Personal Auditor General

Another blast from the archives from the year 2008 (just before I was laid off), note how critical I was of the government. Do you have your own Financial Auditor General?

The Canadian Government is a mega-business in terms of size and jurisdiction, and to keep this monster organization in line there is the Office of the Auditor General. Yesterday the Office of the Auditor General put out its 2008 Annual Report, and as usual it is full of many interesting issues with the Government specifically in the area of spending. There are some very interesting comments on User Fees in general and how they have been arbitrarily added by many government agencies without a specific accounting of what the “fee” is for. Interesting reading.

The concept of the Auditor General got me thinking about whether I could stand an audit of kind by a 3rd party of my finances. My answer is I don’t really think so, however it might actually be a great idea to force me and my family to explain some of the purchases and financial decisions that have been made over the past little while. Think of having to explain to someone why I held on to my High Tech stocks for so long? Makes me cringe just thinking about this whole idea, but to me it sounds like a good idea.

I have previously written about the Quarterly Financial Review (which we are almost half way through the second financial quarter) and also about your Financial Resume, and these ideas are great concepts to help families communicate with each other about their current financial status (especially once you have a few reviews under your belt so you can actually compare and contrast quarter to quarter), but I am thinking that maybe these ideas aren’t quite enough. If you add more accountability (pardon the pun) to your Personal Financial Life you may be forced to make more informed decisions (i.e. you are less likely to rely on your “gut” or impulses, if you know you have to explain later to someone why you did what you did).

Any ideas where this kind of “Personal Audit” could be implemented are welcome.

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White ATM Machines Same as Pay Day Loans

If you are going to pay $1.50 (or more) for the privilege of using a “White” ATM, you are actually paying worse rates than you would at a Pay Day Loan place.

Don’t believe me? So if I borrow $100 from a Pay Day Loan shop, the fee for this joyful thing is about $21 that has to be paid in 14 days (elapsed not business days). Just typing that makes my stomach turn, but I did actually look it up on one of the handy on-line pay-day loan sites (yes, that is sarcasm).

ATM Machine

White ATM Machine
Image courtesy of cooldesign, at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If over the month  you take $100 out $20 at a time from these White Shylocks (I use that term as a derogatory term for a money-lender and not in any other way), you’d pay $7.50 in fees (oh and your bank might nail you for more fees), so that actually looks much less than the $21 the Money Vampires want to charge you, however, indulge me on this.

  • In strict mathematical terms, given the $1.50 service fee is applied the second you get it, your interest rate is really effectively infinite (if the Time elapsed is Zero, math goes berserk).
  • Let’s assume you are paying $1.50 because you are too lazy to find an actual bank (your bank), and there was most likely a bank within 1 hour of you, so you are paying effectively $1.50 for an hour (or 7.5% interest for an hour). That translates to about  657 times your $20 withdrawal or 65700% ?

Yes, this is more fun with numbers, but think about it, next time you use a White ATM machine.

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And the Horse You Rode in On

This is an expression my Father on occasion used to describe someone claiming they could not help you (what is more, they don’t want to help you). The actual expression is “Screw You, and the horse you rode in on“, but the shortened version (“And the horse you rode in on”) is much more palatable in polite circles.

I had one of these experiences yesterday, talking to a very nice young woman from Rogers. I noted (in this conversation) that Rogers is offering a $10 “unlimited internet” option on their new bundles program, so I figured I’d call to ask whether I (a valued customer of many years (IMHO)), could avail myself of this self-same program.

No, no, no! Your Horse, not your Zebra!

No, no, no! Your Horse, not your Zebra!

The young woman while very sympathetic said that the deal was only available if I added my Home Phone to my Rogers bundle (however if I wanted to add it to my existing package that would cost an extra $30 a month). I mentioned Customer Retention more than once, hoping she might take the hint, however, she finally said, “they most likely won’t want to talk to you about this”.

In my humble view of Customer Service this is the same as saying, “Screw You, and the horse you rode in on” to a customer. I finally asked her to please connect me to customer retention, and she warned me again, but did try to see if they might talk to me.

Did she actually talk to them? Not sure, however she did finally come back and say, “Your current deal with the Internet is all they can do for you, so they don’t wish to talk to you”. I thanked the young woman for her help, but as a last question I asked what the penalty was for breaking my “great deal” early with Rogers, as I do have Bell beating down my door about their Fibe Program. She said it was $20 a month and the deal is until August 2014, I did a quick calculation and said, “…so about $260 to break this deal? OK, thank you.”

