Skip to 2:00 for the lowdown on credit scores, how they affect your life, and how you can keep them high.
#1 tip: Pay your bills. Pay them within 30 days of the due date, and even if you can’t pay the full amount due, pay something!
FYI, You can find out your FICO score at Fico.com. It’s free with the 30-day trial, but make sure to cancel on time if you want to avoid the $89.95 annual cost.
As manufacturers around the world are finding their products are deemed too toxic by many European and Asian countries, they are turning to a more loosely-regulated market, the United States. The products in question contain carcinogens and substances that may cause cancer or cause reproductive or neurological damage.
What kinds of products? Primarily formaldehyde-bearing wood products. Formaldehyde (a carcinogen) in the glue holding plywood together wafts off the glues, and may be inhaled by consumers when it is incorporated into cabinetry, furniture, or in other household uses.
For example, according to the article:
One birch plank from China, bought at a Home Depot store in Portland, gave off 100 times more formaldehyde than legal in Japan and 30 times more than allowed in Europe and China, according to July tests conducted by a lab hired by an Oregon-based wood products manufacturer. Formaldehyde exposure has been shown in human studies to cause nose and throat cancer and possibly leukemia, as well as allergic reactions, asthma attacks, headaches and sore throats.
Fortunately, some companies are rising to the EU standards across the board:
In the absence of U.S. regulations, some international corporations, including Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Mattel, Revlon and Orly International, have declared that all their products, no matter where they are made or sold, will comply with EU standards, the most stringent chemical laws in the world.
But companies that do change have a hard time. For example:
Columbia Forest Products, which spent $8 million to switch all its factories to nontoxic glues made of soy flour, says it is being hurt by the lack of U.S. standards for wood.
Even if regulation isn’t the answer, it would be nice if there were some set of standards (even industry-based) by which consumers could tell whether they were buying toxic wood or not.
For those who don’t know, here’s how a payday loan works. You go to the payday loan place and write them a check, postdated to the day you are paid. They give you the money, minus something like 20%. On the day you are paid, they cash the check.
Except that 20%/month is actually 240% interest! Not cheap. Often, they will offer to roll the loan into a new one, taking another 20%, then another, then another. How do they get away with this? There is a federal law that says a bank is governed by the law of its state of incorporation. Guess why so many banks are incorporated in South Dakota. That’s right, no usury law!
According to the Consumerist, the military is finally cracking down on loans made to personnel, but that doesn’t do much to help non-military consumers getting regularly screwed by payday lenders.
I ran across James Lileks’s comments on health clubs’ pricing policies today. I recall the same problem when I was looking at health clubs. Why is it that health clubs can’t get with the program and at least quote prices on line, if not allow people to sign up that way.This reminds me of Match.com’s recent change in its cancellation policy.
Article no longer available at StarTribune.com.
I get a lot of phone calls from tenants who have moved out of an apartment, only to lose their security deposit because their former landlord claims the apartment was wrecked. There is often little I can do to help, since it will be the tenant’s word against the landlord, and the landlord may even have pictures.There’s no reason why this has to happen, though. These days, nearly everyone has a digital camera. And if not, a disposable camera is a dirt cheap purchase at any grocery or convenience store. If you have several hundred dollars sitting in a security deposit earning 6% interest, it pays to take ten minutes to walk through your apartment and take copious pictures or even a videotape of its condition.
Then, if your landlord tries to claim you wrecked the place, you have proof to the contrary. As a matter of fact, I would do the same thing when you move in. After all, your lease probably contains a clause that the apartment was perfect when you got there. Don’t let your landlord improve the place on your dime!
Have you ever taken a close look at your paper waste? How many things do you throw away that have your social security number on them? Bank account number(s)? What other personal information do you give away every time you take out the trash?
Identity thieves are onto you. They know where you keep your personal information. Right out there in the trash can. In this day and age, a paper shredder is no longer an optional accessory, it is a necessity.
I just picked up a new shredder for our home office at OfficeMax today. $40. Far less than I could lose if an unscrupulous individual decided to go through my trash for my credit card offers and kindly accept one on my behalf.
This has got to be one of the worst examples of consumer fraud I have ever heard of. The car dealership, Cherry Hill Triplex in New Jersey, sold an elderly Kenneth Hammel a defective Kia Sedona, then sold him another, higher-priced, car when he brought the Kia back in for repairs. Apparently, they filled out the paperwork for the trade-in themselves, and just handed Hammel the keys to a different van, complete with a new, $10,000-more expensive loan.
But that wasn’t enough. The dealership also asked for Hammel’s ATM card to run a credit check, but actually pulled $2,000 from his account!
Sure, Hammel was pretty gullible, but the actions of Cherry Hill Triplex are so fraudulent they fall into the almost-impossible-to-believe category.
Thankfully, this news comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by NJ consumer lawyer Craig Thor Kimmel. Let’s hope justice is done.
WCCO is reporting that the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s finding that the red-light cameras were illegal under Minnesota law. From the article, it sounds like the Court of Appeals generally agreed with the district court.
From the article:
Writing for the appeals panel, Judge Harriet Lansing seized on that point.
“Under the state statute, an element of the crime is that the defendant was the driver,” she wrote. Under the Minneapolis ordinance “in contrast, the defendant must establish that he was not the driver and that someone else was.”
Edit: Link to opinion.
Article no longer available at WCCO.com.
From the article:
Once used only by law students and lawyers, the yellow legal pad is now employed to a degree unrivaled in stationery. “End career as a fighter,” President Richard Nixon wrote on a legal pad in August 1974. Five days later, on the top of another one, he scratched, “Resignation Speech.” Jeff Tweedy, front man for the rock band Wilco, writes his songs on a legal pad. Jim Harrison, the laureate of the untamed heart, wrote Legends of the Fall on legal pads; Elmore Leonard writes his crime novels on them. Nonfiction criminals, it appears, are fond of them, too. How did they get so popular? And how so yellow?
Originally conceived as a scheme for recycling paper scraps in 1988, the yellow pad got its margin rule in the early 1900s when a judge asked Thomas W. Holley, the legal pad’s father, to create a margin for him to make notes.
But Holley didn’t dye pads yellow. The origin of the legal pad’s defining characteristic is unknown. But yellow pads read more easily and, as one professor noted, prevent anyone from knowing how old the notes are.
As an interesting footnote to the saga of the legal pad, letter-size pads are now in wider use. Why?
The legal-size legal pad has been under attack since as early as 1982, when then Chief Justice Warren Burger banished legal-size documents from federal courts. One informal survey estimated Burger’s move saved almost $16 million through more efficient use of storage space.