Thursday, October 30, 2014

6 Ways to Successfully Dispute Parking Tickets


Since the recession, many major cities have increased the number of parking tickets generated per month.  Just this morning, I was at home and saw a parking enforcement officer driving down my residential street looking to give tickets to residents who were parked in front of their homes.  Parking tickets can range from $15 to $150 or more depending on where you park and where you live.  You should always pay yourself first and make money for yourself instead of making someone else rich.

When parking on any street read the signs carefully to ensure you don't violate them.  Take a picture of the sign in the event you get a parking ticket.  If there is no sign read the parking meter sign.  Take a picture of the parking meter and a picture of your parked car showing that no parking sign was present.  In some cases, fraudulent parking tickets are written and drivers pay these tickets without investigating to ensure the ticket is valid.  I have experienced this myself parking in Washington DC.   I parked at 10:30pm at a parking meter that ended at 10:00pm.  I received a ticket at 11:00pm stating that I parked in a no parking zone. How can a parking meter be installed in a "No Parking Zone"?  Here are 6 ways to dispute a parking ticket:

  1. Call to dispute the ticket the next day after you received the ticket to try to find out why you received the ticket.  Be pleasant and the agent may dismiss the ticket.  If not, dispute the ticket by mail along with your documentation. 

2.      Verify the ticket is valid by verifying the location, date/time, car make and model, tag number, date of registration, type of registration, registration expiration date, description of the car, VIN, meter number, and violation reason which should match the posted parking sign.  If any of this information is incorrect you can dispute the ticket.

3.      Search for the traffic laws applicable in your city and make sure you have followed them and reference the law in a non-offensive way when disputing the ticket. 

4.      Dispute the ticket by writing a letter and provide all the facts including: the make and model of your car, the date and time when the violation occurred, a valid explanation why you feel you were not at fault, list any parking signs and parking meter signs you saw, and identify any errors on the parking violation along with digital photos which is much harder to be denied.  Staple all the documentation together putting the letter on top and the photos behind the letter.

5.      Request a hearing within 30 days from the date of the ticket.  Bring all evidence and photos and witnesses with you and hope the officer doesn't show up.

6.      If you dispute a ticket and are unhappy with the decision you can request an appeal.  Rewrite the original letter and be even more pleasant in the letter. End the letter by stating that if they still stand by the original decision you request that the fine be reduced.

Remember, the regular laws may not apply when a city government is experiencing a financial crisis.  If you do go into the city take public transportation or catch a cab to prevent the risk of getting a parking ticket.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Should You Use a Credit Repair Counseling Agency


Over one million people file for personal bankruptcy every year. Consumer debt is a huge problem in America today. As a result, many people don't know how they got in debt and don't know where to turn for help. Many people go to credit counseling agencies for assistance.

A credit counseling agency is defined as a company that advises you on managing your money and debt and helps you develop a budget as well as offers free workshops. Some credit agencies or credit repair companies may advise you on managing your money, restore your debt and may develop a budget (spending plan) for you.

When choosing any agency to assist with repairing your credit ask what services are provided based on what your needs are. If you are only concerned with restoring your credit then search for those types of companies. If you are looking for a full service company then look for credit counseling agencies or credit repair service companies.

However, I would use caution when hiring a credit counseling agency or credit repair service. Here are some red flags when considering working with a credit repair counseling agency or a credit repair company:

1. If a company provides guarantees that they can increase your credit score by a certain amount of points don't use them. They are no guarantees because information can be removed from your credit report and your credit score will increase but it depends on your credit score, the type of credit that was delinquent, your debt-to-income ratio and many other factors.

2. Check out the companies' website and check to see how long the company has been in business.

3. Check to see what fees are being charged. If you have to pay a registration or initial fee and then a monthly fee of X dollars that defeats the whole purpose of getting out of debt. You should either be charged a flat fee or monthly fee.

4. If you are already working with a credit repair counseling agency or credit repair company ask to see sample letters that will be sent to your creditors. If a company refuses to show you (which most probably will) then you have no idea what was stated in the letter. I give all of my clients companies of the letters I write to repair their credit.

5. Don't do business with a company that says they will use rapid credit scoring to repair your credit. This method jams the credit reporting agency system by sending many letters about the same issue for inaccurate and accurate information. The system gets confused and removes the items mentioned in the letter from the person's credit report. However, the credit reporting agencies do audits of their systems and eventually the items will be put back on your credit report.

6. Ask the company what is the process they use to restore your credit, if the company does not tell you then don't use them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to Deal With Rude Creditors


Are you tired of creditors calling your house day and night? Are you tired of creditors being rude and asking for a payment every hour on the hour? You can stop it and answer your phone in peace.

