19Jan 2017

As a company, FaithWorks Financial tends to keep the focus on helping people resolve their credit card debts and get back on track to live a debt-free life. Only a small portion of our writings cover the topic of the credit report, mostly touching on the basics that are helpful for everyone to know.

Today however, we would like to take a look at why we believe that our credit reporting system is, in it’s inherent nature, flawed.

The FICO credit reporting system is the primary resource used by lenders to determine an individual’s credit worthiness. This system is what was historically used by “the big three” Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. In recent years, however, other systems such as Vantage 3.0 are very gaining in popularity. What this means is that you may have a different score even from the same credit bureau, depending on the system used to procure your score.

As FICO is the more traditional of credit scoring systems, we’ll share a very helpful image from myfico.com that will help you to understand what your FICO credit score consists of.
Credit Score Breakdown

As you can see, 35% of your credit score is based on your payment history, 30% is based on the amounts that you owe, 15% is based on the length of credit history, 10% on new credit, and 10% on the types of credit that you use.

The one thing that every single one of these sections have in common is that they are based on your use of credit. That means that 100% of your credit score is determined by how you use the debt that is made available to you.

This is similar across all reporting systems, so the mechanics remain the same from one system to the next.

Forced To Make Poor Financial Decisions

Thinking back to when I was a young 18-year-old man with very limited understanding of how the credit system worked, I found it very difficult for myself to obtain a credit card. Did I need a credit card? Well, probably not. But it just seemed like a very important thing for me to do, a rite of passage, if you will. Truth be told, this was likely due to the wonderful job the banks did with their marketing campaigns.

Knowing now what lenders are looking at before they decide whether or not to issue a line of credit, I very much understand why it was so difficult for me to obtain a credit card at that point in my life… I had not yet established myself as being a credit worthy individual.

I was not yet in debt, so how could I be trusted to be in debt?

So, this experience taught me that in order to be considered eligible for a line of credit you first must find yourself in debt. That’s a conundrum right there.

My inability to get a credit card led to the eventual necessary purchase of a vehicle with a 24.99% interest rate from a buy-here pay-here auto dealer. That loan led to my being approved for my first credit card – an HSBC account with a $300 credit limit and a 29.9% interest rate. The two powers combined allowed me to begin establishing my credibility as a consumer.

Used Car SalesmanI mention that brief story because I could not be eligible for credit without first putting myself into debt by means of that incredibly high interest auto loan.

Had I not been blessed with a fair paying job at the right time, I would likely have found myself upside down on that auto loan which could have lead to a disastrous credit report before even having the chance to get my financial life started properly.

The truth is, most young adults find themselves in the same or similar situations. We have to make a poor financial decision in order to build our credit. Or, worse yet, a person without established would have to expect someone else to make a poor financial decision by cosigning for them.

In some instances parents help their children begin to establish credit at a young age, which may benefit their credit scores, but only at the high risk of jeopardizing the parents’ scores to begin with. Otherwise, the process of obtaining your first line of credit will often come from an experience such as mine or possibly from student loan debt that ultimately costs more than your degree is worth.

If the credit reporting system had taken a look at my timely payment history on my cell phone, utility bills, rent, and other obligations, it may have been clear that I had a good track record with my financial obligations. But our credit reporting systems are driven by putting individuals into debt.

It demands that you make high risk (and ultimately poor) decisions in order to be considered eligible for a reasonable loan in the future. Add in the recent news that some of the bureaus are themselves violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and we see that the entire credit reporting system is inherently flawed.

In working with our clients, we have found that for the young individuals that come to us for help, that initial loan is very often what puts individuals into a downward spiral with their personal finances to begin with.

Promoting The Cycle Of Debt

Even individuals who are incredibly diligent about maintaining a stellar credit history, working towards the ultimate goal of paying off their credit cards, their auto loan, and eventually even their mortgage, can be penalized as a result of this flawed system.

An individual who brings themselves to a phenomenal 850 credit score rating by means of “proper”credit card use and timely payments on installment loan such as their car and mortgage, can have their credit score quickly dwindle upon paying off their debts.

