Saturday, October 20, 2007

Financial Document Organization

As I've brought up several times in my blog .. . . I've not been paying attention to my finances and/or maintaining any sort of order, protection, or understanding of my financial picture:

However, that's changing! A large part of the change I am needing to make is making sure that I know what I need to know to be more financially responsible.

One area of this transformation has to do with bringing up to date, and/or maintaining current documentation of all areas that pertain to my financial picture. Based on an outline of document needs that has been outlined by Suze Orman, these are the documents I am currently working on bringing up to date, and organizing in one contained, financial packet.

  • Up to date copies of my three credit reports
  • Photocopies of active credit cards, front and back with 800 service # visible.
  • Copies of letters closing old credit cards.
  • Birth Certificates
  • Copy of Driver's Licenses
  • Passports
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Child Support Documents
  • Deeds
  • Promissory Notes
  • Home owner's Insurance
  • Co-ownership Property Agreement
  • Fire Insurance
  • Copy of Survey
  • Copy of Title Policy
  • Appraisals/Evaluations of valuable items (jewelry, artwork, etc.)
  • Auto Titles and/or Leases
  • Auto Insurance Policies
  • Auto Loan Documents
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Health Insurance Card (Copy) Benefits Description
  • Long term care policy (we don't own this yet, but, need to discuss purchasing. Having watched my mother this is not something we should be without. )
  • Long term disability policy
  • Annual Social Security statement (supposed to compare W-2's to statement)
  • Social Security Card/s
  • Photocopies of spouses and children's Social Security Cards
  • Pension plan summary description, annual plan statement & annual individual pension benefit statemtnt.
  • Money purchase/profit-sharing plan documents
  • Beneficiary designations
  • Retirement account Withdrawals
  • Treasuries/Series I/Series EE/Notes
  • Stock Certificates
  • CD's
  • Annuity Contracts
  • Stock Option Grant Agreements
  • Asset List
  • Copies of All Investment account applications and agreements
  • Advanced directive and durable power of attorney for health care
  • Financial durable power of attorney
  • Will
  • Pour over will
  • Revocable Living Trust
  • Contracts of funeral or memorial arrangements
  • Documentation of prepaid fees to cemetery and/or funeral home
  • Tax returns for past 3 years
  • Documentation of home-improvement records
  • Documentation of medical expenses
  • Documentation of donations to charities
  • Documentation of investment expenses
  • Documentation of employee business travel & entertainment
  • Documentation of higher education expenses
  • Documentation of student loan interest payments
  • Documentation of real estate taxes, mortgage interest, closing costs.
Some of these documents I have. . . .somewhere. Others of these documents I need, but don't have. Many of these documents are things that I need to take care of in order to have an understanding of what is happening now and in the future. And, so importantly, several of these documents are things I need to initiate to protect my spouse, family, and myself should anything happen to either my husband or I.

I'm so happy to be able to finally say, I have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, an Advanced Health Care Directive, and Durable Power of Attorney for Finance for both my husband and I. I recently filled out and ordered these estate planning documents on line at for $34 and then went to Michigan 1st credit union and had them notorized.

Although being financially responsible feels like an enormous project, I am committing, in writing, that I will continue to take responsibility for myself and my finances.

Who Am I and Where Do I Live?

Having seen a copy of my credit report with Transunion last week, I decided to order my reports from the two remaining credit bureaus, Experian and Equifax. This information is free at, everyone is eligible for a free credit report once a year.

What an eye opener. The name they have me actively listed under is a name that I used 28 years ago when I was married to my first husband. My current name is listed under former name. There are business/corporate accounts posted under personal, and business addresses posted as my residence,etc. What a mess! No wonder they can't figure out where I live.

One credit agency claims I have no negative accounts. Another states that I've been 120 days late on a mortgage payment and have 9 negative accounts!

My credit reports are 15, 24, and 27 pages long! Even though I feel overwhelmed with the amount of work this may take to get this straightened out, I feel grateful that I have the willingness to even address it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I don't want to be superstitious or anything, but, I believe I have a stock market angel that watches over me.

I'm not educated on the stock market, can hardly understand stock reports, have difficulty reading the stock page, I do however, research the companies that I think I'd like to invest my money in.

In the past I would occasionally buy stocks. I bought Cisco at the advise of my brother and it went through the roof. I ended up selling it because I needed the money. Shortly thereafter, it went through the floor.

I bought Abercrombie & Fitch because I found that that's all my step daughter and her nieces would wear, it hit a record high before I sold it.

I purchased Nordstroms, it did really well also.

