Tag Archives: Money

FINANCIAL FITNESS BOOT CAMP: WEEK 8 CHARGE NOW…. PAY LATER: HOW I OVERCAME CREDIT CARD DEBT

A¬†couple of you may have been looking for and wondering why there was no posting last week.¬†Simply put,¬†I allowed distractions to get me off task.¬†My lack of focus¬†made it impossible to blog. It wasn’t because I was tired or didn’t have anything to say. I allowed “outside noise” to drown out my internal thoughts. Thank God I’m back on track.¬†Hopefully¬†the¬†“Daily Motivation” postings encouraged¬†you and kept you focused in the interim. Each day is a work in progress for me because there is always¬†a¬†personal/spiritual/professional/financial¬†goal¬†I’m striving to reach.¬†Currently, I’ve set a goal to save a SPECIFIC amount of money over the course of¬†this next¬†year. As a constant reminder of my goal, I’ve written that amount on a piece of paper, taped it to my bathroom mirror and each time the amount increases (i.e. a deposit is made,) I¬†record the date and the¬†adjusted amount.¬†Recording the date helps me track possible¬†patterns in saving.

But it wasn’t always this way. At one point in my life, I wasn’t able to save because (in the words of my younger cousin Bobby,)¬†“I made just enough money to “stay broke.”” That’s certainly what it felt like. This didn’t mean I didn’t make enough money to fulfill my obligations. I simply wasn’t financially mature enough to modify my spending habits. I was still shopping,¬†going on trips (and everything else under the sun) and using credit card(s) when I didn’t have the money.¬†The bills were paid on time every month but without an emergency fund or some type of savings¬†in place,¬†ONE monthly setback could set me back¬†THREE months. For example. What happened if my car¬†was in need of repair? Where¬†would the money come from?¬†My quick fix?¬†I simply¬†incorporated the “Rob Peter¬†To Pay Paul Principle.”¬†I’m sure you guys have heard of it. If you’re honest with yourself, some of you have done it. And if you’re brutally honest with yourself,¬†you’re¬†doing it now.¬†The “Rob Peter To Pay Paul Principle” is sacrificing paying one bill and/or bills¬†to take care of another. This principle worked¬†a few months for me, but eventually imploded in my face.

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Let me explain further….

STEP 8: CHARGE NOW…. PAY LATER: HOW I OVERCAME CREDIT CARD DEBT

I was never taught how to use credit responsibly. By the time I entered college, the only advice given to me¬†regarding credit (credit cards in particular) was, “DON’T GET ‘EM!!! DON”T USE EM!!!” That came from both my mother and father. They were the traditional “old school” types who believed in cash and carry. But how could¬†a broke freshman¬†pass up the opportunity to get a free college t-shirt just for “signing up?” Before I knew it, I had THREE FREE T-SHIRTS and was issued TWO CREDIT CARDS¬†with a credit limit of $500 each. Now how did this credit thing work again?

I was responsible with the charges I made but not responsible with how I made the payments. I thought I could make payments at my discretion as long as the¬†balance didn’t exceed¬†the credit¬†limit. That’s the way credit cards work. Right?

