Tuesday, November 30, 2004

1st of the Month

Yay! I'm back! Time for a second cup...

But first, it's the 1st.

The 1st of the month is when I pay my bills, specifically my credit card bills. For some reason, most of my credit cards don't have the option to pay themselves from my checking account. WHY? Do they WANT me to miss a payment? It's as if they WANT an excuse to assign extra late charges and increase my default interest rate. Why would they want to do that?

Theoretically, I should be able to start paying them off now, since I am gainfully employed and all. The problem is that I pay so much in taxes (which I should be exempt from, lucky me, if ONLY THE PAPERWORK WOULD GO THROUGH!) and sundry that I don't really have much left over. I can barely afford to pay the interest every month, and when those nice introductory rates wear off in the near future, I'm basically screwed. Of course, my Bank of America account (which I use to pay my credit card bills in America, because I can't really afford the currency conversion charges of sending yen over, yet) will run out of money in about two months anyway, so it's pretty much a moot point. [UPDATE: Scratch that, I forgot to account for this month's bills, so I will run out of money in about one month] [UPDATE AGAIN: Also, I forgot to budget in the fact that I will have to actually start paying off my student loans now, which will take another $600+ out of my paycheck, which is $600+ more than I already can't afford. I have a feeling it's going to hit the fan in the very near future.]

I'm on such a tight budget right now that it affects nearly every aspect of my life. Need new clothes? Well, maybe a shirt this month, I'll get more next month. Need food? Well, what gives me the most for my yen? Too bad there's no CostCo in Asahi. Want to go out? Maybe once a week with my girlfriend (but that means cutting back the rest of the week on things like food). Want to go on a trip like all the other ALTs? Too bad, get used to disappointment. Have to use the bathroom? Better hold it until you get to school; you didn't have enough money to purchase toilet paper this week. It sounds bad, but really, it's worse than it sounds.

Right now, my budget is around $100 a week for food and sundry. It sounds like a lot, unless you live in Japan (example: milk is $8 a gallon). I can get by, but just barely. Of course, I wouldn't be in this situation in the first place if I had stayed in America and gotten a job in the Computer Science field (average take-home for a new graduate is about twice what I make here). I have a low-paying job in a high-cost-of-living country. Not a good combination. I don't regret my decision, I'm just saying it was the harder of these two paths (but since when was life supposed to be EASY?).

So, I can afford the minimum payments on my credit cards, but not much more, which is extremely unfortunate. I'll end up paying MORE in the long run. Credit is a trap to keep people poor, and I fell in. :'(

Worse than my credit cards, though, are my student loans. I'm having a real problem with my loan managing company.

See, since I'm in grace (since I only recently graduated), my interest rate is lower than normal. I'm trying to consolidate my loans now, to lock in that lower rate. Well, it takes time to consolidate, and even though ALL my loans are through one company, it hasn't consolidated yet. Part of this problem is because I didn't include my phone number on my loan application.

Keep in mind, it does not list "phone number" among the REQUIRED information, but there you go. My number is for Japan, so I put my mom's number, but then had to change it because I couldn't have the same number twice (once for me and once for my 'family member' reference). So I put "N/A" as the instructions tell me to. But, don't let the actual instructions get in the way of bureaucracy.

Also, there is no way to submit the application either electronically or by fax. OTHER loan applications can be submitted by fax, why not consolidation loans? I had to physically mail it there. Ridiculous! I paid extra to rush it (time is money, especially in this case). What's worse is that I didn't include my Perkins loan, which would have lowered my interest rate overall, but would have taken longer to process, thereby putting me AFTER the deadline where my Stafford rate increases, which would defeat the whole purpose.

Anyway, after submitting my consolidation application and waiting, I decided to check on it by going to the company website. It told me that there was a problem with my application. This was about a WEEK after they received it (close to TWO WEEKS since I sent it, snail mail being what it is).

Just so you know, part of the required information was an E-mail address. Why didn't they E-MAIL ME to let me know that there was a problem with my application?

I called them up and asked them that. They said they don't do that; what they do is send the application back with a cover letter explaining the missing information.

Keep in mind, my interest rate GOES UP December 11th. Not a lot, but enough to take it above the line of inflation, so that time will no longer pay off my loan. This is a critical difference to me. This is thousands of dollars to my wallet.

Here's the timeline so far:

Nov 6th: I Sent application.
Nov 11th: They received my application.
Nov 19th: I discovered that they found a problem with my application.
Nov 23rd: I finally manage to get them on the phone to correct it (time zones...oy).
Dec 1st: Today. Nothing to report. Still waiting for loan application to be approved. STILL waiting for previously mentioned cover letter to arrive.

Now, if I weren't so computer literate, I might still be totally unaware that my application was on hold. If I hadn't checked the website, I wouldn't have known there were any problems. Like I said, the letter from them still hasn't arrived. I wonder how they sent it such that, three weeks later, it's still not here.

My question is: WHY DID THEY ASK FOR MY E-MAIL ADDRESS? Clearly, that would have been the obvious method, if what they wanted to do was notify me in a timely fashion. That, however, does not seem to be their goal at all.

I wonder if, as a loan management company, they make more money from higher-interest loans. In which case, it would be to their benefit to try and delay my consolidation loan until the interest goes up (10 more days). If that happens, I wonder if I have any legal recourse?

I hate to sound like a typical litigious American, but can I sue them? If their policies are such that it biases them toward higher interest loans, that sounds like an unfair business practice. Since it is a federally guaranteed loan, I can't refuse to pay it or declare bankruptcy (I don't have enough money to declare bankruptcy anyway, my net-worth is around -$50,000).

Sigh. I wonder if my money problems are the real reason my hair is suddenly falling out. I like to think that I'm a stress-free sort of person, but upon reflection, I think I'm just in denial of how bad the situation actually is.

Does anyone know a good lawyer?

1 comment:

  1. At the very least (and reguardless of whether or not your application clears before the deadline) you should file a complaint with the BBB. It may not save your ass, but it might help others if these people get a firm slap on the wrist.