Friday, February 1, 2019

Short Takes: Credit Score Obsession, Joint Account Benefits, and more

Here are my posts for the past two weeks:

Happy Go Money

My Investment Return for 2018

Preet Banerjee features prominently in this week’s short takes and weekend reading:

Scott Terrio explains how trying to optimize your credit score can make your finances and your life worse. Credit scores measure your profitability to banks. You are the product, not the customer.

Joint bank accounts curb wasteful spending according to a study by the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. My wife and I aren’t spenders, and we’ve always found joint bank accounts about as appealing as sharing a toothbrush. But this study could partially explain why some couples are adamant that joint bank accounts are the way to go.

Preet Banerjee explains research results on what motivates us to save for retirement. It turns out many people are more interested in helping their families than helping themselves.

Preet Banerjee interviews Dr. Avni Shah who explains research into how we feel pain of payment and how it affects our willingness to spend and how much we enjoy our purchases.

Fintech is leaving too many people behind. If there were more competition in financial services, customers would be better served.

Retire Happy explains some common investment mistakes made by retirees. This is an excellent guest post by Jason Heath.

Big Cajun Man looks at how to reduce his portfolio concentration as he nears retirement.

Robb Engen at Boomer and Echo discusses whether clients will abandon robo-advisors in the next stock downturn and what the robo-advisors are doing to try to prevent loss of clients.

The Blunt Bean Counter explains how to use his estate organizer to make things easier on your heirs. I’m helping with an estate right now, and I have little confidence that we’ll be able to find all assets. It’s hard to find things if you don’t know they exist.

Blair Crawford reports a simple but effective gift card scam.


  1. Fintech in my experience is a word for finding innovative ways of charging a 48% interest rate.

    But some of that is just the nature of the regulatory environment, which is keeping busy protecting us from ourselves. This is the product of that protection.

    1. @Richard: It's interesting that "fintech" means such different things to different people. To some, it means easier ways to pay, like tapping or using a smart phone. To others, it means online high-interest lenders. I tend to think of it as any form of banking where middle-man costs are significantly reduced.

      If you're referring to mortgage qualification rules, I'm not sure it's aimed at protecting individuals at all (although it gets sold that way sometimes). I think they're trying to avoid a systemic blow-up with widespread bankruptcies of the type the U.S. saw a decade ago.

    2. From what I've seen, writers use the word fintech to refer to services delivered outside of the traditional banking / money management system (or at least presented in that way). ATMs and Vanguard reduced middle-man costs but no one seems to use that label for them.

      I have no recent experience with mortgage rules but it seems there are restrictions for any kind of lending or even moving your money from one of your accounts to another of our accounts.

      Although it may be driven by a desire to keep banks from losing money and to protect customers from bad behavior (from banks or others), this seems to heavily restrict options for some people and create room for these "innovative" services that are really much more expensive. In reality it's not stopping things so much as raising the cost.

      It's pretty clear that banks without regulation will often make far too many loans and charge far too little in interest, so it's not like they need much of a push if the risk is contained. The downside is that they could just as easily withdraw that if they change their minds.

      If we saw regulation that actually enabled cheaper services and more flexibility without systemic risk, that would be real innovation.

    3. @Richard: If the term "fintech" had existed decades ago, ATMs would have qualified. Vanguard is more of a stretch, but their direct-to-consumer model and the use of telephone (later internet) might have seemed like fintech back in the day.

      I watched a fintech debate recently, and it was obvious that each panelist had a different idea of what fintech meant. IMO these differences muddled the debate.

      I think we're more likely to find common ground if we're clearer about what part of fintech we're discussing. For example, I'm no fan of the new high-interest lenders that have popped up. They are a predatory part of fintech. I'm not much of a fan of tap payments and phone payments either. I don't need for spending to be any easier than it is now. However, I do like the bank accounts offered by EQ bank and Tangerine. They could be better, but at least they pay some interest and eliminate many of the idiotic fees the big banks charge. I've been charged more than a dollar for a withdrawal at BMO that involved computers and no humans (other than me).