Do you ever wonder what went wrong this year when you make resolutions, plan, and budget for what you expect will happen in the coming year? Why did it feel as if money was never enough? What caused the overdraft fee – or a barrage of fees? Answering such issues and making sure you don’t make the same mistakes again might lead to a brighter future.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the biggest personal financial stories from 2014 and see what we can learn from them to make the future even better.
In the latter months of 2013, hackers got into Target Corp.’s system, compromising the identities of 100 million consumers by obtaining credit and debit card information. It was an essential news item back then, but it was even more prominent in January. Unrelated to Target: Credit card fraudsters recently have been charging stolen credit cards for a small sum of money, with $9.84 being a regular charge. Criminals assumed that cardholders would not notice the transactions and that credit card companies would not pursue them for such a small fee.
Lesson learned:Complacency does not pay in this situation. Instead, monitor your credit card at least once a month and your bank account once a week or daily.
Banks are allowed by the U.S. Treasury and Justice Departments to provide financial services to marijuana-related firms operating legally in states where marijuana is legal. Meanwhile, Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s second-largest bank, is making headlines because some affluent Americans reportedly use hidden Credit Suisse bank accounts to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. taxes.
Lesson learned: Maintaining excellent relations with the Internal Revenue Service is always good. And boy, have things changed. Years ago, the person buying marijuana got in trouble with the police; now, it’s the wildly wealthy person with a Swiss bank account on Easy Street.
A person walks to a First Citizens Bank in Athens, Georgia, and puts $31,000 into an account. That individual approaches the bank ten days later to inquire about his funds. The bank learns that the teller placed the money into the account of an 18-year-old with the same name. Then there’s the not-so-surprising revelation: out of the $31,000, the 18-year-old spent $26,000. Even less surprising: everyone employs an attorney.
Lesson learned: Recheck your bank account, especially if you’ve recently made a substantial deposit. Banks, too, make mistakes.
Three roommates in New York City discover $41,000 in cash concealed under an old couch they bought from the Salvation Army, crammed in envelopes. They search for the owner of the money since her name is on one of the envelopes, rather than throwing a large celebration or booking an island. It turns out to be an older woman’s life savings, for which the roommates are given a $1,000 prize.
Lesson learned: The most vital thing to remember is that your money is safest at a bank. The couch was given to charity without the owner’s permission, and if this seems like a scenario from an old comedy, it is because it was covered in a 1977 episode of “Three’s Company.”
A Toronto resident orders inexpensive round-the-world airline tickets for himself and his then-girlfriend in May, tickets that have a stringent no-transfer condition. When the relationship ends later in the year, this becomes an issue. Because he cannot obtain a refund and does not want his ex’s ticket to be wasted, he posts in November on the social media website Reddit, finally offering the free trip to a lady with the same name as his ex-girlfriend. It’s a platonic trip; he chooses a fellow Canadian who turns out to have a partner.
Lesson learned: When making an expensive purchase with a no-refund policy, proceed with caution. And if you have to pay for the trip yourself, a little inventiveness can help you get a return on your investment.
Sam’s Club became the first big U.S. store to reveal a credit card with a microchip inserted months after Target’s catastrophe faded from the spotlight. But unfortunately, the counterfeiting of these cards is quite tough.
Lesson learned: Sam’s Club hopes that the lesson taught is to shop at Sam’s Club. These microchips eventually became common in most credit cards.
A 58-year-old actor and former monk from Knoxville, Tennessee, won a Powerball prize of $259.9 million. He seeks a lump sum payment of $115 million. The actor had previously signed a poverty vow, claiming he will donate most of the proceeds to the performing arts. He had made many generous gifts by December, including a $1 million gift to an institution named after his mother.
Lesson learned: Between the New Yorkers and the actor, there are more amicable and honest individuals in the world than you may find hard to believe.
A single mother of five from Missouri, gets her van stolen from a Kmart parking lot and sends text messages imploring the offender to return her car. One of her texts stated, “OMG, vehicle theft folks, can you just give me my van back?” She even mentions her van’s transmission fluid leak. Finally, the robber texts that he is a jobless father attempting to feed his children. Then, he sends her a text with directions to her now-abandoned van, which he has filled with transmission fluid.
Lesson learned: It’s often claimed that if you think a financial institution is taking advantage of you, go to them and see if you can work out a solution. It appears to work with those attempting to defraud you on occasion.
Out-of-network ATM costs have risen to a record high of $4.35 per transaction, according to a Bank rate assessment of the ten largest banks and savings and loan associations in 25 of the most significant areas. Overdraft costs have also increased, with an average of $32.74.
Lesson learned: Avoid incurring overdraft penalties by using ATMs inside your network. Of course, you already understood that, but it never hurts to be reminded.
Twitter and one of France’s top banks have teamed up. Consumers may now give and receive money over Twitter for the first time without the sender knowing which bank the recipient uses. The bank will take 1% or 2% of the transfer fee, which is collected by the sender tweeting the recipient’s Twitter name, the amount, and up to 500 euros. However, you must not be concerned about your followers knowing that you send or receive money.
Learning experience: When Americans tweet such financial transactions, deadbeats will find it increasingly difficult to use the same old excuse that “the cheque is in the mail.”
Burt Reynolds, 78, was in the news for auctioning off his memorabilia, including the Trans Am he drove in the movie “Smokey and the Bandit.” According to the media, the auction was held because of Reynolds’ previous financial difficulties. Although he denies having money problems and claims to be simplifying his life.
Lesson learned: The moral of the story is that celebrities’ financial difficulties are far more intriguing than ours, whether genuine or not.
T-Mobile settled a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission alleging that the cellular provider was charging users for unlawful third-party expenses. For example, customers allegedly got text messages delivering celebrity gossip and astrological information for minor fees, such as $9.99. T-Mobile labeled the claims “unfounded”, which explains why the telecom provider has agreed to repay consumers $67.5 million and millions in fines and fees.
Learning experience: Complacency is not rewarded. Except for New Yorkers and the occasional van thief, keep an eye on every bill you get.