Kinda fell off the wagon

March 26, 2008

I haven’t been here lately because I’ve been increasing my debt (over $18K now) and am starting to feel guilty.  My credit score went from 720, to 630, and it’s up to 656 now.  I knew that was going to happen in order for me to not pay 21% in finance charges.   However, gave up on the blog idea (one of the reasons why I’m not writing here as frequently) and put all that energy towards learning about real estate.  I found some good books at the library.  Also I had some careless penalty fees: two parking tickets at $37 a pop; signed up for a background casting site which is useless and it charged $19 and possibly another $45.

I apologize to all the people who commented, but I didn’t approve it for a while.  Thanks for reading.

Fico 800?

February 13, 2008

My goal is to get a Fico score of 770 (which seems to be the lowest “A+” by an article on bankrate.com).  I went to a used car dealership yesterday which had the best price on cars.com.  I had to get my wife into a safe car.  I don’t think I can put a dollar amount on her safety.  So, yes we bought an 11K used car.

FICO AUTO 2  – WTF?

The dealer asked what my fico was. Proudly, I stated, “720 on Experian and 710 from Fico.”  Then when he ran the report a 670 came out.  HUH! I knew I opened up a few account recently, but couldn’t imagine that dropping it by 40-50 points.  Then he told me that they use an Auto-2 Fico score which is about 30-40 points lower than your regular fico.  The reason for this he stated was that you can’t run off with a house on your shoulder.  However, you could take off with a car to a chop shop.  So the number for ‘Auto-2’ is more conservative.  Whew!  I’m glad I knew that.

I also in passing who recently came in with the highest fico score.  He stated that some guy came in with an auto-2 of 800 which meant his regular fico is about 840.  He said that he had about 50 accounts all open and paid on time.  Plus, he was young – mid-to-late 30s.  Very impressive.

Today I applied for a loan as I was not happy with what the dealer stated that he could get us – 12.99% for 60 months with no prepayment penalty.  The best Bofa could do for me was 20%.  I turned him down – felt good, kinda like that lendingtree.com commercial.  I told him that I’d be back later with a better fico score.  Also, I asked him what it takes to get an 850 fico and he said that he’s been doing this for a long time and he made it seem like there was a better chance of spotting the lochness monster than a “perfect” fico person.  He said that you have to have more than just credit card accounts as debt.  You need auto and mortgage and very old accounts to get the score up there.  So, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to get it up there this year.

Got hit with ATM/Identity Fraud

February 13, 2008

My account got hacked. Someone in Eastern Europe took out $475 ($300 Euros, the ATM max for the day?) out of my checking account, plus 4.75 for a foreign transaction fee.  I immediately called up and shut off the debit card.  I’m not sure if it’s because I used a “dirty” atm in a shady part of downtown, my paranoid mind thought it might’ve been the teller at the bank who was jealous of the $20K I deposited into the account as I took a loan from my folks at 2% to buy a car for my wife.  However, later on I said that I should apply for a loan instead of paying cash as coming across 20K is pretty hard.  I would like to put that towards a rental property.  So anyway, back to the fraud…

Solution

I asked them what the solution was as I had “lost” $480 out of my account and had some auto pays for my credit cards coming up.  They referred me to another department that gave me a provisional amount until they investigate it.  You have to ask for it.  I found some good info by googling ‘atm fraud’.

Debt Consolidation complete for now!

January 30, 2008

Ok, I’m card hopping – not the best routine, but better than getting killed with high interest rates.  Now I the most I’m paying is 4.99% at Bofa for about 11K of debt.  The rest of my $15K debt is at zero percent.  This means that I’m paying about $525/year in interest charges down from $2100 just a few months back.  Also, I increased my credit limit on my bofa card to 16K.

FALLING BACK INTO THE DEBT PATTERN

Since my rental check didn’t come in, I have not been able to pay the bills so I had to put it on my credit card.  This is the same pattern that happens so quickly with falling into debt.  I have not at all been able to spend time focusing on film – especially my own projects which I direct and/or produce.  I have people pissed off at me, but I’m trying to make them understand that working on a non-paid project is hard to justify when I can’t pay my bills.

TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG? 

A few weeks back I was studying about blogging intensely, but realized that if I put that same effort to learning about real estate my wealth will increase even more.  So I have been focused on that. I’m not going to discontinue blogging, but it will be much further back on the priority list.  I do see a passive income stream there, but a slower one.  I have one site already set up with google adsense and will maintain it.  However, I don’t think I will start anything soon.

