Thursday, April 5, 2007

Search and Ye Shall Receive: Credit Card Jail, Inflated Salaries, and AP Exams for the Lazy

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , ,

It’s time for a triple dose of Search and Ye Shall Receive. Here are some questions people have recently asked search engines that brought them to Punny Money.

And don’t worry, these are genuine answers, unlike my answers to a certain other set of questions.

Jail for Credit Card Debt?

hamster debtor in jail

Will I go to jail if I don’t pay my credit cards? (via Google)

I feel it necessary to reiterate that I am not an attorney, so this is not legal advice. The answer to your question is probably not, assuming you’re in the United States. Now most people would tell you “definitely not if you in the United States” since the U.S. no longer has debtor’s prison. That said, credit card debt can still land you in jail if you misrepresented yourself in any way to the credit card company. For example, if you claimed that you make $100,000 when you really make $15,000 a year in order to get a larger credit line, and then you proceeded to max out that credit line and can’t pay it back, you better hope the credit card company doesn’t find out because lying on a credit card application is a criminal offense.

If you don’t pay your debts and they’re sent to a collections company, you may be threatened with jail by heavy-handed collection agents. These intimidation tactics are illegal. You won’t go to jail simply for having an unpaid debt.

Now for the scary part. Even though there is no debtor’s jail in the U.S. anymore, you can still go to jail for certain unpaid debts, most notably child support and alimony. Thanks to the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984, you can send your state’s attorney after a deadbeat spouse to garnish wages and tax returns, seize property, and suspend licenses. If these efforts don’t squeeze some cash from your ex, he or she can be found in contempt of court and thrown in jail for failure to pay child support and alimony.

Photo by SantaRosa OLD SKOOL

Pay Keeping Pace With Inflation?

picture of a pound, because it is british

Is my salary keeping up with inflation? (via Google UK)

We recently talked about income vs. inflation for the U.S. in a reader poll showing that less than half of people expect their 2007 incomes to keep up with 2006 inflation (4% for the U.S.).

Now since this search came from the United Kingdom version of Google, it might be more helpful to know the British inflation rate. Over there, the chief measure of inflation is the Consumer Price Index (CPI). As of March 2007, the annual CPI was 2.8%.

So if your British employer didn’t bump up your 2007 pay by a good 3% or so, and you’re not finding other ways to make some extra pounds, you might want to get shirty with your twat of a gaffer and throw a right jolly good wobbler at him so he can see how narked you are.

AP Exams Without Class?

take the class and avoid the evil red pen

Can you take an AP exam without taking an AP class? (via Google)

Advanced Placement (AP) exams are one of the best ways to get through college cheap. For just $83 (the cost of an AP exam as of 2007), you can test out of an entire college class (sometimes more than one!).

The short answer to this question is yes. There is no requirement that you take a course labeled as “Advanced Placement” before taking an Advanced Placement exam. The longer answer is I don’t recommend it, and here’s why:

  • AP classes can be much more challenging than regular or even honors classes. That extra challenge and the additional content you cover in the AP version of a class can mean the difference between a marginal and an excellent score on the exam.
  • AP exams have unique formats. Don’t think you can walk in from the street and ace the AP U.S. History exam just because you know your American Revolution. Certain AP exams have question formats you won’t see anywhere else like the dreaded Document-Based Questions (DBQs).
  • AP classes teach you how to do well on AP exams. I have seen AP classes that teach exactly the same material as their Honors or Gifted and Talented counterparts with one very important addition–AP exam skills. In my AP U.S. History class alone, we spent no less than four weeks of class practicing DBQs. You won’t get this kind of practice in non-AP classes unless you do it on your own… and kids don’t do schoolwork on their own.
  • Your teacher might not appreciate it. If you wanted to take the AP exam, you should have taken the AP class. That’s what the AP class teacher will likely tell you when you ask to take the AP exam with his or her students. The AP class teachers will look down on the fact that you didn’t challenge yourself throughout the year by doing the AP coursework, and they may be more reluctant to help you prepare for the AP exam now.

So if you’re a home-schooled student or carrying an A+++ in your regular classes, AP exams are still an option for you. Heck, they’re even an option for the dumb students too if they don’t mind wasting 83 bucks (but they’re probably bad at math and won’t notice the money is gone anyway).

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