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One day (at the mall of course,) a purchase for a pair of shoes was declined. I gave the salesperson my other card. Declined as well. I didn’t understand why. I hadn’t gone over my limit, so why were the cards being declined? The salesperson suggested I contact the credit card company. After sifting through unopened mail, I found a statement and proceeded to contact them. Not only had I not paid in three months, but my balance exceeded the credit limit. What? How could this be? APR? Finance charges? What¬†is that?¬†Late fees? For what? The¬†Customer Service Representative¬†I spoke to was kind enough to explain¬†the abbreviated version of Credit Card Management For Dummies to me. (Hmmm. I like that.¬†I’ll file that in my mental mailbox¬†and blog about¬†Credit Card Management for Dummies¬†in a future post.) Long story short, Mom to the rescue. She paid the balances on the cards provided I close the accounts. Those were her terms and¬†in my case, the one with¬†the money calls the shots. Fast forward to my ADULT adult years. I’m well out of college with two degrees, still couldn’t manage my credit card debt and in my late 30s. By this time, I had knowledge of credit cards and how they worked, making timely payments etc., but the temptation to spend spend spend when one bank is offering you a $15K line of credit and another a $10K line of credit was too great. There’s a little way banks can really “stick it to you” if you’re not¬†careful. I’ll give you two words:¬†CASH ADVANCE¬†(which yield HIGHER interest rates than making regular purchases.)¬†When I was going through my “Keep Up With The Joneses” phase,¬†where I had to have the Mercedes Benz, the larger home, and designer handbags¬†to feel¬†validated, those 3-4 little checks the bank would send with my monthly statements¬†came right on time. The next thing I knew,¬†the balance on one credit card was¬†near maxed out, and I was working on maxing out the second card. What to do? Back then, the minimum payment on the¬†TWO credit cards combined at the time¬†totaled half of the¬†mortgage on my home.¬†¬†Plus¬†I also had a car payment on¬†my truck. There was no way I was going to ask my parents.¬†I made my bed, now it was time to lie in it. I had credit card debt in excess of $20K. My credit was shot as my debt to income ratio was so high, there was no way a creditor/lender would¬†extend¬†another dime of credit to me for anything. There was the constant anxiety and worry. Anger and irritability. Sleepless nights. Dreams of falling¬†then waking up in cold sweats. Worry that I’d have to sell my investment properties, face foreclosure¬†and¬†file for bankruptcy. Thinking of it as I type now makes me anxious. That’s a place I never want to visit again.

YEAH YEAH YEAH. WE GET IT. YOU WERE DROWNING IN CREDIT CARD DEBT.¬†SO HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT? I know this is what you guys want to know. I had to¬†set¬†the scene in order¬†to illustrate how the CHARGE NOW….PAY LATER way of thinking caught up to me.

Here’s how I did it: I “settled” with the two credit card companies.¬†

“Settling” with a credit card company means you agree to¬†pay the¬†credit card company (i.e.¬†bank) an amount LESS than the current balance on your credit card. The bank will in turn close the account and send you a 1099 (which you MUST declare as income¬†during the tax filing year.) The banks will usually try to work with you on¬†a settlement amount. For them, It’s better to get SOME of the money back, than no money at all. Here was my settlement break down:

Credit Card 1: Balance $15,000 (apprx) Settlement Amount: $7,500.

Credit Card 2: Balance $8,000 (apprx) Settlement Amount: $3,000.

The bank refused to accept any thing less than half the balance on Credit Card #1. For Credit Card #2 I told the bank $3000 was all I had to settle with. They accepted what I offered.

IF YOU SETTLED FOR APPROXIMATELY $10K AND PREVIOUSLY STATED YOU HAD NO SAVINGS, HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO PAY? Answer: I was forced to tap into my IRA and take the hit (penalty) for a partial withdrawal. Some of you may have been in the workforce long enough to have a retirement account saved up. If so, you can take a partial withdrawal from¬†your retirement account (if allowable) or take out a loan¬†against it, which of course will have to be repaid.¬†It may not sound attractive, but it’ll get the “monkey” off your back. The downside. My credit¬†score would suffer,¬†but who cares! It was beyond insufferable anyway. But wait. there was a silver lining to this credit card debacle. A THIRD credit card which I rarely used. Let’s just call it a “rainy day” card. It had a pretty sizeable credit limit like the others so if push came to shove, it was there to use. Or so I thought. That lone credit card¬†that once had¬†a limit in upwards of $10K¬†had been¬†reduced to $2000. Couple that with my POOR credit rating at the time, and that was¬†just the motivation I needed¬†to become¬†more responsible when it came to my finances. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

My father’s ever so redundant line when it comes to credit cards,¬†“If you have to use¬†a credit card to buy it, you can’t afford it,” still resonates with me today. That may make sense to him, but I would tweak¬†that line just a bit. “If you can’t pay your credit card balance in full when you get the bill, you MAY NOT be able to afford it.”¬†I like my wording better. Less harsh and more accurate. Everyone’s “financial collage” is different and no two collages will ever look exactly the same. Today I still have the one credit card and although the bank has been gracious to increase its limit (enticing me to use it no doubt,) the only action¬†it gets is the random fill up at the gas station and the occasional dinner with me of course paying the balance in full at the end of the month.

