What Was That?

Roger Schlesinger
Posted: May 22, 2008 8:42 AM
What Was That?

Whether it is a sound bite or a tagline, I can’t believe what I have been hearing. It seems that as long as the words that are strung together either have no discernable meaning or are not based on reality, the more these words are accepted.

I studied Economics as an undergraduate and Finance in graduate school. In the halls of academia, understanding what I read or heard and keeping a firm grip on reality were very important to me. My textbooks may have been dry, but they were trustworthy sources of information. I stepped out into the “real world” and saw that most of our information comes from the marketing and advertising companies. Remember “____________ tastes good like a cigarette should!” Had anybody ever stopped to think about how a cigarette should taste, or contemplated whether a paper rolled over burning tobacco would ever taste good? I don’t believe so. Admittedly, that was a great ad and most of you can probably still name the cigarette.

The mortgage industry, of which I am a long-term member, caught tagline fever more recently, unfortunately resulting in some of the most obtuse mottos you can imagine. “Nobody can do what _____________ can!” Did anyone ever stop to ask, “What can they do that nobody else can?” If anyone did, he/she might find out that this company could push one of the worst loans known to man upon the public, losing billions of dollars for the company and helping force thousands - if not millions - of homeowners into foreclosure. One line that made no sense was the tipoff to the rip-off, and it went unnoticed.

How about “reforming the mortgage industry one borrower at a time?" There are reportedly 65 million homeowners, and if you start reforming them one at a time, and you worked fast, it probably could be done in a century or two. Did anyone figure the timeframe on that little ditty? More importantly, were we ever told, or shown, what the reform was all about? The company has yet to tell us the secret or any of their results. So then, what did the industry or consumer groups try to do with this information? The answer is the same for all of my questions: nothing.

Another company is proud to state “what you see is what you get,” expressing the transparency of their work. But seeing is only one sense; hearing is also important. The company talks of a fixed rate and shows a number on the screen that is much lower than 30-year fixed rates at every other lender. How do they do this? They want you to believe that they have better rates, but in fact they are talking about a 15-year fixed, not a 30-year. Just a minor deception to get you to call so they have a chance to make their pitch! Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and I am going to lose some money or even my house!

The ultimate nonsensical tagline is, “it’s the biggest no-brainer in the world.” I assume they mean you need not think when it comes to this company and their products - just react. It’s a pretty good idea because nearly everything they say is either wrong, exaggerated or simply doesn’t make sense. What the heck…just do it!

I bring up these examples because it has never been more important to actually understand your mortgage. Record numbers have been foreclosed out of their houses, people who said they didn’t know what they were signing. Many probably would still have their homes if they had ignored the taglines and had asked questions about their loans.

Following some simple rules can stop the damage from entertainment disguised as information:

1. Listen to what is said more than once, and read what is written over again.
2. See if the main pitch from the company relates to what you’re doing with them. (You’re getting a loan, not helping change an industry).
3. If you’re misled, leave and go elsewhere.
4. Make sure all of your questions are answered.
5. Get everything in writing.

Simple rules can yield spectacular results. You might find that you are getting the best loan for you, one that you understand and that will put you onto the road to financial freedom.

And as a further caution, the words, “I didn’t understand what I got” won’t cut it anymore, anywhere.