Open Letter to My Credit Union

I’ve been doing all my banking through credit unions since I was an undergrad at Caltech.  I’ve liked using them because they don’t, on balance, spend as much time and effort trying to trick their members into doing stupid things with their money as banks do.  Their fine print isn’t as small, or as prevalent.  Their credit cards have a reasonable rate, clearly stated.  Their checking accounts don’t have hidden fees.  They aren’t out to screw you, which most commercial banks are, as far as I can tell (certainly the ones involved in the liar-loan industry deserve that reputation anyway).

So I’m bothered that I just received several “convenience” checks from the Elevations Credit Union, linked to my Visa card, with a low introductory APR of only 3.99%.  I’m bothered because they’re trying to lure members into spending money on credit, at a time when US households are on average further in debt than ever before. I’m bothered because they’ve sent me something in the mail that could easily have fallen into the wrong hands and created a credit headache for me.  I’m also bothered that they spontaneously increased my credit limit from $1,000 to $2,500 without asking me if that’s what I wanted.  Previously, I had specifically requested they lower my credit limit to $1,000, because that’s about how much money I take home each month, and getting into more than one month’s worth of revolving debt seems like a bad idea (since the grace period is one month long).

Elevations recently re-organized as a state credit union instead of a federal credit union.  I don’t know if that has anything to do with their apparent change in character.  But I hope it doesn’t go much further than this.  Finding a new credit union would be a hassle.

Financial Negativeland

Today I joined the erstwhile Masters of the Universe, and entered the red.  My investments are now worth fewer dollars than I put into them.  Am I freaking out?  No.  Not yet anyway.  Another 25% down and we’ll see.  I thank Bill Bernstein, Jack Bogle, and Burton Malkiel for this calm.  Am I even surprised?  No, and the thanks for that has to go to neo-Popperian Nicholas Nassim Taleb.

Continue reading Financial Negativeland