I can give you 250mb of extra storage as a referral bonus to you.
3) Portable Apps. I hate installing software on my computer. Some I just HAVE to install but given I choice I prefer software that just runs right away without adding menus and stuff to my computer and auto launching when I power it up. In comes Portable apps. These cool applications of all kinds only need to be put in a USB memory stick and you can use them on any windows computers. Or for a double punch you could put them on your Dropbox folder and have them quickly available wherever you go without even having a USB to carry!
4) Ted.com : For inspirational stuff that makes you feel like we still have a chance to make this a better place I urge to you watch the presentation on Ted.com. It's amazing to see the things they have to offer. You might not agree with Bill Gates or Al Gore on their beliefs of how to better the planet, but they are just two of thousands of presenters that can open your eyes to wonderful things. I can't recommend it enough as an inspirational/motivational site.
5) Twitter: I use it to track newssites like cnn or local newspapers. It's so easy and quick to read that in a few minutes I get a general picture of the news of the day without ads, popups and all the extra stuff that bogs one down. IF I do want to read further I can click on the link and read the whole report. Succint and to the point. gotta like how a 140 character limit draws out the creative writing.
6) TeamViewer. If you ever wanted to go back to check something on your other computer located far away, you need teamviewer. Allows you to remote control all computers that have it installed, also transfer files to and from it. If you provide computer support or want to receive it, it's a really simple tool to avoid having to move to get the support needed.
Let me know if you liked any of these. They are all free and they all have great value to me and I hope to you as well.
Posted by AJ at 11:18 AM
Friday, November 25, 2011
So here I am, with positive balance on my Promerica and Citibank cards, about $100 owed on each of the BAC cards and about $300 owed on HSBC (the /(&%/& charged me their renewal fee just now).
The process to cancel my card with Promerica was relatively painless, mostly due to them already having me on a real arranged payment schedule. I asked for a check of the balance in my favor. When I picked it up I request the closing of my account. Today I requested the final closing document. They stated that I could pick up the document Dec 1 2011. One down, three to go.
So Citi is next. I paid it all with them. I have balance in my favor in the lempira balance but owed some in the dolar balance. So I went over to their office a couple of weeks ago and told the Customer Service officer that I wanted to close my account, that I wanted a check for my balance rather than using the plastic (because it's damaged on purpose).
So here are the steps with the time frame for each.
1) Balance transfer from Lps to $ to owe them nothing (3 days)
2) Account unblocking (2 days)
3) Account cancellation (2 days) (only available by phone..WTF??)
4) Check issuing for the the balance in my favor (5 days)
5) Issue final closing document (5 days, can only be requested monday thru wednesday)
As I was waiting for someone to assist me, I found a friend of mine waiting too and she was actually doing exactly the same thing. She got a refinance from Banpais, and was cancelling her Citibank card. She had told me of all the hoops she had gone thru to close her Citibank account. However she was recommended to spend the balance in her favor, and she did. She was now wanting to close the account. I wanted to go the other way, close the account first and then get a check for the remaining balance.
Today I called to do step 3 and they actually told me they might not give me my balance back. Then they told me they would but I would have to request it at a bank branch as a cash withdrawal with my card. I told her I didn't have a card and she had to talk to her manager. Eventually she said she could close my account but I would have to go to a branch to request my balance. The easy thing would've been to get a new plastic and spend it but I wasn't taking that bait.
So now I have to go to Citibank branch on wednesday to request checks for my balance.
I wonder how hard it will be to cancel one of my BAC credit cards once I pay the tail that's still remaining (about $100 due to interests).
Posted by AJ at 12:08 PM
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
I was recently reading an article on Yahoo Finance about a financial advisor that suffered the effects of recession. He talked about giving sane financial advice yet not following it himself. He took too big a mortage and then maxed credit cards over and over, until the situation became unsustainable.
He was constantly worrying about making his mortage payments even though his house value was only a fraction of what he owed the bank.
He talked to someone else about his situation. He mentioned that even though he could walk away from his mortage he felt he had a moral obligation to pay it.
This person told him something that has left me thinking since then. This person said "You have a moral obligation to your family, you have only a legal obligation to the bank. Think of your obligations the way a company would".
So this person stopped paying his mortage and eventually turned the house back to the bank which sold it and he even got a small amount back from the sale. He's in the road back to fiancial recover now.
Some thoughts on that article:
- Amazing that even a "financial advisor" could be trapped in debt thinking it was the "American Way" to a fancy lifestyle, not wondering how he would pay for it all.
- Interesting concept of not having any moral obligations to the bank. If one thinks the other way around, banks would never have a moral obligation to the customer. They would only follow their legal obligations and not help the customer more than corporate or marketing policies would allow.
- He didn't do anything "wreckless" like run away from his obligations, he negotiated and the bank was not "hurt or resented" about his actions, they just took decisions and negotiated forward.
I then talked to some from Citibank in Honduras. He told me and my boss that they have "debt fairs" every now and then for people highly in debt. Those individuals end up paying about 50% to 40% of the original capital owed.
Superficially one would think "Wow what a nice bank, other banks don't do that, they just keep chasing you legally until you pay". However, Honduran banking regulations require banks to write off debts that have 90 days delinquent. So in the accounting books once you are 90 days delinquent, the bank has "lost" all the amount owed.
