Bell Ringing Banks and Frank Costanza

One of my favourite Seinfeld episode (if I can have just one) is the episode where Frank Costanza (played by Jerry Stiller) starts a PC Sales company out of his garage, and every time someone made a sale (not George, but that Lloyd Braun!) they  rang a table bell, needless to say things get a little out of control and “SERENITY NOW!!!” (something I also yell a lot) was in great usage in that episode.

Why would I bring up such an obtuse TV reference, maybe I had nothing better to write (did I just hear a bell ring), or maybe it was because I was in my local TD Canada Trust branch and saw the following sign:

“… if you like the job we did ring our bell to show your satisfaction…”

(Or something like that). My wife dutifully rang the bell after visiting with the young teller she was at, but as I left, I rang the bell as well and pronounced loudly:

“That was for the banking machine it did a GREAT JOB as well!”

I just wish I’d yelled, SERENITY NOW! right after that .

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Interest Paid – Bank Fee = Shrinkage ?

I was looking at the various tax forms appear this Tax Season and I received my “Interest Earned T4A” forms for a savings account, and I am going to get Taxed on that “income” however, I am not just not as far ahead, I think I am way behind, thanks to bank fees.

Remember that:

Net Growth = Interest Paid - Bank Fee - Tax on Interest

In this instance, it is Net Shrinkage (like my money was in a cold swimming pool (bad Seinfeld reference)). Not only do I lose income thanks to Income Tax on it, thanks to Bank Fees I am losing money by putting it in my bank, due to low-interest rates (1.9%) and high bank fees ($14/month).

Now THAT is some financial shrinkage

Now THAT is some financial shrinkage

No, I am not espousing putting your money in your mattress (although sometimes I wonder), maybe find a lower fee (or no fee) model if you are not going to carry minimum balances in your accounts (where you usually get no fees charged if you leave $5000 as a minimum balance in your bank account). There are plenty of on-line banks and PC Financial that give that to you without having to threaten to leave.

Maybe taxes could be written off against Bank Fees? Don’t make it a full credit, if you don’t have any interest income to write it off against, but it really does seem to be an ever shrinking savings world.

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Updated Tip: Scan those Bills

So one of the first useful tips I wrote about was To Scan All Your Bills, so you didn’t necessarily need to keep paper copies of them.

I still continue to do this, although I do keep paper copies as well, for things that I am sure that the CRA might want to look at if I make claims on my taxes like:

  • Tuition receipts for University and my son’s schooling
  • Utilities bills, as I do claim part of those as business expenses
  • etc.,

The interesting updated idea that I have changed to is that I no longer only save these images on my computer at home (which is being backed up). There are now many different services that offer free off-site backup of files such as:

  • Google drive, which comes with your Gmail account
  • Dropbox which is an app that runs on many devices
  • Outlook has file space for you
  • iCloud from Apple
  • Even Ubuntu One offers some free disk space

I am a little leery to use “the cloud” for this kind of storage, so you might want to encrypt them if you use these services, as you never know who the heck might look at your files from elsewhere.

The interesting part about the scanning of my bills was that I did exactly that when I was asked for receipts from the CRA, and I sent them scans of the documents in question, and they seemed happy enough with that. My guess is if it was an actual audit, they would want to see the originals, but for a “request for receipts” the government seems happy enough with a scanned image now as well.

Unfortunately you need to keep your paper records for a while before you can safely dispose of them (i.e. shred and/or burn), but maybe we are finally getting away from paper copies of things?

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When Cheques are Stolen

Last week Mrs. C8j and I found out that our son’s school had been a victim of theft (from their main office). The school is private, and we pay the fees with post dated cheques. All of the cheques (from all the students) along with a quantity of cash was stolen from the office.

The school informed us of the theft right away, and told us that we should cancel all the post dated cheques (a good security measure to take in all circumstances similar to this), and they supplied us with a Police Case number, to give to the bank. The school also said that if we were charged any fees for canceling the cheques, the school would reimburse us, however, they also told us that one parent had already checked that Scotiabank was waving any fees in this situation.

I trundled off to my local TD branch, to extricate more money from my daughter’s RESP (this time fairly quick, but I had to go to the branch to do it (and include a proof of enrollment)). While I was there the Rep I spoke to also took care of the cheque cancellations. She was not sure at the time how the fees might work out, so I left unsure of whether this was going to cost me money or not, but I found out on Sunday the importance of following up and watching account balances closely.

I looked at my account and saw the following:

9/11/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT  $       120.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT  $          4.50
Totals  $       137.50  $       125.00
Total fee paid  $         12.50

As you can see there are 11 stop payment charges, however there was only 10 cheques that needed to be cancelled.

I called the Easyline folks, and after a little bit of sleuthing by a helpful young lady on the line, we found that yes one cheque had been cancelled twice (must have been an extra nasty cheque), so another refund was given and now we no longer owe anything for having the cheques cancelled. Good on TD for finding the error and fixing it.

Remember if you don’t ask the answer is always no, so it never hurts to ask if fees can be waived in exceptional situations.

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Passwords Everywhere

Do you have a magic list of passwords for all of your various on line profiles? Do you have a system for changing your passwords often? Do you have the same password for all of you on line profiles?

If you answered Yes to the last question, allow me to say, “DON’T DO THAT!”, for the love of MyDoom, if any of the many sinister nasty folks on the Interweb get into one of your accounts, suddenly they are into all of them. I have talked about Financial On Line Security before, but this was triggered by yet another interesting discussion with Mrs. C8j.

RRSP, RESP, RDSP

Security Needs to be Watching

There is actually a very long list of different financial on-line profiles with user ids and passwords, but Mrs. C8j pointed out that she really should have access to this information in case of an emergency. My guess is that a solution to this will be to actually print out this information and put it in a safe deposit box or somewhere safe for her.

This is actually a terrible solution, because:

  • You should not have a file with this information on a computer anywhere (unless you have it under some kind of heavy encryption, but even then, that may not be that safe).
  • Printing it just means that it will be even less safe (paper is much easier to pilfer).
  • Printing the information means she has a snapshot, at that moment, however, when I change those passwords, the list is suddenly useless.

The other ideas like putting it on your cell phone is bad, because the phone is easily stolen, and putting it “in the cloud”, just makes it easier to find.

What is the best way to keep this information secure, while being able to share it (securely) for the “what if” scenario.

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