This happened at age 40. I am now 44. And I’ve come a LONG WAY in four years. It only took about a¬†year and a half¬†of strictly managing my finances responsibly to¬†INCREASE my¬†credit score rating from POOR to GOOD. And you can do it too. Even if you don’t have a retirement account, you can still eliminate credit card debt. Look for tips in next weeks blog posting.

I hope you benefitted from this posting and I do appreciate you reading it.Your commentary is always important so ALL FEEDBACK IS WELCOMED. If there is a specific topic you‚Äôd like me to talk about regarding ‚ÄúFinancial Fitness Boot Camp‚ÄĚ on this blog, feel free to shoot me an email at Andrea.Coleman@TheFinancialHack.com.¬†Don‚Äôt miss a posting so be sure to follow me at http://www.thefinancialhack.com.

FOLLOW THIS BLOG AND JOIN THE EMAIL LIST SO YOU DON’T MISS A POST.

~The Financial Hack ©2015

FINANCIAL FITNESS BOOT CAMP: WEEK 7

If you read my blog post from Week 5: “You’ve Got To Be in Position To Make The Completion,” you know I love football. And if you’re a fan as well, you know football season is drawing near. Of course there are players (rookies) that were drafted by the team and there are other players that “tried out” for the team, but have to “prove themselves” if they wish to stay. After observing a few players in practice as well as their performance in scrimmage and Pre-Season games, the coaching staff has to make decisions regarding the upcoming player roster: Who Stays vs. Who Goes. So many factors can determine a player’s fate: performance on the field (and sometimes off,) depth of the team, injury (or injury history), age, and many other factors. This is always a stressful time for players and the coaching staff as decisions whether a player stays or goes in some cases takes careful consideration. Some coaches know right away who is an “asset” to the team and who is a “liability.” For all practical purposes, let’s use another football analogy regarding your finances as you begin to budget your money by FIRST asking yourself this question……

STEP 7: WHAT HAS TO BE CUT FROM YOUR SPENDING HABITS?

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You’ve had plenty of time to track your spending. You’ve trimmed the fat, now it’s time to make some SERIOUS cuts. Some feelings are going to get hurt after the cuts (mostly yours,) but with great sacrifice comes great reward. For your budgeting to be effective, you have to stick to it. DISCIPLINE IS KEY. So as an example, let’s take a look at some areas of my spending that DIDN’T make the cut and for all practical purposes, I’ll use basic football positions you all should know… hopefully.

1st CUT (KICKER): SHOPPING FOR NON-ESSENTIAL ITEMS– In football, a “Kicker” kicks off the ball to the opposing team, kicks the extra point after a touchdown as well as attempt 3pt field goals when scoring a touchdown is not obtainable. As much as I love thrift stores, and discount retailers (TJ MAXX, Marshall’s, Ross, DSW etc.,) these are considered “Kickers” to me. These non-essential items are purchased to score extra points. An outfit here, another pair of shoes there, accessories I don’t need, or makeup I may only use once. The kicker is my bonus, my “extra points” if you will.  If you walked inside my closet or looked in my bathroom, you’d understand why. I need not another article of clothing, pair of shoes, or tube of lipstick.

2nd CUT (SAFETY): EXCESSIVE BEAUTY APPOINTMENTS– A “Safety” is a team’s last line of defense because they are furthest from the line of scrimmage. Safetys usually assist Cornerbacks with a deep pass that may be thrown to a Wide Receiver or in some cases, a Tight End. If I’ve lost you completely with football jargon, just nod and pretend you understand.  Vanity is a “safety net” for some of us, because in essence it can be the last line of defense for us. Some aren’t comfortable leaving the house unless they’re in full regalia; hair, makeup, nails, etc. hence our “last line of defense” to be noticed or to catch someone’s attention. As a rule of thumb I chose ONE ELEMENT OF VANITY to keep, my “Safety” and that was maintaining my bi-weekly hair appointments. If a sacrifice of vanity has to be made, I’m willing to bet hair will win every time (especially if your hair requires a high level of maintenance.) Some spend monies on eyebrow waxing/threading or whatever the latest technique is. I grab an eyebrow brush, a pair of tweezers, shaping scissors, a razor and go to work. The result looks great. At times, I will “glam it up” and add some “oomf” to them when necessary, but for now, the brows are just fine. I reserve perfecting my brows for special occasions, church, funerals, and weddings only (lol.) There’s also a new trend with eyelash extensions. As great as they look, the maintenance can be quite costly. For me, that’s nothing a good tube of mascara and eyelash booster can’t fix. The same goes for nails. When I was going to the nail salon regularly (over 15 years ago,) acrylics was the “in thing.” Now it’s gel nails. I grab a bottle of Sally Hansen’s “Hard As Nails” and the Essie nail color of my choice and hit up the nail salon for a $10-$15 manicure (which comes from my monthly discretionary income.) The result. Healthy nails. The same goes for Pedi’s. You can actually do your own pedicure at home but I usually have a professional pedi done monthly (again taken from my monthly discretionary income of course.)

