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Stop Trying to “Help” Me

By conversations, financial wisdom, hazards to my well-being, political views, top notch communication blunders, you might learn something One Comment

This is another example of really dumb laws that need to exist because people do not understand how their health insurance works.

Today, I had a prescription refilled at Target, and when I arrived to pick it up, they informed me it was the generic.

“I don’t want the generic,” I said. “I want the brand name.”

“Well, your insurance doesn’t cover the brand name, so it’s expensive,” the pharmacist said.

“My insurance doesn’t cover prescriptions because I have a high deductible plan, so I pay full price, and my drugs count towards my deductible. I’ve been taking the brand name for two years. That’s what I want,” I said.

“Well, we can’t give you the brand name unless your doctor specifies it or you request it,” she said.

“Okay. I request it.”

“Okay. Well, I’m not sure if we have any, so let me check. I can probably have that ready for you in about 40 minutes,” she told me.

“Forty minutes?” I asked. “I called this afternoon, and you said it would be ready in 10 minutes. It’s 7:30.”

“Yes, but state law requires us to fill with the generic unless you request the brand name. It’s to protect you and help save you money,” she said. “The brand name is $84.”

“Right. And the generic is $57, and I have a coupon for the brand name that makes it $25, so that law doesn’t help me at all, now does it?”

“Um…”

“In fact, I think if I didn’t know any better,” I continued, “it would have cost me $30, and either way, it’s going to cost me 40 minutes, which is ridiculous.”

She just stared at me. I think I hurt her feelings. It’s not easy being right all the time.

This crazy trip has got me feelin’: knowledgeable
And I’m singin’ along to: I Think Ur A Contra – Vampire Weekend

Fat Tuesday

By conversations, food, hazards to my well-being, not ruling at life One Comment

J: Do you want to heat up dinner or what?

L: Well, I’m not really hungry right now.

J: Why not?

L: Probably because I ate half that bag of Corn Puffs at my desk this afternoon.

J: Well, what the hell did you do that for?

L: Pretty much because I’m a failure at life.

J: No, you’re not a failure at life. But you are a failure at snacking.

This crazy trip has got me feelin’: full
And I’m singin’ along to: Because I Got High – Afroman

LBPS Strikes a New Low

By condo, conversations, drama, financial wisdom, hazards to my well-being, mortgage, not ruling at life, top notch communication blunders, you might learn something 8 Comments

Today, my mortgage company (IBM LBPS) really blew themselves out of the water. As you may know, a few months ago, I was working with them to try and negotiate a short refinance. To make a long story short, that was an epic failure. After four months of LBPS giving me the run-around and other lenders telling me they could approve me but not give me the proper documentation to show it, I’ve pretty much given up hope on the short refinance. I think what sealed the deal was this chat conversation that I had with Quicken Loans (LBPS’ recommended refinance experts!) last week:

Thank you for inquiring with Quicken Loans, we’re America’s #1 online lender and do business in all 50 states! Please hold while we connect you with the best suited Mortgage Expert.
You have been connected to James Springer.
James S.: Hello Lisa. How can I help you today?
Lisa: Hi, James. I have a current mortgage with IBM LBPS, and they recommended me to Quicken Loans. I am trying to work out a refinance with an FHA Short Refinance loan — do you have any loan officers that specialize in these short refis?
James S.: What do you mean by ‘short’ refinance?
Lisa: Have you ever heard of this program? https://www.quickenloans.com/mortgage-news/mortgage-program-underwater-fha-short-refinance
James S.: Ok. I need your full name, address, date of birth and social security number.
Lisa: I’m not giving you my social security number through a chat window.

Really? Really.

So, on to my next few options. I did some research on more of Fannie Mae’s options for upside-down borrowers, and I actually found a pretty attraction program called Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA). HAFA is an extension of the Making Home Affordable options (HAMP and HARP), neither of which will work for my co-borrower and I. HAMP is the Home Affordable Modification Program, which modifies eligible borrowers’ loans to make monthly payments more affordable. HARP is the Home Affordable Refinance Program, which enables eligible borrowers to refinance up to 125 percent of their property’s current value at a lower interest rate. Unfortunately, borrowers with private mortgage insurance (PMI) on their loans only qualify to refinance 95 percent of their home’s value under HARP.

