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I keep a financial ledger, which is the only way I can manage my money, because I have no head for finances.

I list all accounts, mortgage, insurance, property tax--everything--when they're due, amounts due (so I can budget), APR, credit limit, the works. Also I note in the margin which accounts are tied to automatic payments and the amounts.

For instance, Amazon is paid out of my Discover card, so I know when I click to pay for a book where it's going to be charged.

Yesterday I reviewed the APRs on the accounts. Even though none of them have outstanding balances, I like to keep my eye on such things. I was horrified to learn that while the Prime Rate is 3.25%, credit cards are charging 16-18% APR for regular purchases (and I have good credit!), up to 23% if you've missed or been late on a payment.

Isn't that usury? How can they justify such high rates? The reason I use the Discover card is that the APR is "only" 9.88%, the best I could find. But I pay it off before interest applies, so it's OK.

The other cards I have checked out have "come on" rates lower than that, but then there are sneaky fees and penalties which jack the actual rate up much higher. Activation fees, early pay penalty, etc. No thanks.

I'm very grateful that I was able to pay off my debts before retiring (except for mortgage). People who still owe on credit cards are on an endless treadmill, and the banks like it that way. Profits, profits, if not one way, then another.

With the Penn State abuse scandal, heads have rolled all the way up to the university president. With the Wall Street scandal, heads have been rewarded with bail-outs and bonuses.

It's hard not to be cynical.

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