3rd CUT (RUNNING BACK): EATING OUT EXCESSIVELY Now I know even those who despise football know what the function of a “Running Back” is or can at least name one. Running backs receive the ball (usually handed off from the quarterback) and “rush the play.” Running Backs are usually of average height but are very strong and powerful when rushing through a group of linemen. Just as a Running Back rushes through a group of lineman, for some (like me,) it is so easy to make a “rushing play” to grab some fast food or a bite to eat at a restaurant/bistro to keep from having to cook. I was more responsible when I was married, but as a single adult, it’s just so much easier to pick something up on the way home. I keep referring to the $500 I spent eating out in one month. This included stops for breakfast on the way to work, lunch, and dinners/brunch out with friends. $250 can get me a refrigerator and pantry full of food. Prepackaged dinners always come in handy, and I’m not above eating Ramen Noodles (shrimp flavor is my favorite.) Eating Ramen noodles has nothing to do with being poor and not being able to afford anything else, hell, I like ’em, they’re economical, and it doesn’t take long to prepare them. As convenient as it is to hit the nearest Luby’s drive thru for Chicken Fried Steak, mashed potatoes, cabbage and a wheat roll, the $11 I spend on that ONE MEAL can get me all the items I need to make a spaghetti or enchilada dinner that I can stretch an ENTIRE WEEK. Also consider items such as salads and baked potatoes. Carnivores feel free to add some grilled chicken to that salad to make it interesting. And NEVER sleep on Hamburger Helper. They have so many different flavors now, it’s ridiculous. Again. Sacrifice is required in order to reach your goal. You may be eating Hamburger Helper now, but you’ll be eating steak and potatoes in little or no time if you stay the course…. YOU CAN DO THIS!!!

SO HAVE YOU DECIDED WHAT NEEDS TO BE CUT FROM YOUR BUDGET? Hopefully the examples I mentioned will give you an idea on where you can make some cuts. You’ve got some tough decisions to make if you haven’t. If you want to be financially free, you’ve got to be willing to let some things go. I’m sure a few of you have already put those players aka “spending habits” on the “chopping block” that pose more of a liability than an asset to your finances. Good for you. To those that still haven’t decided, MAY “THE FORCE” BE WITH YOU. I KNOW YOU’LL MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION. HAPPY CHOPPING!!!!

I hope you benefitted from this posting and I do appreciate you reading it. I want to hear from you! What is posing a “liability” to your finances and what have you decided to get rid of? Your commentary is always important so ALL FEEDBACK IS WELCOMED. If there is a specific topic you‚Äôd like me to discuss regarding ‚ÄúFinancial Fitness Boot Camp‚ÄĚ on this blog, feel free to shoot me an email at Andrea.Coleman@TheFinancialHack.com. Don‚Äôt miss a posting so be sure to follow me at http://www.thefinancialhack.com.

FOLLOW THIS BLOG AND JOIN THE EMAIL LIST SO YOU DON’T MISS A POST.

~The Financial Hack ©2015

RANDOM: EVERYTHING IS FALLING INTO PLACE…

“Understanding “seasons” helps you understand how and why everything is either falling into place or falling apart.” (Posted July 28th- via Twitter)

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FOCUS on what is in front of you…
This is a tweet I posted a couple of weeks ago and it rings so true. My mind is clear. I know what I want, I know how to obtain it and I am taking steps to obtain what I want. BIG STEPS. Each and every day is a learning experience for me. I don’t pretend to have or know all the answers because I am always learning something new. A thought. A revelation or simply a feeling.