Anybody who reaches the goal of what should be the American dream- a debt-free life, having finally paid off their mortgage and the car- will eventually find themselves with a credit score lower than if they were up to the hilt in debt.

A Wide Reach, A Wider Impact

Aside from this very clear and obvious flaw in the credit reporting system, it has become very evident that the system is not even capable of furnishing accurate information about the individuals it is reporting on. According to a February 2013 press release (there do not seem to be any updates to this study), the Federal Trade Commission reported that 5% of consumers identified errors on their credit reports that would negatively affect their credit scores. This may not be a huge percentage, but a report by Business Insider dives much deeper on just what those numbers mean.

There is no way to say just how much the inaccurate information contained in credit reports has cost Americans in higher interest or denied loans, but certainly the number would be staggering to learn. And frankly, even if it weren’t staggering, it is simply unacceptable.

I look at credit reports on a near daily basis, and I can sometimes even spot the inaccuracies without even knowing anything about the individuals circumstances. Inaccuracies in name spellings and addresses are a dime a dozen and are generally blatantly incorrect. Seemingly small errors such as an incorrect name can lead to much bigger issues such as when a woman adopted the identity of the person she purchased a home from! These instances are examples of the lack of oversight of such an important matter.

In fact, I’ve seen enough errors on reports that it was the sole reason my wife and I didn’t name our first born son after me, as I know it is very common for Jr’s and Sr’s to get their credit reports commingled.

Considering the fact that this reporting system is the very basis for the vast majority of lending decisions, it is simply frightening that it is acceptable for it not to be working 100% seamlessly. If a company is going to undertake the responsibility of providing information on credit histories to lenders, the should be checks and balances in place to ensure that the information provided is factual.

Who Will Guard The Guards?

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”- a beautiful and unsuspectingly deep latin phrase translating to “Who will guard the guards?”

The FTC, Congress, and the consumer financial protection Bureau all have this very important matter on their radar. As individuals forced into this system, we too need to take action by ensuring that our reports are accurate and disptuting inaccurate remarks. If you need help with your credit report, let us know.

Even better, let’s contact our state representatives and lawmakers to urge them to find a way to make a difference to overhaul this flawed system.

05Jan 2015
credit cards

The poor are always ruled over by the rich, so don’t borrow and put yourself under their power. –Proverbs 22:7 (The Message)

If you’re currently in debt (or ever have been), there’s a good chance you’ve daydreamed about the day you can declare yourself debt free. I know I have. In fact, dreaming about your financial future can be a good thing.

What comes to mind when you think about they day you’ll finally kiss your last debt goodbye? Maybe it’s a long-awaited family vacation, a celebratory dinner or a big contribution to your savings account.

Been There, Done That

Whatever your plans for life after debt, there’s probably one thing that isn’t on your radar: racking up more debt.

Been there, done that, not going back…right?

I sure hope that’s the case for you. Unfortunately, too many families triumphantly conquer their consumer debt only to go right back in the red as soon as their eyes are bigger than their paychecks.

Just this Once

I’ve seen it happen. One minute, you’re celebrating someone’s debt-free accomplishment. A few months (or years) later, they fall into temptation and purchase something—just this one time, they say—with credit.

Sometimes, the bigger the original debt payoff, the easier it is to fall for the lie that a little bit of debt won’t hurt. A family that obliterates $40,000 of consumer debt, for example, may be accustomed to forking over close to $1,000 a month in debt payments. Compared to that, a $300 car payment seems like nothing!

It’s still debt, regardless of whether it comes in a small package or a big one. And it’s scary how slippery the slope really is—how quickly one debt payment can turn into two or three. Before they know it, the same family that spent so much time, money and energy to eliminate their consumer debt can find themselves $40,000 in the hole all over again.

I can think of at least three ways to prevent that kind of demoralizing debt relapse.

Anticipate Potential Pitfalls

You know who’s most likely to fall back into debt? The person who thinks it can never happen to her. It can happen. So let go of the pride and recognize future problems before they catch you off guard. Then, talk them over with your spouse or your financial accountability partner in order to stop temptation in its tracks.

Pray for Help

God doesn’t want you to be a slave to debt; otherwise, He wouldn’t have been so careful to make sure financial wisdom was mentioned so frequently throughout the Bible. Ask Him to help you defeat temptation. He promises to always provide a way out.

