Tag: credit

I Worked In a Bank When I Was 22 and Wanted to Walk Into the Sea

At 22, I was professionally flailing. I’d spent my three years since dropping out of college working at a hardware chain and then at a clothing store, finally realizing after too much managerial drama that I didn’t want a future in folding jeans. So, after too many shifts spent crying over the cash register and educating my 17-year-old employees on the symptoms of a quarter-life crisis, I asked a friend for an in at the bank across the street. She worked there, she liked it, and she thought I would too. So I bought a fancy interview outfit, updated my resume, and found myself hired for a new branch about 20 minutes away.

This was my destiny (I told myself while spending far too money much on office-appropriate wear.) Now, I was going to be successful. (I repeated, realizing within a week on the job that I’d made a mistake.) I didn’t need retail. (I missed it.) Especially when I was about to become my family’s first financial wizard. (My credit card was maxed out on new work outfits).

I lasted two months at the bank before crawling back to the mall, asking my manager if I could work the evenings I wasn’t scheduled to close the bank. I needed laughter. I needed camaraderie. I missed being able to reference The Office (it was 2007) and using my outdoor voice in an indoor setting. Also, I needed the money: I’d gotten into university after upgrading my marks and was heading back to school in September 2008.

Plus, a discount on jeans is never a bad thing.

I grew up in a blue collar family. My mom and dad kept me clothed, fed, housed, and loved, but we didn’t holiday (aside from day trips), buy big ticket items, or toss around terms like “investments” (and I still don’t really know how they work.) Which was fine by me: the only “rich” person I knew growing up was the daughter of the man who owned the company my grandpa once worked for, and all of us were in awe of the fact that her house sat on top of a hill. I went to public school, knew I’d have to pay for university myself, and shopped knowing whatever I bought was also on me. Which is how I landed in credit card debt at 19, 20, and 21. High off the power of my first Visa, I’d maxed it out on low-rise bootcut jeans and logo hoodies, so working at both the bank and the mall promised to solve all my problems: one paycheck could go towards minimum payments, the other would go to tuition, and I’d leave a certain amount for “regular spending.” Easy.

But nothing’s easy when you would rather walk into the sea than go to work. I’d started at the bank in September 2007, and by December I dreaded starting my shifts. But not because of my coworkers (most of them were so lovely), but because of what the job entailed: as a teller, you have to sell credit and products to customers. And I didn’t want to. First, because I hated my job (and didn’t want to do anything), and second, because it felt gross selling credit to people who didn’t want it (especially when I barely had any left to my own name). I’d hear myself talking rates and limits and minimum payments, and felt like a hypocrite. Especially since I not only had no idea what I was talking about, but because as an irresponsible credit user myself, I didn’t care. I felt like I was in the financial bell jar.

Which was made worse because aside from my inability to move product, I was really good at everything else. I was good at the admin work, good at talking to customers, good at organizing large sums of money (despite being nervous and scared around it constantly), and good at navigating our computer system. And that would’ve been fine, had I worked with a supervisor I actually liked working with: instead, I worked with a supervisor whose moods changed on a dime, leading to hours spent walking on eggshells and/or forcing ourselves to laugh at bad jokes, in hopes of preventing outbursts later on.

Of course, at 30 I would’ve handled it better. I would’ve reminded myself that this job was funding my future and that I was lucky to have it and that every hour of pay was closer to the end of my stint there. But I was 22. So instead of logic or rationality, I just checked out. I started wearing the same outfits every day, started snapping back at my temperamental boss and any/all angry customers, and slowly morphed into Jim from The Office without the camera to mug to or compelling love interest (minus the mortgage expert who lived with his girlfriend — but he wasn’t interested). And after a while, my sales were so bad it was branch legend: I was the first teller to hit -30% revenue, making my future there a near-impossibility.

So I quit before I got fired. Realizing I’d rather make money where I felt good about my job, my coworkers, and who I was at that job, I realized I’d rather work more hours for less pay than work under someone who wouldn’t let me leave a shift early to beat a blizzard. (Which, for the record, I almost got stuck in.)

“It’s not who you are,” my supervisor’s supervisor said in response to my two weeks’ notice. “You’re just being true to yourself.”

Which, ironically, was the most valuable lesson I learned when working at a financial institution — a place built entirely on numbers and business and logic and money and affluence. And arguably, it was also the only lesson. I clung to that idea so tightly — the idea that I was figuring out who I was, that I had to make mistakes, that I had to learn hard lessons, that I had to live messily and recklessly — that after saving for tuition, I ended up racking up even more debt in the wake of starting school. And I eventually dropped out again.