I had the pleasure of attending a “preview” of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University yesterday evening (which I have already signed up for.) This 9-week webinar will hopefully reassure me I’m “doing something right” when it comes to my finances. It’s funny when we “know” but need “confirmation” from others.

My goal with this blog as mentioned on my “About Me” page is to share what I have learned through my triumphs and mishaps of handling my money. What’s ironic about attending Financial Peace University is the meeting location is literally FIVE MINUTES FROM WHERE I LIVE. Coincidence? I think not. God has a way of placing opportunities, situations and people in our lives at just the right time. How we choose to handle what has been placed in front of us is strictly “up to us.”

Unfortunately, the class doesn’t start for another month but I’ll be waiting… PATIENTLY. I look forward to sharing what I learn with you.

~The Financial Hack ©2015

FINANCIAL FITNESS BOOT CAMP: WEEK 6 

By now, you’ve had time to track your spending for¬†ONE month and have identified patterns and trends in your spending habits. Are you spending too much money shopping for items you don’t need? What about dining out (like myself?) Going overboard on leisure activities and vacations? What about overindulging¬†your children? Yourself? The list can go on and on. You know where your money is going because you’ve tracked it. If you’re serious about eliminating debt, you know EXACTLY what you need to¬†do to get there. This post won’t be as lengthy as the others because you need time over this next week to¬†THINK and¬†DECIDE if you’re ready…

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STEP 6: IT’S TIME TO GET OFF THE MERRY GO ROUND… OF DEBT

A MERRY-GO-ROUND is defined as:

1. A revolving machine with model horses or other animals on which people ride for amusement.
2. A large revolving device in a playground, for children to ride on.
BUT FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO BECOME “FINANCIALLY FIT”¬†THE MERRY-GO-ROUND OF DEBT IS…..
3. A continuous cycle of activities or events, especially when perceived as having no purpose or producing no result.
For some of us, debt is similar to a merry-go-round, especially when we take no steps to eliminate it. Doing so, is a continuous cycle, having no purpose and produces no result. For example, the minimum amount you pay each month on your credit
card(s) DOES NOT get you any closer to paying off the¬†credit card balance in a reasonable period of time. Credit card statements now show how long it would take to pay off a credit card balance making minimum payments (and of course making no future charges.) Have you stopped to read it? For some it may take up to 30 years to¬†pay a balance. THIRTY YEARS!!! What if you’re only 30 years old?¬†Oh, Perish the thought.¬†“But I pay on time and I have good credit,” is what some of you may be thinking. Paying the minimum amount due on time shows you are responsible at handling credit, but¬†your debt-to-income ratio can still be through the roof labeling you a possible “credit risk.” Although creditors see you¬†making timely payments¬†each month, they may be hesitant to extend additional credit to you, or in some cases may charge you higher interest rates, or require higher down payments¬†to do so.
Debt, or credit card debt in general is a vicious cycle that some of us see no end to.¬†Many have the belief that debt is a part of life. SAYS WHO? Eliminating credit card debt is the first thing I’d like to tackle, but¬†BEFORE we start tackling credit card debt, it would be wise to¬†set up¬†an emergency savings account.¬†To do so, you have to be willing to “get off the merry go round.” GIVE THOSE CREDIT CARDS UP!!!! Remove them ALL from your wallet or pocketbook and only carry one (with the lowest credit limit) in case of emergencies ONLY.
Now how does “Getting Off the Merry-Go-Round” relate to the tracking of my spending habits and credit card debt?
YOU’VE GOT TO¬†EXERCISE DISCIPLINE AND BE WILLING TO¬†LET SOME THINGS GO. This means scaling back on the spending of non-essential items. Look at your¬†what you’ve spent your money on in the past month¬†and determine what can be modified or stricken completely from your¬†spending¬†in order¬†to¬†free up additional money¬†so¬†you can pay¬†not only the minimum amount due on your credit cards, but a “little extra.” I’ll talk more about¬†how I¬†tackled credit card debt (in excess of $20K) in next week’s FINANCIAL FITNESS BOOT CAMP post… AND IT AINT PRETTY!!! In the meantime, let’s start working on¬†how to build¬†up that¬†EMERGENCY FUND. Look for PART 2 of this post later¬†this week.
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Old habits die hard, but the reward from discipline far outweighs the cost to reach your goal. So are you IN or OUT? Will you remain shackled by debt, or break the chains to gain financial freedom? The decision is up to you.
I hope you benefitted from this posting and I do appreciate you reading it.Your commentary is always important so ALL FEEDBACK IS WELCOMED. If there is a specific topic you‚Äôd like me to talk about regarding ‚ÄúFinancial Fitness Boot Camp‚ÄĚ on this blog, feel free to shoot me an email at Andrea.Coleman@TheFinancialHack.com.¬†Don‚Äôt miss a posting so be sure to follow me at http://www.thefinancialhack.com.