I’m also looking to get a job with an airline or some other franchise or both.  This way,  I can visit my parents more frequently.

MY PRIORITIES

My priorities are in a state of flux.  Previously, it was in this order:

1. Film/Acting
2. Family
3. Travel

Then last month it was:
1. Family
2. Finance
3. Film
4. Travel

Now since I’ve seen my  parents recently it’s:
1. Finance
2. Family
3. Film
4. Travel

I have a pretty clear vision now of where I’m going.  A few variables are getting a job to pay the bills until the passive income kicks into a higher gear (at least $2K/mo).

Nearing the end of the Card-hopping game

January 25, 2008

NEVER TOO LATE TO LEARN
I spent 10 days at home with my folks so there were no expenses.  I lectured my parents about how they can avoid their fights regarding money and marriage if they separate it.  I told them that my wife and I keep it completely separate so we don’t have to answer to each other, but we will advice one another if we think the other is doing something foolish or non-productive.  They took heed.

CARD HOPPING 

I’m trying to do the last of my high interest credit card which is the $1.3K on my BofA account.  I just transferred it to the chase card. it has cool options like:

6.99% Fixed APR until full balance paid and no fee (Respond by: 1/31/08)
0% Fixed APR until the first day of your billing cycle that includes 7/1/08 (Respond by: 1/31/08)
4.99% Fixed APR until full balance paid (Respond by: 1/31/08)

I chose the 0% and the 3% balance transfer fee will be about $40.  then I was planning on putting it all on the BofA at 4.99% for the life of the debt, but now I see that they no longer have that option.  They only have that rate til Jan 2009.  So I guess if I wait I out for a few months they might give me the ‘4.99% for the life of the debt’.  But with all the bank crisis, it might not be around.  We’ll see.

Also I was denied the second chase account which I applied for a  month ago.  They said that it was because I had just opened a previous account with them recently.

I have a Household Bank offer for a 0% APR for 12months then a go to rate of 14%.  I might get it so my wife can use it.  Another hesitation I have with putting my wife’s $3.65K debt on my account is that it will lower my fico score.   She’s currently paying about $550/yr which would lower it to $182/yr if at 5%….  I just logged into hbaccept.com and it is an hsbc account.  So I don’t think I’ll go through with it.

Financial Pressure was Mounting till I Chose for it to NOT Mount

January 12, 2008

I was feeling very stressed out yesterday about the international trip. I had been looking for jobs but nothing came my way. I made up around 3 different resumes, but something just didn’t seem right about aimlessly working to make money. I wanted to work somewhere where I could gain knowledge. It felt like my dreams were crumbling as I see so often with my friends who have to make money instead of going on audition and next thing you know, they’re a full time manager somewhere and their dreams have gone away. I do NOT want that happening to me.

My wife preaches the book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” about how to break habits. (She’s really good about practicing what she preaches. She took my advice when I told her that she should be saving 10% of everything she makes and she stuck with it for the past year and has several grand in her account. Then she opened up an HSBC saving at 4.25% just yesterday.) She said that I keep going through this every time property tax rolls around. I said that I want to build up a system (blogs) and not just work minimum wage jobs which will take away from my time to build the sites. Plus, it’s not like I sit around all day and watch TV. I don’t watch it at all. She said that it didn’t look like I need money that bad because I’m not jumping at any job. This is exactly how I keep getting into debt. I’m managing it now, but the trip will be too much.

Then I went to sleep and woke up feeling almost the same way, then I realized that it’s all a choice. I am choosing to be stuck in this pattern and be miserable. Like one of my favorite quotes, ‘you can be in debt and be miserable or you can be in debt. Period. I prefer to be in debt and do something about it – which I have been.

Then it dawned on me that I wouldn’t mind owning a franchise and possibly even working somewhere first where I could gain knowledge and then later own it.

I spoke to my father as well about selling their second house which they never use and buy a 4-plex. My mother was interested when I told her about it recently. I’m heading there tomorrow to see them and will bring it up and possibly go check out the area as well.

Mysteriously $2K disappeared out of my Bofa account and it is not showing up in the transactions as well as any other of my credit cards. The wamu2 got declined because I had the wamu1.

Washington Mutual Credit Card’s archaic system

January 11, 2008

I just filled out the WaMu cc paysmart invoice. Man! I felt like a dinosaur was about to rip my roof off and possibly eat me alive.  What does that mean?  Washington mutual’s credit card autopayment signup protocol is so archaic. I started the process days ago which was wasting my energy as I kept watching for late payments etc.  I finally got it and I had to write out a voided check – who does that anymore?

