Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dear Big Government, please leave the banks alone.

I keep hearing this incessant sniffling sound. It's the sound of everyone crying over bank fees. But don't you worry: the government is swooping in to tell the banks how to do business- how to make less money. To the untrained eye, this looks like a recipe for consumer success. This is because the untrained eye is on the face of someone who thinks that if overdrafters don't get charged a $35 fee every time, they'll actually save that money or put it to good use. It comes from the assumption that serial overdrafters were planning on spending that money on very important things: things that would improve their lifestyle and help them break the painful, perpetual cycle of doom. A cycle the banks have inflicted on poor, unsuspecting, otherwise responsible spenders.

I was inspired by an article on MSN Money, Should you opt in for overdraft protection? I will agree: overdraft fees are no fun. Back when I didn't keep track of my spending, and even more importantly, when I was spending irresponsibly, I incurred lots and lots of $35 fees. Lots. I cried. I whined on the phone to a bank rep. I got some refunded. Other times, I sadly accepted my negative status, continually paying my bank hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Sometimes, I even knew I was going to overdraw my account, but I so badly needed whatever it was I was purchasing that I did it anyway. And let me tell you, I deeply hated my bank for that. Passionately.

But then I joined forces with the evil industry that is banking, and I discovered that I did it all to myself. Karen Datko writes:

While you were paying that $35 fee so that your empty account would cover the price of that pack of gum, the banks were making an estimated $20 billion last year in overdraft fees on debit card and ATM transactions, The New York Times reports. If we all decline to opt in to overdraft protection, the poor dears will have to find another way to make that money.

In this scenario, who made the decision to buy the gum? The consumer. The bank didn't make you buy the gum. The bank actually let you. They just charged you $35 to do it. That is some expensive gum, my friends. I'd like to think that you wouldn't ever buy that kind of gum again. But unfortunately, as Datko also tells us, so graciously:

“According to a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. study in 2008, 93% of overdraft fees come from the 14% of people who exceed their balances five times or more in a year,” The New York Times reports.

Did anyone else catch that? It's the same 14% that just keep doing it over and over again! Five times a year is an understatement, by the way. Try five times a month in some cases. Those people just love that $35 gum. But the government is changing all the rules, 14 percent. They are going to make sure that the bank can't make money on your self-inflicted circumstances.

Let me not sound insensitive. I care, really I do. If you accidentally overdraw your account once or twice, I commiserate with you, because I have been there. But if you do it all the time, and you complain about it, I'm going to ask you now: just stop. Stop paying the bank. If you stop paying them these ridiculous fees, then you have won the battle. But as Datko calls them, "the poor dears" are counting on your blunders. They know you'll do it. Again and again and again. Supply and demand, my friends. Free market. Well, until now. Apparently now we don't like for businesses to make any money. Because that is just terrible for the economy we are supposedly so concerned about. (But is the government concerned about the economy, or the 14 percent?)

By the way, while we're on the subject of "the poor dears," I'm not sure if anyone else noticed but banks are failing. They're dropping like flies out there. Maybe they should actually start charging people more. Do you know why they're failing? Because people aren't paying their loans back. I know I know, they were bad loans, balloon loans, yada yada. Banks were greedy. But the fact remains that the consumer signed off on it all. We have a case of gimme, gimme gimme here. It's a bad one.

And here's another by-the-way: if banks don't make their money on overdraft fees, they will find a way. Trust me. And you know what? That doesn't bother me because I'm employed by one, and so are millions of other Americans. Hello, newsflash: we should like big business. They employ us! Hip hip hooray, I have a job!

Here are my tips, but they don't matter at all, because I can assure you that the majority of the people who are paying overdraft fees will not change their ways:
  • Write down everything you spend. I know it's old-fashioned, but keep a register.
  • Save money. You can, no matter what you say. Dave Ramsey says so.
  • Listen to Dave Ramsey.
  • Get to know your banker. Being nice and having a personal relationship goes a long way.
  • Do your research. Understand your bank's posting order and when funds are available. Never assume anything.
  • Stop spending so much on things you don't need! Just stop. Seriously.
  • Create a budget and leave wiggle room. Then stick to it, with minimal wiggling.

