the financial world

So, I've been trying to deal with all the financial matters that come with holding a steady job in this country.
Investments, taxes, bank accounts-- all of that. My goal right now is not to do something egregiously stupid, like forgetting to apply for tax rebates, or borrowing money that I don't need to borrow.

It's very frustrating to me because I see so many ways that the financial systems in this country could be improved. For example, why are these organizations always asking me for my address and telephone number? Those numbers could change. What they should be asking for is my social security number-- a number that never changes. Then they can look me up in the database, and find my correct telephone number and address at any time.

But in reality, what seems to happen is that these organizations treat your social security number as a kind of password, and use your name as the key to their index. What a braindead system. Names aren't even unique-- how many people in the world are named "John Smith," anyway?

Financial security is also a joke. So many banks, credit card companies, and others ask me for my mother's maiden name like it's some kind of secret password. Hello! All of that information is in the phone book. So is my zip code, and my address. And if you answer a question wrong, you can always bullshit your way out of the situation. In fact, half of the time I do answer "what is your current address" wrong. I have had four different addresses as a student. I can never remember which address I gave out to which organization.

Privacy is also a joke with modern credit cards. While we debate endlessly over trifles, like whether burning the flag should be illegal or not, we have lost another fundamental right: the right to financial privacy. Financial information about Americans is openly bought from credit card vendors and others. The most intimate details of your life-- where you like to eat lunch, how much you spend on clothes, and so on-- are bought and sold by these companies. Of course, you can still avoid this by paying in cash. But who pays for large purchases in cash? And who pays for online purchases with cash? Almost nobody.

In fact, credit card companies monitor people's spending habits closely, watching for signs of "unusual consumption" that might indicate a stolen credit card. Many times when people go on vacation, and make some large purchases in another part of the country, the credit card company starts getting a little nervous. I wonder if their drones ever check up on my account. If they did, would they approve of my taste in restaurants? It's best not to wonder about things like this, I guess.

I resent it when companies ask me for reams and reams of personal information. For example, the Palm software I just installed today asked me for my home address, home phone number, cell phone number, email address, country of residence, and some other stuff. The software didn't need to know any of this, of course. They just want to get some information that they can sell. Naturally I didn't fill it out.
A lot of times, though, it is really impossible to avoid the growing demand for information. Whenever I order something online, I am forced to give out a shipping address to various sleazy companies. I'm sure that they turn around and resell this information, which of course contributes to my continual flow of junk mail.

Despite my growing disgust with the financial world, I still need to deal with it to keep things running smoothly around here at Forbes House. I bought a filing cabinet to deal with all the forms. It has been very helpful.

Well, I guess I can't complain too much. For all my privacy and convenience issues, fortune has been pretty good to me lately. I made some room in the budget for a donation to help the hurricane katrina victims. I figured the Red Cross was the best organization to contribute to. It's the least I could do, I guess. Hey, in some sense all of us are living in a potential disaster area.


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