FOLLOW THIS BLOG AND JOIN THE EMAIL LIST SO YOU DON’T MISS A POST.

~The Financial Hack ©2015

THE LANDLORD CHRONICLES: Section 8 Tenant Blues

(Previously Published July 3rd Via Tumblr)

NOTE: The Landlord Chronicles are more lighthearted posts where I tell stories (good and bad) of property management. Hope you enjoy them.

How ‚ÄúSOME‚ÄĚ Section 8 Tenants give ‚ÄúGOOD”¬†Section 8 tenants a bad rap‚Ķ

Now I thought if I slept on this issue, I would be a little less agitated than I was yesterday…. NOPE. DIDN’T WORK. I WOKE UP STILL AGITATED. Plus I had to be at the office by 8am. I drove by and checked on a property that a Section 8 tenant vacated (over the weekend) and once I stepped inside, became frustrated all over again. I hear people say all the time there’s no point in crying over spilled milk, the damage is done and all that BS…. UNLESS IT HAPPENS TO THEM and in my case: UNLESS IT’S COSTING ME MONEY. Before I get to the crux of my frustration, allow me to give you some background on how it began.

I’m a Landlord with 10+ years of property management experience. I’ve seen and heard it all when it comes to tenants but for some reason, seeing what I saw yesterday was like seeing it for the first time.

Case in point….

I have more than a couple of investment properties,¬†and decided to put¬†an additional property on¬†“Section 8.‚ÄĚ Don‚Äôt get ‚Äúbrand new‚ÄĚ on me, but for those who don‚Äôt know what Section 8 is, Section 8¬†offers government assisted housing vouchers to low income families, the elderly and disabled individuals so they too¬†have access to¬†quality, affordable living. For some, the minute you¬†utter the words¬†“Section 8,‚Äú the reaction is ‚ÄúOMG, I‚Äôd NEVER put my home on Section 8. I‚Äôve heard too many horror stories.‚ÄĚ Truth be told, any Landlord that has been in the business long enough will have tenant horror stories period, Section 8 or not (like one prior tenant who had a roach infestation so severe upon her vacating, after bombing¬†the house TWICE, the only way to rid the home¬†of¬†the¬†infestation¬†was to call my exterminator.)

So let‚Äôs get back to why Section 8 Tenants get a bad rap at times. Two years ago, I decided to put another property on Section 8. Of course this meant going through the process of inspection, paperwork, etc., but, been there, done that, got a t-shirt, bumper sticker and shot glass. The property was nice in my opinion (3-2-2) and my philosophy¬†has always been¬†“Just because a tenant is on a Section 8 voucher doesn‚Äôt mean they shouldn‚Äôt be allowed to live in nice comfortable surroundings.‚ÄĚ NO SLUMLORDING HERE. I¬†purchase properties I¬†would live¬†in myself. That‚Äôs the difference between a ‚ÄúLandlord‚ÄĚ and a ‚ÄúSlumlord.‚ÄĚ A Slumlord would NEVER live in the properties they own. At any rate,¬†I went to work. Well the contractors did. They¬†replaced the carpet, painted the walls, retiled the floors, put in new blinds, gutted the bathrooms, the whole nine yards getting it ready for my impending inspection.