HAFA offers three additional options – a short sale, a deed-in-lieu or a deed-for-lease. All three of these options are potential contenders because all three will get the loan out of my co-borrower’s name. Although, they’ll all get the loan out of my name, too, so it looks like I may be moving soon. (Closer to the beach, of course.)

From what I can tell, the HAFA options are a little more borrower-friendly than their traditional counterparts. Normally, short sales can be tricky and involve lots of delays and last-minute negotiating once an offer is made on the property. For instance, a lender won’t even really review/approve a traditional short sale until the property is listed and the seller receives an offer. In the meantime, the lender can begin foreclosure proceedings if the homeowner isn’t staying current with their payments. Plus, in states like Virginia, the lender may pursue a deficiency judgment for the difference between what is owed on the home and what the home sells for. Same thing with a foreclosure or a deed-in-lieu. That makes these options much less attractive in my state than they may be in other states.

HAFA takes a little more time up front, but the end result seems a little more defined. In order to qualify, the borrower must be reviewed and either approved or denied for HAMP. That can take 30 to 45 days, but once approval or denial is granted, the borrower can request to go the HAFA route for a short sale, deed-in-lieu or deed-for lease. It sounds like lenders will have a borrower at least list the home and try to sell it before allowing a deed-in-lieu, but if the homeowner wants to stay in the home, they’ll offer a deed-for lease. A deed-for-lease means that the borrower signs over the deed to the lender and then rents the property for the going market rate from the lender for a set amount of time. That sounds kind of interesting, huh?

The biggest difference I can see (and keep in mind, I’m not an expert on these things — this is just my full-time hobby) between traditional short sale/deed-in-lieu transactions and HAFA options is that a lot of the terms seem to be negotiated up front for HAFA. Like there’s no deficiency judgments — the lender can’t pursue any money or promissory notes after the closing. Also, the probability of the sale actually closing is much higher, and the seller even leaves the transaction with up to $3,000 in relocation assistance at the end of the deal. This Bank of America PDF about the program actually has a really comprehensive comparison chart on page 9 if you want to check out the differences side by side.

So, you can imagine my astonishment when I called LBPS over the weekend and inquired (of one of their short sale specialists) what the difference was between HAFA and a traditional short sale, and she had the audacity to tell me, “Nothing, really.” Oh, really? Okay.

You can also imagine how appalled I was when I called LBPS twice today and was told, “We don’t do HAFA short sales here.”

“You don’t?”

“No, ma’am. I just asked my supervisor. We don’t do those.”

“Well, that’s interesting. Do you have Internet access?”

“Yup.”

“Okay, why don’t you pull up this website: https://www.efanniemae.com/sf/guides/ssg/annltrs/pdf/2010/svc1007.pdf. Do you know what this is? This is a letter from Fannie Mae to every single one of their servicers. It says you were required to implement this program by August 1, 2010.”

“Oh.”

“I dare you to tell me again that you don’t do these. Now transfer me to someone who knows what the f— is going on in the freaking mortgage industry these days.”

So, yeah. Story of my life.

This crazy trip has got me feelin’: frustrated
And I’m singin’ along to: Be My Escape – Relient K

Not So Much

By condo, conversations, e-mails, hazards to my well-being, mortgage, not ruling at life, press, top notch communication blunders No Comments

So, it turns out that being quoted in the Wall Street Journal isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. I think I’m a little too confrontational to read the comments on articles like that. And let’s face it — my quote was taken a little out of context and had nothing to do with the story itself. I could really care less whether anyone thinks America is a nation of wusses or whether I’m a wuss or whatever. I just had a fleeting thought that a sarcastic response to Ed Rendell’s comments would make a funny blog post. It’s not exactly a subject I’m passionate about or anything, you know?

