ZERO PERCENT FINANCING

July 30, 2010

ZERO PERCENT FINANCING

The economic picture this summer is filled with a plethora of inducements that proclaim zero percent loans and postponed payments for cars, computers, electronics, etc.  Before you lunge for that no-interest deal, or for that no payments until 2012 offer, bear in mind that these financing deals can be misleading and deceptive, and can end up costing you.

SCOPE OUT THE DEALS

Always compare and contrast offers, since you may discover that there is a cheaper price being offered from a retailer that does not offer a convoluted financing deal.  In addition to price, you also want to deal with a reputable store that sells quality products, and provides consistent customer care.  If you find a better price, take the financing ad with you.  Sometimes, the other dealer will match, or even beat the competitor’s price.  Negotiate your price.  You will not know if you can get a better price if you do not ask.  Remember, asking costs you nothing.  If you are looking to compare financing deals, incentives, and rebates for automobile purchases, access: www.autobytel.com and www.edmunds.com.

LOOK WITH SCRUTINY

A zero percent loan often is not as good as it appears, and can end up taking a bigger bite out of your wallet than would have been the case if you purchased the same item without the free financing deal.  Often, you have to forgo a “cash back” deal, or other discount to take advantage of these no-interest loans.  Some stores offer no interest financing, but inflate the selling price to make up the difference.  Also, some zero-interest offers impose restrictions that are only applicable to certain brands, or only apply to purchases over a minimum dollar amount.  Always be alert to any hidden costs or conditions surrounding the financing deal that may nullify any of the cost saving benefits that are being advertised.  Many zero-interest offers provide that you do not have to pay interest on an item as long as you pay for the purchase in full by a specified date.  However, the catch is that if you do not pay in full by that specified date, you will be charged exorbitant interest on the entire amount of the item, dating back to the original purchase date, even if you have paid off most of the balance.  If you do take advantage of a deal that touts no payments for a specified period of time, e.g. no payments for six months, confirm that when you do start making payments, that you are not obligated to pay interest that accrued from the original date of purchase.  Always get in writing the date when you start owing and start paying interest, and the amount of interest that will be applied.

MAGNIFY THE FINE PRINT

Do not get seduced by provocative advertisements that scream “No Interest,” or “No Payments Required until 2012.”  The truth is in the details of the contract, and it is essential that you get everything in writing.  Before you agree to any offer, temper your enthusiasm, take your time, and understand all of the restrictions, payment terms, interest rates, and payment deadlines.  Do not be afraid to ask questions.  If the salesperson is using a lot of fancy financial jargon that you cannot understand, let them know.  You may also want to shop with a trusted and knowledgeable friend, co-worker or family member.

Consumer Savvy Shopping Tip: When you are shopping online, go to www.retailmenot.com,. This website will alert you to any promotional codes, special offers, and coupons that you can access to save money on your online purchases.

Please send your legal and consumer questions to elisha.abrams@gmail.com, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46 Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: http://www.legallyinformed.com

Twitter: legallyinformed@twitter.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Information on this blog should not be relied on as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship.  An attorney-client relationship is not created until a retainer agreement is signed.


June 23, 2009

DON’T GET JILTED BY A RUNAWAY BRIDE OR GROOM

Summer weddings are de rigueur, and everyone aspires to walk down the aisle without a glitch.  However, news stories of the runaway bride or groom have prompted many brides and grooms to ask what they need to know before they say “I Do.”

Insure Your Options – Wedding insurance will not cover a change of heart if you or your betrothed gets cold feet.  However, if for some unforeseen reason your best-laid plans fall through, wedding insurance may cover your costs and afford you some protections.  For example, many policies will cover you if key people essential to the wedding are unable to attend due to illness or injury.  Wedding insurance will also generally cover inclement weather that prevents the nuptials from taking place, or prevents the majority of guests from attending.  Be careful, stormy skies and light rainfall usually will not qualify as a reason to cancel.  Insurance may also cover you if the caterer does not arrive with the food, if the photographer is a no show, if the wedding reception site burns down or goes out of business, if your wedding dress gets ruined or lost, or if some mishap occurs at the reception.  If you do opt to insure, do your homework and weigh whether the coverage justifies the expense of the policy.  Read the policy critically, and focus on the fine print.

