Saturday, August 23, 2008

Speaking to a Customer Service Rep May Cost You

Many people have complained over the years about dealing with a computer generated voice to answer questions or direct you to a customer service agent. Many companies opted to transfer calls to India or to other countries overseas to supposedly "save the company money". Other customers opted to use the website to find ways around the continual maze to reach a customer service agent for customers living in the US, England and Canada.

Well, now companies are fighting back. Some companies will now start charging a $5 fee if a customer would like to speak to a customer service representative or go to a customer service center to pay a bill or ask a question.

Some utility companies have eliminated the option of paying bills in person and have opted to use third party payment centers that will charge a fee that could be more than $5.

TMobile, Cablevision Systems and Cox Commmunications charges customers a $5 fee to speak to a customer service representative to pay a bill by phone. AT&T Wireless charges customers a $5 fee if they prefer to use a store clerk to make a bill payment instead of using a self-service kiosk. Comcast, Charter, Verizon Wireless and Verizon Telecommunications charge a smaller fee to pay a bill in person.

This election year is a critical year. This is the time to complain about issues that affect you, besides the main issues such as healthcare, the Iraq war, the housing crisis and the economy you can also complain about smaller issues such as how companies are taking advantages of customers charging outrageous fees to pay a bill by phone, if a bill is paid late, etc.

Write the company and complain, write your city council representative and write your congressman and let your voice be heard. You can also file a complaint against the cell phone and telephone companies with the Federal Trade Commission.

To avoid the fees you can pay your bill online but find out the security measures in place before signing up. Find out if your personal information will be encrypted, where it is stored and what happens if a security breach occurs - how are customers protected, etc.

You also have the option of switching companies and doing business with a company that doesn't show outrageous fees.

Decide on the option that is best for you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Looking for People in Debt Aged 18-34 For Documentary

Taken from Peter Shankman

Current TV's ( news department is producing a
half-hour documentary on young people in debt, how the economy
crisis is affecting us, and what our futures look like. The show
will be a look at various 18-34 year-olds around the U.S. who talk
about their experiences with moneywhether they are in debt or
trying to change their lifestyle so that they dont fall into debt.

We are trying to cover all ages and most major regions of the
country, and we are looking for someone who 1/lives in one of the
southern states, 2/ is between the ages of 27-34, 3/ is female, 4/
is not white, and 5/ in debt.

You can send all responses to:

Tracey Chang
Producer, Current TV

Or feel free to call:

office: (323) 308-4957
cell: (310) 980-5711

Current TV is a new cable network that airs in 50 million homes
around the U.S. and 12 million homes in the U.K. We also just
recently launched in Italy. Our network airs mostly news and
non-fiction programming for a target audience of 18-34 year olds.
You can learn more about our network at

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Upcoming Events

August 2008
August 23, 2008, Meet & Greet, Borders, 3304 Crain Hwy, #A, Waldorf, MD, 2-4pm

August 30, 2008, Interview with United Black Writers, Borders, Bowie, MD, 10am

September 2008
September 15, 2008, Financial Contributor, Heaven 1580AM, Todd B./The Breakdown, Lanham, MD 7am

September 16, 2008, Budgeting Basics Seminar, CAAB, 1801 K Street NW, Suite M100, Washington, DC

September 17, 2008, Credit Basics Seminars, Jin Lounge, 2014 14 Street NW, Washington, DC 6-9pm

September 20, 2008, Northern Virginia Community College, Fall Festival, Alexandria, VA, 11-3pm

September 26, 2008, CBC Author's Pavilion, Meet, Greet & Booksigning, Washington Convention Center, Exhibit Hall A Washington, DC, 1-3pm

September 27, 2008, Women's Empowerment Conference, Morgan State University, noon-1:15pm

September 27, 2008, Baltimore Book Festival, Booksigning, Baltimore, MD, 5-6pm

Thursday, August 14, 2008

5 Ways to Keep Your Job

The number of unemployment claims of Americans laid off rose to 455,000 last week. This is the highest number of claims received since March 2002. Due to the recession, many companies are reducing benefits, work hours and laying off employees to cut back. Economists expect another series of layoffs by the end of this year. Here are 5 ways to keep your job and protect yourself from being laid off.

1. Update Your Resume. Update your resume and be sure to include all accomplishments you have achieved so far. Recruiters look for results so be sure to highlight yours.

2. Take a class. Take training classes related to your specific job to further your education. Keep your certificates in a file and provide a copy to your supervisor and Human Resources Department.

3. Volunteer. Volunteer for extra work assignments or to stay late to assist co-workers or your supervisor with high priority tasks. Ensure you supervisor is made aware of your hard work.

4. Feedback. Ask your co-workers and supervisor on feedback about your personality, strengths, weaknesses, and suggestions for improvement. Develop a personalized improvement plan and set deadlines to achieve each goal. Every 6 months provide a copy to your supervisor. This will be helpful if you receive annual performance reviews.

5. Work Ethic. Don't "borrow" or steal office supplies from work. Don't talk negatively about co-workers or your supervisor; you never know who may overhear you. Always arrive to work on-time and don't take regular extended lunch breaks or frequent days off. Limit internet use at work and use your cell phone for personal calls. Familiarize yourself with your Human Resources Manual or policies and ensure you are following them.

Monday, August 11, 2008

5 Inexpensive Foods To Slash Your Grocery Bill

During this recessions, Americans have been battling money issues and struggling to find money to pay for basic necessities. Gas for your car, housing and food are the major factors that have caused Americans to struggle.