To date, I've only purchased one stock that lost money. . . I don't recall the specifics, but, the company had applied for an equipment patent for medical purposes. The stock did well until they were confronted with a patent infringement lawsuit. The company executives jumped ship, sold off their stock. That's never a good sign. The stock went way down.

My husband has a retirement program set up through his work. There are a variety of mutual funds that are available to purchase through his program. In the beginning, about 10 years ago, I thought Dodge and Cox DODGX sounded good. I began purchasing it at $75 per share, I purchased several hundred shares over time - they currently are at $153.

Over the past couple of years, learning about the lowering value of the US dollar, I thought it would be good to buy into a foreign funds. I chose SSEMX or SSgA-Emerging Markets. I'm not really sure what the returns on it have been, there seems to be so many conflicting numbers, but, moneycenral is listing it as 1 year return = 65.82%; 3 year return = 45.92%. etc. ttp://

Oddly, because of the high returns on SSEMX, and DODGX having slowed down to a 4% return, I decided to sell the DODGX and buy all SSEMX. Two days later the US stock market went into a downward spiral. I don't know if its leveled back out yet or not, but, SSEMX has sure gone up.

If my investment techniques sound vague, its because they are. I have almost no idea what I'm doing other than using some deductive reasoning, intuition, and prayer.

I'm so grateful that my investments have turned out so well though because my husband and I have had to borrow heavy on this retirement account. Recently when we took out a hardship loan of $13,000, SSEMX increased so quickly that I hadn't even realized that they money had been withdrawn.

Our account was $67,000 this past August and is currently at $84,000. Our ability to continue to invest in the account has been suspended for six months, so, to see these types of increases feels a bit like a life saver.

Now that my husband and I have made the commitment to be financially responsible, I'm beginning to see signs of that angel watching over my everyday finances.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Tonight my husband and I sat down for our second financial meeting. As I've said in an earlier post, I've put together a newsletter that shows where we our financially. All of our account balances, pending income, debt balances and pending invoices are shown on this newsletter.

Right now how we're conducting the meetings, is to have my husband read out loud each of the points written out. The reason we've set it up like this is because I'm the one whose compiled the information, but I don't want to be the only one familiar with it. By his reading it out loud, it helps me to know that he's been informed, and, it also creates discussion between us. Since he's reading it for the first time, he's the one initiating the questions. I think this is important because, in the past, it seemed I was the one with all the information, I was the one ruling the discussions, which resulted in me being the one who was generally making most of the decisions - while his eyes were glazed over.

We begin with our Mission Statement, we located a fun way to write our statement at

Our Mission is to achieve financial freedom and prosperity as a team, while being respectful towards each other, keeping our minds open, using our individual gifts of thinking analytically and outside the box, in a humorous, loving and accepting way.

Next I've listed additional ways we've found to save money. . . . this week it was by changing dry cleaners to Dry Cleaning Depot. . . . this will save us at a minimum $20 per month, or $240 per year. I've also canceled my e-fax account and am changing my fax to the home phone I have only because I need it for internet service - we don't even have a phone attached to it! I hooked up a copier/fax to the phone line. This saves us $17 a month, or $204 per year. Our yearly savings is now up to $22,929.

After patting ourselves on the back, we move on to the Agenda. This weeks Agenda begins with us reviewing the October budget and noting if there are any adjustments that need to be made. We're still blowing in the wind on the budget, since it's the first one we've ever done, and, incredibly we're appearing to be fairly close.

Our credit reports were then reviewed. I had written letters to Transunion earlier , printed them, and put it in each of our files to sign and mail out.

We again reviewed our insurance policies and decided to stay with e-surance for our auto insurance, but, need to do further research on our homeowners and condo insurance.

It started to get a little heated when we hit on our next subject of discussing existing accounts and payment adjustments.

My husband wants me to contact the mortgage company (because it's in my name), and find out if we can go on an interest only payment plan for the next six months. He's fairly convinced that this will give us the money we need to pay off our credit cards and "even the student loans". Well, this concerned me since our mortgage is at 8.5% and my student loans are at 4.5%. I tried to follow his logic, which was cash flow, but I could not determine what the actual costs for something like this might be. Neither he nor I know how to figure this dollar amount out, so, his homework was to find out. Our home mortgage is $321,400 at 8.5%.

Our second account under discussion, our second mortgage. I've had my mortgage put on an accelerated payment plan. It's been on the plan for about 8 months. The reason I had chosen to do this was because I intend on paying this second house off. The first house we plan to sell, but the second house I'd like to keep. I make payments on this mortgage every other Friday in the amount of $720 - well - next month there are 5 Fridays. Ouch-that means 3 payments! I don't want to stop this program though because I paid $295 to set it up (convenience) and don't want to lose that investment. I'll contact them tomorrow to discuss refinancing this loan, stopping or delaying the automatic accelerator program.

