Thursday, October 19, 2006

It Doesn't Rain Forever

After two months of bad checks and running around... the car dealership finally refunded us the money. I can't say there wasn't a bit of irony behind it: As my wife is going to pick up the money, the Brooklyn D.A. contacts us, NY1 news, News Channel 4 and Arnold Diaz from "Shame on You" contacts us within the span of two hours. ?If anyone who reads this is affiliated in any way to one of the afforementioned names, please extend a heartfelt thanks for their efforts. It all be bad news all the time. Speaking of news, hears my financial tip of the day regarding newspapers:

Why purchase newspapers when you can read most of the major news on the paper's website. Unless there are coupons that you are looking for that in fact will cover the cost of buying a newspaper, there really is no need, if all you are going to do is read the articles. I buy newspapers on Sundays only. I find that a lot of the help wanted ads posted in the papers are not always online. Besides the number of coupons in the papers clearly covers the cost when I go to the store. Think of the savings. In NY, the average newspaper is $0.50, multiply that by 6 days and add $1.00 for Sundays, you're talking $4 per week. To some people that's nothing, but multiply that annually and that comes to $208 per year. Even if you just buy the Sunday paper, you could be saving yourself around $156 per year. That could be used in a savings account, go towards a bill, etc.

Just something to think about. Well back to the job search and ways to cut costs in order to take care of my family. Be well.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Does this happen to everyone or am I the only one taking crazy pills?

Life is not without it's ups and downs... but I have to say this year has been beyond rollercoaster. The only real highlights of the year thus far has been the birth of my youngest daughter and my wife surviving her sixth c-section.
We went to the police yesterday to report the bounced checks that the owner of the car dealership keeps giving us. We were advised to go to the police by a Brooklyn, NY Assistant D.A., who informed us about NY code 190 that states that if someone knowingly presents you with a check that clearly will not cash, it is known as a bad check and can be prosecuted. The police however told me the check has to be from either a closed account or from a third party trying to pull off a fraud. Two different interpretations of the same law from people that are suppose to uphold and protect us, the citizens. Amazing, isn't it! The police obviously saw our $2200 as not worth their time. We were told it's a civil matter. Great! We looked into small claims court as an option and we learned that it would be a waste of time for us. His lawyer would ask for a continance and even if we won, it's not a guarantee that he would pay in a timely manner. Realty states for us that we need money to pay our bills now... not years from now. The system I feel works for those that are in a position of power. Criminals are only caught when those in power feel that they have been the victim. Had this same car dealer bounced a check regarding payment of taxes or any other dues, the authorities in question would have sure used the same Police and prosecutors to get what was rightfully theirs. That I am learning is a law of economic evolution. Which beings me to one of my little personal life lesson rules:

"When one hand is not in a position to evenly wash the other hand, then that hand will remain unwashed."

Why not go to the media, in particular those shows that are designed to help people in such situations? Well, what these shows fail to tell you is that you have to get through the hundreds, possibly thousands of letters, calls, emails, and tapes of people who have problems just like you. Then you have interns, wannabees and the first lines of media defense that screen these things and if everyone agrees that it's a story that the producers should see, then it makes it to them. The producers have to take things into consideration such as timing of the story, if it will get ratings and what I feel is a hidden importance- whose toes politically will the airing of such a story step on. Anger the wrong people and that producer may be looking for a new job. Get the right people angered and change will happen. So I have been calling, emailing, writing, and sending in tapes. I'm just hoping that it will get through to the right hands. My family in the meantime can't wait for that hope. The day-to-day still goes on. I still have to place food on the table and try to pay the bills. I'm not a pessimist, more of a realist when it comes to economic survival. That brings me to my first economic tip. This has to do with buying cars, especially used ones. Many of us need cars and may not be able to afford one, so we'll look the web and papers over looking for the best deals. My advice to those looking at buying a used car is a simple one:

When buying a used car, if you know nothing about cars, go with someone who does. A family member, a friend, a co-worker. Anyone who will give you an honest opinion. Better yet, pay a mechanic to come with you to inspect the used car. Although there are lemon laws to protect the consumer, you don't want to pay one red cent for something that may give you problems sooner than you'd plan. A licensed mechanic will agree or refute anything a salesman says. Remember, there is a reason why someone is parting with a car. With the exception of an expanding family and the need for a bigger car, you must believe that everyone else has an alterior motive to sell. Even the need of cash can fool you into thinking the person is letting go of a good car. If the car was so good, they would still be using it. You don't want to be the poor fool who purchases someonelse's problem unless you're willing to tolerate it.

Now we're told by the dealer that we will be getting cash back on Thursday afternoon. He's said this four times already and hasn't been true anytime. My mother-in-law (she's another entire post for husbands who are trying to deal with meddling parents) believes we should give him a chance. Am I the only one taking crazy pills? That's like me believing that Mark Foley had the best interests of those pages he contacted in mind. This crook will do everything he can too put off giving us our money. His tactic is to make us frustrated to the point that we stop asking about the money. I've got news for him. I have got nothing to lose at this point and I will continue until my refund is given. I will make posts, file complaint after complaint, I will even sit out in protest to alert other customers that this individual is not who he says he is and his cars are not what he wants you to believe what they are. My wife and I will be down there on Thursday. What will happen... stay tuned.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What is the American Dream?

