Monday, January 6, 2014

Read the fine print

First day of classes for 2014! Started the year with a cautionary tale: a relative used to run a non-profit. While there she opened a credit card for the organization. Years later she left, moved and tried to lease a car. She got turned down for the lease. Turns out the organization had fallen behind on the credit card payments and my relative was personally responsible for it. She called the credit card company to explain that she no longer worked there but that did no good: she had signed on the doted line and assumed responsibility for the debt. The organization didn't have the cash available to pay the debt, so my relative had to pay it out of her own pocket to prevent her credit score and record from getting even worst (it had already been impacted).

Several lessons:

- Keep personal and professional finances separate. If you are assuming debt on behalf of an organization, make sure only the organization is responsible, not you personally.
- Remember that things can change significantly over time: maybe an organization has plenty of funds at one point and you don't think twice about assuming personal liability for its debts. But a few years later the organizations might have changed dramatically. The person you trust is no longer there... The business (and finances) might go South... Change is a constant.
- Have as much savings as possible for unexpected eventualities.
- Monitor your credit record.

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