Which were also lessons I had to learn. So while money can certainly make things easier, it doesn’t always lead to fulfillment. Or answer the questions that wake you up in the middle of the night. I may have had to work more shifts at the mall than is healthy for most people (and then dig myself out of a literal money pit a few years later), but money — whether counting it in the vault or trying to convince people to spend more to make your sales goal for the month — cannot buy you happiness. Not when you’re just wearing the same outfit to work out of spite, anyway.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Create Impact with a Unique Ethical Engagement Ring

The craziest part of graduation isn?t finding my life?s direction or figuring out how to make my freelance writing business works. It?s scrolling down my Facebook feed and seeing all of my friends in hidden-camera proposal pictures. All those pictures are precious, but some of them have dark backstories. It?s (usually) got nothing to do with the couple… and everything to do with the ring.

The beautiful diamonds that make the ring ? and the proposal pictures ? don’t always come from the best places. In the worst cases, paramilitary factions own mines that use slave labor to mine precious stones to fund illicit goals. Although world leaders have stepped forward to fight the blood diamond trade, diamond mines also have a massive ecological and environmental impact.

Which means… you don?t just want an engagement ring. You want a unique ethical engagement ring. There are ways to avoid companies that aren’t transparent about their diamond sources or the mine’s environmental impact. Here are three options:

  1. Buy from companies that offer ethically sourced diamonds
  2. Consider a lab-created diamond
  3. Forgo the diamond (not the ring)

Good Jewelers Despise Blood Diamonds

Many jewelers hate blood diamonds enough to be transparent about their sources of your unique ethical engagement ring. Vrai & Oro was founded in 2014 and is committed to ethically sourcing diamonds. Vrai & Oro is also committed to lower prices.

Their website outlines the steps they take to lower the typical markup that customers traditionally pay. Vrai & Oro jewelry is made in downtown LA, so they save import costs and know the exact source of their diamonds. Buying from them gives you transparency, ethical sourcing, and potentially lower prices than a traditional jeweler.

Today, the blood diamond trade is far less of a problem than it was even in the 2000s. In 2003, the UN ratified a piece of legislation called the Kimberly Process. The Kimberly Process requires jewelers to certify that their diamonds are conflict-free and have that certification ready and available. It also includes a monitoring process to ensure that any certified company maintains those ethical sourcing standards. Blood diamonds aren?t gone, but world leaders have taken steps towards ending the blood diamond trade and we must remain vigilant to ensure it remains that way.

Related: 4 Ways to Make Good Money with Good Companies

Diamonds can be Lab-Grown

Ethical diamond sourcing isn?t just about importing from mines across the world. Diamonds can be grown in labs.

Seriously.

A diamond in a mine is formed when?carbon is pressurized and heated in extreme conditions. A modern lab can simulate those same conditions in more accessible settings. So, instead of taking hundreds, thousands, or millions of years to form, synthetic diamonds only take a few weeks or months, depending on the lab. That?s one less giant hole in the ground and far less mining equipment puffing greenhouse gas into the air.

Do Amore is a startup in Houston whose synthetic diamond sales make up about “30% of their gemstone sales.” The founder, Krish Himmatramka, said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle that the synthetics are “just as good [as natural diamonds…] and more cost-effective.”? In addition, this company also uses some money from each sale to provide water for communities in developing countries.

Check your local jeweler and see whether they offer synthetic diamonds. A ?synthetic? diamond may not sound like the unique ethical engagement ring of your dreams, but many synthetics are similar in quality to real diamonds and don?t have the negative environmental impact that a real one does.

Related: 4 Ways to Make Real Money with Sustainable Investing

And the Radical Subhead ? Do you need a Diamond?

Alright, hear me out. This won’t be the option for everyone. But you must face the harsh reality that diamond rings can be uncomfortable. I know three moms who don?t wear their diamond rings anymore because they interfere with the small joys of parenthood – like hugging their children.

If you?re a practical couple, then you can get an engraved band instead of a scratchy diamond ring. It?s completely up to you. If you want the diamond for your unique ethical engagement ring, there are some great options out there. But if you don?t need the diamond, your decision just became is a lot simpler… and potentially more creative.