Vow To Open Up Both Your Heart And Checkbook – Couples are not always in simpatico when it comes to money.  Often, we do not realize how disparate our views and priorities are until we are faced with a major financial decision.  To avoid sparks that are far from romantic, communicate, learn attitudes, and ask questions.  Delaying money talks may only compound your problems.  Questions to embrace include: 1) what assets do you have; 2) do you want to put everything in joint names, or do you want to maintain separate accounts; 3) who will handle the checkbook and household bills; 4) will you both have the freedom to spend as you please, or will you have to answer to each other each time you make a purchase; 5) if there is only one wage earner, will the non-earning mate have access to the checkbook, and does the earned income belong to both of you equally; 6) do you have a plan for putting money into savings, and will you set aside savings for emergencies, and towards education and retirement?

Do Not Become Indebted – Just because you merge hearts does not mean that you have to assume debt.  Do you know if your mate carries a lot of debt, such as student loans, car payments, or credit card bills?  If you do not have a handle on their financial picture, now is the time to take a snapshot.  Debt can hamper your joint financial goals, such as applying for a mortgage, or obtaining a loan together.  Any joint credit accounts that you have, such as auto loans, credit cards, and mortgages will show up on both of your credit reports.  If your mate does have credit problems, it may be a wise idea to keep all of your accounts and assets separate.  Even if they do not have a problem with debt, it is sensible to have some credit and assets in your own name, since not every relationship works out.  You always want to ensure that you have a credit history of your own, and a degree of financial independence.

Please send your consumer and legal questions to Elisha Hoffman Abrams, Esq. at elisha.abrams@att.net, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: www.legallyinformed.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


June 17, 2009

CASH IN WHEN YOUR BANK MERGES

This frothy and ever-changing economic imbroglio that we are all facing, highlights how mega-mergers are de rigueur in the world of high finance.  Many of us have dealt with, or are facing the prospect of our bank merging.  For the uninitiated, this wave of mergers can be frightening, confusing, disruptive, and costly.  To avoid a fiscal fiasco, you should invest some time, and learn the basic facts and figures about mergers, checking accounts, deposits, and banking products.  This is knowledge that you can “TAKE TO THE BANK.”

Switching banks may not be the answer when your bank merges.  Making a move will entail filling out a slew of new forms, moving account balances, ordering new checks, and dealing with different bank managers and representatives.  There can also be high transaction costs associated with making a switch.  With any change in bank ownership, you must be vigilant, since bank rates and terms often will change.  The key to whether you stay or leave your bank should hinge on the quality of service provided, your banking needs, and the fees charged by your newly merged banking institution.  Do the proper checks and balances, and ask questions of your bank, which will cost you nothing, and may even protect your bottom-line.

Consider Asking The Following Questions:

>Will there be a change in bank fees?  For example, will the minimum balances on your accounts be raised?  What will happen to your on-line banking account and privileges, and is there a monthly access fee?

>Will new checks and account numbers be issued?

>Will your banking branch be closed, and if so, what nearby options are

available?

>Will teller service still be available, and will these services be free-of-

charge?

>Will ATM fees be increased?  Does the new bank have ATM’s, and are you charged each time you use another bank’s ATM?

>Will phone numbers and addresses for account services, balance inquiries, and other services change?

>Will the bank’s privacy policy change?

>If you have questions and problems regarding the merger and the effect on your account, will there be someone at the bank to address your concerns, or will you be required to call a toll-free number?