Stay Disciplined

This step trips up countless people who have conquered bad habits in the past. Whether we’re talking about dropping debt, losing weight or kicking a smoking habit, it’s so easy to fall for the lie that just one credit card purchase, one bowl of ice cream, or one cigarette won’t be a big deal. It is a big deal. So keep up the same attitude and discipline you had when you were still in debt. Otherwise, you can end up right back where you started.

It’s fun to talk about those awesome David and Goliath stories where families defeat huge piles of debt against all odds. It’s not as much fun to talk about the idea of a debt relapse, but it does happen. The good news is, that doesn’t have to be your story. By anticipating issues, praying for help and staying disciplined, you can experience lasting financial freedom long after that last debt is paid off.

31Dec 2014
new year

I’ve noticed something unusual while scrolling through my social media feeds over the last week. A lot of people are very eager to kiss 2014 goodbye.

How about you? Maybe you actually had a fantastic year. Or maybe it was a struggle.

For my family, 2014 brought a lot of blessings. It also brought a lot of injuries, followed by a lot of medical bills. Thanks to our emergency fund, my husband and I were able to make it through the year without acquiring any more debt, but we didn’t reach our goal of paying off our final student loan by the end of the year.

If, like us and so many others, you hit some bumps in the road in 2014, I just want to remind you that it’s OK.

Jesus told us that in this world, we will have trouble (John 16:33). Thankfully, trouble isn’t the end of the story. Jesus went on to say that we can take heart, because He has overcome the world.

It’s good to look back on the past 12 months and reflect on what went right and what could have gone better. Just don’t get so caught up in the speed bumps, potholes or even crashes of 2014 that you forget to look up at the road ahead.

Now is a great time to set new goals for 2015. You may make a New Year’s Resolution, or perhaps you’ll try the Un-Resolution route. In any case, let these words from Isaiah 43 sink into your soul as you look ahead to a fresh start. Happy New Year!

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”

–Isaiah 43, 18-19 (NIV)

29Dec 2014
donation box

It’s that time of year when it seems everyone and their mother is asking for donations.

After reading this blog post about giving, I started examining my own household’s giving practices. I had to admit we don’t always give our first and best—and we don’t always give with the right motives, either.

The Bible makes it clear that it’s not just what, but how we give that matters. With that in mind, here are four giving guidelines I’m trying to put into practice. Hopefully they’ll give you something to think about, too.

Give your best, not your leftovers

(See Proverbs 3:9) I’m sad to say I’ve been guilty of donating food and clothing that I would not have wanted to use in my own home. Have you ever noticed the abundance of cheap, less-than-delicious-or-nutritious foods filling the shelves at food banks? I want to be intentional about donating healthy food that’s enjoyable to eat. Food I would put on my own table. The same goes for clothing. No more tossing stained shirts or smelly old shoes into the Donate box. We can do better. If you don’t have much to give, that’s OK. If you’re holding back out of greed, laziness or a false sense of superiority, it’s time to take a look at your heart.

Give quietly

(See Matthew 6:1-4) We’re called to give because it’s the right thing to do, not because we want to be recognized. Some people make a show out of giving in order to look like a big deal and feel good about themselves. Others just want to fit in or make sure people know they’re doing their part. Either way, we’ve got to keep our motives in check. Giving should be about God, not about our Facebook friends, family members or fellow churchgoers. That doesn’t mean we can’t tell our friends about fundraising efforts or cool opportunities to give. But we should be sharing for right right reasons.

Pray for the recipients

(See 1 Timothy 2:1). I love auto pay. I love it for utility bills, I love it for tithing, and I love it for monthly gifts like Compassion sponsorships. But the main benefit of auto pay and its potential pitfall is one and the same: you don’t have to think about it. That’s great for never missing a payment. Not so great for remembering to pray for the people who are handling, distributing and receiving your gift. Just imagine what could happen if every believer not only gave generously but also spent just one minute praying about every gift they gave? I think it would rock this world in the best way possible.

Make the Christmas spirit last all year.

