Solano Real Estate Scene: Avoid late charges, fees

I now have an impound account for property taxes and homeowners’ insurance but when I was younger and dumber, I paid my property taxes late and suffered a 10% penalty a couple of times. I will never forget the one time, around 25 years ago, I paid the tax bill Dec. 12, only two days past the grace period and paid the county a $150 penalty for the two days. I had the $1,500 in my bank account but just forgot to pay the bill. The county graciously accepted my payment two days late and this had no impact on my credit rating. Solano County pretty much lent me the $1,500 for two days for a fee of $150. Ten percent for two days works out to an annualized rate of return for the county of 1,800%. Prior to turning over all my personal bookkeeping 21 years ago to the greatest assistant a guy could ever ask for, Jen Weirich, I was an expert at paying penalties on parking tickets, DMV and silly stuff like my property tax bill. My wife and kids didn’t help much because I probably paid an extra $1,000 in late fees to Blockbuster video over a 10-year period from 1989 to 1999 from not returning the videos on time. I just found a Blockbuster video this past weekend at my house that was never returned. It’s called called “The Parent Trap,” which I now own because my Visa card on file at Blockbuster was hit for the purchase cost. I probably bought the movie for $100. Credit card companies and financial institutions love late fees because it adds to their profits, and although late fees paid prior to the account becoming 30 days past due have no impact on your FICO score, late fees and penalties are one of the reasons 65% of all Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings account. If I had invested the $100 in Amazon stock in 1997 rather than buy “The Parent Trap” from Blockbuster video, I would have $140,000 worth of Amazon stock today. I share these embarrassing stories and painful lessons because I have four kids and six grandkids along with a bunch of employees, friends and clients a lot younger than me that I care about and want to educate so they don’t make the mistakes I made when I was in my 20s and 30s. Pay yourself first and then pay your other bills before a late fee can be charged, and if you need an organized bookkeeper, hire one or ask your 800 FICO score mom or aunt to help you get organized so you can achieve financial success, the sooner the better.