They don't tell the people this and keep their collection efforts, however at this point in time any amount recovered is actually a profit for the bank. So in making payment arrangements by 40% of the original amount they are actually profiting by all the amount the customer will pay. No "moral obligation" here to help the customer.
In comparison, the Honduran electric company, the Honduran Social Security Institute, the equivalent of IRS in Honduras have all published the list of their worst debtors. Most of those are companies that have declared bankrupcy and or closed up. However their owners are known by most of the population, they are rich and are alive and well running other companies.
Their "moral obligation" would be to pay whatever was owed to this companies or organizations that have provided services are are now desperately needing this money. Their "legal obligation" is none since it's the companies they owe, not themselves, that are responsible for the debts. Once closed, the money is lost.
This diference between moral and legal obligation is hard to understand by some and easily understood by others. Some follow more the legal obligations, some do a balance betwen legal and moral, some coldly follow only their legal obligations and some actually squeme legal tricks to get stuff and not pay. Lawyers and congressmen have a hard time getting credit or loans on banks, car agencies and similar.
My personal story is a bit more complex. I could have stopped payment to my credit cards or now to the Banpais loan that I got, and eventually try and settle for a fraction of the owed amount. However I worry that in their collection efforts my boss would find out that i'm in such troubles. Given that I work in the banking industry that would not be a good thing, specially since we works with most of the banks I owed money to,
I imagine he would stop trusting me or worst fire me, making my situation worst either way. Maybe i'm wrong and he would understand and even help me, but given the way i've heard him talk (mock actually) about people highly in debt, I seriously doubt it. I've seen him get upset about some of our lower earning personnel getting a loan here or there to pay this or that. If I was starting my life, I would appreciate his tough love and life lessons, but in this situation I would really hate getting chewed out by him.
Why care if my boss talks bad about my financial situation? Well i've been in my job for years, he probably would tell most of his friends (bank executives) about my problems. If I leave my job, having bad references on all the banking sector would cut me out of the best options for a job. So my legal obligation is clear to me, but my moral obligation is supported by a complex job situation.
Another thing, me and some other people that know my situation and are in similar position feel that getting offered to pay a fraction of the debt only to those that forego their moral obligation and deal only with the legal obligations are given an unfairly benefitial treatment. We that pay or try to pay are give very little breaks or discounts. Unfair but totally "legal".
Sure these people are reported to the credit bureau and probably have a hard time getting credit again (if the new lender uses credit bureau) for a while. Yet for someone that is so highly in debt, does it really matter if they can get MORE credit elsewhere? wouldn't it be a great thing to be forced or blocked from getting any more credit which would equate to more debt?
I've written so little lately that I don't know if anyone is following this any more. If you are, please do comment on this as I think all of you would have an interesting point of view.
Posted by AJ at 10:35 PM
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Today I paid down the final two cards with the two of four checks I got yesterday. Now I have to wait three days, although I know it only takes a day and a half, for the checks to clear. Once they clear it's time to cancel those cards.
I foresee a difficulty, the check amounts were based on my credit cards statements from september, since it took so long for Banpais to give them to me I had paid one more month on the cards. This means that I now have a positive balance on all the cards I want to cancel. Im sure they will give me trouble when I want to cancel while still have a balance, albeit a positive one.
In HSBC and Citi I can request a new card and use the balance for something and then cancel. However on Promerica I was already on a payment schedule and had no card in my name. I hope they are ok with issuing a check for me. In fact I will ask a check from all of them.
I'm now thinking that they might still charge interests even if I paid in full because this was balance carried from previous months. I will have to check. I will go in with a positive but conservative attitude. We'll see. I'll keep you posted.
Posted by AJ at 8:09 PM
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
I haven't written here in a looooong time.
Mostly because the news were depressing, sure I have two jogs and i'm paying down debt but it's such a slow process. Mostly because most debt I have is at 30 or 67% interest rate.
About three months ago my boss on my second job told me I got a 25% raise on my hourly rate. Great news, I would be able to stay above the debt-line.
About a month and a half ago I took an opportunity with Banpais with the Alternativa credit card. They told me they would take my credit card debt (most of it, still have some that was over their limit ouch) and give a loan at 22% , compare that to 33 on other card's payment scheduled or 67 on the actual credit cards.
Well it took a long time for the process to come thru, I was hesitant they would accept me since i've missed some due dates on payments, but i've managed to pay eventually. Also the debt amount is still so high that was also a concern.
A week into the review process they asked for clarification of a credit card extrafinacing loan I had as it seem as overdraft but it wasn't, it was just the way the CC company displayed stuff. Then they also wanted a letter explaining my second job...I also attached copies of the deposits for the last 2 years as further proof.
Finally a week ago they called me to say my loan+ credit card was approved. I was supposed to be very happy..yet I wasn't. I had been worrying so much about it that I thought I wasn't gonna be approved. So I figured they could still turn me down before the checks were printed.
Today I got the checks. Today is actually setting in that I'm improving my debt payment situation, consolidating my debt into two payments I can make with half of my second job's income.
I was able to go pay two of my credit cards today. The other two will be done tomorrow because I ran out of time before the banks closed.
I'm really hoping this will put me in a better position to pay it all out. Next month is my first of 48 monthly payments on this loan. As soon as the checks clear I'm closing out those accounts. If I could I would do it today but I have to way two or three days.
Have a good night. I gotta take some anti-anxiety meds now, I can't get too excited about this, I might get sick with a panic attack.
Posted by AJ at 8:39 PM