We count on banks to keep our money safe, but that's not really what they're best at. The financial sector has doubled as a portion of the economy in recent decades, and that's not because they're so good at putting your needs first. It's their job to put your money to work for themselves, and if you aren't careful, they will do everything short of turning you upside down to catch the change that falls out of your pockets. Here are six ways that your bank can turn your money into theirs.
Anyone who's worked in retail or fast food should be familiar with the upsell. "You shoud really get the warranty for that." "The large is only 89 cents more." "Sure, eight inches is probably enough... but with the 10-inch you know you won't be disappointed." But banks have taken that game to the next level. All you have to do is upgrade to a deluxe savings account and you can get compound interest, a the platinum credit card with a higher limit, and a free toaster. Just read this 30-page contract which lays out that the credit card interest doubles after 30 days, but as long as you always keep your account balance above $1,435, and do five PIN transactions and seven signature transactions each month, and never make a withdrawal on a Tuesday, you'll never be hit with any massive...
Do you want to use an ATM for a different bank? That different bank is going to charge you a fee, but guess what? So is your bank. Why? Because they can. Were you not ready for that? Maybe you're cutting it close before your next paycheck? Well now you've earned yourself an overdraft fee, which is to say that you ran out of money, so your bank is going to charge you $35. Unless you also use that card to buy a pack of gum. Then it's another $35. Your monthly Netflix charge comes through the same night? That's another $35. Some rich asshole actually cashes the 13-cent check that you wrote as a joke? $35. Good luck hanging onto your paycheck with all these fees racking up! With very few limits on banking fees, is it any wonder they've been shooting through the roof?
The Wells Fargo fake account scandal became huge news when it was revealed that their sales staff was being pressured to meet quotas that basically guaranteed they would be adding accounts for customers that didn't want them. But Wells Fargo was caught, they paid the fines, and they launched a tone deaf apology campaign. So, story's over, right? Not quite. Turns out that if banks can do some sneaky fraud and not get caught, they absolutely will. Wells Fargo is not the only culprit. You could have fake extra accounts feeding off your real one right now.
If you were a bank, and you didn't want to limit yourself to making loans only to customers who could afford to pay those loans back, what would you do? If you answered, "Give out predatory 'subprime' loans with surprise balloon rates," congratulations! You just triggered the 2008 Housing Crash. And if you thought that banks would have learned their lesson, you obviously don't know that they've been doing the exact same thing with car loans. And now car loans are going into default at record rates. Which is a great sign of things to come...
Bailouts and Subsidies
Well, at least if the banks set us up for another financial crisis, they'll face the consequences, right? Hahahaha! Good one. The great thing about the growth and consolidation of the banking industry is how many banks are now "too big to fail." And they have such powerful lobbies that regulation is not even on the table. The result is that banks can use your money to be as reckless and risky as they want, and if anything goes wrong, they can count on tax payer money to come to the rescue. And on top of that, they also get some annual government subsidies, just for being who they are. Cool.
If you thought it was only customers and tax payers who were getting ripped off by the banks, you thought wrong. Even the bank employees are getting their pockets picked in the form of wage theft. Banks are some of the worst culprits in terms of withholding overtime pay.
So the next time your bank is ripping you off and you call to complain, remember not to direct your rage at the employee on the other end of that call. Just take a deep breath, close your account, then pull up a floorboard to squirrel away your cash.
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As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.