Hard to find good news in 2008

December 23 2008 by Ellen Roseman

You read the newspapers every day and learn about many terrible things you didn’t even know were happening. That happens to me and I’m a journalist who follows the news pretty closely. There’s lots of uncertainty going into the new year.

How did a U.S. mortgage meltdown lead to a worldwide credit crisis? Will this instability end in 2009 or will it drag on longer?

How did a commodities boom go bust in just a few months, pushing down the price of oil from almost $150 U.S. a barrel to almost $30?

What happened to the Canadian dollar’s parity with the U.S. dollar? Why didn’t we travel more outside Canada when we could have enjoyed lower prices?

And how did Bernard Madoff, a New York money manager acting on his own, create the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, ensnaring many people and institutions that should have known better?

From my vantage point, the only good news is that people are paying attention to their personal finances. It’s a priority, in some cases an emergency, but no longer an issue that can simmer indefinitely on the back burner.

This means we journalists can get your attention with articles about the high cost of credit, the importance of getting good advice, the way your money is protected if an investment firm goes under and the need to stay safe.

I’m also happy to see companies recognize the importance of keeping customers happy, even in a bad economy and even if their business is in peril.

See the comment below from a Chrysler customer, whom I helped get reimbursed for the extended warranty she bought that was not explained properly to her.

9 comments

  1. Dale

    Dec 24 2008

    From my vantage point, the only good news is that people are paying attention to their personal finances. It’s a priority, in some cases an emergency, but no longer an issue that can simmer indefinitely on the back burner.

    I agree with you here Ellen but I find that a lot of people still need to be educated.

    It used to be that some people rolled the cost of appliances into mortgages. Nothing like still paying for something years after it’s sitting in a landfill.

    Now I know of several people that in order to get rid of massive credit card balances, have rolled that debt (and any penalties involved in doing all this) into their mortgages. On the surface, it appears like a good plan, yes they’re paying say, 6% on outstanding rather than the 19% the card would charge, but the mindset seems to be that they are “saving” hundreds of dollars a month that they can spend somewhere else.

    Paying interest on new debt amortized between 20 and 35 years seems to be a concept lost on them. When I suggested to someone that they take that “extra” money they are saving and bank it separately in order to pay down the principal when allowed, they thought I was crazy.

    This same person did all this because she would not call the credit card company and even try asking them to reduce the interest rate they were being charged.

    Then I’ve heard about people who are fearful of defaulting on their mortgages because they’ve been laid off. One person was talking about “walking away” from it. I pleaded with him to CALL the financial institution and ask if they could renegotiate something. I believe the Banks would rather renegotiate something than be stuck with houses that are going to take longer to sell. The person I mentioned is reluctant to call. Too embarrassed.

    Pretty scary stuff.

  2. Ed Kurak

    Feb 12 2009

    My appreciation to Ellen Roseman for pointing me to this blog, as I now know what happened to my STAPLES BUSINESS DEPOT Rebate for Norton Anti-Virus.

    I submitted my rebate on Oct. 10 and received an apparent approval on Nov. 1. Well, it is now Feb. 12 and no rebate after emails and attempted phone calls

    I cannot understand why Staples could not have been more pro-active by obtaining the names associated with the rebates from the third party company and contacted us directly.

    I am left with the perception that Staples was merely hoping we would all forget about our rebates.

    I remain negative in dealing with Staples in the future after some very large purchase in the last year