Here's the bottom line. Stop being a victim. The whole reason we're in the situation we're in is because no one wants to own up. Everyone wants life to be easy and free. Life is not easy. It is not free. Work hard. Be responsible. Manage the money you have worked so arduously at making. You will grow to appreciate your bank. Bank's have to pay the FDIC more money because the FDIC is charging more to be insured these days, because loans are not being paid and banks are failing right and left. It is expensive to be a bank. Banks take a hit every time people file bankruptcy and let their credit cards, checking accounts and loans go to collections. They give their assets to a friend or relative and them pick them back up after the bankruptcy is complete. This is irresponsible, and they should be ashamed. We're all so convinced that we deserve the American Dream. No one deserves anything. Work hard and be honest. Don't buy more than you can pay for. Didn't Jesus say we should be humble? Take his advice. Stop blaming businesses and everyone else for your financial problems. Man-up, woman-up, and do something about it. Stop waiting for a bail-out and change your own life.

Stop the crying! Quit the sniffling! Wipe away those tears and turn that frown upside down. You may not be able to change the economy, but you can change your spending habits. I promise.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Littering: the "Deal-Breaker"

Today I went to look at a little duplex near Wiggins Pass beach in North Naples. Cute location, disgusting living arrangements. When we pulled in, the owner wasn't there yet, so Raph and I decided to scope it out. There was a McDonald's bag in the front "yard" with other various wrappers and trash inside it. There was a bag of mulch with weeds and grass overgrown around and on top of it. I say "yard" in quotations because it was more like: here is my plot of land, and whatever grows here, grows. No mowing, no weeding, no landscaping whatsoever. And it gets better: when the owner got there, he kicked the newspaper that was on the sidewalk into the yard. I guess people don't actually read newspapers, apparently they are lawn decor. When he unlocked the door, there were dead cockroaches on the floor! He said, "man, I don't know why these roaches are here." I could give you a few hints, buddy. The bedroom had hinges for a door, but no door. He said, "the guy that lives in the other half was supposed to clean up and mow the lawn, but I guess he hasn't gotten to it yet." Ha! I'll bet he never does! Needless to say, I will not be living there. Disgusting. It's bad enough when people litter on public property, but when you have no respect for your own yard, we have a problem.

This leads me to my next point. The lovely Miss Victoria reminded me recently that littering is a "deal breaker." For those of you who don't know, a "deal-breaker" is that one facet of someone's personality that can cause his/her love interest to walk away and never, ever look back- despite an otherwise flawless connection.


Keep America Beautiful, Inc. conducted some research several years ago, and found, "twice as many males litter as females, and that adults under the age of 35 are twice as likely to litter as people aged 35-49, and three times more likely to litter than people over 50."

I guess that news is not so shocking. You have to wonder, if this person is so lazy as to throw their trash in the street instead of waiting a measly five minutes to get to the nearest trash can, in what other areas might he/she be lazy? I'm not sure I could trust a litterer to put food on the table. You also have to ask yourself, if this person has such little respect for this road, this street, this beach, this parking lot or even his own yard, how much respect will he have for me? Ladies? If a man can't respect the world he lives in, I don't imagine he'd have much respect for you either. And if the guy who lives in other half of my duplex (new-era folks call these "villas," however this place was a "duplex" if I ever saw one) doesn't even respect his own yard, do you think he will respect me enough to turn the music down at four in the morning? Do you think the landlord who has no respect for the property he owns, will have any respect for his poor tenant when the A/C breaks? I doubt it.

