Thursday, September 17, 2009

What it means to take care of yourself

A few years ago, I found myself completely alone and vulnerable. I was subject to every thing that could befall me and did. They say that most people today are one event away from utter destitution, whether illness, accident, or some other catastrophe. I had no resources to fall back on and no friends to advise me. What to do?

I guess you could say I got some great education. I read and sought out information that everybody needs and yet few are taught. I want to share with you two things I found that were of invaluable help and that work together very well.

The first is Prepaid Legal. You may have heard of this and thought, that's only for people who are bad and need legal help. Believe me when I tell you, EVERYBODY needs help. Bad things happen to good people everyday. In my situation, I found I could really use the advice of someone who knew a lot more than me. Bills that did not belong to me or I was being unfairly billed for, I needed help with. Contracts and other fine print documents I appreciated being englishified for me. Issues with DMV, wills, taxes, anything that came along, having a group of wise people at my fingertips was huge.

They also offer an Identity Theft protection, which even with all the products that have come along since this has become such a huge issue in the media, is still by far a better product in my experience. This is not the protection your credit card company offered, which amounted to 'if you found an issue, you could call them and they would tell you how to fix it' and pretty much limited to their card, but rather this plan watches you, your name, and anything attached with it, like your Social Security number and DMV record, and contacts you to clarify and if there is an issue, they clear it up for you. Plus monthly alerts letting you know that things are OK, or sudden alerts if something is popping up.

The other thing I studied about was credit. Your credit isn't a concern only when you are making a major purchase anymore. It affects your insurability, your employability and thus your quality of life. It also affects the credit accounts you have opened. Did you know that an late payment on your utility bills will close your credit card account? I had accounts in my credit report that were many years old that were overdue for falling off my reports. I was also afraid to use credit and with what I was able to learn, found ways to use it as a tool to clean and build my credit.

All of this information took away any misapprehension as far as what is happening now with the fears about this economy. I know where the pitfalls are and how to avoid them. I know there are methods to help myself and how much work I need to put into it and where to get help when I need it.

The first step is to ask. Not just ask the brother-in-law on the sofa with a beer watching football. Ask people who know. If you can't trust me or someone you don't know, trust my experience.

I have used the Prepaid Legal now for a few years, for reviewing documents like my divorce papers a few years ago, for help with traffic tickets, setting up a will. The biggest instance of saving me money was this: I had a car that had some issue, so I took it to a mechanic, who said there was nothing wrong with it and sent it home. A day or so later, I'd find myself on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck again. This lasted over six months, the car would be in the shop, I'd get it home and have to take it back again within a couple of days. Finally, I bought another used car and gave this one away. A few months later, the repair shop sent me a bill. The next day, I got a bill from a collection agency, with extra fees attached. So, I called in my membership with Prepaid Legal, was assigned an attorney, who wrote a letter to both the repair shop and the collection agency, stating the vehicle wasn't fixed and to cease and desist pursuing me for any amount of money. That was more than three years ago, and I have not yet heard from them again. With the credit knowledge I have, I have watched my credit reports and it never did appear there either.

Because I have marketed this product, which is a business opportunity I saw as representing a product that everyone needed and could use daily, which are the best kinds of products to have as a business, I hear many other stories. One of my favorites happened to a young woman, who was physically impaired, when she moved out of a rental property in the winter. Her landlord sued her for not clearing snow off the back patio in Small Claims Court. Now, lawyers do not represent anyone in Small Claims Court, but she needed advice and received it as to what not to say and what should be said. If that was you, wouldn't you have appreciated that good advice as well? So, what happened for her was this: The Judge found in her favor, awarded her the judgement that would have covered her rental deposit and denied the other party's claims for cleaning, to travel here from another state and other trivial costs. Another favorite story was this: A family had two daughters, one of them was considered mentally retarded. The school district wanted the two girls to ride to the same school on two different buses, which the parents knew would not benefit either girl to be so separated for no good reason. Are not the rights of our children important too? With their membership, they were able to get that changed, and both are happy to have their sister with them to and from school.

Credit reporting is delicate business. Did you know you can try to have something corrected on your report yourself and accidentally permanently embed it there? Did you know you actually have to use credit to have credit? Many people think that longtime married spouses credit reports must match, because they've had the same bills for years and are surprised when one of them dies that they don't have the credit they need to survive alone. I used to work for a credit repair company and it was amazing to me how much misinformation is out there. One piece of advice of heard told to people is that to build credit, get the card, charge one thing on it and pay off the balance when the bill comes and never use it again. Guess what, that doesn't help. I learned you actually have to maintain a little balance for anyone looking to offer you credit to see you are responsible enough to handle it.

The information that I learned in these two places give me the sense of protection that you can't get otherwise. I can actually say, 'I'll have my attorney contact you' and mean it. If I have something come up and need some money, I don't have to pay high interest rates for a little bit of money and not have it help my credit score when I pay it back. When information about me is mishandled, I have a team to fight it for me and their fight is respected, where me by myself may not have been.

Which means, not only am I taking good care of myself, but I am a woman EMPOWERED!

Wouldn't you like to be a person empowered?

To see what all is involved, you can check out these two websites:

Or, you can ask me. Yeah. You know where I am.

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