Debt Cash Grabs and Your Bank

A while ago, Gail Vaz-Oxlade put out a simple Facebook post that blew my mind.

I had heard this could happen, but evidently it happens a great deal, when folks build up large debts, or get too delinquent with their debts. The terms of your banking agreements make this all legitimate (so read them over closely to see what other interesting things your bank can do, I am sure there are others), but it does seem interesting that banks want you to consolidate your banking in one bank, and they will entice you to do this with great “deals” on things.

Customer Retention

Don’t put all your eggs in this one mousetrap

Does this mean you should go out and diversify your assets and your debts so that they are at least arm’s length away from each other? Might not be a bad idea, if you are the kind of person that builds up large personal debt loads and is very likely not to pay those debts back (or has a tardiness streak in you), but then again, if you were that kind of person, would you think of this?

It seems there are folks who try to game the system, and will bounce around from bank to bank attempting to stay one step ahead of debtors prison (or the bill collectors), but I haven’t met many of those folks. Is your bank suddenly garnishing your money a real concern? Not for most folks, but it is something you should keep in mind, just like if you buy your lottery tickets with a credit card, it is treated like a cash advance.

File this one in your TIL file (Today I Learned).

 

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Financial Knowledge Draining Away

I was reading a very interesting article in the Bloomberg Businessweek† “Chowing Down on Boomers’ Brains“, which talks about the huge loss of “tribal knowledge” with the retirement of the Baby Boomers from the workforce, and it has me wondering just how well our Banks are going to deal with this “brain drain” from their ranks? Evidently some very large firms in the states (GE, GM and others) have this as a major risk in the near future.

As an example in my little part of the Government, about 25% of our department is going to retire this year. This might be an extreme example, but how we are going to keep all that “tribal knowledge” or “industrial memory” is not clear to me (as most folks are not being hounded to do “brain dumps” of what they know).

Retirement

Collective Knowledge Wandering off Into the Sunset

What does this have to do with banks, you might ask? The banks and government have 1 common stream, they both have very nice Pensions for their employees (in most cases), so in most cases folks who can retire, will retire (i.e. will not keep working because they can’t afford to retire).

If you want a concrete example of the danger of “brain drain due to retirement”, you need only look at the infamous Y2K fracas, where banks had to pay an exorbitant amount of money to “contractors” to repair COBOL code that could not deal with the concept of a year having more than 2 digits.

Is this going to happen again? I don’t know, but I just wonder how much “collective knowledge” in the banks (about day to day business, information technology and other operational areas) is simply wandering off into the sunset of retirement? I guess we will find out when we see how many folks are hired back on contract to maintain antiquated but essential systems. Another interesting angle to this discussion is that the CRA is a government agency and is most likely suffering the same issues with retirements as well? Maybe they will forget how to tax us? (OK, maybe that one is a stretch).

Can the banks plug the brain drain? Let us hope they are thinking about that.


– Note that while Bloomberg Businessweek is an expensive magazine to buy and read, it is available from the Ottawa Public Library (for free) using the Zinio application, keep that in mind.


Photo by satit_srihin. Published on 31 January 2016 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Financial Redundancy

In the high-tech world the term redundant is actually a good thing. Most folks think of redundant in terms of jobs, and being declared redundant (i.e. being laid off, or the like), however in the high-tech world redundant is actually a vital part of reliability. If there are redundant systems in place, or redundant connections then there are backups in place to take over if one of the systems fails, and that is what I mean by Financial Redundancy.

Last week there was a very good tweet that inspired me to think about this concept.

The point being made is that you need to have a separate bank account in a different bank or savings concept (trust company or the like) just in case your main bank account or bank gets compromised in some way. What do I mean by compromised?

  • Your account has been hacked and thus locked out so you have no access to it, until the issues with the security intrusion is remedied.
  • Your bank “goes down”. This can be a myriad of possible issues including: Interac failure, Computer system crash, bank is hacked (as mentioned in the tweet), etc.,
  • Your bank fails? Yes, this is ridiculously drastic, but it has happened, and I am sad to say, it will happen again (ask the folks who had money in Savings and Loans in the states)

Really the question is what do you do if you don’t have a redundant money supply to fall back on? You could use your credit cards, and you already have a redundant system there don’t you (pretty much everyone has more than 1 credit card, a Visa, a Mastercard, an Amex, maybe even a Diners Club), so why don’t you have some redundant savings in place too?

Redundancy

This Seems Redundant

An idea is maybe putting your Emergency Fund (which we all should have in some fashion) at a different bank? That way it really can help in an emergency.

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No I Can’t Do Anything About That

That is a direct quote from a TD representative when I asked if anything could be done about the interest rate on my Unsecured Line of Credit.

