OK, maybe you can absolutely trust your mom when it comes to matters of the wallet. And, of course, the Fool. But anyone not related to you -- and even some family members -- merits a double-check when it comes to finances. In the past month, it seems as though people are lining up to teach me this lesson.
The best part of quitting a job -- aside from leaving behind the crazy boss who calls you at 11 p.m. on a Friday to ask you to resend a file she accidentally deleted -- is the chunk of cash you get for your unused leave. I'm not a big vacation guy (I go straight from pale to pink), so these tend to be especially lucrative payouts for me.
I recently quit a job to come to the Fool, and I had more than 100 hours of vacation time accrued. I've been eagerly awaiting the new bulge in my checking account so I could follow some of Tom Gardner's Hidden Gems advice. After a few emptily reassuring phone conversations with my old employer's accounting department, we finally figured out that someone there had accidentally zeroed out my vacation balance. Oops. Perhaps it was a simple computer error -- maybe it has nothing to do with the fact that the organization has a $25 million deficit for the year and is frantically cutting costs -- but I assure you no one there would have remedied the situation without some serious prodding.
On a recent statement, my bank told me that I had withdrawn $120 in cash from the money machine. No, I hadn't. I never take out $120. Who takes out $120? Besides, I record everything in my checkbook very carefully. I'm neurotic.
So I called the bank, which offered to investigate... for a possible fee. If the bank investigator went through the effort and found I was wrong, it would be an additional $20 fee. So I was betting $20 for a chance to get back the $20 I had been overcharged in the first place. It was a bet I was willing to take. As I said, I'm neurotic.
Turns out that particular ATM came out $20 over for the day in question, and I got the mistaken money credited back to my account. No, the bank didn't give me an additional $20 for its error, although I got a lovely, heartfelt written apology from some middle manager at the bank. Again, it worked out in my favor, but no one at the bank would have noticed the disparity and worked tirelessly to atone if I didn't make the call.
You can't force yourself to be neurotic -- I was born this way. But you can, and really should, check every bill, every pay stub, every bank statement for possible errors. Because mistakes happen, money is inadvertently taken from you, and no one else is going to protect you and work to get it back... not even your mom.
Roger Friedman is a Motley Fool senior editor. He trusts no one, which makes him a delight to work with. He's switching banks, and he's still waiting for the money from his past employer, which he really will invest in Hidden Gems.Feel free to send your similar stories of woe to him.