While I understand the message that I already have a good deal, and shouldn’t ask for more, responding to a customer with, “I won’t talk to you”, is really a slap in the face to anyone. Having someone from “Customer Retention” deliver this message would have been much more palatable to me, and I would have felt less annoyed by the response.

Did I expect to get this deal? Unless I asked I knew the answer was no, so I asked, but answering, “No and go away!” is a bit more than I expected. Am I saying Rogers is being unreasonable not offering me this deal? Absolutely not, it is within their prerogative not to give me any more deals, my issue is with how the message was delivered. Even unreasonable, needy customers must be treated with a level of respect by giving them a clear and polite response (even if the response is no).

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Services and Fees


As a follow-up to my post yesterday about CRA Child Disability Benefit Mrs. C8j pointed out that a lot of folks that she has chatted with feel intimidated by this process and have paid an accountants to get everything set up (Mrs. C8j has met a lot of parents with disabilities and is active in a few forums).

While I don’t have the visceral hatred of accountants that some might have, in this case I really must stress that you shouldn’t be paying to get this work done other than the fees you might get charged by your Doctor to fill in the necessary forms and letters. While I know my amigo the BBC might say that an accountant could be very helpful here (and well they might) paying a lot of money to set this up is not necessary (in my opinion).

My Son Many Years Ago (nice rocking plane his sister made)

My Son Many Years Ago (nice rocking airplane his sister made)

There are many folks who have accountants already working for them do their taxes and such, and good on you if you don’t trust your own skills in this area, but filing these forms is something that you can do quite easily (as I showed yesterday). If you don’t feel confident that you can do it, I guess your accountant is a good choice to help you, but they shouldn’t be charging you much (if any) fees to do it.

As for other services and other important credits to claim, I will be covering those in posts in the next few weeks. I am trying to be careful with these posts to make sure I reflect our experiences, and remember with all of these types of posts from me, it may or may not work for you, I am writing them to show that you might be able to do this (but as with all things in life there are very few guarantees).

Another note, since I view yesterday’s post as being important I have changed one paragraph a little:

In a great many cases, a child’s disability is obvious, and there should be no issue with getting this disability benefit, however, in the case of the Autism Spectrum and other mental incapacities, whether you get this benefit relies heavily on the documentation supplied by the diagnosing professional….

Mrs. BCM pointed out that the term in bold is not politically correct so I have updated it to:

In a great many cases, a child’s disability is obvious, and there should be no issue with getting this disability benefit, however, in the case of the Autism Spectrum and other developmental disabilities, whether you get this benefit relies heavily on the documentation supplied by the diagnosing professional….

I also have included a picture of my son to show that even though he may have a disability he is and was (the photo was when he was much younger) a handsome devil.

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One Phone Call and $1200 Dollars Later

As I mentioned last week in Have You Spoken to Our Customer Retention Agent, sometimes a single phone call can save you a lot of money, but first you must make that phone call.

On Friday, I re-read the comments on my posts, and saw that more than one of my commenters said they call Rogers every time to get better deals, so I went to refresh my memory about how much I paid to Rogers for Cable and Internet access, and was astonished to see how high my rate was (and was annoyed with myself for not doing something about it sooner).

It was all quite easy, I called, and once I found the right person to talk to (after 3 different transfers), I got a young lady, who said she could help me out (this is after the first young man I spoke to actually did say, “… it sounds like you are thinking of changing your Cable service, you should talk to our Customer Relations team…” (I kid you not, a bright young man)). I started with how I have been a long time Rogers customer, the young lady then corrected me and said, “Sir you have been a customer since 1991” (wow that is a long time), so she got on my good side pointing that out.

Typical back and forth discussion about what might and might not be possible, and then the all important, “… I am going to talk to my supervisor, may I put you on hold sir?“, part of the game, and 5 minutes later she returned (my guess is she went to the bathroom and got a cup of coffee, but I can’t be sure of that), I was told that because I was a long time customer and because I have both Cable and Internet with Rogers, I was going to get a $50 a month discount.

This discount only came unless I agreed to a 2 year contract, but over that contract I will then save $1200 on what I am currently paying, so I am not complaining, that is for sure. I also tried to get something free on the Cable side of things, however, she wouldn’t budge on that one (too bad I was hoping to get the movie network free for a month or two, but c’est la vie).

Yet another example of what can happen if you just say to your service provider or bank, “I don’t like the price I am paying for this service”.

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