What is Investopedia’s DEFINITION of ‘Fine Print’


Change………. In Your Face

By Queen Sandi

Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.” – Pete Seeger

The DEFINITION of ‘Fine Print’ according to Investopedia:
“Contract terms and conditions, disclosures or other important information that are not included in the main body of a document, but in footnotes or a supplemental document. Reading and understanding the fine print is essential when entering into an agreement. It often contains information that the issuer does not want to call to the recipient’s attention, but that is essential for the recipient to know”.

In the financial services business for 25 years focusing on Insurance, Savings Investments, I have dealt with business owners, CEOs, senior management and those just starting out in their careers. Over the years clients/prospects facing financial trouble have shown me signed documents related to issue/s. I am amazed at their naivety!

You and your money deserve respect and proper protection. The onus is on you! Penalties, early surrender, loss, possible legal implications and actions all result from not doing the obvious …….Read Understand then Commit.

Calling up and complaining that the terms and conditions were not explained to you or that you were hoodwinked into signing on the dotted line, without being made aware of any risks or liability is useless if you have already signed the document/s. It is deemed that you were cognizant of the rights and obligations upon signing. Most agreements state that by signing on the dotted line each party understands and most importantly agrees to all the terms and conditions

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” ― Daniel J. Boorstin

Let’s face it, we are educated, qualified and experienced people who run businesses, we do a great job of protecting the rights of our employer etc. however, when it comes to our personal financial matters rights obligations we seldom apply the same basic due diligence! This begs the question: Are you not important to you? Isn’t your financial welfare important to you? Your signing on the dotted line has a direct impact on the welfare of your dependents

A ‘simple’ document, is just as dangerous as a ‘sheaf’ of documents that require your signature. It is your right to ask for an explanation and your responsibility to understand your rights and obligations before signing. Under the law, ignorance is not a defense for breach of a contract.

Some of the information in the fine print may be required by law or may be recommended by a company’s legal department in the form or a disclaimer or indemnification. These are designed to protect the company.

The classic example of fine print (where you really need super eye sight or a magnifying glass to read this) is a credit card agreement which usually includes: the card’s introductory APR, the APR after the introductory period ends, the length of the introductory period, the APR for balance transfers and cash advances, the card’s annual fee, its late payment fee and other crucial details and penalties.

I’m not even going into more complex transactions like an investor reading a public company’s financial report, they should be reading the fine print to learn about the company’s accounting methods, long-term debt, employee stock ownership, pending litigation and other issues just to name a few.

As a start, YOU as the client/partner/employee/contractor etc. must READ and then ask how the financial product and services works! Same goes for a Power of Attorney, Guarantor, Account opening, Credit card application, in short ANYTHING that requires your signature This information must be provided in layman terms and in plain English/Arabic which explains the financial implications and possible risks and further assistance in helping you in understanding must be made available to you.
These terms and conditions should be written in plain language with the use of legal or technical language, only where necessary. The written terms and conditions must clearly state your rights and obligations in relation to the product or service selected. Read and understand the terms, conditions, and details of the product or service, and request full explanations to be sure that you have understood them and can fulfill them, before you sign

Be aware that financial institutions reserve the right to change the terms and conditions, where applicable and inform customers accordingly. This is generally done by sending you a notification by mail which many times ends up unopened in your waste paper.

Sales and Marketing Literature vs Terms and Conditions:

How many of us notice/ignore the small asterisk and print in italics “*T&C apply”. These are an integral supplement to the terms and conditions and must be read carefully because any variation, indemnification, disclosure and disclaimer can be mentioned.

You have rights

It is your right to obtain from the concerned representative a clear and simplified explanation about any product or service and their respective risk along with a professional and clear answer to any question concerning any clause or conditions that is unclear.

You have the right to request the use of the Arabic language in any document if your first language is not English. If the document is in Arabic please request a qualified English translation.

You have the right to read and obtain, in advance, a copy of each document and text referred to in any contract to be signed with the institution/company, such as appendices or schedules that outline additional or supplemental information which is integral to the whole agreement.

You have the right to obtain and, you must retain a copy of any contract or document signed by you with the provider, without any additional cost.

You have the right to ask for the actual cost of any product or service and understand the penalties and implications if any payments or contributions are not met on schedule.

When you are committing to buy, lease or invest in any product or service please ensure this is keeping with your risk profile and appetite, and long-term financial affordability and that you have a clear understanding of the inherent financial risks associated with the product or service.

If you are facing financial difficulties that prevent you from meeting your obligations or paying your installments on schedule it is important to inform the concerned companies determine the best alternatives or reschedule to facilitate continuity.

DO NOT sign a blank or incomplete form and ensure that all the required fields and figures in the form are correct and complete before signing it.

DO NOT provide any other party, under any circumstances, with any detail about your Bank account or any other critical banking or personal information.

DO NOT sign forms even if they are given to you by family members. These could land you in big trouble if without your knowing you may become the guarantor of a loan!!

Be extremely careful when granting a proxy (Power of attorney) to a third party to conduct any financial transactions on your behalf, by clearly determining the powers delegated under this proxy to act with your consent.

It is my strong recommendation that BEFORE you sign you should, where necessary seek independent legal advice with regard to clarifying the terms and conditions prior to committing. PSST the Internet is Not a LAWYER and neither is an Accountant.

The moral of the story: Make informed decisions about your money and protect your rights

Legal advice provided by Echelon Advisors.

Multiple International awardee for Women Empowerment, Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Sandi Saksena is a Queen, Femtor, Facilitator, Negotiator and personal finance influencer.  A well - known personality in the media for her contributions on personal financial matters and leadership she is regularly featured in various international publications and international platforms as a speaker/host/moderator.

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