Carnival Of Personal Finance: Financial Horror Story Edition

By Matt Schulz
August 13, 2012

When I was in my mid-20s, credit card debt stalked me like a slasher in a horror movie.

I had multiple maxed-out credit cards. I had used one card to make payments on another. It was a mess and it was getting worse. After all, I was a young reporter working in super-pricey Washington, D.C. I wasn't exactly flush with cash.

Every month, I'd be terrified of the bill arriving in my mailbox. (This was in the mid-1990s before you could track everything up to the minute online.) No one knew how bad it was because I was scared to talk about it. I was just petrifed to do anything, and I didn't see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Finally, things came to a head after a credit union association meeting that I was covering in suburban D.C. As the meeting ended, I realized that I didn't know how I'd get home. I had virtually no money in my bank account, and I had two cards with almost no credit left on them. Add in the fact that I didn't know many people in the area -- I hadn't lived in the area for long -- and I felt stuck.

I remember the panic of that moment vividly to this day. I eventually made my way home -- turns out I was able to scrape money together for a Metro ticket -- but not before feeling the type of fear that can only come from real-life struggles. Shortly thereafter, I opened up about my money woes to my then-longtime-girlfriend (now wife), who lived 1,500 miles away at the time, and we put together a plan. Three to four challenging years later, all the debt was gone -- and it has never returned.

Horror stories like mine -- and much worse than mine -- are common in personal finance. (Here's a secret: Most so-called experts got there by screwing up royally.) For that reason, we thought it appropriate that we dedicate today's Carnival of Personal Finance to The Master of Suspense himself -- Alfred Hitchcock. The iconic director of "Vertigo," "Psycho," "Rear Window" and countless other classics would have been 113 today.

So here are the best money-related blog posts from around the Web from this past week. (Thanks to my awesome editing team -- Beth Bond and Laura Mohammad -- for helping me pull it all together.) May these tips help you make your financial life less terrifying....

 

EDITORS' PICKS

Although you definitely wouldn't want to ride in the vehicle that kidnappers force Cary Grant's character to drive drunk in "North by Northwest," One Smart Dollar makes a case for taking out a car loan in Should You Pay Cash or Finance a Car?

Grant's charcter, Roger O. Thornhill, found himself experiencing an exceptionally terrifying case of mistaken identity. For the rest of us, happiness is more within reach, according to Your Life, Their Life, which advises: Love What You Find -- In 4 Steps.

While ad exec Thornhill was a little too up-close and personal with foreign intrigue, knowledge of worldwide markets is generally a good thing. Money Walks gives some perspective on Struggling World Economies.

The movie's got British spymasters, but you'll find only sound advice at the London-based site Pounds To Pocket. Whether you spend dollars or pounds, the infographic 10 Things You Do To Save Money That End Up Costing You More is worth checking out. 

Finally, Squirrelers.com urges us all to take a moment and try Being Thankful For What We Have. After all, if there's one thing Hitchcock films teach us, it's that things could always be worse. You could be chased through a field by an airplane, stalked in the shower by a maniac, preyed upon by flocks of angry birds, stranded at sea on a lifeboat or worse -- so take a moment and give thanks. 

 

INVESTING

The Master of Suspense warned us against knowing too much about international intrigue in "The Man Who Knew Too Much," but you don't want to know too little when it comes to investing.

Novel Investor says you should know as much as possible about index funds in All Index Funds Are NOT Created Equal.

Meanwhile, Dividend Growth Stocks writes about stocks with dividend longevity in 10 Stocks That Have Paid Uninterrupted Dividends Since 1899.

The College Investor makes a case for knowing about your stock picks' volume in When Stock Volume Matters and Why.

And WiseStockBuyer wants everyone to know the time-honored investing rules in 50 Stock Trading Tips To Improve Your Trading.

Knowledge is key when investing responsibly, as Earth and Money points out in Investing to Save the World.

Excess Return notes the similarities of knowledge in golf and investing in Truly Diversified Investments or Fourteen Similar Golf Clubs? "After I started golf, I realized the value of fourteen different clubs each uniquely suited to the various obstacles, opportunities, sand traps, hazards, and sunk balls I faced through my quarter-marathon trek from holes 1 through 18. Likewise, as I got deeper into investing, I started to understand the concept of diversification," Dave Scott writes.

Intelligent Speculator is in the know. Check out a few smart investment ideas in Beating The Market? Who Cares When You Have Dividends.

Finally, Jim Wang from Bargaineering breaks down The Basics Of Stock Market Investing. And let's face it -- there's little that's scarier than trying to invest without knowing all the ins and outs. That's what we help people with here at InvestingAnswers.com, too.

 

DEBT

Directors from Scorsese to Spielberg say they're artistically indebted to the influence Hitchcock's style had on their cinematic visions. That kind of debt may be impossible to repay. And though the financial debt you may have racked up one way or another might feel that way at times, the right strategy can help you take control over what you owe.