A creditor is a company or person that extends "credit" by allowing a consumer to borrow money based on an agreement between the two parties that the money will be paid back at a later time. Creditors provide you with a form (agreement) to fill out that gets approved allowing you to use their credit based on the guidelines of the signed agreement.

If you make just one late payment (usually 30 days or more late), all creditors have a Collection Department that quickly calls to remind you to send a payment (even if the payment is one day past the due date). The first few calls the creditors seem really nice and ask when you will be able to send a payment. Then they quickly turn into the Attila the Hut and start being rude and use all kinds of tactics to get you to make a payment. This is unethical and is illegal according to the Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA) and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) which can be obtained by calling the Federal Trade Commission or going to their website at The FCRA was instituted in 1996 to ensure the accuracy and fairness of credit reporting for consumers. The FDCPA was instituted in 1996 to stop abusive behavior by creditors. 

A creditor cannot call you before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm. Creditors cannot use threats, profanity make false statements, use unfair practices, or make repeated calls to your home to collect a debt. However, they can call you on the weekends or contact your friends or relatives to get your contact information. Here are x ways to stop rude creditors from calling your home.

1.      If a creditor contacts you, as a consumer, legally you have the right to ask them to stop calling you by writing a letter indicating that the creditor should not contact you any further by phone to collect on the debt owed especially if they are harassing you.
2.      Ask for verification of the debt in writing either a letter from the original creditor or detailed monthly statement. This will prove if the company is legitimate and if the debt belongs to you.
3.      Record the name of the person calling you, the time they called and what they said.  If necessary keep a log of each time a creditor calls you regarding a debt.
4.      Don’t let fear cause you to make a bad decision. Don’t agree to a payment plan you cannot afford.
5.      If a creditor is contacting you regarding a debt for a spouse or deceased family member contact a lawyer to learn about your rights. You are not responsible for the debt unless you had a joint account with the person.
6.      If you feel a creditor has violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act you may file a complaint against them by calling the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or going to to fill out an online complaint, or contact the CFPB, Include your call log in your complaint.
7.    In the future, if you ever fall behind on your payments and to prevent creditors from harassing you, notify your creditor immediately that you are having financial problems and try to setup a payment plan with them to prevent bad marks on your credit report and harassing calls.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Socially Responsible Investing Tips


What is it?
Socially responsible investing or sustainable and responsible investing (SRI) involves investing in companies that take into consideration environmental, social and corporate governance criteria such as environmental controls, community development, workplace diversification, labor relations and human. Industries involved in SRI include hospitals, public and private sectors, nonprofit organizations and religious institutions.  Many companies use SRI to promote stronger social responsibility, create jobs and produce products that will help the environment. Industries involved in SRI include hospitals, public and private sectors, nonprofit organizations and religious institutions.

SRI Companies
Several companies’ use SRI investing strategies - the most popular company is Calvert. Other companies include GoodFunds, Krull and Company, Green Century and Domini. Some companies require a minimum investment of $250,000 while others offer customized portfolios on a retainer basis.

Tax Benefits
There are SRI funds with tax benefits and some without. I recommend investing in funds that offer tax benefits. Check with your financial advisor for specific details.

Pros and Cons
SRI funds are often perceived to be riskier because a higher percentage of shares are held in small and medium sized companies which tend to be more volatile.  Typical disadvantages include lack of diversification and poor performance. However, SRI investment strategies are competitive with non-SRI strategies and can still allow investors to meet their financial goals. SRI investing spans a wide and growing range of products and asset classes, embracing not only public equity investments (stocks), but also cash, fixed income and alternative investments, such as private equity, venture capital and real estate.

The evidence is clear that sustainable and responsible investors do not have to pay more to align their investments with their values, or to avoid companies with poor environmental, social or governance practices.

Investors may not be allowed to pull out money at will and may be required to keep the money in for a certain period of time.  Investors may also have limited control over how their money is used. Some SRI funds charge higher fees such as an annual expense ratio and upfront sales charge, however some do not.

Investing Tips
Here are 9 tips to help you decide on SRI investing.

  1. Decide where you want to invest, how you will invest, when you need the money, what you need the money for and how long you want to invest.
  2. Identify your top socially responsible views and invest in companies that support them.
3.  Diversify investments and ensure you are comfortable with the allocations.
  1. Allocate a small portion of investments to clean technology.
  2. Put pressure Congress to generate socially responsible policies.
  3. Define your risk tolerance, investment goals and objectives.
  4. Decide how you will implement your investment strategies:  direct investments, petitions and dialog, awareness, screenings, activism or other factors.
  5. Increase demands on companies to be socially responsible through shareholder resolutions and meetings.
  6. Ask fund managers whether or not they expect performance to be similar to standard benchmarks or considerably different.