Related: Why We Can’t Save

A Dash of Realism

You?re not a bad person for buying a diamond ring. This is not that type of article. Think of these other options as ways that make your purchase matter to people beyond you and your beloved. The more we bring these types of stories to light, the fewer blood diamonds we’ll have in circulation. Plus, buying lab-grown diamonds will decrease the environmental impact that the diamond industry has on the environment. Or forgo the diamond altogether for a more comfortable and creative option that holds even more meaning.

A diamond engagement ring is an expensive purchase, but while you?re putting so much effort into finding the unique ethical engagement ring of your dreams, you can make a real difference with your choice.


Photo by?Jeremy Bishop

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Credit Scores: What’s in a Number?

You’ve probably heard a lot about your credit score over the years, but have you ever actually looked under the hood and try to better understand it? If you’re answer is no – don’t worry, you’re not alone. Surveys have shown that Americans simply don’t know enough about how credit scores work and the effects their score can have on their lives. We’re here to help. Here are your credit score basics.

Your credit can influence whether or not you can rent an apartment, what kinds of credit cards you qualify for, and what your interest rate on those cards will be. You could also be leaving money on the table if your score is not as high as it can be. That means paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars in extra interest charges on a home or auto loan over time. So if one 3-digit number carries this much weight, isn’t it time to understand exactly how it works and what you can do to improve it?

Credit Score Basics

Think of your credit history like a school transcript that includes all of your financial decisions over the years. Your credit score is your GPA. A single number that is calculated to represent how you’ve done and show a potential lender how risky of a borrower you would be in the future. The higher the credit score, the better.

Your score can range from 350 to 850. There are three credit bureaus, Experian, Transunion, and Equifax, who all collect information about your credit history and calculate scores. Each does this a little differently so you may notice your score differ slightly between the three bureaus. Even within each of the bureaus, there are different algorithms (the most commonly known is FICO) for calculating your score.

Confused yet? Here’s the bottom line: don’t stress about the differences between one score and another. Focus on one score and monitor it over time. You can get your credit score for free (with no negative impact) from CreditSesame or it may even be offered by your credit card company.

For a more in-depth review of credit scores and credit report, read our guide called Know Your FICO.

Related: A Guide – Know Your FICO

What Affects Your Score?

One of the biggest points of confusion when it comes to credit scores is what factors cause it to move up or down. Some may seem obvious, like paying your bills on time, but others can be less intuitive.

Payment History

The most important factor of your credit score is whether or not you pay your bills on time. Even one late payment can have a significant negative impact on your score. If you do happen to be late on a payment, your score will go down the longer you wait to make the payment: 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, or if the amount owed was sent to collections. Bankruptcies, judgments, or any other part of public record will also affect your score.

What to do about it: Automate your bills, credit cards, and other loan payments so you never have to worry about being late.

Amounts Owed

This is often referred to as your credit utilization and represents the percentage of your available credit that you actually use. For example, if the limit on your credit card is $10,000 and your balance is currently $5,000, your credit utilization is 50 percent. The higher the utilization, the more negative an impact this will have on your credit score since it may indicate that you are stretched too thin and may be riskier to lend to.

What to do about it: Keep your utilization below 30 percent of your available credit at all times on both your individual credit cards and overall. Create a balance alert on each of your cards to make sure you are aware if your utilization goes beyond 30 percent.

Length of Credit History

This factor is calculated by averaging the age of all your open accounts including credit cards, mortgages, student loans and any other line of credit. The longer your credit history the better, since it provides more information to a potential lender. There is no magic number here that will give you the best credit score, but some studies have shown that credit scores that top 750 have an average age of 7.5 years for open accounts.

What to do about it: Do not close old credit cards since it will shorten the average age of your credit accounts.

Credit Mix

This factor includes the number of different credit accounts you have as well as different types of credit. A greater number of accounts can boost your score since it indicates more lenders were willing to give you a line of credit in the first place. Having both types of credit, revolving (credit cards) and installment (auto loan, student loan, or mortgage), can also increase your score.

What to do about it: Do not take out a line of credit you don’t need to try and improve your score. This factor is weighed less heavily than others and there are easier ways to boost your score!

New Credit

This factor considers how many new credit accounts you have recently opened and how many hard inquiries were made on your credit. Hard inquiries result from a lender or credit card company pulling your credit information in order to decide whether or not to approve you for a loan or credit card. The more inquiries and new accounts you have, the lower your score because it may indicate that you are having cash flow problems and are a greater credit risk.

What to do about it: Limit the amount of new credit inquiries to 1-2 per year in order to avoid a significant negative impact on your score.