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The house passed and I immediately found a tenant. Truth be told, I was hesitant to rent to her. There was something about her presence and the way she handled business that caused me to pause. I should have followed my¬†initial instinct¬†but didn‚Äôt and it cost me dearly. What some Landlords have to understand is talking to tenants is similar to an interview.¬†Landlords ask¬†questions. At least I do. I engage them in conversation. The more a Landlord knows about a tenant,¬†the better¬†equipped they are¬†to make an informed decision whether that person may make a good tenant or if the union is a good match. There are always red flags I can spot immediately (however, I‚Äôll save those for a later posting.) When I met this young lady, there was something about her that told me¬†she wouldn‚Äôt win¬†my ‚Äútidiest¬†tenant‚ÄĚ of the year award¬†out of my renters¬†(no, this is not an¬†actual award,) but according to her current apartment manager, she was never late¬†with her¬†rent. She had a 16 year old son and a 9 year old daughter, so that meant no kids with sippy cups spilling Kool Aid¬†on the new carpet¬†or using permanent markers to draw on the freshly painted walls‚Ķ Or so I thought. What I got was a helluva lot more than I bargained for.

I always offer an alarm system to my clients for their protection, and she ‚Äúopted out‚ÄĚ as I‚Äôm assuming the Ozarka drinking water dispenser she had in the house, which I know for a fact¬†is more expensive than maintaining an alarm system, was apparently far more important. Priorities people.¬†But apparently drinking purified spring water¬†trumps being alerted any day of the week¬†that someone is attempting to invade your home, but lets move on. My tenant moved in June 1, 2013 to pretty much a brand new, remodeled¬†home and relinquished possession to me, July 1, 2015, BEAT TO SHIT! That’s the only way I can say it. I always encourage my tenants to schedule a ‚Äúwalk-through‚ÄĚ with me¬†before they vacate the premises and turn over the keys so there is no confusion should there be any damages (if any) assessed and deducted from the Tenant‚Äôs deposit. Not only did the Tenant not let me know she had vacated the premises¬†5 days prior to turning over the key,¬†but the property was not secured during that time. Of course you already know who‚Äôs responsible for any damages that may have occurred during that period (and Honey, I guarantee you, IT AIN‚ÄôT ME!)¬†The Tenant was to return ONE front door key, ONE garage door key and ONE garage remote.¬†What I received was ONE front door key and ONE garage opener. The missing key¬†was no big deal. What was a big deal however, is what happened when I had the electricity connected yesterday (thank God for being a ‚ÄúPriority Customer.‚ÄĚ) I stopped at the property BEFORE meeting her to pick up the key and the remote she had in her possession, but I couldn‚Äôt open the garage using the keypad code OR¬†MY garage remote. WTH? The code worked and I heard the opener moving along the track but why wasn‚Äôt the door lifting? I had a hunch but couldn‚Äôt confirm until I got inside. On¬†a whim, I check the second garage door.¬†The bay wasn‚Äôt even locked¬†so¬†of course the door lifts right up.¬†OH MY SWEET BABY JESUS! Please tell me crackheads have not invaded this property. If they have, this target practice I‚Äôve been getting in at the DFW Gun Range is gonna come in handy CUZ I‚ÄôM ABOUT TO CLEAR THIS JOINT OUT LIKE THE WALKING DEAD!!!

I step inside, locked and loaded… This is my initial expression:

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Clearly I’m ready to choke somebody out. I’ll give you one guess who.

So before I start to assess the damages, What do I do? Gun in hand I began to clear each room. I didn‚Äôt think anyone was inside the home, but I couldn’t¬†leave anything to chance (plus as mad as I am,¬†I‚Äôm just looking for a reason to shoot at someone right now.) I‚Äôve got to make sure the house is clear. So I move from room to room, ‚ÄúBedroom¬†one clear. Closet¬†in Bedroom two clear,‚ÄĚ Who the hell was I talking to? It didn‚Äôt matter, the house was clear so I pulled the safety latch on my gun. Now I begin to look around and am truly disgusted¬†by what I saw.

