Guest post by Joe Taxpayer

As I looked at multiple United First Financial agents’ sites, I found the common thread was the claim that one simply can’t do this on their own, that the shifting of funds from a checking account, to a HELOC, and then to a primary mortgage somehow needed such a level of sophisticated computer analysis that it was beyond the average consumer.

But let’s dig a bit deeper to understand what savings may or may not be possible with the UFF Money Merge Account. In the classic MMA example (i.e. the one appearing on or linked from most agents’ sites) we are looking at a 6% fixed rate mortgage, and $5,000 in net monthly cash flow.

I understand that there’s something to be gained by using money that otherwise sits idle in one’s checking account, perhaps earning 0% interest. MMA and the use of the HELOC “shuffle” claim to provide a return equal to your mortgage rate on that idle cash. Okay, that sounds like a great deal, buthow much is that worth?

It would be reasonable to assume that one’s average daily balance would be about half their income, as they get a paycheck and spend it until the next check comes in. So on $5,000 income, one might run an average balance of $2,500.

MMA software then suggests you borrow another $2500 from your HELOC, and send the entire $5,000 to your mortgage as a principal payment. At the 6% mortgage rate, the $5,000 will save you $25 per month, but even if the HELOC were also 6% (it’s usually at an even higher rate), half of that is lost, so your net gain is only $12.50 per month.

Let’s go back to our mortgage calculator (my Texas Instruments BA30 or any calculator on the net) and see what the cost of the MMA software is: $3,500 borrowed at 6% (since it’s money I’d otherwise send to the mortgage) and paid down over 10.4 years, the same duration the agents claim I will be done with my mortgage. I find the monthly expense on the software cost is $37.77.

Let’s go back to my original math, and stack the deck in MMA’s favor. Say I am paid on the first, and all my expenses are somehow due on the last day of the month. This is the logical extreme, is it not? So MMA will claim it’s responsible for helping me capture a 6% return on my $5,000 idle checking account balance. This will gain me $25 per month. Even in this “best case scenario for UFF”  I still save less than the $37.77 expense of MMA.

This simple reason is why one can and should simply make extra prepayments each month or each quarter, for that matter, without any fancy software. The constant reference to the software is simply not needed. It’s a waste of time and energy to do multiple money shuffles that won’t save you enough to even cover the cost of the software itself.

What many fall for is the confusion caused by most consumers’ lack of understanding of the effects of the time value of money.

For instance, along with the first mortgage payment, MMA software might suggest sending $5,000 from your HELOC to the mortgage principal. They will claim you have just “canceled” $23,304 worth of future interest. Indeed you have, but you also have a HELOC loan for that same $5,000, likely at a higher interest rate. So at the outset, you are saving $25 on your mortgage, but paying $33 on the HELOC. You’d be far better off over time to use the money each month that you’d use to pay back the HELOC and just pay it towards the mortgage as it is earned.

On a closing note, keep this in mind – the current prime rate is 5%. Only a year ago, it was 7.75%. MMA salespeople maintain that there’s no risk with this system. I believe the risk is high. There’s a strong likelihood that you get caught with no liquid cash in an emergency account, instead relying on the HELOC, and you then find you need it when rates have gone back up. Even worse, you could find the HELOC frozen when you need to borrow funds for the broken furnace off a high interest credit card. Just something to consider.



  1. Tracy Coenen 09/29/2008 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    Great explanation, Joe. And oh so simple. People are so simply losing money on this UFF deal, it’s almost hard to believe. I now challenge anyone out there in blogland who would like to refute the above FACTS with any facts and proof of their own. No speculation. No saying that MMA “just does it better.” No cries of “you’re ignorant.” No “you don’t know how it works.” Anyone who wants to challenge this…. step right up and be prepared to bring facts to support what you’re saying.

  2. Craig Hansen 09/29/2008 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Joe is possibly the most active and effective person warning the public about the Money Merge Account. His points are well-written and in a calm tone, and completely bulletproof.

    Thanks, Joe. I hope you don’t mind when I paraphrase you.