I must admit even though I seemed to switch everything from bank of America (BofA checking and savings), wamu’s customer service sucks big time.  First of all, I couldn’t open a savings account because of those stupid questions on their site for verification.  Then I didn’t get a debit card for 6 months.  I emailed them about every month and never received a reply.  I called them and they said it would be in within 10 days and it never showed up.  Then I called again and finally I got the card.  However, their products are awesome – free checking and checks for life; nearly 5% savings – which is why I’m with them.  I have no idea how they got JD Power and Associates Best Customer Service award.  I would write to JD if they screwed me over, but their in house customer service is very nice.  I like them a lot. I actually look forward to going to the bank. But come on WaMu cc – this is the 21st Century AD, not BC.

Nickling and Diming
I signed up for a few get paid for research sites such as pinecone.com as I’m totally broke.  I’ve been really stressing lately.  I had to buy a ticket for a domestic airline as my father is not doing too well.  I did put it on my swa cc so I can get something in return.  However, even bigger is the trip my wife and I are planning to go see her parents.  She hasn’t seen them in nearly a decade, so again we can’t put a price on that, but it is going to hurt. I was going to try and make some money before we go, but it doesn’t look likely now.  It’s an international flight which will set us back about $1500 each and we have to pay for our expenses here as well.  Anyway, this is going to kill me.  That’s why I’ve been trying to work harder on the blogs, but I feel so unfocused (I started another blog idea – not sure if I’m going to do it or not, but we’ll see).

Waiting for 0% Credit Card for Debt Consolidation is killing me

January 10, 2008

9:16 PM –  I took a deep breath and put in my passwords for mint.com.  I got a rejection notice from a blogging job I applied to, so I used that as fuel to get my finances in order and overcome the fear of putting all my financial passwords into one site.  So far, I’ve had problems establishing connections with my hsbc and chase credit cards, and hsbc savings.

I’ve been waiting and waiting for the hsbc to do a balance transfer. Currently, I’m still spending about $90/mo ($1084/yr) for the $6.7K that’s sitting in my bofa at 16%.  I’m trying transfer about $3300 of it to my usaa at 13%. Ideally I’m trying to get all of the bofa balance to zero and then put it back on at 4.99% for the life of the debt.  It’s still a little too high for me as I want my savings account to beat it, but it blows away most of the people’s interest rates. I’m not jumping on the usaa transfer as I’m hoping that the wamu card2 will be accepted and hsbc transfer will happen (initiated 1/4/08) asap so then I will reduce the number of balance transfer fees (3%).  But I’ll still need to transfer some to my usaa eventually after these two as they are only giving about $2.5K credit limit each.  I will try and call usaa cc to transfer some over now.

10:20 PM – I signed up for mint.com and it is ok. Not as great as I thought. I guess it’s because not all my accounts are in there, so I feel like I can’t “see” everything as once.

Pressure of No Income

January 9, 2008

I’ve been feeling really pressured lately as there is no new money coming in.  instead of pushing my property mgr to get a new client in. I formatted the listing of my condo to his site specific.  Sent him pictures I have of the empty condo and said that I would send this out to craigslist unless I hear otherwise – instead of asking him, ‘let me know if you want me to send it to craigslist.’  So that way, he has to respond to stop me incase I put something in my listing that he doesn’t approve of.

I hung out with a friend who mentioned mint.com.  it’s a really cool concept and basically it does everything automatically which I’m doing manually on excel.  Check out this article about mint.com on Forbes.

I spent a lot of time updating my other site and adding adsense and Amazon stuff.  I have this tendency to work really hard for something that might pay me back later – ‘might’ being the operative word.  I have such an entrepreneurial spirit, but a lot of times it doesn’t go to fruition, so all this time spent is wasted.  But I know – just the same with film – that I’ll only fail when I quit.

Coming out of Avoiding Negative to Gaining Positive mode

January 5, 2008

I was hesistant the other day to put purchases on my SWA credit card because I didn’t want to go back into a credit card debt.  So I put a few things on there (gas, groceries,etc) and immediately paid it from my checking account.  Now that I got a lot of the 16% debt down (see previous blog), I am aggressively putting all my bills on there and including my wife’s bills so I can get free airline tickets.  Basically, I gotta spend $16K/year to a free ticket.  Which is basically a 2.5% return on purchases.  I valued the ticket at $400 because of the flexibility.

This is in essense passive income because I’m spending the same amount as I would have otherwise, but now I’m getting something back.

Let me know if you find a better cash back card.