Money Matters, Volume I: (Non)professional Advice From Years In The Trenches

Well, not so much the trenches. More like office chairs. Miles and miles of comfortable office chairs at a variety of increasingly spacious workspaces at a credit union, starting on the phones in member service and moving on to marketing and communications.

Which means I know money. Not on a first-name basis, particularly; I’m not a Wolf of Wall Street; not even a Poodle of Wall Street. I can’t tell you how to make tons of money; I can’t even advise you on how to invest, because I’m not a licensed advisor.

But I know how people use money, and how they manage it, and how they make mistakes. I know the sort of things people do that make service reps say, “Let’s see what we can do about that” when they really mean “I can’t believe you did that.”

So while I can’t answer your questions like how to get it, how to keep it, what you should order from Amazon next (more motion-sensor LED lights for the new photography darkroom/pantry? An extension for the back-yard chicken run so your hens have enough room to play soccer?), I can share some of those “I can’t believe you thought that would work” moments, or maybe just pass along some tips that you might not have thought about.

Here, then, are some of the things I wish I could shout at people like an angry old man telling kids to get off his drought-tolerant native plant lawn.

Don’t Postdate Checks.

You might be tempted to postdate a check if you don’t have the funds yet; don’t do it. There’s no guarantee the check won’t post against your account unless you also place a temporary stop payment on the check with your bank or credit union, paying a fee to do so (once you sign the check, it becomes legal tender, regardless of the date).

Without a stop payment, you’re relying on the payee agreeing to deposit the check only on or after the date you wrote. You’re relying on the payee’s bank to see the postdate and refuse to accept it for deposit, which won’t happen.

And you’re hoping your bank or credit union will refuse to clear the check if it is presented early. Here’s why that won’t work, even if your institution would love to help you.

  • Most checks are deposited electronically as part of a large file.
  • If the routing and the account numbers match a valid account, the file will be processed automatically.
  • And again, once you sign the check, it is legal tender; the date doesn’t matter.

And Definitely Don’t Postdate A Check To The IRS.

Scene: a monolithic office building somewhere in the Midwest.

US Treasury Agent Steve Stevenson: (opening an envelope) Oh, I see Taxpayer Joe Q. Citizen from Des Moines sent in his tax payment but postdated it for two weeks from today. No problem; I’ll keep it in my drawer for two weeks then pop across the street to deposit it.

Yeah. No.

Always Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth.

If you get a sudden, startlingly-large check in the mail and a request that you deposit it, wire a portion to someone else, and keep the difference … don’t be daft and greedy.

I know people are desperate for lifelines – hence the popularity of lotteries – but this is a classic scam. You send off the funds to the Unknown Stranger, only to find that check was bad, and you’re suddenly overdrawn and facing fees. Even cashier’s checks can be forged or stopped.

The worst thing money can make people do is become desperate for it. Scammers count on desperation, so make sure you always …

Think It Through.

You constantly get fliers, envelopes, postcards from different financial institutions offering you amazing deals to consolidate your debt. One example is the 0% APR for x months on a Balance Transfer offer. It sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, not necessarily. It depends on your balance and the terms of the offer, and whether you can commit to paying down the balance aggressively by paying more than the minimum. The trick with these promotions is that after the promotional period, the interest rate tends to get really high, really quickly, which can throw off your monthly budget and … wait, what do you mean, you don’t have a budget?

And what do you mean, you already transferred the balance, then racked up more debt on the original card from which you transferred the balance for the promotion? Don’t do that either.


It’s late, so that’s all for now. My eyes are losing interest in staying awake.

Published by dmhallett101

Husband, father, writer, reader, mostly in that order. Staying sane by pretending to be creative by playing with (WordPress) blocks.

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