Either way, earlier this morning I was enjoying some humorous banter with the overly opinionated readers that comment on those types of articles, but I got kind of tired of being insulted, so I gave up. Someone actually sent me a private message through my account on the WSJ community (which I just set up this morning in order to participate in what I thought would be intelligent conversation in the comments), and told me that he thought I was a spoiled brat, a daddy’s girl, over-indulged, not funny, really dumb, and clearly not successful in life because I didn’t mention having a husband or children. WTF? Where do these people even come from?

I guess if personally attacking me on the WSJ website makes your day that much better, then have at it. I usually prefer to brighten people’s days by writing funny blog posts and making them laugh, but whatever floats your boat.

In the meantime, don’t even get me started on how stupid this is. This is what I deal with on a daily basis, as I’m still trying to refinance my condo. This is a chat conversation with a “mortgage expert” on the Quicken Loans website. (I chose the chat conversation because I was trying to figure out the correct number to call.)

Thank you for inquiring with Quicken Loans, we’re America’s #1 online lender and do business in all 50 states! Please hold while we connect you with the best suited Mortgage Expert.
You have been connected to James Springer.
James Springer: Hello Lisa. How can I help you today?
Lisa: Hi, James. I have a current mortgage with IBM LBPS, and they recommended me to Quicken Loans. I am trying to work out a refinance with an FHA Short Refinance loan — do you have any loan officers that specialize in these short refis?
James Springer: What do you mean by ‘short’ refinance?
Lisa: Have you ever heard of this program? https://www.quickenloans.com/mortgage-news/mortgage-program-underwater-fha-short-refinance
James Springer: Ok. I need your full name, address, date of birth and social security number.
Lisa: I’m not giving you my social security number through a chat window.

This crazy trip has got me feelin’: disappointed
And I’m singin’ along to: Theme from A Summer Place – The Lettermen

Snowed In – Part II

By breaking news, conversations, drama, extreme sports, food, games, hazards to my well-being, new jersey, trains/train stations, weather, you might learn something 12 Comments

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This was the view out my window when I woke up yesterday morning. Um. Yeah.

Hold on, let me back up. On Sunday night, my dad and my brother took a train to the…wait. Further than that.

One of the gifts my mom gave my dad and my brother for Christmas was a night stuck in a snow drift near Monmouth University pair of Devils tickets for Sunday night. As the predicted 10 inches (that’s nothing up here!) of snow began to pile up Sunday evening, they drove five minutes up the road to the train station and headed up to the game. I was reading a magazine when they left, but the last thing I heard Stephen say was, “I’m 25, and I care what my hair looks like! I’m not wearing a hat!” Um, okay.

The first plow came through our neighborhood around 8:30 that night, and as the hockey game drew to a close on TV, my mom headed out in the blizzard to shovel a path up the driveway for my dad and my brother to get in. I guess that’s when she noticed there was about two feet of snow in the road. In. The. Road.

We tried to call them and tell them to find someplace to stay in Newark, but they responded with something along the lines of, “We’re two grown men. We can figure it out.” Click.

If you haven’t grasped this by now, it doesn’t matter what kind of car you’re driving, whether it be a Hummer or a front loader — you cannot drive through two feet of snow.

So, they got stuck. They got off the train around midnight, and by 2:00 a.m., they called to let us know that they were stuck with a bunch of other cars near Monmouth University. “We’ve got a full tank of gas and heat, so we’re going to wait it out,” Stephen said.

“Tell them to keep both tailpipes clear,” my mom said.

“Mommy says keep both tailpipes clear, so you don’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning,” I said.

“Okay, but my phone is dying, so stop calling me.”

By this point, I hope you’ve already learned three things:

1. Don’t drive in the snow if you don’t need to. Ten inches can turn into 30 pretty quickly.

2. If you do get stuck in the snow, crack a window and check the tailpipe.

3. Who the f— leaves the house in a blizzard with a dead phone? Don’t do that either.

Anyway. So, back to the photo up top there. That’s what I woke up to around 7:00 a.m. on Monday. Still hadn’t heard from my dad and Stephen, so we were getting a little worried. We waited around watching the news until about 9:30. Stuff about abandoned cars on the Parkway, busses stuck, people stranded on airplanes and subway trains, women giving birth in SUVs…the works.

