Minutes, Mail, and Money

A Message from Kimberly Clouse, Financial Expert:

kim_clouse I have worked in the financial services industry for nearly a decade in many capacities, most recently as a financial adviser for individuals. Over the course of my career, I have had the privilege of working with a diverse range of people, from the single mother just starting her own business to the dot.com billionaire. Based upon my experiences, I have learned that the same basic principles and lessons apply to a successful and healthy financial life, whether you’re starting out or cashing out. These guiding principles include simplicity, a long-term perspective, and above all, knowing that you have control of your financial destiny, and all the information you need is well within your reach.


Minutes, Mail, and Money

Does this sound familiar? “I know I should spend time investing and working on my personal finances, but I just can’t seem to fit it in.” Most people I know want to be more financially educated but are “road blocked” by a perceived lack of time. One solution is to reduce the clutter in your life–starting with junk mail–and spend those extra minutes reading the financial pages, browsing finance-related Web sites, or participating in an investment club.

According to the Consumer Research Institute, the average American spends eight months of his or her life sorting through unwanted junk mail; over 40% of all junk mail is thrown in the trash, unopened and unread; and junk mail creates 4 million tons of unnecessary waste every year. When you use your credit card, order from catalogues, subscribe to magazines, etc., your name is added to databases from which lists are generated. These lists are then rented and sold to direct marketers who want to pitch their products and services to the people on those lists.*

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reclaim control of your mailbox (and the commercial use of your name):

Stop the Junk Mail Kit: The Consumer Research Institute offers the “Stop the Junk Mail Kit” which uses a series of pre-addressed postcard mailers directed to America’s largest mailing list and financial list companies. The companies targeted by the kit are the primary purveyors of compiled name lists to direct mailers. For just $12.95 fee and a few moments of your time, the Institute promises to remove your name from mailing lists; stop companies from renting or selling your name; halt credit bureaus from selling your personal financial information; and put an end to random “Occupant” or “Resident” mailings that clog your mailbox.

If you prefer to remove your name from lists yourself, consider the three organizations listed below. Their services might overlap a bit, but in my opinion, there’s no harm in launching a comprehensive attack on junk mail:

  • Mail Preference Service: The Mail Preference Service (MPS) is a free consumer service sponsored by The Direct Marketing Association, the oldest and largest national trade association serving the direct marketing field. You may register with the DMA’s name removal file by mailing your name(s), home address, and signature to:

    Mail Preference Service
    Direct Marketing Association
    P.O. Box 9008
    Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008

    When you register with MPS, your name is placed on a “delete” file that is made available to companies four times a year–January, April, July, and October. Registrants typically notice a decrease in the amount of advertising mail approximately three months after their names are entered into the file.

  • Telephone Preference Service: Through the Direct Marketing Association, you can also remove your name from telemarketing lists. The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is a free “do-not-call” service to assist consumers in decreasing the number of national commercial calls received at home. You may register with this do-not-call file by sending your name(s), home address, home telephone number (including area code), and signature to:

    Telephone Preference Service
    Direct Marketing Association
    P.O. Box 9014
    Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014

  • Opt-Out Request Line: To offer pre-approved credit, many credit card companies and lenders utilize the databases of the three national Credit Reporting Agencies–Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. If you’d like your name removed from their lists, call the Opt-Out Request Line at 1-888-5 OPT OUT (1-888-567-8688). An automated attendant will ask for your personal identifying information, including your Social Security number, and will remove your name from these lists for two years. If you wish your name to be permanently deleted (a choice that is reversible, should you choose), you can leave your information, and a form will be mailed to you for this purpose.

Although most of these services can take as long as 3-4 months to take effect, the benefit is well worth the wait. Just think of how much more time you’ll have to spend on more productive activities!

*For more information on how mailing lists are compiled, send a stamped, self-addressed #10 size envelope for a copy of the consumer booklet Opening The Door To Opportunity to:

Consumer Services–Opening the Door
Direct Marketing Association
1111 19th Street, NW–Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20036

This column is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information on the subject of personal finances. It is provided with the understanding that the Author is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services by publishing this column. As each individual situation is unique, questions relevant to personal finances and specific to the individual should be addressed to an appropriate professional to ensure that the situation has been evaluated carefully and appropriately. The Author specifically disclaims any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this work.