I get mail that says I have money coming to me. Is it a scam?
Suze: Not always. Just a few years ago, they passed a law that says these banks can actually contact you to let you know you have money with them. Why do they need to contact you? Because you are all just scatterbrains when it comes to money! You open up a bank account, but you forget you did. You put a deposit down on utility companies, but you forget you did. And then, they can't find you because you are moving so often. So, they will send you a letter saying they owe you money. You'll think it's a scam, but it's not.
When is it a scam? If they are charging you. If they say, "Send in $50 and we will show you we have $5,000 for you." Take the thing and throw it out. The states just want to give you back your money. The banks want to give you back your money. You just don't want to take it. So, it's not a scam if they are not asking for money.
Are you wondering if you have unclaimed money? You might want to go online to check. Go to:
Many department stores offer 20 percent off when you sign up for their credit card. Is it okay to actually take advantage of that discount, and then rip up your card and never use it again?
Suze: So, you go in and they offer you a 20 percent discount. That's great, but you are not disciplined. Here's what you are going to think: "It's only 20 percent for this date. Therefore, I need to buy this, this, this and this." Maybe you went in thinking you were going to spend $200, but before you know it, they give you this credit card and you walk out having spent $1,000 on stuff that you don't even need or want.
Then you are going to get that credit card bill. You'll see they only want maybe $50 of the $1,000 dollars that you spent and you'll say: "You know what, I'll just pay that." And now they've got you! They are charging you 23 percent interest even though they just gave you 20 percent off.
So, my advice to all of you is this: Don't do it. You think you are smarter than them? I don't think you are, which is why we have so much credit card debt here in the United States.
Be very careful also because your credit cards and the debt that you carry on your credit cards have a lot to do with your FICO score. Your FICO score has a lot to do with what is known as your Insurance Risk score, which your car insurance premiums are based on. So, if you go into a department store and charge up to the max on their store credit card, don't be surprised to see your car insurance premium increase. In other words, that 20 percent [discount] you were getting could end up costing you a whole lot of money someplace else.
What is the best way to pay down debt on department store credit cards?
Suze: Many of you have credit cards that are at department stores, and you are being charged 23, 29 or even 30 percent interest. What would be my number one piece of advice for all of you? Listen carefully.
Open up a credit card at a credit union.
By law, federally chartered credit unions cannot charge you more than 18 percent interest. If you do a balance transfer to a credit union, most good credit unions do not charge you a balance transfer fee.
Can everybody belong to a credit union? You absolutely can. I have two credit cards that I carry: my American Express card and a VISA card with a credit union. Obviously, I pay them off at the end of every month, but if you need help, get a credit union credit card.
Suze: In all the years I've been dealing with money, usually when somebody is overweight, they also have credit card debt. They don't have as much savings as they should, and then they start to get stressed out because the older they get, the less money they have and the more weight they gain—it's a catch-22.
Do you know that, on average, an obese person makes $3.41 less per hour than somebody who is not obese? That adds up to $7,000 a year less. Now, if you extrapolate that over a working lifetime—30 or 40 years—you are looking at $200,000, $300,000, $400,000 simply because you are overweight.
Why do overweight people make less money? Well, [employers] know there's a lot of cost. When you're overweight, you call in sick. You don't show up, and it costs the employers money—and they know it.
My twin sister borrowed $4,000 from me and now says she can't pay it back. She lost her job 18 months ago. I know times are tough, but I see her getting her nails done every week, and she just took her kids on a vacation to Florida. Do I have a right to be angry? What do I say to her?
— Anonymous, via The Huffington Post
Suze: You have a right to be angry at her, but in my opinion, you should actually be angrier at yourself. Just don't go telling me this is the first time that you've seen your sister be irresponsible with money. So, you gave it to her. You thought you lent it to her.
When you are giving somebody money, you are giving it to them. Don't think you are lending it to them. You need to ask yourself: Can I afford it? If you can't, because they can't pay you back, what are you going to do?
What I would do if I were you, by the way, is get your sister to pay you back $75 a month, every month, for the next four years. That's with 4 percent interest. Then you will have a better relationship.
Remember, there's no such thing as lending money. You are giving it or you are not.
Suze's Action Plan Your assignment for this week: Check your FICO score and add up your total credit card debt.
Suze: Your goal should be to have a FICO score of 720, 760 or higher. I want you to really tally up all the money you have on your credit cards. You need to face it to erase it. Also, make this year a year that you commit to having an 8-month emergency fund. Things go wrong, and you need money if that happens. So, make those little adjustments and this can be one of the greatest years of your life.