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Time to vent ... (with hopefully some lessons mixed in)

I recently ordered my credit report from Equifax and Trans Union (Experian won't let you order on the Internet). It was very interesting. First, a number of my dad's loans are listed on my credit report, including his mortgage. (It is a wonder anyone lent me anything based on these two sizable mortgages.) Those mistakes are somewhat understandable because I'm a Jr. and he is a Sr. It is just going to be a pain to clean it up, but I can deal with it.

I WAS surprised to see that none of my creditors (except one who I'll get to later) reported me as paying late. Yes, I admit it. During my college days, my first few years of work, and even today, my wife or I occasionally forget to send a payment in on time for one stupid reason or another. It is quite embarrassing and frustrating to get a call or a letter from a credit card company saying "We haven't received your ...." Well, we've all got them. We check our checkbooks and budgets, maybe look around and behind the desk to find the darn bill and whisk it off that day. No big deal, many times you don't even get charged a late fee and if you do okay its my fault I'll pay the fee. So again, I was pleasantly surprised to see a pristine credit report from Equifax and a clean slate from Trans Union, except for ONE little blemish.


What, I've NEVER been 30 days late on a bill in my life. WHO had the audacity to say that I was 30 days late - was it American Express (I've heard they are sticklers) - nope. Perhaps, the old Bank because of that one car payment that fell behind the desk - nope not them either. Well, it has to be one of those cards I had in college - nope, nope, nope. Who then? UI-OSAC, that's who. Who the hell is that? Well, it turns out that it is the good old State U. Yep, that same alma matter that hits me up every month for contributions to benefit the old girl. The same place that calls me every year for the annual phonathon, the same place whose Dean of the Law School regularly invites me to business luncheons. The same place I religiously donated money to. The same place I designated (note past tense) as contingent beneficiary of my IRAs, the same place who would have received 1/4 of my estate under my trust if my family passed away, yes the same place whom I convinced my wife that we needed to contribute more money to because we now are beginning to have excess resources. The same place I've recommended to my clients who are looking for charities to donate money to (I'm an estate planning attorney).

You see, I had these two $1000 loans. The monthly payment is about $15 each per month. I currently owe about $250 each or under $500 on both of them. I got the money. I could pay them off anytime (I'm going to now). It is just that they are at 4% fixed, and I'm earning 5% in my money market.

I called the school. Sure enough their records show that I had been a couple of days late twice in the past three years and they nailed me for it. Also, they had assessed me a late fee (I now recall that it was about $1.50), and I didn't notice it at first. So, the $1.50 didn't get paid for a month or two until I finally noticed the darn thing. But, I was never 30 days late with any payments. Well, according to "Richard" they are required by law to report a late payment as soon as you are late (in my case 1 or 2 days). In other words, 30 days late looks bad on the report but it could be that you were only 1 day late. As far as a grace period, ("snickering in the background") "they chose not to have one."

I checked out Experian's "Ask Max" and it seems that snickering Richard is right, 30 days late doesn't really mean 30 days late. It could mean 1 day late. It also says that creditors usually don't report late payments unless you miss the next payment cycle. I know that is true because like I've said I know I've missed others. So, it looks like snickering Richard may be wrong about U of I's legal requirement to report a payment that is 1 day late. I'll check and if they are not legally required to do so, I will be sure to put that in my letter to the Chancellor of the University, the Dean of the Law School and the Head of Alumni Affairs. Talk about a way to foster alumni support. (Side note: I've seen charities sue estates to collect relatively measly donations where it was unclear whether the charity was supposed to get the money at the first death of spouses. Regardless of the outcome, you can bet the charity even if it gets the small donation now will never get another dime from the living spouse or any of their friends. I could name two very prominent charities, but I'll refrain).

Now, I may be overreacting (probably am and maybe I'll cool down later), and I'm not going to try to get the blemish off my report (hey I screwed up). But, you can bet my letter will ask to be removed from any solicitation list, any alumni mailings and any other dealings with the University. I've GIVEN way more than the original $2000 back to the University over the last few years and I HAD planned on giving more. I'll pay their measly $490, and they are history. I've found out that credit reports are personal (maybe too personal) - it was like I was being turned in to the cops by my own mother.

Morale of the story (if there is one): check your reports (anything that personal should be accurate) and pay on time regardless of the dollar amounts involved. Also, if you run a charity, I think it would be wise to give a 14 day or 1 payment cycle grace period to potential donors. Hey, here is a stretch, maybe forgive the $1.50 late fee once in a while. Lastly (and probably most important), stop the snickering.
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