Hey Ladies: Know Your Money, Know Your Limits

Illustration for article titled Hey Ladies: Know Your Money, Know Your Limits

About a 18 months ago, I started looking into refinancing the 5-year adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) on my condo (which adjusts in less than a month). I ran the numbers, looked at my property taxes, figured out how much I would have to save to make the closing costs worthwhile and went loan shopping. It didn't go very well, as rates were on the rise and few of the people I spoke with were good with understanding that I didn't want to pay points (money you pay up front in order to reduce your rate, which is a load of shit on an ARM) or exorbitant closing costs. The last loan officer I talked to was at Lending Tree, who simply could not get it through his thick skull that I was not going to take out a loan that would not lower my monthly payments and for which I was going to have to pay thousands of dollars in fees. That's when they sicced their closer on me.This guy was from the hard sales side of the aisle. He kept telling me how he, and he alone, was looking out for my financial interests. Why would I want my mortgage rate to go up in 2008? Didn't I know rates were rising? How was I going to be able to keep my home if my ARM adjusted upwards by 3 points or more? Didn't I understand that he did this for a living and he was just trying to help me? I share this story because it wasn't the first time I've had a dude try to muscle me into a bad financial arrangement. See, I'd reviewed my original loan paperwork, and I knew that under the terms of my loan, they couldn't adjust it up 3 points, not for at least 2 years after the initial rate ended. I knew that because I'd argued in circles with my original mortgage broker about the terms that I wanted and the rate that I wanted to pay and the points I was or was not willing to bother with — to the point that he called my real estate agent to whine that he found it difficult to deal with me. In years of serving clients, he'd been simply able to walk into a situation, tell them what he was going to do for them and get what was, for him, the best deal. Lending Tree and the other banks and brokers who couldn't be bothered listening to what I wanted to find me a good loan (which is how they supposedly make money) were obviously the same way — they didn't have to listen to what I wanted because most people they dealt with would just take what they were offered and sign the paperwork (hello, housing and financial crises!). If these tactics didn't work — and, if they didn't work on women, who make a lot of financial decisions for themselves and their families these days — then companies wouldn't do it. Most people don't go into a financial negotiation armed with what they know they can accept, what they actually want and what is available. And, worse, they don't push back nearly hard enough when offered something that fits none of those criteria, because they assume that they're working with a broker to get out of that level of preparation. You're not — the only person that has to live with your financial decisions is you (and your family), not the guy who's looking at how much money he can make off of it. In my case, the Lending Tree closer failed to convince me to accept a refinancing that would have increased my interest rate by more than .5% and cost me more money than I would have "saved" in the full lifetime of the loan, but not before I got some choice words of my own back once his paternalistic, yelling rant was over with. That mostly involved telling him he was full of shit and the next time some asshole saw fit to harass me at my home using confidential financial information, I would be reporting them to the Federal Trade Commission and the SEC (which I did anyway). And yesterday, a full year later, I received notice from my actual mortgage company that my interest rate would be adjusting next month — it's going down by nearly .5%. Lending Tree and their business model can suck it.



I agree with everyone—add a financial segment to Jezebel! While young and with very little debt, I feel so lost on certain aspects and how to prepare for further down the road and big purchases like a home.