Protect Your Interest

For your added protection, there are key steps to take which will help to insure your account’s security. During any merger, accounting errors may occur, so you should scrupulously scrutinize your bank statements.  Keep copies of every transaction, and save your ATM receipts until you confirm that the money was placed in the proper account, or the correct amount was debited.  You also have legal protections and rights that require your bank to disclose all fees, interest rates, annual percentage rates, and the bank’s privacy policy.  Be on the lookout for these disclosure notices.  These notices are easy to overlook.  They often are stuffed in with your account statements, or they will look like junk mail. If you are dissatisfied or concerned about the merger, or with the way that your account is being handled, make your views known, and assert your rights.

If you do opt to switch banks, comparison shop, and calculate your banking needs and checking account habits.  Factor in how many banking products and services you really use.  For example, do you use ATM Machines, do you take advantage of on-line banking?  You should also take stock of, and tally up the fees and penalties that you typically pay for monthly account maintenance, ATM’s, and bounced checks.  To find the best rates in your area, log on to http://www.bankrate.com.  You can also assess the financial soundness of a particular bank or credit union at Bankrate.com’s “Safe and Sound” rating guide.

Please send your consumer and legal questions to Elisha Hoffman Abrams, Esq. at elisha.abrams@att.net, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: www.legallyinformed.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


June 16, 2009

SUCCESSFULLY COUPLE LOVE AND FINANCES

Having a heart to heart with your mate about finances allows you both to learn each other’s economic circumstances, limitations, expectations and goals.  Without this knowledge, your relationship is bound to suffer both emotionally and economically.  To avoid undue surprises, and unnecessary problems, now is the time to communicate, and to take steps at opening up both your hearts and wallets

VOW TO OPEN UP BOTH YOUR HEART AND CHECKBOOK

Couples are not always in simpatico when it comes to money.  Often, we do not realize how disparate our views and priorities are until we are faced with a major financial decision.  To avoid sparks that are far from romantic, communicate, learn attitudes, and ask questions.  Delaying money talks may only compound your problems.  Questions to embrace include: 1) what assets do you have; 2) do you want to put everything in joint names, or do you want to maintain separate accounts; 3) who will handle the checkbook and household bills; 4) will you both have the freedom to spend as you please, or will you have to answer to each other each time you make a purchase; 5) if there is only one wage earner, will the non-earning mate have access to the checkbook, and does the earned income belong to both of you equally; 6) do you have a plan for putting money into savings, and will you set aside savings for emergencies, and towards education and retirement?

DON’T BECOME INDEBTED

Do you know if your mate carries a slew of debt, such as student loans, car payments, credit card bills, etc?  If you do not have a handle on his/her financial picture, now is the time to take a snapshot of how much your partner owns, and how much your partner owes.  Your mate’s debt can hamper your joint financial goals, such as applying for a mortgage, or obtaining a loan together.  Any joint credit accounts that you have, such as auto loans, credit cards, and mortgages will show up on both of your credit reports.  If your mate does have credit problems, it may be a wise idea to keep all of your accounts and assets separate.  How you choose to own and title your property and other assets, establishes what you can do with your property, how protected it is from creditors, and where it goes when you die.  Even if your significant other does not have a problem with debt, it is sensible to have some credit and assets in your own name, since not every relationship works out.  You always want to ensure that you have a credit history of your own, and a degree of financial independence.  If you do want to merge your finances, consider having a joint account for living expenses and joint purchases, and separate accounts for personal purchases.

JOIN HEARTS AND MINDS

When it comes to love and money, you must use both your hearts and minds, and exercise common sense.  Consider developing a plan for long-term financial goals, like purchasing a home, raising a family, paying for college, and planning for retirement.  You also want to create a budget, and establish a realistic plan for saving and investing toward your goals.  You should ensure that you have sufficient health, life, and disability insurance to provide your partner with some financial security in the event of a death, illness or injury.  You want to be sure to exchange information with your partner about the location of important papers in the event of an emergency.  If you are both employed, check your insurance policies to make sure you are not paying for duplicate coverage that you do not need.  You should also prepare an estate plan that includes preparation of a will, a living will, and a durable power of attorney.  Joining hearts and assets can also have tax implications that you may want to discuss with a tax advisor.

Please send your consumer and legal questions to elisha.abrams@att.net, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: www.legallyinformed.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.