Looking at a way to survive what some have called "the rat race" in America, I wanted to share and find out how others are making it today. I am father of six, with my oldest being 10 and my youngest being 4 months (4 girls, 2 boys), married to the woman of my dreams (having been married previously to a lying, std carrying creature from hell). [If I don't tell her often enough how much I love and adore her, I hope this will be a permanent bookmark statement on how everlasting my love for her is.] Currently, I am a bookkeeper/ accounting support/ jack-of-all-trades who is looking for a permanent position. That situation has become a little difficult lately, being that I did not complete my degree, yet my years of experience and knowledge would merit me the profiled to compete for supervisory or managerial posts. Yet, I find myself almost leaping at any opportunity that comes along in order to provide for my family and be a positive influence in their lives. It is wonderful to have the support of a loving wife like I have; there are days though that we both feel the strain. I strongly believe that it has been our faith in God that has allowed us to keep head above water. Whatever works for you is fine by me, as I am not here to convert you to a religion, I am just saying that my beliefs have definitely help take some of the tremendous strains that this family has had to endure.
I could go into details about my family make-up, it wouldn't matter though, because we're here and that is what is important and that is what matters. I will say that my family helps me understand what is going on in this country on just about every level.

This year has been one out of books. Some could say fantasy, some could say a comedy-drama. It started out with my wife, kids and I living with my mother-in-law in a three bedroom, 1 bath house. As you can see, an overcrowded situation such as this merits a separate blog just to tell those stories. My wife and I seeing a need for a long time of having a space of our own, started out to look for our very first house. I read many books on real estate, talked to many agents, mortgage brokers and such over a two-and-a-half year period. Finally necessity overtook fear and we took the plunge. Heaven help us! One person says one thing, another does something else entirely. I should have felt like a celebrity with so many people interested in looking at my credit report. We turned to Lending Tree and you would think that they would disclose that it's just the wading pool in which the sharks wait to take you. Because I knew my employment status and credit report would not get me the best lenders or best offers in terms of interest rates, my wife and I ended up with a broker who ran my report just about every day for four months. I think he ran it just to show his bosses that he had a client. I never saw rejection letters from the lenders he claimed to have reached out to. It was always a new story that he found someone with a lower interest rate and that is why he switched lenders. This nonsense almost costs us the house we ended closing on. (The house is another story!) If you come across BRANDON from PROFOLIO HOME LOAN, INC, I advise you steer clear! Finally I found a broker on craigslist who after I explained in detail the financial and credit situation stated that she could work and would work to the very end to get us to close on our house. I would like to say thank you to Claire Middleton from Gemstone Financial in Long Island, NY. If you're looking for a mortgage broker that will work hard for you, I strongly recommend her. I can say that my family and are now home owners because of favor being granted. Under any other circumstance, I do not see how we were ever able to even get past closing. That is another story!

As we started looking for a house, being that we lived in Queens, NY; we knew that the housing market was well over our budget, despite what many realtors told us. The suggestion all the time was to purchase a multi-family home and rent out the other spaces that we do not live in. It would help lower or eliminate our need to come up with a mortgage payment, being that others would be paying it in the form of rent. Horse Crap! Being former renters, we were victims of landlords doing illegal things with their houses and overcrowding. Then when the tenant doesn't pay, the mortgage company doesn't want to hear that you don't have the money because the tenant didn't pay. We know people who either went bankrupt or had their home foreclosed on because they went for the okey-doke. We knew we couldn't live in New York. We also knew that although the cost of living elsewhere could be lower than in NYC, we also knew that the jobs wouldn't pay as much for my skill-set. How 'bout Jersey? Nah, the insurance alone would cause us to starve. Long Island? Nope, property taxes were sometimes double the monthly mortgage. Well, what then about Pennsylvania? I worked at the time in Manhattan, we had done the trips out there before and I believed that the commute would not be a problem. Besides, we looked out there two years prior. We knew that the areas that we looked (mainly the Pocono's) was still growing and that we could still find a deal that we could live with. Would our dream soon become a reality? Not yet. First we had to slice through the realtors that once they saw our economic (and racial) bio, tried to place us in less desirable communities. Oh the houses are huge. Some with 5, 6, and some 8 bedroom houses at prices we could not believe. There was an 8 bedroom houses we saw was cheaper than the 3 bedroom house right next door that our Queens neighbor was selling. Once we got past some of the blockbusting realtors, we found one that we believed would work in our best interest. The day we went out, we looked at 3 houses and made a bid on one that would become what we hoped would be our home.

