30 Aug

United First Financial’s New Math (It’s Still Not Worth $3,500.)

Guest post by Craig Hansen

The fine folks at United First Financial (UFF) have come out with a new version of their Money Merge Account (MMA). It’s version 4, and it’s marketed as something that uses… factorial math! And promoters are saying the software does over 3 million calculations each time you use it to analyze a purchase.

Consumers are being tricked into thinking UFF has a magic bullet, and are plunking down $3,500 for the “chance” to use the software!

“Factorial math” is really just a useless bit of new marketing-speak. Factorials are the basis of combinatorial (finite) math. If you took finite math in school, you would start with factorials. They are expressed as “n!”, where ‘n’ is any non-negative integer.Some factorials:

1! = 1
2! = 2×1 = 2
3! = 3×2×1 = 6
5! = 5×4×3×2×1 =120
And, just for a loop:
0! = 1

By now, you get the picture. Factorials are just the product of all the integers less than or equal to ‘n’. They come in handy when computing permutations and combinations.

Why the mini math lesson? Promoters of MMA say “Someone with a mortgage and only 10 debts will have 3.6 million ways to pay off that debt. No, you can no longer do this on your own.”

In your example, a person has 10 debts. For some reason, you want to know how many different ways he could approach retiring all debts, in order. It’s a simple permutation:

nPr = 10P10 = 10! / (10-10)! = 10! / 0! = 3628800 / 1 = 3628800

Look familiar? 3.6 million different ways to pay those 10 debts.

But reality is so much simpler!

For example, I’m about to head to lunch. It’s just down the street. I could just walk one block north, but I could also walk one block south, then two blocks north. I could walk past the diner and turn around. I could walk down multiple streets and eventually end up at the restaurant. I have infinite paths available to me, but the most obvious one is staring me in the face. Just like the most obvious way to pay down a debt is to curtail spending and send all extra money available to service the debt.

If the question is simply in what order to attack the debts, then retire the higher interest small debts first. But the problem is even more simple than that, because someone with 10 debts should probably consolidate a number of (probably high interest credit card) debts into a lower interest loan. Maybe even a HELOC, so long as you don’t let the MMA software anywhere near it.

That “3.6 million ways” claim is one more example of a UFF agent (and now an agent group calling themselves The Jubilee Project) using math to confuse potential clients and make mortgages seem like rocket science.

The math behind a mortgage is not particularly hard. Paying down a mortgage as quick as your finances will allow is exceptionally easy. I’m 36 and debt-free with a nice house and 2 nice cars. Have been for a year. I paid off my mortgage by sending any extra money directly to the principal. There is no easier way, no faster way, and no cheaper way to do it.

But that was obvious to me, my Chartered Accountant (and mother-in-law), and everyone I knew back when I bought my house.Given the same money to work with, the MMA will pay down your mortgage slower than simple prepayments. That analysis has been done to death, and UFF agents won’t accept or have failed in the challenge to prove otherwise, so let’s move on to the “habit-changing” aspect of the MMA.

Compare these two statements:

“At the end of the month, I pay my bills, and everything over $X in my bank account is applied to the mortgage principal.”

“At the end of the month, I pay my bills, and log into the UFF software to enter my new financial information. The UFF software tells me if I should make a transfer from my HELOC this month, and how much. I then go back to my bank and make any requested transfer.”

The MMA is twice as much work as simple prepayments. If it is good habit-forming, it’s not because it is easier.

So, let’s look at bad habits. Assume the homeowner is a shopaholic. One of the first actions in setting up the MMA is to get a secured line of credit for tens of thousands of dollars. Now we’ve given someone with poor impulse control easy access to a new entertainment system, a vacation, a complete set of 1967 baseball cards, new golf clubs, etc. The MMA has created a “kid in a candy store” problem.

The MMA is just a bad deal on multiple levels. In addition to the reasons above, it exposes the homeowner to fluctuating HELOC rates and the potential of having their HELOC frozen by the bank. It’s ridiculously expensive and handcuffs the client with more debt. From published examples, the MMA is not even close to efficient with the HELOC transfers it recommends.

Mathematically, the banks have all the angles covered. The typically higher interest rates on HELOCs almost negates the timing advantages of the HELOC shuffle. If someone comes along with a product that actually accelerates a mortgage better than one can easily do on their own, I’d be all for it. The MMA isn’t that product.

Debating this issue with UFF agents typically goes nowhere. They duck their heads in the sand whenever math is brought up. Finance IS math. I’ve demonstrated quite clearly that the “factorial math” claim by The Jubilee Project is a smokescreen.