For the longest of times, this Unsecured Line of Credit was “Prime + 1.5%”, but about 2 years ago, it was raised to “Prime + 2.0%”, which while annoying, was something I could live with, however, about six months ago I got a terse piece of Snail Mail announcing, “Yeh, it will be Prime + 3.0%. I was quite irked by this (as a customer of TD), and decided the next time I was in the Bank (say to cash in an RESP) I would ask about this.

The Answer

The Answer is Always No, if you don’t ask

In the interim, my daughter got her Student Line of Credit from CIBC, which I co-signed, and she got that at Prime, so I figured I’d bring the documentation with me (to TD)  to see if I could motivate my friendly TD rep to do something about my unsecured line of credit rate.  This is where the title of this post came in to play.

First I was easily able to cash out my daughter’s RESP (as I had move all E-series Index Funds into the Money Market fund, won’t get fooled twice on that one), in a relatively quick few minutes. I then had to have my “investing profile” updated to allow me to do what I wanted in another account, again done quite quickly as the rep simply cloned the last time I did this update.

At this point I brought up my Unsecured Line of Credit and the high interest rate (in my opinion) and the fact that I have good enough credit to co-sign a loan for prime only, and the answer was short and to the point:

“No, that is an unsecured line of credit and I cannot lower that rate.”

I asked if there was any chance to discuss it, and was dismissed with, “Your Daughter has a professional line of credit loan, not the same thing, we can’t do anything for you”.  I believe I also asked if anybody else could help, but was told No. Now I have said previously, The Answer is Always No, unless you ask, but evidently it can be No even if you do ask.

If I remember the happy young lady at the CIBC, when she gave us the details about my daughter’s student line of credit, told me that an unsecured line of credit rate for me would have an interest rate depending on my credit rating and how much debt I carry, but she’d gladly check it out for me if I wanted her to do that. I guess I’ll be going to visit CIBC in the near future.

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More Reasons to Change Banks

Last year I wrote about how my daughter got a Student Line of Credit, to help pay for her second degree, as a Chiropractor. Remember, I am the one that talks about being willing to change banks, but unfortunately, my daughter is changing banks due to the mistakes of the local branch of National Bank of Canada (which is the reason I changed banks a while ago as well).

The problems started when the line of credit was first set up, and has compounded since then:

  • It took 3 visits to get the student line of credit set up (we thought) with the local branch. Once the application forms were set up, the first application for the account was declined, because the young lady at the local branch was unaware of how to do the application, it was declined  because the application was asking for the entire value of the loan (for all 4 years of the school). There had to be a reapplication to get the loan set up (finally).
  • The Student Line of Credit was actually set up as a standard unsecured line of credit. This caused the National Bank head office to call (more than once, and somewhat irate) to ask why weren’t the minimum payments being made to the account? It then would take an hour of explanation, and investigation for someone to figure out that the account had been set up incorrectly (by the local branch). The only way it could be fixed was by the local branch, and they failed (more than once) to remedy this issue. The account should be set up so that the interest payments do not need to be paid until my daughter graduated (but yes, they still compound).
  • There was an inability to make payments from other banks to the National Bank for this loan. This meant all banking would have to go through the National Bank only (or use Interac transfers to do things). This is also a shortcoming with the CIBC Student Line of Credit.
  • The on-line banking at National Bank, never really worked correctly for my daughter, she had to keep calling their on-line help folks to get access to the account (just to see what the balance was on the account). This happened every time she tried to access the account, and each time she would ask, “So with the information you have just given me, I can get access to my account”, and the help line person would say “Yes”. It worked that time, and then the next time, she had to call back in, because it would not let her in.
  • The straw that broke the camel’s back was that the National Bank Head Office decided that the “ceiling” (maximum for the loan) for students in Chiropractic College (for their entire program) was  dropped by 33%, and because of this, the line of credit would not have covered the cost of the entire program. The reason for this change (we theorize) was that the Chiropractic College in Trois-Rivieres was consulted to see how much their program cost, and the maximum for the line of credit was lowered to reflect that program’s total cost. This is an issue, as my daughter is going to the College in Toronto (which has higher fees and costs). This meant my daughter had to change to another bank or she would have run out of money, so she is now in the process of changing to CIBC for her Student Line of Credit (and Free Banking too). There were inquiries made to the local National Bank branch to figure out why the Loan Cap was lowered, no real answer was given, just that it was being put in place, and that even though my daughter had been enrolled last  year, and the loan agreement included the higher cap, her cap was being lowered in accordance with the new rules.
Change your bank

Keep this in mind if you want to change your Bank

As you can see a great deal of frustration and confusion lead to my daughter changing her accounts over to CIBC. Naturally I was involved in the decision to change, as I am a guarantor on the student line of credit (or as Michael James would say, I have a Student Line of Credit). The change of the maximum loan limit was the main reason, but the other frustrations certainly made the decision to change, a simpler choice.

Remember, never be afraid to change banks, especially if you feel that you are not getting a very good deal. Also, this is why student debt is so darn high.

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