After months of dealing with Profolio and the mortgage switches, we went with Claire and made it to the closing table. In between, so many things happened, we wondered if this house was meant to be ours. I believe that anything worth having is worth going through a few trials for. The owner declared bankruptcy in the middle of the process, thus changing the fact that we couldn't ensure a clean title for the mortgage company. The inspection report had issues. We knew that was going to be the issue by looking at the house, yet we knew that we would be able to get the house a lot lower than what a house this size would be going for in the area. Negotiations were all over the place. When we finally got to closing, even that did not go without a hitch. The finally closing costs were $5000 more than what we were initially quoted. Closing was extended two extra days to allow us to get the money. However, thank God, we were able to by a 5 bed, 2 bath, 2700 sqft house on 1/2 acre, for close to 40% cheaper than the houses this size were going for in the area, new or otherwise. This the part where we would say "the end"... This is just the continuation of what has been one really surreal dream.

Having gone through the money needed to repair the house (that was used for closing), the company that I was working for soon downsized the department and I was let go. Great! Now the primary income for our family of eight was cut and we now had a month before the mortgage was due. What are we going to do now. In the meantime, we were looking for a car, because living in the Pocono's is nothing like living in NYC. A car is a must. Especially where our house is, the closest thing to public transportation is miles away. We were skeptical about buying a car in New York, due to our experiences with the car dealers here. We yet could not afford the continual car rentals and the trips into Pennsylvania to purchase a minivan. We saw an ad for a minivan that would fit us. Everything in the ad looked good, the mileage was reasonable, new water pump, timing belt and the promise that everything was inspected by their mechanic. Pay Way Less Auto Sales on 1651 Utica Avenue in Brooklyn tells a good story, but the cars are completely different. We purchase a Dodge Caravan, and as soon as I went to pick it up (mind you it was a week after the purchase), the car was leaking oil, it was not clean, the tires were completely the wrong size, the steering was off and I almost got into 2 accidents within 3 minutes of driving out of the lot. I turned around and demanded my money back. That was 2 months ago, and James, the owner is still playing games and bouncing checks. I say stay away from Pay Way Less Auto Sales in Brooklyn, NY. Now if that's enough to make you want to give up on the American Dream, it gets better.

During the time we closed and the end of September, we had visited our house 3 times. Between September 5th and the 30th, someone broke into our home and vandalized it. We came back to swatikas, and "KKK"'s and "Eat S@#$". The state trooper then tells us it's not a hate crime, that it was probably kids that did it. HELLO?! Am I the only one taking crazy pills?! We are the only minority family in the section of the community we moved into (in fact we believe we maybe the only family of color in the entire development), and no one knew that until we introduced ourselves on September 4th. All we keep hearing from people in the area is not to take it personally.Excuse me! I'll tell the 4 million Jews that were killed under this symbol not to take it personally. I'll tell that countless hundreds, possibly thousands that were lynched under the tyranny of KKK. Even if it were the doing of kids, what message are they being taught that they would violate someone's space and leave such hatred as a calling card? What do I tell my children? My wife and I still can't reassure the children that it's ok to move into our house. They have nightmares and believe that anyone that doesn't look like them don't like them. Am I living in the 21st century or is it 1867? I never taught my children hatred, yet everything that I have taught has been questioned by this act. If anyone who reads this can help us, we would be eternally grateful.

So that's the story in a nutshell: We have a home that we may not be able to move into because our children is afraid. We can't get to the house because we have a crooked car dealer who won't do the honest thing and properly refund our money, so we can't buy a car that we need to get around. I need a job or a startup to pay the mortgage. What a country! What a dream! This is why I labeled this post "What is the American Dream?" Because I don't know anymore. I do know it's not what my father was told and what he told me. I know it's not what countless immigrants are risking there lives to get over here for. I do know that it's not the fairy tale that I will tell my children. The reality is the American Dream is not what it was and the evolution or de-evolution of the American Society changes that dream all the time. The dream is different from generation to generation. Yet we try to sell the next generation the dream that we believed went unfulfilled. It becomes a bait and switch: you're told if you work hard and save even harder, you can own a home, have a family of your dreams and live anywhere you want without reprecussion. The reality is, not everyone will welcome you with open arms, there's always someone trying to take advantage of you, and don't think you can get and keep everything you make. It's sad that this country has become "crabs in a barrel". We're clammering on top of one another just to stay one step ahead of each other. Values are all over the place and let's not get started with morals and ethics. That's not the purpose of this blog. I want to address the "keeping up with the Joneses" and why we are so dependant on everything that we are a nation that has spiraled into almost unrecoverable debt. I am looking for ways for not only my family, but anyone who's interested in finding ways of better saving, better debt elimation, better financial situations. I am looking to find methods of becoming more independent in other areas as well. I want to cut off the dependence to fuels, electric companies, etc. I'm not looking to become Amish, however there is a lot to learn from them. There are technologies present, that if used together would actually not only break the dependence to things we're overpaying for, but would help in becoming financially independent as well. I welcome all comments and ideas. I hope through the events in my family's lives will be able to help others.
I will look forward to hearing from experts and others who are going through or went through similar situation and found a way out. Of course, as I am on the up-and-up about what is happening, I am hoping that the suggestions, experts and opinions will be of a legitimate and legal matter. Thank you for your time and know that just reading this has begun to help my family in the knowledge that one day we will be able to go and be at home!