Tag Archive | CBS

The Value of Friendship Scrutinized

CircleOn Sunday Morning on CBS there was a piece about friendship. The reporter interviewed a group of women from Wisconsin and a group of men from another state (sorry, I can’t remember that part). Each gender group talked about how valuable their friendships were.

Then to back up the unscientific testimony, the reporter PROVED how valuable friends are with a series of medical and university studies–after all, it is a NEWS show. One medical study proved people holding hands with a friend during an MRI showed less anxiety and brain activity, while the patient received intermittent electric shocks, than they did when they went through the test alone. A university study showed when people were asked to estimate how steep a hill was without a friend standing next to them, the hill appeared steeper than when their friends were with them.

So, these studies prove we all do better when we have friends than when we don’t. Dah. That’s a no-brainer.

But remember if you want a friend, it’s like any relationship — there’s a give and a take, a symbiotic part to it. Experts on the program made the point that sometimes friends can become toxic and drain your energy. In such a case, it’s better for you to cut the cord and make a new friend who enriches you as much as you do them. Ending a friendship is hard, especially when you’ve put so much energy into making the friend in the first place. The last thing you want to do is cut them loose.  But sometimes, it has be done. Many times, a friendship gone bad becomes visible when you’re growing in a certain direction and they are not. Just like divorce, the process is hard but necessary. The good news is both parties usually come out stronger for the experience.

Like the women in my books, friendships are my life blood. The people who I have elected to bring into my life are precious gifts. They are my safety nets, my confidants, my helpers, and my companions. We laugh together, play together, cry together, support each other, share our fears, and express our love for each other. They fill my life with beautiful color. Without them, my life would be cold and gray.

My wish for all of you reading this is that each of you have at least one good friend you can always count on. A whole stable of friends would be even better  because life without friends is like an empty Easter basket or a Christmas tree without decorations. Where’s the joy in that?

No Credit for Credit Bureaus

Soap BoxI’ve climbed onto MY SOAP BOX for today’s post, so if you don’t want to read my rant opinion, stop reading right now.

Last night on 60 Minutes (one of my favorite television programs), there was a story about a woman who found an error on her credit report. (It was reported that there are over 40 Million mistakes in credit reporting.) Like a good, responsible person she took great care to keep her credit in good status. Like we are all instructed, she checked her report often. When she found an error, she took action right away and called the bureau to report the mistake. She followed their instructions to get the error corrected, and after several weeks, nothing was done. That’s right, NO ACTION was taken. And as the story goes, this is the norm, not the exception.

Most Americans know credit scores have become the most important number in their lives. It has become a barometer of personal responsibility and character, which is totally ridiculous.

But, nonetheless, this woman in the story pursued her quest to get the error on her report fixed. She  eventually fought for YEARS with no satisfaction. I kid you not–SHE FOUGHT FOR YEARS!  She proved to the credit bureau that another woman with a similar name was responsible for the trouble. The error was indeed an error, and yet, the credit bureau did nothing to rectify it. In fact, when she requested a copy of her report, it was different from what the lending institutions received!

The other part of the story is these matters are not handled  handled by employees in INDIA. Yup, that’s right. People completely on the other side of the world are expected to fix these American boo-boos. And they probably could take care of the problem, IF THEY WERE GIVEN THE AUTHORITY TO DO SO.

See the vortex?  See the fraud?

The credit bureaus have turned out to be real-life “Big Brothers” — and corrupt ones at that. They control our lives in a way that no other agency does. This one arbitrary number affects rates everything financial and more. It affects rates you can get on loans. It affects credit card rates. It’s taken into consideration when you apply for insurance. And recently, it even affects your ability to get a job!  In addition, most people don’t realize that cellphone and cable companies, as well as landlords use the scores as part of customer background checks. Believe it or not, one late payment can cost a person thousands of dollars over the following five to 10 years because credit card companies base interest rates on credit scores.

These credit agencies are worse than organized crime! A loan shark might break  your leg to get his due, but after he’s taken his pound of flesh, it’s done. I love this one comment that appeared on the CBS blog: “The credit rating agencies will symbolically break every bone in your body, harvest your organs for sale to the highest bidder, and leave your carcass to the vultures to be picked clean.”

What was the end result for the woman in the 60 Minutes story? She ended up SUING the credit bureau and settling for a large amount of money. I’m happy for her. She deserved whatever she was awarded. But here’s the logic behind the settlement: The credit bureau finds it easier to deal with the problem this way instead of just  fixing the error in the first place!

What I wanted to know is what genius  bean counter decided that ONE LITTLE NUMBER is the determinant that we are a good people?  Who sees such vivid black and white in our complex gray world?  What about people who have earned a good wage for a long time, paid their bills on time, and managed their credit responsibility for years, who have fallen victim to an economic downturn and unemployment and underemployment for the past several years?  Personally, I’ve watched my 700+ credit score plummet over the past three years. It’s disheartening to know that in the eyes of the credit world, I am just a step above a felon.

So, I’ve decided to join the apathetic millions who don’t concern themselves with this ONE NUMBER issued by these fraudulent agencies who are too lazy to fix mistakes for good people. It really doesn’t matter. I’ve fallen into this credit black hole and have little recourse to solve the dilemma. My choices are–to die or pay cash.