#48 When Your Debt Is An Asset with Jen Turrell

Financial Fluency Episode #48: When Your Debt is an Asset

Today I want to talk about when your debt is an asset. So I know this is going to be a controversial title for this episode because most people will shout out,

“What are you talking about! Debt is never an asset.”

So let me just explain real quick, up front.

I’m in this group where we’re doing a video challenge, and one of the challenges was to take a word like success or happiness and put your own particular spin on it.

You can listen in below and Tweet it out hereTweet: via @jturrell thinking of your debt as an asset can mean big changes. Find out how here http://ctt.ec/gdh91+

So I decided to use debt and my particular spin was that there are times when your debt is an asset. And what I mean by that is, when you have debt to a big company – and I’m talking about mortgages, car loans, and credit cards in particular, or personal loan from a bank, anything that’s where you don’t owe a particular individual money. If you owe your mom money, this is different from that. But in all of the cases that I mentioned at first, your debt is an asset on their books. Your mortgage, your car loan – they’re making money off of it. They plan on that revenue. They buy and sell that debt.

My First Time (With Debt)

I remember my first credit card, when I first got to college. 18 years old, walking onto campus, going to the student center and at a table out front where you could sign up for your very first credit card – and I just signed up for the first one that was there.

I knew nothing about credit cards, no one had ever talked to me about what to look for or what to look out for. I signed up with a company called MBNA.

Now MBNA has not existed for a long time. When MBNA was bought by Bank of America, they didn’t inform me. It just happened all of a sudden, I got a letter saying that as of this date I would no longer be dealing with MBNA, that my debt now belonged to Bank of America, I would be reissued new cards, etc, etc.

This also happened with my mortgage. The company that I first took out my mortgage with very quickly sold it to Wells Fargo, which was okay with me because I have some accounts there anyways, it made it easy to set up the autopay.

But at the same time, these companies just see your debt as a block that they can move around on their balance sheets. They can buy them, they can sell them. They don’t feel any moral obligation to you as a person.

They even do weird things like package them up into mortgage-backed securities, which we all heard about in the crash of 2008 with the housing market and everything. So sometimes it can get so complicated that it’s hard for the average person to really understand it.

Debt is NOT personal

But the reason I wanted to bring this up is because I’ve had some talks with women who feel very personally indebted. They feel beholden, they feel a moral obligation.

For instance, I was talking to a woman who I encouraged to call her credit card company and ask for a lower rate because her rate was pretty high. She did have other cards at lower rates so I was coaching her to say, “you know, I have this card at this rate, I’d really like to be at a similar rate, otherwise it doesn’t make sense for me to use this card.”

I talked to her about how it costs them more to get new clients than to retain their old clients by making them happy, by lowering their rates a bit, things like that. And she even said to me that the rate was what it was when she made the purchase and she feels a moral obligation to pay it. She feels like it would be reneging on the deal that she made.

My answer to this is, they don’t necessarily inform you when they’re going to raise rates. They don’t necessarily take you as a person into consideration and when you call the credit card company, you’re not speaking to someone that you owe money to. You’re speaking to someone at a call center who is employed by a bank who sees your account as an asset. It’s something that they make money off of.

Your Debt is Your Asset To Control

So the reason that I wanted to talk about this is because I think when you think of your debt not as something shameful or something you should feel guilty about, or you’re beholden to anybody in particular, if you think of it in the same way they do, this is an asset in their books.

So you can work in the same way as the comapnies do. You could take your asset away from them and move to a different company, there are ways that you can do balance transfers, you can refinance your home through a different mortgage company. You can refinance your car loan through your own bank.

There are all kinds of things that you can do to move these assets around that make them money and that amount to you paying them money. You are their client they are servicing you, they are servicing your debt and it does cost them more money to go and get a brand new client who has never signed up with them before than to retain a client who’s already there. So in a way you’re doing them a favor to call up and ask for better rates rather than just jump on some 0% balance transfer offer for 15 months and take that debt away from them.

Of course, ultimately, we all want to get rid of the debt. Especially the revolving, high interest, credit card type debt, because, really what we’re paying for is time. In the moment you pay for the purchase that you make, but the interest, all that’s doing is buying you more time to pay the principle, and it really adds up.

Sometimes, over time, you can pay double or even triple what the original item cost, and all it’s doing is making the company you owe money and taking money away from your savings. So, of course, for you personally, debt is something you want to get rid of.

Let’s Bring in a Bit of Happiness

But I just want you to shift your perspective for a moment and think of your debt as something that you are allowing this company to make money off of. You are the client and they should try to keep you happy.

And, you should call them and ask for a reduction in rates if you’re a loyal customer, if you’ve been with them for a while, they should treat you better than they treat other people. And even if you’ve missed a payment here or there, call up and talk to them about it. The sooner you call when you miss a payment or something goes wrong, the better they are able to help you take care of it.

