There’s nothing worse than trying to stay on top of your finances, doing everything right, and keeping track of it all, only to be met with frustrations from the very financial institutions that are ostensibly there to serve you. These nuisances can put the brakes on your enthusiasm and momentum toward accomplishing financial goals. But even if it takes you a few deep breaths, or a bit of planning and preparation, the little frustrations don’t have to derail your plans (or your peace of mind).
Below are nine common financial frustrations — and actions you can take to avoid, or lessen, their impact.
1. Inconvenient Methods of Contact
Technology has come a long way, and now it’s almost expected that financial matters can be resolved online. Still, canceling an account or changing the mode of payment on a debt might require more than checking a box on your screen. Most companies are adding (or have added) customer support online, but others continue to rely on less immediate or less convenient forms of communication for their customer support. One method in particular that can feel troublesome is the ‘paper method’ (i.e. when you’re required to fill out forms or send documents by mail).
Action Tip #1: Though it’s usually less convenient than online methods, unless otherwise offered, you’re stuck with the paper route. To lessen the pain, do it all in one go. It’s one thing to find a form and print it out. It’s another to fill it out. It’s another to actually address, stamp and send it. Prepare for the fact that it will be a multiple step process — and one that can be over as quickly as possible if done in one fell swoop — and you’ll be less likely to push it off or abandon the process mid-way.
2. Being Put on Hold
This may be stating the obvious, but good intentions never seem to lose momentum more quickly than when they’re put on hold. Particularly if you’re devoting time and energy to fix a problem that you’d rather not be confronting in the first place. Sometimes, the wait is due to calling at peak times, or simply the ratio of greater inbound calls to a small force of employees. In most cases, there’s not much to be done except wait it out. It’s discouraging and frustrating, but it doesn’t also have to equate to time lost from your day.
Action Tip #2: Before you begin a call, assume that you will be put on hold, and think of ways to utilize the wait time to your benefit. If it means relaxing and reading a book, studying for a test, organizing your desk — pick something that’s easy to put on pause once you’re connected to a representative. Having speakerphone enabled or connecting headphones to your phone will also free up your hands so that you can move more freely. You can also use this opportunity to figure out how to lower your credit card interest rate once you do reach a representative.
3. Very Long Forms
Finances are usually not simple, and sometimes getting things done requires a mountain of paperwork. Some companies or banks have super-long forms and ask for what seems like an intimidating amount of information. If it’s a trusted and accredited site, then it’s likely for your benefit as a customer (although still frustrating). If it’s a site you’re unfamiliar with, you should always bypass entering personal information until you can verify the authenticity. In either case, lengthy and detailed forms can be extremely tedious and require a depth of information that takes a considerable amount of time to compile.
Action Tip #3: If you’re filling out an online form, don’t leave it up to chance that the browser will load when you hit enter. Look at what information you will need to have at the ready so you don’t have to search in the midst of the process, and potentially experience a ‘time-out’ notification. If you’re faced with a long paper form, consider taking it home, and filling it out in a more comfortable location. With easier access to information you might be queried for, it can seem less daunting and less frustrating. Plus you can make a copy of important forms in case they get lost or misplaced — to avoid having to fill them out again.
4. Being Passed Off
Reaching a customer service representative on the phone doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed an immediate answer. Another common frustration that consumers often encounter is being transferred from one department to another. Having to explain your situation again and again can be frustrating enough to result in the urge to give up (or slam down the phone). The thought of having to start the whole process over again can be enough to discourage you from even attempting it.
Action Tip #4: If the company does have a touchtone menu, you may be able to slot yourself into the correct department by following the commands. If you don’t hear an option that pertains to your specific question or concern, pushing zero will usually default you to the operator. But if you’ve already found yourself in a web of transfers, most reps have an identification number, or direct line so that you can keep track. At the beginning of the conversation, ask them if they have a direct phone number, and write it down. Then if you’re disconnected, you’ll at least be able to track them down.
5. Ineffective Voice Commands
There’s something about being misunderstood by a non-human that’s even more frustrating than being misunderstood by an actual representative. Repeating yourself clearly, only to be continually misinterpreted by a voice recognition technology can leave you yelling into your receiver.
Action Tip #5: The best way to deal with such an irritation is to bypass it altogether. Similar to the tip above, you can generally count on the fact that pressing zero will connect you directly with a real person, and then navigate from there.
6. Disinterested Customer Service Reps
Just because it’s called customer service doesn’t always guarantee that the service is going to be friendly. Most representatives are positive and helpful as you go through the process, but some may be far less so.
Action Tip #6: If you feel like you’re losing your cool in any way, take a deep breath and ask to be transferred to a different representative. There’s no harm in asking to be switched over. Feelings of tension will only escalate, and a sour experience may make you feel just as disinterested in checking in for future planning.
7. Feeling Unprepared or Embarrassed
When someone is helping you to organize or manage your finances, you should communicate the facts honestly. It’s tempting to cushion the numbers, or exaggerate your savings because you might feel embarrassed by the reality of your situation. But being financially responsible requires you to look at the weaknesses of your finances in order to know what to do about them. Representatives understand — they’re not judging you and they’re not going to give you grief about it.
Action Tip #7: Avoid these feelings by organizing the information you anticipate you’ll need, and keeping it right in front of you. Look at your numbers and acknowledge your circumstances beforehand so that you’re not surprised during the process. It will help you to feel empowered and in control, even if you feel anything but as you begin the process.
8. Scheduling Conflicts
Time zones — they can be a pain. So can weekends. At least if they’re preventing you from getting through your financial tasks. All too often, schedules of operation won’t match up with your own schedule. It can seem like the only free time you have is when a business, bank or institution is already closed.
Action Tip #8: Look at the hours of operation before you plan to call or visit, so you aren’t left feeling frustrated by a ‘closed’ sign or recording. And if there’s really no way that your work schedule allows for times to match up efficiently, prioritize the task during your break or lunch. If all else fails, you may need to communicate to your employer and find a way to take time or rearrange hours to allow you to accomplish the communication.
9. Being Surprised by Fees — After the Fact
Fees can be sneaky, and when you discover an unexpected maintenance, subscription or service fee pop up on your statement, it’s an unwelcome shock. If you’re caught by surprise by an unwarranted fee on your bank statement, contact the business or institution and inquire why you were charged, and if there’s a way to avoid it in the future.
Action Tip #9: If you’ve been hit with an overdraft fee, you may be able to have it refunded if you contact your bank immediately, and if it’s not a common occurrence. It’s also helpful to set up alerts that will be sent to your phone or e-mail as you near a low budget, or set preferences to halt payments if you have insufficient funds.
It’s not always fun to go through the tasks of financial maintenance, but even less fun to face hurdles along the way. By using these tips to combat the most common financial frustrations, you can keep calm and carry on while making forward progress toward your financial goals.