She¬†made¬†NO ATTEMPTS¬†to clean up. She didn‚Äôt even try. She didn‚Äôt vacuum. She didn‚Äôt mop. The stove was nasty, The vent hood was hanging from the top of the stove, I wouldn‚Äôt even put dirty dishes in that filthy dishwasher and let‚Äôs not discuss the bathrooms.¬†After the initial shock wore off, I took out my phone and started taking pictures. I‚Äôm so glad I left my purse in the truck. I was already itching and¬†surprised not to find all kinds of infestation. My handyman arrived (I don‚Äôt know what I‚Äôd do without him,) and began securing the windows THREE of which were unlocked, TWO of which were partially open. Someone tried to remove the peephole from the door leading to the garage, the door handle to that same door was bent severely, the carpet was originally a mauve color when the Tenant moved in, but was now a nice dark shade of smut. There was an area in one of her child‚Äôs bedrooms where it looked like someone took a letter opener or something with a sharp point and stabbed the wall several times. Ummm, Errrrm. I don‚Äôt recall any of the tenants having mental instability or on medication. The thermostat was hanging from the wall by its screws but thankfully still worked and why was it that every ceiling fan only had ONE working light bulb? That‚Äôs not even the half of it. As much as I wanted to cry out ‚ÄúWhy Jesus!‚ÄĚ and fall to my knees, the¬†house was just simply too¬†filthy to touch the floor or carpet for that matter and I was already itching from the moment I walked in. So I just stood there with a look of contempt.

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Someone tell me how a home goes FROM THIS…..

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TO THIS……

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FROM THIS….

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TO THIS…..

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FROM THIS….

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TO THIS….

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I have but one question……

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HOW!!!! HOW SWAY!!! CUZ YOU DON’T HAVE THE ANSWERS!!! Neither me.

How in a TWO YEAR PERIOD does this level of dirt and filth happen? Clearly this is someone who has NO REGARD and NO RESPECT for other people’s property. I was a renter before purchasing my first starter home back in 2000 and I treated that townhome like I owned it. I kept the yard cut, the grass watered and I kept the house clean and tidy. And when it was time for me to move, I tried to leave it in the SAME CONDITION as it was when I moved in (with the exception of normal wear and tear.) Texas law requires the Landlord to return any deposits/sums due within 30 days of the Tenant vacating the property. When I vacated the townhome, I received my deposit the following week. The ENTIRE deposit. Wondering why? Because I cleaned the townhome from top to bottom BEFORE I moved out. I even rented a rug cleaner and cleaned the carpet. But my tenant did none of that. She put forth no effort whatsoever. If I picked up all the pennies that were strewn on the floor throughout the house, I would have AT LEAST fifty cents in my pocket right now.

After turning over the key and remote (at the 7-Eleven where she chose to meet me,) she had the nerve, the gall and the audacity to text me and ask when could she expect her deposit. I‚Äôm professional, so I had to compose myself after all suppressing all the¬†expletives floating in my head¬†before responding. I politely let her know under¬†Texas law I had 30 days to return her deposit minus any fees for repairs and I would send her an invoice citing repairs and amounts due along with any remaining deposit amount.¬†Her only response‚Ķ‚ÄúOkay.‚ÄĚ What else could she say?

I‚Äôm not in the business of robbing my tenants, but I‚Äôm also not in the business of being taken advantage of and putting up with any foolishness or shenanigans. She will be assessed damages for what she has done to the property and will hopefully¬†take this as an “each one teach one‚ÄĚ moment¬†regarding respecting the property of others.

The day is winding down and the best part about¬†it was I went to the salon for my bi-weekly hair appointment. It was the highlight of my day because I‚Äôm loving this “sassy do.‚ÄĚ of mine. I think I‚Äôll keep it for a while.¬†But as I look back and reflect on yesterday‚Äôs fiasco, This situation is truly sad. THIS is¬†the main reason¬†some Landlords shy away or simply refuse to¬†deal with¬†Section 8 Tenants. For some, it‚Äôs too much of a headache to deal with. Me? I believe that there are STILL good¬†tenants out there on Section 8 vouchers who WILL take care of your property and who¬†WILL¬†treat it as if it belongs to them. We as Landlords always roll the dice and take our chances with ALL tenants, and because I have faith, I am preparing the¬†property for my NEXT Section 8 Tenant.

~The Financial Hack ©2015.