The Price of Financial Laziness: $3340

No, this is not a post about the stock market. This is about my old checking account with the Royal Bank of Scotland from back when I lived there. I refuse to close it because it was surprisingly hard to qualify for one – not because I was foreign, but because you need to have a permanent job, and the Scots only ever liked me on a temporary basis. For 8 years. I did a “back door” arrangement with my ex-husband (no, not THAT back door!!!), whereby we opened an extra joint account just before we split up and then took each other’s name off one. What can I say, it was an extremely amicable split and we planned it months in advance because neither of us could bear to waste our already-purchased tickets to the US for Christmas.

But I digress (something I do way too often, I know). About 6 years ago, I cashed in some Premium Bonds because I had no way of depositing my winnings. That was super-difficult to do remotely because the US government classifies them as a lottery, and it’s a federal crime to discuss anything but cashing them in through the US Postal Service. For those who don’t know what Premium Bonds are, you buy the bonds at face value and they never lose that value. The interest is pooled and then given out as prizes from 50 pounds to 1 million pounds every month. I always made at least what I would have in interest. Anyway, I had a few thousand worth, and the nice man at the Premium Bonds office kindly deposited them directly into my checking account. And there the money has sat ever since, earning 20 pence interest a month.

My attempts to register for online banking failed because the material they sent through the mail always time-expired before I got it. Then the rules for registering changed and I just needed a current ATM card, which I accidentally cut up and threw away thinking it was my expired one. Three years ago. During those three years, I watched the Pound Sterling shoot up against the dollar, and I got a little excited. But not too excited to wait for my new ATM card to arrive after the old, cut-up one expired. Alas, they didn’t automatically send me one because I hadn’t used any ATM card in over 5 years.

I put off calling them to replace it until last night, and was told to call the branch this morning. With the 5-hour time difference, I had to do this before noon, which is usually 3 hours before I even think of dealing with these things (hence the many years that have passed). I ordered the new card and moved 85% of my balance to a savings account – something I should have done 6 years ago, SHAME ON ME.

The true cost of my laziness is astonishing, people. Here’s what it cost me…

  • 6 years of interest on 3600 pounds…let’s say a modest 3%, and for simplicity’s sake, I’ll round up rather than calculate compounding…minus 25% tax automatically withheld that would be extremely difficult to reclaim even if I still lived in the UK…holy sh*t, batman, that’s 500 POUNDS!!! My heart is breaking here.
  • Not moving the money to the US 6-12 months ago when I really wanted to because the exchange rate was 2-to-1…and is now 1.60 to 1…that’s 20% less hard currency. So my 3600 quid is worth $5760 instead of $7200. That’s $1440 I missed out on. Oh, just twist that knife
  • And then there’s my landline phone, which I’ve had for 5 years. I decided 3 years ago that it wasn’t worth keeping just for calling my cell phone when I misplaced it, and would cancel it as soon as I sorted out my British money. That’s $25 x 36 months = $900.

The total cost of my laziness – and that’s what it is, sheer laziness – is a whopping $3340. By the way, that’s the first time I’ve actually performed this forensic exercise, and I’m feeling ill. That’s what my entire trip to Africa will cost next year, and I could have had it in the bank. It’s small compensation to know that I’ve staunched the bleeding and will be saving $25/month after I cancel my landline next month, and grossing $10/month interest in another country.


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