Finally, the last account is a loan we had taken out against our retirement account. We pay $1000 per month towards this loan, with a balance of $39,000. Not something that's going to be ending soon. Although my husband called to ask that we change the payment amount, an amount that we had set up, they said we couldn't do it by phone, but could possibly request it by mail.

Our last item of on the agenda, income producing ideas. We have some valuable items that we've been wanting to sell, but, haven't put the energy into getting these items to the proper sources for resale. My husband has a civil war pistol valued at a few thousand that he needs to write the lineage on, have notarized, and provide the information and photos to an antique gun dealer. I have several pieces of artwork by well known artists that I'm wanting to sell, some of which has tripled in value.

Neither of us is very good with this type of follow up, so, I will keep it on the agenda until these items are taken care of. I believe that as long as it's put in our face repeatedly, the more likely we are to address it.

We then scheduled our next meeting, make note if there's something we want addressed at the next meeting and put together a delegation list for the items that came up at this weeks meeting. My strengths are organizing, compiling information, tracking spending, composing letters, etc. My husbands strengths are calling people on the phone, and following up on information. That's how we delegate, according to our strengths and preferences.

This weeks meeting lasted for two hours. I'm assuming our meetings last this long because we've neglected our finances for s-o-o-o-o long. I would hope that we will eventually get this down to a one hour meeting.

Next week we'll be writing our goals, (didn't have time tonight), and discussing living wills, power of attorney, life insurance, etc. I'm planning to go into the hospital for major surgery next month and know that this is another area that we've neglected too long.

Monday, October 15, 2007


While opening a checking and savings account at Michigan First Credit Union earlier this week, they ran a credit report on both my husband and I. Although we hadn't realized they would be doing this, they ran the reports to see if there were any areas where they could be offering us lower rates on our mortgage and auto loans. Had I known in advance they would be running these reports, I may not have opened these accounts.

Most of my adult life, I have felt humiliated at what my credit report looks like. My husband has an equally poor credit report. Although my husband no longer has a bankrupcy showing on his report, he continues to riddle his report with unpaid doctors bills. Although this may not seem like much of a problem, in this tight economy, it stopped him from being able to qualify for a loan on our second house.

I, on the other hand, have one major flaw on my report, and a couple smaller, but still important flaws. I carry two mortgages and an auto loan on my credit report. I also have a credit card that is over its limit ($10,800) , student loans that are on perpetual deferment, and miscellaneous other irritating and unnecessary notations.

The primary flaw on my report is for a mortgage payment that I made through my on line banking account with Comerica Bank. After I made the on line payment of $3,800, the mortgage company stated they had never received it. The bank insisted that they sent it. I had paperwork indicating that the money had been removed from my account.

Whoa, talk about between a rock and a hard place. These two large financial organizations proved to be impossible to penetrate and resolve this issue. Over a year passed without this situation being resolved, it continued to be "researched" by the mortgage company at our insistence, while the bank did very little to help us. The bank personnel would only look into it if we were standing in front of them in person, and then, they just insisted it had been paid.

Finally, the entire situation was resolved, unsatisfactorily for us, by our refinancing the loan, and having to roll the $3,800 into the new mortgage.

The explanation provided by the bank was so complicated that I can't even describe it here, and, I'm not convinced that the bank didn't make a mistake. The mortgage company is happy because they've been paid. We're happy to have been able to refinance at all with reports of 60 and 90 day late notices on my credit.

Our next financial meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening. One item on our agenda is to review our credit reports. At this meeting we'll address the issues that we are able to by drafting a letter to the credit bureaus explaining the situation, and determining what else we can do to clean up our negative credit.

Finally, I need to take a look at my/our belief system regarding my money. In the past, I have believed that I am not worthy of a good financial life. In fact, the one memory I have regarding money was hearing my parents tell me that I couldn't save a dollar. I'm sure they didn't realize the impact of that statement, but, it was my choosing to carry that statement through my adult life that is the problem.

Old destructive patterns crop up and I create situations where I'm not looking too good on paper (or feeling too good inside). If I believed I was worthy I would have already written the credit bureaus, I would have kept my credit card balances down, paid on time, not exceeded my limits, etc. Instead I chose to be sloppy, lazy, procrastinate and dishonest with myself regarding my finances. I have earned a FICO score of 530, while my husband has earned a 572.

Its time for me to grow up and take responsibility. Am I worthy of a good FICO score? Yes, I believe I'm earning the right to have a decent score. It's not easy, but, for me right now, its necessary. It affects how I see myself - and its time I see myself in a better light.