For example, One Smart Dollar answers the question, Should You Pay Cash or Finance a Car?

The author of No Credit Needed explains the smart option he took that he says Lowered The Interest Rate On Our Current Mortgage

Studenomics tackles the huge problem of stifling student loan debt in Attention Broke Students: Here's How You Can Graduate Debt Free. One of his suggestions: Live at home with Mom and Dad, a prospect that for some can be about as scary as any Hitchcock thriller.

Speaking of students, FreeFromBroke breaks down The Best Credit Cards For College Students. But just remember, oftentimes the best credit card for a student is no credit card at all.

 

MONEY MANAGEMENT AND BUDGETING

You probably wouldn't want anyone like Uncle Joss and his band of thugs from the 1939 film "Jamaica Inn" managing your money. A smarter move is to read this Humble Savers piece on What is the Real Cost of 1%?, which makes a great case for understanding just what that 1% fee means to your investments. Its author points out, "When it comes to the financial world, there are people out there who love to use many statistics and mathematical terms to confuse you, or at least, make their story more appealing."

Those who recently have graduated from college also would be smart to prioritize according to advice from Experiglot: Financial Advice For College Graduates Looking to Experiment.

Finally, Neal Frankle at Wealth Pilgrim asks a question every couple has asked -- or certainly should have asked -- Should You Have A Joint Bank Account With Your Spouse?

 

CREDIT CARDS

With recent changes in credit card rules, you may need a lifeboat, but not the one Hitchcock had in mind. The passengers in "Lifeboat" would have thrown the merchants overboard who planned to charge more for credit card users, following a settlement that will allow them to do just that.

Says My Dollar Plan in Will Cash Discounts Take Off After the Credit Card Settlement?: "As far as raising their cost for people who choose credit card transactions, most retailers appear to be none too eager to do so in a shaky economy."

Writing about credit-card use at the Olympics is Card Hub in The Olympics of Spending: Visa Stats from the Games’ First Week Reveal Surprising Trends:  "What, you ask, are they spending all that green on while watching their countrymen compete for gold, silver, and bronze?"

 

REAL ESTATE

It's a fair bet you don't want Janet Leigh working in the real estate office where you do business, with her sticky fingers and Norman Bates' penchant for her shower-taking.

Money Saving Ethics extols the virtues (that Janet doesn't have) in How to Save Money on Your Mortgage of such techniques as assuming an existing loan.

Wallet Hub wonders aloud in Reverse Mortgages whether these instruments are as great as the late-night infomercials claim. "They’re everywhere these days, as a host of lenders try to convince seniors to turn the equity in their homes into cash, while staying in their residences for the duration," the blog writes.

 

FRUGALITY

Norman Bates wasn't crazy -- he was cheap. Look at all the money he saved by wearing his mom's clothes.

Drivers will want to save -- though certainly not in true Batesian fashion -- with tips from Daily Fuel Economy Tip on How to Save on Gas Money.

Norm's love of his mom wouldn't have stopped him, even with advice from Money Cactus, which writes, "Understand that money and objects should not be associated with love," in 5 Ways to Ensure You Live a Frugal Life.

 

CAREER

Who would want Huntley Haverstock's job after "Foreign Correspondent" is finished? But there are some jobs worth having, as CreditDonkey points out in 5 Great-Paying Careers Without a Degree.

Huntley should have read Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance's Money Help from Ramit Sethi; How to Get a Raise before the Short Empire plane crashed.

And if you're thinking that starting a new business could be a great jumpstart to your career, DollarVersity explains why you should think twice in Starting A Business Is Not The Solution To Your Problems.

What Are the Benefits of Attending an "Ivy League" Canadian School? speaks to getting ahead no matter where you go to school. Get some higher learning by clicking on My University Money, the site that declares "Education costs money. Ignorance costs more."

 

CREDIT

You might prefer the relentless pursuit of Hitch's birds to a bad credit rating, as Karma Blog attests in its blog entry Surprising Things That Can Change Your Credit Score. This blog warns of credit cards with "no pre-set spending limit" and unused credit cards.

Good Financial Cents advises you to use your credit score to your advantage in Credit Card Hacking with App O Rama. Don't run away from credit cards like Tippi Hedren ran away from crows in "The Birds": "You have no need for evil credit cards, right? But you’re throwing away potentially hundreds of thousands of airline miles, hotel points, and big cash back bonuses when you do that."

 

OTHER

Knowing which life insurance to buy can be a challenge. FreeMoneyFinance brings you some Good Advice On Long-Term Care Insurance.

 

Well, that's it for the 374th Carnival of Personal Finance. Thanks for coming. Don't miss a couple of our favorite recent articles from here at InvestingAnswers -- 23 Secrets The Airlines Won't Tell You About Finding Cheap Flights and The 5 Most Overpriced Items You Should Never Buy In A Grocery Store.

Finally, please share your favorite personal finance tip -- or Hitchcock movie -- in the Facebook comment box below.