Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Banks

851 words

This morning I had to visit some banks as some savings contract had expired and I had to figure out something reasonably profitable to do with the money. As far as I am concerned, I’d be happy to just walk in there, have them offer something reasonable to me, sign a sheet of paper and be out of the bank in less than ten minutes. I know what I want them to do for me, I’ve looked up some interest rates on the web (I could add a full rant on that here, stating how useless and full of bubbly terminology crap those are instead of simply offering a page full of explicitly stated conditions and numbers. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.) and I definitely don’t want another credit card or spontaneously decide to invest in a pension fund.

But of course the magical worlds of business and marketing aren’t about offering your customer the service he wants – but about hoping he might spontaneously want another credit card or a pension fund. The highly competent world of banking will even smilingly ignore your request to offer something that fixes your money for at most one year and tell you about the wonderful offers they have for five years…

As I had seen a better offer at another bank before, I just asked them to simply transfer the money to that bank. Thankfully that was possible. Although I keep wondering why I have to give them the relevant account number for this every single time I go there. I’ve been using exactly the same account for them to transfer money to or from for many years now, so they could simply store that information, couldn’t they?

But before I go on to the other bank, let me just elaborate how exquisitely stupid this first bank is. In Germany you have to pay taxes for the interest you get. Not on all of it, just everything above a certain level. I am below that level so I don’t have to pay anything. In theory at least. However, to cut down bureaucracy there’s a little scheme to make things easier. Instead of paying taxes on all the interest you get (which will be deducted by the bank before you receive them) and then reclaiming the relevant amount from the state, you can sign a piece of paper where you confirm that you’ll reserve a certain amount of tax free interest to accumulate at a certain bank. You can do this for every bank that you’re a customer of and have to make sure the sum of all those bits doesn’t exceed the tax free maximum amount. Then no taxes are deducted and you don’t have to worry about getting them back.

Of course, as soon as more than one bank is involved you’ll have to be a bit careful about which fraction to give to which of the banks, depending on the amount of money you have with them. To make sure nothing goes wrong in that respect, I usually ask them to check whether the amount I have assigned to a bank will be sufficient for whatever I want to do and to update it appropriately in case that’s necessary.

To update that, I tell them to just compute all the interest I’ll get before the end of the year if the amount of money in the account doesn’t change. That’s a fairly simple request. Computing interest isn’t rocket science. Computing interest isn’t even first year maths. It’s just about multiplication. It’s something that I put in a ClarisWorks spreadsheet years ago. And it’s something that a banks computer apparently can’t do correctly.

WTF?! you may think – and surely I did. When having money on a long-term contract that increases the interest rate every year, you’ll have two different interest rates in the same year. Yup, I know that and made sure my ClarisWorks spreadsheet could handle this properly back then. But apparently the banks computer can’t. You know, the interest rate changes in the middle of the year, the lady tried to explain to me. I knew…

So off to the other bank, who just had a special offer with more interest anyway. Usually I don’t like to give them money because they’re bastards (the guys who just made billions of profits and decided to fire a few thousand staff as a consequence because it’s still not enough… well, jobless bankers, who cares?) but hey… more interest! Once more I was told that I’d need to make an appointment for this. But I could convince the lady to find one for me within ten minutes.

While usually not too competent, their staff is at least well-trained to be friendly. She even tried a little chit-chat about work and stuff before starting the work. And their training seems good enough to handle the statement that you’re a mathematician graciously (i.e. without answering well, I could never do maths). But at the end, everything was done quickly, so I wont complain too much. Except about having been offered another credit card, perhaps.

February 8, 2005, 19:49

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