(See Proverbs 3:27) There’s a reason those Salvation Army kettles come out at Christmastime and not in the middle of March. Studies have shown we’re more generous around the holidays. Plus, we’ve got our minds on potential tax write-offs. For those reasons and more, some nonprofits rely exclusively on end-of-year donations to keep their organizations up and running. The thing is, people don’t just need help from Black Friday to New Year’s Eve. The need for food, clothing, shelter, clean water and most of all, the hope of Christ, exists 365 days a year. So keep on packing that Operation Christmas Child shoebox or selecting a name from the angel tree. Just be sure to give generously during the rest of the year, too.

24Dec 2014
cross on Christmas tree

If there’s ever a time to take a break from number crunching, it’s Christmas.

We’re happy to report that the numbers below have absolutely nothing to do with budgets, shopping lists, mall visits or credit card bills, but everything to do with the real reason Christmas is worth celebrating.

300+

There were more than 300 ancient prophecies written about the Jewish Messiah, as recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible or the Jewish Torah. Jesus fulfilled many of them when he came to earth more than 2,000 years ago, and He will fulfill the rest when He comes again.

8

Dr. Peter Stoner was a mathematics and science professor who wanted to take a look at the probability of one man fulfilling even a few of the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. So Dr. Stoner picked 8 major prophecies (including the Messiah coming from Bethlehem, being betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver, and being pierced in his hands and feet) and worked to figure out the probability of those events coming true in one man’s life.

1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (or 1 x 1028)

That’s the probability of one man fulfilling the 8 prophecies Dr. Stoner included in his calculations, which were published in the 1950s book, Science Speaks.

1

One man did fulfill all 8 of those ancient prophecies, and many more, and that man is Jesus.

But the most convincing evidence that Jesus is the Messiah isn’t in the numbers—it’s in the powerful, visible life change people experience when they earnestly invite Jesus Christ to be their Savior.

Whether we’re talking about Paul—the biblical persecutor-turned-believer—or that friend who accepted Christ and has never been the same, Jesus has the power to change us from the inside out. Through Him, addictions are obliterated, dying relationships are restored, and hopelessness is replaced with endless hope.

That’s what we celebrate on Christmas Day and every day. Jesus, the Messiah—the perfect fulfillment of ancient prophecy, and the answer to our deepest longings.

Merry Christmas.

22Dec 2014
giving

When I glanced at my bank account balance the other day, I noticed several monthly gifts and offerings had been deducted as usual.

No big deal. I began to move down my to-do list like any other day, but something stopped me.

For the first time in a while, I actually thought about where the money was going. And then I wondered why it rarely occurred to me to pray about it.

Somewhere along the line, between the ease of auto pay and the rush of everyday life, I had become robotic in my giving. Sure, I was doing my part financially to stand up for what I believe in. But an atheist can do that, too.

What Sets Us Apart?

While we’re giving generously to causes close to God’s heart—taking care of the poor, widowed and orphaned and spreading the hope of Christ—people who reject faith are also giving generously. But too often, they’re giving to causes that break God’s heart.

So how can we stand out? By out-giving everyone else? No, I think it’s going to take more than money to capture the attention of this broken world with the love of Jesus.

Of course we need to give—not just our leftover morsels but our first and best. But we also need to harness the power of prayer, remembering that it’s God, not us, who makes every gift effective.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 instructs us to “pray without ceasing.” Let’s keep that in mind even as we view our bank balances or drop a check into the offering plate.

1 Timothy 2:1 tells us to pray for all people. “Ask God to help them,” it says. “Intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” Let’s make sure we’re not just praying for our own families, but for the families God connects us with through our giving.

Checks, Cash and Prayers

When we buy a backpack for a school supplies drive, let’s pray for the student who will receive it. When we sponsor a child close to home or on the other side of the world, let’s make a daily commitment to pray for her. And when we see our tithe deducted from our bank account, let’s pray for our church, our pastor, and the people who will benefit from the gift we’ve given.

Anyone can donate to a good cause. What distinguishes the gift of a Christian from that of a Buddhist, Muslim or atheist? Jesus. And the all-surpassing power He has to hear and answer our prayers.

