My purse contains items I never dreamed possible before I was blessed with offspring – like food crumbs! These menacing particles from Goldfish crackers seem to be forever at the bottom of my bag no matter how often I clean it. Other evidence that "my purse" (hybrid container for my relics and pseudo diaper bag even though my child has been potty trained for over a year now) no longer belongs to me are the presence of: a juice box, a brown banana, a cereal bar, size 3T underwear, and entertainment essentials like crayons and coloring books.
Sometimes I feel like a Sherpa schlepping all this stuff around. I wonder what other people think when they see me at a store getting my wallet out. I’m now the person I once avoided in lines. You know the one – she who sifts through a myriad of objects in order to get to the money. By the time I’m done with a transaction in a store, you could have gotten your car washed and a full tank of gas. My purse-onality has changed since becoming a Mama.
In 1971, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood wrote a song with the title, “Every Picture Tells a Story.” The lyrics at the end of the song repeat the phrase:
“…every picture tells a story, don’t it?”
Growing up I heard this song on the radio and was confused about the lyrics... what does a “donut” have to do with a "picture?" This song was not an advertisement for Krispy Kreme, Winchell’s, Tim Horton, or Dunkin Donuts. Rather, Stewart and Wood posed the question: do pictures tell a story? Their curiosity (and classic song) is timeless. It got me wondering… do purses tell a story about us? If you are a Mom, your purse probably tells a story about you. The story of our lives can also be found in the financial trail we leave.
Picture this! We can obtain a snapshot of our own financial story by ordering a credit report. Here we can see a picture of our financial health and well-being. The following companies offer credit reports once a year for free: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Annualcreditreport.com in an online resource to get started.
Read your story! Consider it a healthy checkup. Look for any abnormal activity. Using all three free companies for a credit report can be a method for corroborating information told with each story. The reports are not necessarily going to be identical since each company may be receiving different data.
Identity theft is something that can be prevented, or ameliorated if detected early by simply being aware of what is in the credit report. Look for unknown accounts as a way to monitor identity theft. Make copies of credit card(s) and store in secure location in case cards are stolen or lost. Additionally, when making purchases online, or releasing personal information, be sure to use the TRUSTe symbol, www.secure.//, and https//.
How do we make sense our stories? A credit score is one way to interpret credit-worthiness. If a lender wants to lend you money, they are going to read your story and look for a score. A score of 720 is good. While the credit report is free (once a year), the credit score is not.
The acquisition and use of credit cards shows up in a credit report. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) consists of the annual rate, service fee, and loan fees. An APR of 16.99% is better than say 24.35%.
Compare APR to save money on credit. It is also possible to ask lenders if they could reduce the percentage rate (see the Fair Credit Billing Act). If you are bombarded by credit card offers, you can register with the national do not call list and opt out of credit card offers (credit reporting agencies) (888) 5OPTOUT, 567-8688, and Do Not Call Registry 888-382-1222. Manage credit card(s) by being aware of what is owed, APR, due dates for payment, and contact information.
Protect your personal information, Mama! Look for warning signs someone has stolen your identity. Prevention, early detection, and having a plan are ways to address identity theft. If you are the victim of identity theft, the following steps will help you solve the problem. First, contact your local law enforcement. Second, report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission at ftccomplaintassistant.gov. They keep a national database of identity crimes. Third, contact all three credit reporting agencies (i.e., Experian, Equifax, and Transunion) and report the theft to their fraud departments. You may want to freeze your credit card accounts. Last, contact the fraud hotline at the Social Security Administration- 800-269-0271.
A lack of awareness of one’s financial story can cost an arm and a leg. I heard on a radio talk show once that the origin of this expression came before cameras when people sat for portraits painted by an artist. The costumer would pay more money for the portrait when more limbs were included in the painting. So a portrait of someone’s face would be cheaper than a portrait that also included an arm. I wonder what it would cost for a portrait painted of someone devouring a Boston, vanilla crème with chocolate icing holding her “Mommy purse”? Priceless.