Their reply was to dismiss me, and say, “I sure don’t claim to do the math”.This is who you believe in this discussion? The group that wants to sell you a $3500 debt-reduction strategy, but doesn’t do math?They’ll have no problem doing the math to divide the commission from the sale, I promise you that.

Further, one doesn’t have to jump off a bridge to know it will kill you. This is simple math. The MMA approach will cost a homeowner money versus what they can do themselves, much easier, for free.

The MMA will pay off the mortgage, but will do so more slowly and with more work and more risk than simply applying extra money to the principle yourself. So it will work, but not well. I’m sure many people believe it is working for them. It’s just not working as well as it should, and the cost is insane.

12 thoughts on “United First Financial’s New Math (It’s Still Not Worth $3,500.)

  1. Pingback: 2nd Bankruptcy & Debt Carnival!

  2. Hello craig, that was beautifully put and explained, i was just thinking today of the combination lock that uff shows explaining factorial math and all the thousands of different combinations of paying. It is funny, and sad at the same time, if i got 4 bills, and 600 ways to pay it, no thanks, if you cant pick one out of 4, go see a psycologist or doctor of sorts.

  3. Pingback: Money Merge Account Analysis Pt 6 » JoeTaxpayer

  4. Pingback: Bookmarks about Financial

  5. Craig/Tracy – I am in the midst of assembling all the posts from my site regarding MMA into one PDF that a reader may download and read at their convenience. I’d like (both) your permission to include this post with credit both to Craig and the Fraud Files site.
    Thanks!
    Joe

  6. OK, this is too funny not to report.

    There is a UFirst “Fan” group on Facebook. On their “Wall” (comment board), Kevin Miller of Winnipeg, MB wrote:

    “Hello everyone, I have been doing some research on UFF and the money merge account however can’t find any real proof as to the math and how it is beneficial as opposed to other methods of rapid mortgage repayment. Could someone please enlighten me….send me a message.

    Thanks”

    Agent Michael Chase replied:

    “Kevin Miller it is called fractional math! UFF is not saying you cant do this yourself, it is just that you will not have the time to do it. My wife and I are taking our 26.5 years of debt down to 6.75 years with version 4.

    Send me your email address to [email protected](REMOVED) and I will send you the fractional math possibilities so you can understand”

    The MMA v4 – now with Fractional Math. I can not make this stuff up.

  7. Craig – what struck me in the Facebook posts was the new agent who claimed MMA brought her mortgage down from 30 years to 2. Now that is the true power of factorial math! Even though I have a Facebook account, I don’t know how to add a post to that area, but it’s a joke, anyway.

  8. Tammy? I’ve emailed her before – she’s a nutcase. As evangelical as they get. She once wrote this to me (along with volumes of other text, but no math beyond estimates of “savings”):

    “Our software is educational and eye-opening. People will start making more educated purchased and will be able to review the ‘True Cost’ of their purchases. My Dad is now using the software and had re-financed is home a few yrs ago for renovations. He had a 25 yr mortgage. ($248,500) and would’ve paid $200,760.29 of interest. By using our software, he is now scheduled to pay off his home and the HELOC in 5.4 years,and will save over $162,000 of interest. Meaning we have reduced his amortization by 19.6 yrs!

    He did not change banks
    His mortgage payments didn’t change
    His household budget or expenses did not change. ”

    Basically, she makes outrageous claims and refuses to back them up. it’s what she does. She’s the Canadian Jennifer Hartman.

  9. I’ve got a neighbor who was trying to sell me this software.. I’m glad I read this discussion board first. Now, I know that the “U” in “Ufirst” is the agent who makes the commission on the sale of the software. Thanks for the advice.

  10. A footnote to my guest blog entry:

    The above was written in response to a 2008 blog entry elsewhere by “The Jubilee Project”, who presented themselves as a group of agents. We now know that it was just one agent – Jaime Buckley.

    In 2009, Jaime Buckley lost his family home to foreclosure.

    In the months preceding this, he moved from UFirst to a competing mortgage acceleration MLM called WeXL. He also dabbled in other MLMs, including Dubli (think eBay in MLM form) and TruChocolate (magic weight loss chocolate). UFirst sued Jaime for his comments about his move to WeXL.

    The moral of the story is that there are victims all over this and other MLMs. I don’t consider Jaime a victim, because he fronted scams. But I feel for his wife and kids, and I just wanted to say that MLMs sell false hope for easy money, “residual income”, “passive income”, or whatever they decide to call it next week. Tracy has provided a good service here, and links to other good resources about MLMs.

    Don’t be stupid and join an MLM like this. You will lose money, you will lose friends, and you could lose your home.

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