Related: How credit utilization and reporting dates can credit score

The Bottom Line

There’s a lot that goes into your credit score and no one factor alone can cause it to tank (or soar). Rather than stressing about whether or not you have the magic number of accounts, aim to manage your credit responsibly by paying your bills on time and never taking on more debt than you can handle. Your credit history won’t be made overnight, but a solid score built up over time can really pay off in the long run.

Related: How to avoid credit repair scams

Tags: , , , ,

How Credit Utilization & Reporting Dates Impact Your Credit Score

Credit utilization: What a sexy topic, right? It’s up there with Annual Percentage Rates and 401(k) rollovers. Despite the impact credit utilization can have on your credit score, aka your life, I’ve noticed very few people understand it.

There are two main things to understand about credit utilization.

1. Ratio and Impact on Credit Score

Credit bureaus and banks don’t know you personally or how responsible you are, so they guess at your integrity and ability to repay based on your current and historical financial behavior. How much credit you’re using from month to month (your “utilization percentage”) is a major factor in their guess???roughly 1/3 of your score.

Imagine a banker saying, “How close to maxing out your card are you? Oh wow, you’re totally maxed? Do you always do that?” Banks see high usage as a negative sign and they punish you for it???charging you higher interest rates offering less favorable terms.

Let’s walk through a scenario. Here’s your credit card. For easy math, you have a limit of $10,000. Here are three different balances and their corresponding utilization rates:

  1. ?$2,000 credit card balance = 20% credit utilization
  2. $4,000 credit card balance = 40% credit utilization
  3. $5,000 credit card balance = 50% credit utilization

The math is pretty simple. If you have a balance of $6,000, you’re using 60% of the total available credit of $10,000. It’s ideal to stay around or under 30% credit utilization. Banks see usage under 30% as responsible, wise, frugal.

In other words, don’t let your balance be over 30% usage on the reporting date.

2. Reporting Dates

You pay your card off every time your bills comes, so you think you’re all good and you’re going to stop reading now. Wrong. Let’s picture a scenario like this:

  • You have a credit card with a $10,000 limit.
  • Your bill comes due on the 10th of every month. You get it, you pay it.
  • You’re cuckoo about miles and points, so you put everything on your card every month???let’s say you put roughly $6,000 a month on the card. This happens between the 10th (when you pay your bill) and the end of the month.
  • Your card issuer reports to the credit bureaus on the last day of each month.

If you pay your bill on the 10th and your issuer reported on the 12th of every month, you’d be golden. You would appear to always be at or near 0% utilization. But the dates don’t always align like that. If you’ve put your $6,000 on the card by the end of the month, it’s going to look more like a 60% utilization rate???and that means a lower score.

With regards to utilization, it’s not about when you pay your bill and if you pay it off. It’s about when the reporting happens and what your balance is at that time???hopefully at or under 30% of the limit. Credit bureaus only see a snapshot of you on that one date.

Here’s a more real-world example:

  • It’s the 10th. Your bill comes and you pay it in full.
  • It’s the 15th. You purchase $6,000 worth of wedding expenses.
  • It’s the 29th. Reporting happens tomorrow.

At this point, you could do nothing and you’d have a 60% utilization rate. Or you could pay half and have a 30% utilization rate. Or you could pay in full and have a 0% usage

Here’s my idea for a much smarter credit card to influence our behavior when it comes to spending and paying.

Cards are already moving the 16 digit number to the back to make the card look better. Let’s put the stuff that really matters up front to change our behavior when it comes to spending and paying our bill.

I’m curious to know if any of you knew about utilization or reporting dates. And if so, do you have your own ways for managing reporting vs. due dates?


Send us your story if you’ve been duped, on the road to financial recovery, conquered your finances, or want to give feedback. Extra points if you know of any great conscious brands who are doing good things for People & Planet. We’d love to know about those, too. Send it to feedback@wellwallet.com

Tags: , , ,

The Week’s Best Money Reads

I?Don’t ‘Budget’ or ‘Manage’ My Money — Business Insider

“I just monitor.”

What I Learned From My Year of “Things” — Billfold

Wait a minute, are Things > Experiences?

How to Help Louisiana Flood Victims — Time

Baton Rouge needs a hand.

Harvard Business Review’s Quiz Tells You If You’re In Danger of a Layoff — Two Cents?

Are you obsolete?

How Millennials Became Spooked By Credit Cards — NYT

We’re all terrified of bad credit.

Tags: , ,