Our God is alive. He’s still acting on behalf of His people. And He’s able to bless and amplify our gifts—however large or small—to advance His Kingdom. Now that’s something to be excited about.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” –John 14:12-14 (NLT)

17Dec 2014
bike rental

When you see the word “rent,” what comes to mind? I’ve always associated renting with apartments, cars and maybe a tuxedo.

These days, you can rent a lot more than that. The sharing economy is alive and well, and there are endless ways to get access to things you need or want, without having to fork over a ton of money.

In fact, peer-to-peer sharing companies like Lyft and Airbnb are giving traditional taxicabs and hotels a run for their money by creating an ever-growing niche in the travel and tourism business.

I don’t know about you, but there are certain things I’ve become so accustomed to buying brand new, the idea of renting the same thing for a much cheaper price doesn’t even cross my mind.

It’s a Rental!

Some of my fellow women can probably relate to having a closetful of dresses that only see the light of day once or twice a year. I was picking through my collection the other day, unsatisfied with my options for an upcoming wedding, when I asked a friend what she was planning to wear. She sent me a photo of a beautiful, trendy cocktail dress. “It’s a rental!” she said.

I felt a little silly that the same idea had never occurred to me. I mean, why spend the extra time and money shopping for another dress I’ll only wear once a year, when I can borrow one for a fraction of the cost?

With companies like Rent the Runway and Bag Borrow or Steal, you can have like-new dresses, handbags and jewelry shipped to your door. Once you wear them, you just send them back in a prepaid envelope. No dry cleaning necessary, and no closet space lost.

Tools, Bikes and More

Don’t worry, men, I haven’t forgotten about you. You probably know you can rent your own formalwear, but have you ever rented more fun stuff…say, power tools or mountain bikes?

I know my husband can’t stand the idea of buying an expensive new tool for a home improvement project that we’re only doing once. With rental services available through multiple home improvement stores, you can borrow anything from ladders to power washers. No need to waste precious cash or storage space on items you’re only using for a few days.

For a less corporate feel, there are plenty of neighborhood-focused peer-to-peer sharing sites to choose from, depending on where you live. Or you could borrow those tools the old fashioned way…by actually knocking on your neighbor’s door.

As for the mountain bikes, check out Spinlister, a sharing company that connects renters to bikes and other sports equipment. It’s a great fit if you’re an occasional biker who wants to save some money—or if you just want to try before you buy.

We may live in a culture that’s all about owning the shiniest new toys, but Americans are starting to wake up and smell the savings. More and more people are renting instead of buying, and while it isn’t the most economical choice in every situation, it’s often a great, inexpensive option. So expand your rental horizons and see how much cash you can save.

15Dec 2014
tired pup

Sometimes true freedom looks a whole lot like discipline, patience and self-control.

It sounds counterintuitive, but just ask any teenager who wants the freedom to spend time with her friends, borrow the car or stay out later than normal. The freedom she’s looking for will be elusive unless she shows her parents she has the discipline and self-control it takes for them to trust her. And she’ll likely need a good deal of patience in the meantime.

Financial freedom is the same way. It takes time and hard work to achieve it, but boy is it worth it.

Season of Spending

It can be hard to stay motivated this time of year. The whole country is in the middle of a spending-palooza, and you’re bombarded with billboards, emails and ads of all kinds, encouraging you to blow your money now and worry about it later.

This is just a friendly reminder to see through the hype and keep your cool in the midst of a crazy season. Let everyone else run around spending money they don’t have. You’re stronger than that, and you can stand up to the pressure as you keep your eye on the prize of financial freedom.

A No-Remorse New Year

So hang in there! When the New Year rolls around and you have no buyer’s remorse, no credit card bills and no regrets, you’ll be glad you stuck it out.

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. (Hebrews 12:11, NLT)

09Dec 2014
my one word

Yesterday we talked about a few New Year’s resolutions that could help you get to financial freedom faster.

If you’re not the New Year’s resolution type—or if you typically find yourself forgetting all about your resolution by the time the Super Bowl rolls around—maybe it’s time for a different approach.

My One Word

A few years ago, I heard about the My One Word concept at Port City Community Church in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Pastor Mike Ashcraft had found New Year’s resolutions to be frustrating, ineffective and ultimately doomed to fail.