If you ignore it and put it off and don’t address it, then it’s usually hard to have them make any exception for you. If you call immediately and say there was a mistake, this thing didn’t happen, this transfer didn’t happen in time, this check didn’t cash in time – tell them what’s going on, be honest and ask for help. Often, they’ll help you, because, again, the person you’re talking to is not the person you owe money to.

It’s someone at a call center who probably gets yelled at all day, and who probably really appreciates someone who says please and thank you and asked for help and lets them feel like they have the power to help you. Because think of all the times when you’ve helped someone. It feels good, doesn’t it? It feels good to have the power to help somebody, in a way you’re doing them a favor by allowing them to help you and make you feel happy. You’ll both feel better.

Think of what a nice interaction, out of their day of being yelled at all day long, it would be for you to call up, ask for some help, and for them to be able to help you.

And, sometimes the first person you talk to may not be authorized to make adjustments to your interest rate so you can always ask to talk to a supervisor or somebody else. And, honestly, sometimes it doesn’t work, but don’t get discouraged. Try another day. Try another card. Try another bill.

You Won’t Know Until You Try

A lot of our bills and interest rates and fees that we get charged throughout our life are negotiable. Most people don’t negotiate them. The banks and credit cards and big companies that lend us money, they count on us not calling and asking to negotiate. Most people don’t. So if you’re among the few that do, you get the special treatment.

So go ahead and give it a try, pull out your credit cards, look at the interest rates, and call the highest interest rate credit card and ask them to reduce your rate. Ask them to reduce it close to what your lowest interest rate card is. And if all of your cards are high, ask for something closer to 10%. A lot of companies do that.

My Barclay card, it started at 8%. So, if you look around, you can go to Nerdwallet.com or Bankrate.com, and you can always look to compare different credit cards. You can put them next to each other, show their different options and offers and interest rates and things so you can really get a good idea of what the best one is.

And if you’re company won’t help you, if they have a high interest rate, if they aren’t being good, you do always have the option to take your business elsewhere. If can affect your credit in the short term, leaving one card to go to another. Sometimes it might be wise to leave that card open. Also, you can go to CreditKarma.com and, by going through their website, it can give you an idea of how opening a new card will affect your overall credit.

Control is Empowering

The main point that I want to make here is to help you feel empowered around your debt, to help you feel empowered to help you take action and steps. Of course you want to be making payment, it’s great to avalanche it. You can apps like Ready for Zero to help you figure out how much you should be putting toward each card. Or you can use the Snowball Calculator if you prefer the snowball method over the avalanche method.

Those steps are really important, of course, but sometimes calling up and getting your interest rate dropped, that can make a really huge difference over the course of paying off your debt as well. So, if you both get the interest rate down and have a plan, a program to pay that debt off, you’ll be in the best possible position that you can be, based on the debt that you have right now.

And, I don’t want you to feel scared around the debt. I don’t want you to feel nervous about calling. Again, like I said, it’s just some person at a call center. They’re just like you, they have a job, they’re doing their job, you don’t owe them personally. If anything, they’re there to service you and to help you as a client of their company.

So, put that perspective in mind. Go find your credit cards, and call the number on the back, and ask for a rate reduction. You can also do this for your cell phone bill. For your Internet service. For your car insurance. Your home insurance. There are quite a few bills that are negotiable. Most things that aren’t metered – like your water and your electricity probably run on a meter, and that’s pretty much a set price. But, it’s always worth a try.

A Couple of Extra Tips

Sometimes, I know here in Arizona, people who live in Phoenix have disproportionately high summer electricity bills because of air conditioning, where it’s quite low in the winter, because it’s really nice in the winter in Phoenix. So, sometimes the electric company will do things that help you regulate those bills and make it so that, rather than having a really spiked bill at depth of summer, when it’s the hottest, you can kind of estimate, based on last year’s bills, and pay the same amount all year long. They have programs like that. So, if that’s helpful to you, you can always call and look for those things.

Also, with your mortgage, a lot of people rather than once a month, do every two weeks payments, because, while there are 12 months in the year, which would be 12 payments, if you pay every 2 weeks, there are 52 weeks, so that makes 26 half payments. So you really end up making a whole extra mortgage payment a year, which, again, gets you ahead of that mortgage interest. You’re paying off a bit more principal sooner, and it will shorten the overall time it takes to pay off that mortgage.

So those are just a few ideas for you. Again, with the mortgage companies, you are the customer, you are the client, don’t’ go to them as if you are beholden to them and you owe them. They are there to service you, and they would not exist without people taking out mortgages. So, if you want to change something, ask. Find out if it’s possible. See if you can do bi-weekly payments instead of monthly payments.

That is my episode for today. And that is how your debt is an asset. Your debt is somebody else’s asset.

So, I want you to feel empowered around that. Take some action and, when you’ve taken some action, go to my Facebook group – it’s a free Facebook group – and let us know what you discover.

Let us know if your negotiations worked; what kind of new rates you got; what’s going on. I would love to see you at the group. And, if you like this episode, please go to iTunes, subscribe, rate, and review. I really appreciate every single review that comes through. Thank you so much.

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