Mind the Fine Print, Mine the Savings!

Sandy Balick of www.consensuspointmediation.com discusses how you can avoid the “leakage of precious funds” by being mindful of the fine print and taking time to ask questions.“Modern finance profits from complexity, because befuddled customers are more profitable ones,” observed Princeton economist and news commentator Alan Blinder in his article, “Financial Collapse: A 10 Step Recovery Plan,” which appeared in the New York Times OpEd section on Sunday, January 20, 2013.

I’m not here to flog a multi-step recovery plan, but people who have just celebrated their personal D (as in divorce) Day are frequently in need of recovering from the trauma and exhaustion of the divorce process itself and getting the new financial house in order is frequently a priority.

This may be especially true if you are a parent or you are living on a more limited budget than you had previously been used to. This is precisely why Blinder’s comments on befuddlement struck a chord for me.

How many times have I signed up for a service or rented a car without carefully taking the time to review the contract at hand. Have you ever asked a salesperson a question about terms, fees, etc., only to be left with more questions than you started with? It is human nature that inclines so many of us to sign up for products and services without first wading through the swamp of contract terms and conditions. We fear it will leave us frustrated and uninformed, or time demands and a desire to get on with things lead us to sign up without a firm understanding of late fees, interest and penalties, restocking charges and the like. Our ignorance is aided and abetted by the seller’s conscious use of benign sounding language – selected by the seller or service provider precisely for its literary gleam and imprecision.

What’s the solution?  Much of this is accounted for by human nature, and change in this area can be hard to come by – a self discovery we’ve all made. On the other hand, being 1) mindful that signing up for services (including financial products) and things (via purchase or lease) presents an opportunity for leakage of precious funds and, 2) focusing your efforts to banish befuddlement by taking the time to ask questions on at least major purchases and any multi-year contracts may help to narrow financial exposure to the unexpected.

As precious as your time is, there are a couple of good reads that will lead you to be a wiser consumer. In this category, I nominate Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It) by William Poundstone (Hill & Wang,  2010) and Helaine Olen’s Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry (Portfolio, 2012). Olen’s book is a cautionary tale worth reading before you consult further personal financial advice.

Feel free to ask any questions, to comment, or to request more information in the Comments Box below. Also, please feel free to forward this blog to anyone you know who might be interested in its topic.

Sanford (Sandy) Balick, Attorney & Mediator in New York Sandy Balick signature
Sanford E. Balick, Esq.
Founder & Principal Mediator
Consensus Point Mediation, LLC.

Phone: (646) 340-3434
Email: ConsensusPointLLC@gmail.com
www.ConsensusPointmediation.com
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