As he thought about why, he noticed that most resolutions have something in common: they tend to focus on a negative attribute in need of fixing.

I want to lose weight.

I want to stop yelling at my kids.

I’m going to watch less TV.

See the pattern? When we come up with ways to improve ourselves in the coming year, we tend to zero in on something we don’t like right now instead of envisioning what we hope to become in the future.

Even resolutions framed in a positive light (I want to eat healthier, I’m going to be a more involved parent, etc.) tend to be vague, difficult to stick with and nearly impossible to measure.

The Un-Resolution

That’s where My One Word comes in.

You can explore more about it here, but the basic idea is to ditch the list of resolutions and just pick one word to focus on for the next 12 months.

Many people pick biblical character traits they hope to embody, such as patience, kindness or perseverance. Others go for action words like move, believe or wait.

Adventure, hope, engage and fearless are a few of my words from years past.

When I was single I picked a word by myself; now my husband and I usually pick one together. We like to write it down—or if we can get to a beach, write it in the sand—and take a picture of it. The framed photo reminds us to keep working on our word all year long.

12 Months of Impact

Some would say you pick your word; others believe your word picks you. All I know is God seems to use our words to mold, encourage and challenge us in surprising ways. In fact, it’s not uncommon to choose a word with a particular reason in mind and realize partway through the year that your word has taken on a completely different meaning. Admit it, you don’t get that kind of adventure and intrigue with a standard resolution!

If you decide to try My One Word this year, I’d strongly recommend praying about your word before you make your choice. But don’t overthink it; this is meant to be less stressful than coming up with a New Year’s resolution.

I haven’t chosen my word for next year yet, but as I write this, I’m getting excited about the possibilities.

If you decide to try My One Word in the New Year, I’m excited for you, too. Start thinking and praying about it now and just see how God will work if you commit to sticking with it all year. Change is possible, and adventure awaits.

08Dec 2014
New Year's party favors

One thing I’ve learned about New Year’s Resolutions is they better be specific.

It sounds nice to resolve to “be healthier” or “be more responsible with money,” but ideas that vague are likely to yield vague results…or no results at all.

If you’re the resolution type, make sure your goals are specific and measurable. And write them down. I’ve heard it said that a written plan is the difference between a dream and a goal. So don’t just dream this year—set a goal and achieve it.

Here are a few suggestions for those determined to get on financial track in 2015. Don’t try every one of these. Pick one or two of them and follow through.

I resolve to…

Create a zero-based budget and stick to it

Zero-based just means that every dollar you make has a destination. Whether you’re spending it, saving it or giving it away, you should not have any money just chilling in your checking account. Put all of your money to work so you can meet your goals faster.

Bump up my church giving by at least 1 percent

If the idea of tithing intimidates you, or your finances are still a little shaky, it’s OK. Just start somewhere and refuse to allow your giving to become stagnant.

Pray at least once a week about how to use my God-given gifts

The Bible has a lot to say about how we handle money. It’s well worth a few minutes of prayer to help ensure we’re using it the way God wants.

Not make any major purchase without waiting 30 days

Let this be the year you kick that impulse buying habit. A lot can happen in 30 days. Someone could give you the very thing you thought you needed to buy. It could go on sale. You could have a family emergency and end up very thankful you didn’t buy it right away. Or, as is the case most often in my household, you could realize you just don’t need it after all.

Automate my savings contributions

You probably automate everything else; why not your savings? Choose to stop viewing your savings contributions as optional and instead, treat them like another bill. Schedule a fixed amount to come out of each paycheck before you ever touch it, and watch how quickly your nest egg grows over the next year.

Never use a credit card without paying the balance immediately

The biggest, single step towards becoming debt free is simply not getting into any more debt! If you have a bad credit card habit, now’s the time to kick it to the curb. This may mean cutting up your cards and only using debit for the rest of your life. Or you may find you can handle hanging onto one or two cards and using them properly, which means never, ever carrying a balance. Not even 5 bucks. Not even for a week. It’s a slippery slope, so don’t even go there.

What other specific, measurable financial resolutions can you come up with to make it a truly happy New Year?