Then the phone rang. “OPEN THE BACK DOOR!” It was Stephen.

He had somehow managed to work his way through a quarter mile of waist-high snow to walk home. WTF?

Apparently, they were towed from where they were stuck because they were in the way of an ambulance. They managed to get the car to the West Long Branch fire station, where my dad stayed with my car, and my brother decided to make a break for it.

My mom opened the back door. “Holy sh*t,” I said. “That is f-ing deep.”

“You have to go around the front, Stephen,” my mom yelled to him.

“I can’t! I’m exhausted. Call daddy, and tell him not to try to walk here. He’ll never make it!”

RESCUE MISSION!

No, seriously. We had to f-ing dig him out. Like we had to bundle up and use shovels to dig ourselves out of the garage and around the side of the house out to the pool to make a path for him to get into the house. No joke.

See?

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Anyway, so Stephen got home. My dad, on the other hand, had to stay with the car in case the fire station got a call, at which point he would need to move it out of the way to make room for the trucks to get out.

We hung around the house all day, eating all kinds of junk food, playing Wii games like Boggle, Sorry and Yahtzee, taking naps, shopping online, and various other boring things that people do when they’re stuck in a blizzard. I can say it was still a blizzard on Monday afternoon because The Weather Channel said so the wind gusts were still exceeding 40 MPH, so even though the snow wasn’t falling, it sure didn’t look very pleasant outside.

By 3:30, we were bored out of our minds and feeling a little bad for my dad, who was still stuck at the firehouse. We hadn’t seen or heard a plow all day, and we figured he’d be spending the night there. We decided to take action and hatched a plan to bring him some supplies and food. We packed up some overnight essentials (toothbrush, pajama pants, slippers) and luxuries (blanket, meatballs, A Salty Piece of Land by Jimmy Buffett) and got ready to shovel.

You can see the flags flying at the firehouse from our window. See them?

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The problem is that a very high fence runs all along the side of this property to the road, so you have to go around. We figured we could just start digging where our path to the pool left off. Except that didn’t work out because the wind completely filled it in. So it goes.

We started shoveling.

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I thought we made it pretty far, but…after about an hour, we were losing light, losing steam, and not even halfway there. Epic fail.

It was a valiant attempt, though. I mean, look at this mess.

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A phone call ensued.

Dad: “Hello?”

Lisa: “Hi. So, we tried to dig our way to the firehouse to bring you slippers and meatballs, but we didn’t make it.”

Dad: “I told you not to do that.”

Lisa: “I know, but we were pretty bored, so we figured we’d give it a shot. We at least have a really funny video for you to watch if you ever make it home, but don’t expect me to help you shovel anything tomorrow because I’m already pretty sore. Have a good night at the firehouse.”

Dad: “I will.”

I unpacked the supplies and ate one of the sandwiches I made for my dad. My brother and I watched Russell Brand in New York City and Zack Galifianakis Live at The Purple Onion, and then I went to bed.

2010-12-28_09-36-32_160

Remember Christmas morning as a kid? You were so overcome with excitement that as soon as you woke up, you just leaped out of bed and ran for the presents? That’s what I felt like when I heard the sound of a plow outside my window this morning. (Except I was pretty sore from shoveling, so my leap was more like a hoist.)

My dad was down there, too. He managed to walk home on the road once the plow came.

I use the term “plow” quite loosely here. There was some action resembling “plowing” going on down there, but in all honesty, the guy barely made a dent. He said he’d be back by the end of the day with a front loader, and he left his snow blowers for us to borrow. (It’s 10:30 p.m. as I write this, and he’s not back yet.)

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We spent the morning walking around outside saying, “Look how deep it is” and “That’s so much snow!” Broken record much?

I’m hoping to one day make it back to Virginia Beach. My Christmas long weekend has morphed into an extended week-long vacation, only I don’t feel like I’m on vacation. More like I’m grounded. And I know for a fact I’m too old to be grounded.

So, by this point, if you’re still reading this, I’m assuming you’re snowed in, too.

Good luck with that.

This crazy trip has got me feelin’: trapped
And I’m singin’ along to: Winter Wonderland – Jason Mraz