When It Comes To Your Money, Be Assertive.

I was proud of my wife the other day for the way she handled an issue that arose with the children’s school bus.  You see, our high schooler, Rachel, and our middle schooler, David, ride the bus to school together.  They have to walk several blocks down the street to get to their stop. Granted, it’s not the two mile walk I had to make when I was their age, but my wife took issue with them walking so far when there is a stop right on our corner for the elementary school children, who are picked up earlier in the morning.  Rachel and David walk right past it on the way to their stop. There are four other middle school children who ride with them and do the same thing.  There used to be children who lived further down the street and got the bus at the corner further down the road, but those children have grown up and moved away so it is just the six kids from our street who are picked up there now. Well, after watching this for a week and a half and griping about how ridiculous it was for them to walk so far, Susan decided to call the school and ask if they could get the stop changed to our corner.

What do you know? They had it changed within two hours, and that afternoon, Rachel and David were dropped off right at our corner. Interestingly, it was a good thing Susan called when she did because apparently in our district, changes to the bus route can only be made within the first two weeks of school. If she had waited much longer they would have been stuck walking down the street all year. Instead of accepting the status quo and complaining about the situation, Susan decided to be assertive. She asked for what she wanted and she was able to make life a little easier for our kids.

The same principle can be applied to managing your finances. Being assertive can improve your financial wellness. Take credit card interest rates for example. If you are in good standing with your credit card issuer, have been with the company for a while, pay your bills on time, and keep a balance, you can call them up and ask them to lower your interest rate. They may be willing to do that for your continued business. What’s the worst thing that could happen?  They could say no, and risk losing your business, but what if they say yes?

Let’s say you have a $5,000 balance at a 15% interest rate, and they agree to lower it to 12%.  That doesn’t seem like much, but for a payment of $100 a month, a 15% interest rate will cost nearly $2,896 in interest by the time you pay off the balance in full (assuming no additional charges are made), compared to $1,966 in interest charges at a 12% interest rate.  That’s a savings of $930; not bad for simply being assertive and picking up the phone.  (To see how much you can save with a lower interest rate, you can use our DebtBlaster calculator at https://secure.financialfinesse.com/go/4865)

You can also be assertive when making purchases. I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey, and one of his pet peeves is paying retail.  I’ve adopted this same philosophy.  Whenever I’m making a purchase, no matter how big or small, I’ll ask the salesperson if they can give me a lower price on the item.  If they say no, I’ll ask them to throw something else in for free.  This usually embarrasses my wife, but I tell her that everything is negotiable, and what’s the worst that can happen?  If they say no, I’m in no worse shape, but you’d be surprised how many times they’ll say yes.

It may seem petty, but saving a dollar here and a dollar there really adds up.  In fact, if I just save a dollar a day, in five years I’d have saved about $1,800; not bad for asking a simple question. (To see how much you can save, visit https://secure.financialfinesse.com/go/4517)

This week, I facilitated a series of webcasts on college planning, and one of the participants shared with me how her son was assertive when applying for financial aid.  After completing the FAFSA, she and her son sat down with the financial aid counselor at a private college to discuss his awards.  After reviewing all of the grants and scholarships he was eligible to receive, he piped up and asked “can I get more?”  After a brief pause, the financial aid counselor said “I’ll tell you what. You get me copies of your acceptance letters to other schools, and I’ll see what I can do.”

The result?  The financial aid counselor was able to petition the school for more financial assistance, and in the end, this brilliant young man will actually pay less out of pocket for a private school than he would have paid out of pocket for a state school.  Not bad for simply having the courage to ask.

Whether it’s your children’s bus stop or your money, be assertive. You’ll never know what you can change until you try.


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