The point is, littering is disgusting. I am not the most "green" person you could ever meet. I don't even recycle religiously. But littering just says so many wretched things about a person. When my friend Victoria told me about a date gone awry, she said, "and then, he threw his trash right there in the parking lot. Desha, I think that was the deal-breaker." I gasped in complete agreement. I wonder what that guy's yard looks like. :::shuddder:::

Anyway, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there are many respectable, hard-working litterers out there. Maybe they've all been stereotyped by the non-littering citizens, doomed forever to be downtrodden and victimized by the rest of us. But I'd like to know, why do they do it? I'll go out on a limb here and say that their answers will almost always have undertones of laziness and disrespect in them.

Now interviewing: litterbugs wanted.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Define Your World

Today someone on Facebook suggested to go to urbandictionary.com and look up your name and then post it as your status. I am not big on posting a status, but this request did make me curious about whether or not urbandictionary.com would have my name. I was unaware that urbandictionary.com is so... perverse, but I digress. We won't go into all of the disgusting meanings that are supposedly associated with my name, but here is the meaning of Desha: "Having no meaning, or substance. Moot, but towards a person, or action." And here is the meaning of Desh: "Pimp by blood, not relation." I'm not sure if I would rather be called Desha or Desh!

So of course this website prompted me to visit yet another completely credible source, wikipedia, to find out where the heck it originated and how. Here is what wikipedia says about urbandictionary.com: "Urban Dictionary is a Web-based dictionary of slang words and phrases. As of 2009, the site contains over four million definitions. Submissions are regulated by volunteer editors and rated by site visitors." Here's the history: "The site was founded in 1999 by Aaron Peckham while he was a freshman computer science major at California Polytechnic State University. One of the first definitions on the site was, "the man", referring to, "the head of the establishment put in place to 'bring us down.'”" Slogan: "Define your world."

And this just made me wonder... do we in fact define our world? Each generation accumulates slang to help define feelings, situations, technology and current events. Today's "word of the day" on urbandictionary.com is "vaguebooking." I had no idea what vaguebooking was until I read the definition, but I think we would all agree that we hate vaguebooking, vaguebookers, and the like. What is it about human nature that makes other people's lives so very interesting? When someone I barely know, who is on my friends' list only because they wanted to add to their friend count to look cool in cyber-world, vaguebooks, why do I wonder what it means? Why do I care? Someone I sat next to at lunch in high school for .5 seconds posts pictures of their vacation to Spain, and I look at them! Why? Does this make me a stalker?

And so, in true 2010 fashion, I looked up "stalker" on my new better-than-meriamwebster.com-dictionary:

It seems to be that the term 'stalker' no longer means what it used to mean--the pathological ANONYMOUS follower and tab-keeper of another person or persons (A detective who has not been hired and has no real reason to follow someone). The old definition also would say that a 'stalker' often has an imaginary connection with the stalkee. HOWEVER, common usage of the term, along with the term 'creepy', has come to be used as a defense mechanism for anyone seeking justification for not being attracted socially or physically to someone else. This term is nearly as overdiagnosed as ADHD is in children. Any women who think an undesirable man might be interested in her will almost always automatically label him a stalker. Note: Far too many idiots think they're more important than they really are. Real stalkers seek out beautiful, interesting, and often famous members of the attractive gender. 90 percent of the people who use the term couldn't get a real stalker to save their lives.
A hot girl who follows you around and shows up at your door is a friend. An ugly girl who follows you around and shows up at your door is now, according to most, a stalker. A hot guy who gives you flowers is a romantic. An ugly guy who gives you flowers is a stalker.


Ahh, so I guess I am not a stalker. My girlfriends and I have often mused over whether or not we have been stalkers in the past (almost definitely, I have been by the loose and casual standards of today's definition). But at least I can say I have never been a swamp donkey. I was under the impression that this term originated at UF circa 2003, but apparently it is of British origin, and urbandictionary.com can tell you all about it.

followers.