If you are on a tight grocery budget, you know that you have to find creative ways to make you dollar stretch. Since last year, the price of dairy, bread and other products have increased. You can use coupons, buy items on sale, buy in bulk or shop at wholesale or discount stores like Costco, Food Lion or Sam’s Club to help save on grocery costs. If you eat out every day or multiple times a week, reduce that by 30-50% to save money. Try bringing your lunch to work or bringing your coffee from home and skipping the Starbucks. You can also purchase some inexpensive foods to cut grocery costs. Here are 5 foods that will help you save money.

1. Breakfast. Instead of buying sugar-coated cereal, replace with oat cereal or oatmeal along with a piece or fruit or toast.

2. Potatoes. Buy whole potatoes instead of instant potatoes. You can use the potatoes to make potato salad, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, french fries, chips, sweet potatoes, pies, and more.

3. Nuts. Nuts can be used as a great snack instead of candy or junk food. Nuts are also healthy for you and are cheaper when bought still in their shell.

4. Fruit. Inexpensive fruits depending on the store can include watermelon, bananas and apples. They are also healthy for you and can help you lose weight.

5. Vegetables. Instead of buying packaged vegetables or pre-cooked vegetables buy raw vegetables and steam them or stir-fry them for a healthy alternative. Inexpensive vegetables include broccoli, greens, spinach and carrots.

Friday, August 08, 2008

4 Unusual Ways to Get Extra Cash

There are many ways to generate extra cash to: save for an emergency fund, pay down debt, pay for gas for your car or to just pay for basic necessities. Well, here are 4 unusual ways to get extra cash.

1. Hair. If you are a woman with long hair that has never been processed and you plan to get a shorter hairdo, you can donate your hair to Hairtrader.

2. Advertising. You can place an ad on a part of your body such as your face, neck, head or arms to help promote a business with companies such as eBay or Globat.

3. Donate Your Eggs. You can donate your healthy eggs for up to $2,500. Contact the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) for more information. If you are up to it, you can become a surrogate mother for up to $25,000. Contact the Center for Surrogate Parenting for more information.

4. Participate in Studies. You can participate in studies for extra cash or donate your blood for science research. Contact Biotrax International for more information.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Bad Decisions to Eliminate Debt

Risky Solutions to Debt Elimination
Taking short cuts can lead to compounding woes

Taken from

By Zakiyyah El-Amin
August 1, 2008 -- If you are like most people, managing your finances isn't easy in today’s volatile market. As talk of recession threatens the U.S. economy, consumers are burdened with incomes that fail to keep up with inflation and expenses that continue to mount. Desperate for alternative ways to pay down debt, many rely on quick-fix solutions that often cause more harm than good.

Harrine Freeman, founder of H.E. Freeman Enterprises, believes that most people are simply trading one form of debt for another. “If you are already irresponsible with spending money, resorting to fast ways to get money is only a band-aid over the sore.”

The Bethesda, Maryland-based firm helps clients achieve their financial goals and educates them on how to prevent from falling trap to pricey habits. Freeman highlights a few common mistakes that can lead to further debt.

Use of Home Equity Loans
Many rationalize that this is effective because most home equity loans carry lower interest rates than credit cards and have interest that’s generally tax deductable. Understand that unsecured debt, such as credit cards, becomes tied to your home once this type of loan is used to pay it off. If you experience difficulties in making payments, you could default on the loan and risk losing your home. Since the amount that you can borrow is based upon your home’s value, as the value of your home decreases, so does your equity.

“Most people get a false sense of security once the debt is paid and end up accumulating more unsecured debt and putting themselves further in the whole,” Freeman adds.

Withdrawal from Retirement Plans
Tapping into your 401(k) jeopardizes your financial future. When you take money out of your retirement plan, you no longer benefit from tax-deferred compounding on the money withdrawn. Consequently, you have less money in your account working for you, which can lead to a smaller nest egg upon retirement. In addition, if you leave your job, you’re obligated to pay back the entire borrowed amount generally within 30-60 days. If you don’t, the unpaid balance will be treated like a distribution and you’ll owe taxes on the money and be charged a penalty.

Credit Card Cash Advances
Owning plastic comes with many bells and whistles. Credit card companies entice consumers with added features such as fraud protection, rewards, even cash. However, the likelihood of falling deeper into debt when using cash advances far outweighs the convenience of fast cash. If you pay off your balance in full at the end of the cycle, there’s no problem. Few understand that payments made to the credit card will first go toward regular purchases. Since cash advances carry higher interest rates than credit cards, problems arise when balances are carried over and both interest and fees compound.

Use of Debt Consolidation Loans

Debt consolidation is usually regarded as a credit cure-all that replaces multiple loans with a single loan resulting in lower monthly payments. However, the majority of consolidation loans only extend the pay-off period and do not carry lower rates. Since interest on consolidation loans is often higher than personal loans, mortgages and home equity loans, you actually owe more in the long run.

If you consolidate your loans, Freeman advises to use caution. “Many [debt consolidation agencies] are flooded with scams, and lenders who charge exorbitant fees and offer no real solutions to your debt,” she says. Some consolidators add fees directly to your monthly debt payments, without notifying borrowers of the charges. To help deal with debt, Freeman recommends that consumers establish a budget, develop a debt management plan, and consider credit counseling. Most importantly, use common sense by not spending money you do not have.