Define "a Life"...

... still searching for a clear definition of that thing people keep telling me I need to get...

Location: Springfield, PA

Saturday, May 09, 2009

News from New Delhi

So, I got a telemarketing call this morning "from" Bank of America. The caller ID tagged it as Ontario (which was why I picked it up, since I'm still untangling and tying the last of the Canadian threads in Mom's estate), but the call was pretty obviously coming from India.

I have a credit card with BofA; got it back when it was MBNA. I'm carrying a balance on it (stupid need-to-pass-inspection truck repairs), but not a huge balance. Between them, over the years, MBNA and BofA raised my credit limit to a ridiculously high figure. Given my actual income and correspondingly starving-artist lifestyle, I could live for a year on that credit card alone. I never asked for this, obviously. It's just one of the things these places do. Or, rather, did. I've heard a lot of news reporting that Citi and other credit card companies have been rolling back people's credit lines.

Yes, things have changed. I was late on a CitiBank payment a few months back, and they were quick to call and ask whether I'm working. Yikes! 

And these banks are now needing to come up with funds in order to qualify for government aid. BofA just took a shot with me. They're offered me this sweet security deal: if I sign up for this service -- at a $19 monthly fee -- BofA will toss me $3,000 if I find myself unvoluntarily out of work. (Yes, I know it's "involuntarily." Even with her accent, I'm pretty sure she said "unvoluntarily.") This wouldn't be a loan or a cash advance. She was really clear on this point. I wouldn't have to pay it back. They'd just give it to me. 

Moreover, if I get married, have a kid, move or any of several other things she tried to list, they'd give me $500. I didn't ask if this applied whether I was marrying or having the kid unvoluntarily or not. I just wanted to establish that there was a monthly fee involved so I could give her a definitive no and get off the phone.

After I'd hung up, it really hit me. BofA had just offered me -- okay, asked me to sign up for -- a service that involved the possibility of their giving me money. Giving me money. Let's think about that for a moment. Obviously, they're playing the odds. They're counting on getting that twenty bucks from me every month and never having to give me any money back. And somewhere in their math, they must've concluded that those odds are in their favor. They need to create some sort of additional income, and on paper the funds coming in from enrollment fees each month must balance the potential pay-outs.  Still, it feels a bit of a gamble to me. The $3,000 isn't that big a risk, granted. But that $500... My co-worker Will and his wife are trying to get pregnant. My friends Kathryn and Rusty are expecting. If I were either of them, I might well do my own math and sign up on the simple idea that over nine months I'd only pay in $180 but would get $500 when I had the kid. Sounds like a scheme -- er... bargain -- to me.

Yeah, I know there are probably a bunch of things in the fine print that would protect BofA against someone's using the service that way. Enrollment date versus birth date would be the simplest and most obvious. The whole idea is predicated on my personal feelings of financial uncertainty. Is the nugget of peace-of-mind they're offering worth twenty bucks a month to me? Having just had a generally positive, at times glowing, review at work, I'm inclined to say no. I'm counting on my own odds: on the odds of PLTC's wanting to keep me in my job, and on the odds of PLTC's own financial viability.

Not to say that I don't place some sort of dollar value on peace of mind. I still maintain the disability insurance policy I took out with State Farm years ago to assure that I'd be able to keep making my payments on my truck for a few months if my income were disrupted for some reason. I paid off the truck six years ago, but I've kept up that policy. That particular nugget feels worth $37.98 a year.

Actually, now that I think about it, that might well be the intentioned destiny of my loose change jar from now on...


Anonymous Mkcoy said...

You probably did well not to take the offer up anyway. They would definitely wrote up a risk plan first before offering this to people so that no matter what. They would be the ones in profit still.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Me fail English? That's unpossible! -- Ralph Wiggum

10:59 PM  

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