The great truth about money is that in order to keep it and grow it, you have to fight for it. For years, I have said that it doesn’t matter what you earn, it is what you keep that determines whether you will be financially free. Yet each year our money has become harder and harder to keep. That’s because, at every turn, the companies we deal with every day in every aspect of our lives are working as hard as they can to take as much money from us as they can.
Whether you realize it or not, we are all engaged in a never-ending battle with giant corporations and economic institutions whose only goal is to separate us from our hard-earned dollars.
This is a battle we consumers have been losing because they are better equipped to take our money than we are to keep it.
You deserve to be in control of your money and that is why I wrote my book, Fight For Your Money. Fight For Your Money is a detailed guide to protecting yourself from financial rip-offs, but there are some general rules that apply to almost every single financial or consumer issue we cover—from buying a used car on eBay to paying for your groceries with a debit card. Most are plain old common sense. The trick is not just to know them but to live them. If you can, you’ll never have to worry about being ripped off again.
My “Fight for Your Money” Rules
1 - There is no such thing as a free lunch. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
2 - Figure out the total cost. The price they advertise isn’t necessarily what something really costs. Make sure you know what the advertised price covers, what it doesn’t cover – and how much you’ll have to pay for the stuff you’re going to need that isn’t included.
3 - Don’t take anybody’s word for anything. Guarantees and promises don’t mean anything unless they are in writing.
4 - Do your homework. Comparison-shop, educate yourself about the product, and unless you know whom you’re dealing with, check them out before you send them a money order or sign a contract.
5 - Be careful what you sign. Read all the paperwork, including the small print, and make sure you understand it.
6 - Resist efforts to pressure or intimidate you. Not every salesman who employs the hard sell is a crook. But honest ones rarely do. When they badger you to “Act now!” that’s a sure sign you shouldn’t. When they urge you not to tell anyone else about this “very special opportunity,” you definitely should – preferably someone who carries a badge.
7 - If you think you’ve been scammed, report it to the appropriate authorities. As an official for the Nation Consumers League put it in an interview with consumer reporter Bob Sullivan, “Complaining is to being a good consumer what voting is to being a good citizen. If there are no complaints, there’s no impetus for legislative change and the enforcement officer don’t know what’s going on. If you only complain to friends but don’t report something…then nobody who can do something about it knows what happened to you.
8 - There is no such thing as a set price. With most services and many consumer goods (cars, cable TV, gym membership) not everyone pays the same price. How much often depends on when you signed up, what incentives you were offered, and how well you negotiated. As a consumer, you have more power than you think.
9 - Package deals are often not good deals. They may sound great, but they typically require you to buy something you don’t really want or need.
10 – Money gives you control, so hold on to it as long as you can. It’s easier to reverse an unfair charge than to try to get a refund once you’ve paid out cash. So don’t agree to automatic debits – use a credit card instead. Similarly, parcel out payments to repairmen and contractors, and avoid years-long service contracts.
11 – Protect your identity. Personal information, such as credit card and bank account numbers, should be shared only with salespeople and companies you know and trust – and never by email.
I want to leave you with this thought…
When you pay just 10% or 20% too much for the products and services you use every day, you will have to work 10 to 20 extra years before you can retire. Or, to put it another way, if you let yourself be overcharged by 10% to 20% for the things you buy, you are in effect spending one or two months a year working without pay for the companies that rip you off. So, don’t you think it’s time to start fighting for your money?