  3. TJ 09/29/2008 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    Joe, “you’re ignorant” and “you don’t know how it works”….just kidding, very well written piece. I have been trying to explain the MMA “HELOC shuffle” illusion to a number of people and, well, some people are just dense and don’t WANT TO get it. I will share your explanation with them. Perhaps it will jar something loose in their brain!

  4. quixtarisacult 09/29/2008 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    Thumbs Up Approval! Take It To The Bank.

  5. JoeTaxpayer 10/01/2008 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Thank you Tracy for offering me my first opportunity to guest post anywhere. Also, you did a great job laying out the paragraphs to make the reading easier.

    I appreciate your kind words and encouragement, of course you are all welcome to quote me. I look forward to the story “How JoeTaxpayer helped to bring down the UFF Money Merge Account scam” (I can dream, can’t I?)

  6. […] it’s been quite a week. The highlight of this week was being invited to offer a guest post at the Fraud Files blog on some of the math behind my pet peeve, the Money Merge Account. I received one of the kindest […]

  7. Thomas 10/06/2008 at 9:45 am - Reply

    A friend of mine recently got involved with UFF. He gave me a quick overview and asked that I set aside some time for a online presentation. With hesitation I agreed to spend an hour going through it with him.

    It sounded like a MLM scheme, and after a quick search it looks like it is even worst than that.

    Thanks to the writer of this and other articles about their system, what is does, and does not do.

  8. quixtarisacult 10/06/2008 at 4:20 pm - Reply


    I am sure you are the kind of reader that Tracy Coenen appreciates the most! Two hands clapping for the enlightened spirit!

  9. […] the above post was the concept that grew into my guest post on Tracy Coenen’s site, the Fraud File blog, if you wish, you can read the longer, more detailed, article […]

  10. roo 10/14/2008 at 10:20 am - Reply

    My husband and I are going to invest in the UFF Money merge account. I know it sounds like a lot of money and too good to be true but some people just need help managing their money and cannot do it on their own. I can balance a check book but that’s about the extent of my financial savvyness. I am glad that I looked at these articles but it did not change my mind about signing up for this product. We are not using the HELOC in our mortgage, just the money we have. For a younger couple like us, its not always about saving for a rainy day when its downpour outside, everyday and you just can’t get out of the cycle. I would like to write updates for everyone just to let you know how its working. Thanks to everyone for your advice….

  11. Tracy Coenen 10/14/2008 at 10:34 am - Reply

    Roo – The Money Merge Account DOES NOT HELP YOU MANAGE YOUR MONEY. It will do nothing more for you than a $99 piece of software from Quicken. Why not spend the $99 to help you with your budgeting, and use the other $3,401 to create an emergency fund or pay down some debt? You’re essentially telling us that you know nothing about money, but are willing to disregard my advice (and I know plenty about money) and waste $3,500 on this drek? How dumb is that?

  12. quixtarisacult 10/14/2008 at 10:56 am - Reply


    Roo is a perfect example of P.T. Barnum’s “A fool born every day” analogy! Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the $3500 is a complete waste of one’s money, this will be disregarded in favor of the scam! Just like the thousands and thousands of people who sign up to be Amway distributors and end up in the 99+% category that lose their entire investment in the scheme. This applies for nearly all MLM schemes as well, not wanting to pick entirely on AmScam. Money Merge, a scam operated by the same people bringing us the current fiscal crisis! Why do younger people seem to fall for scams that their elders always warn them about?

  13. Joetaxpayer 10/14/2008 at 11:07 am - Reply

    Roo – it certainly is not an investment. If you want to spend the money, no one can stop you, but if you are willing to post numbers, we can offer comment. If you have no HELOC, MMA won’t even claim to save you anything.
    Why not just send that $3500 to your principal. I am happy to send a spreadsheet that takes no effort, but helps you track the savings. You can set a calander entry to remind you “pay extra principal” every month. That will save you $3500. That’s all MMA does.

  14. Lee D 10/14/2008 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Roo, if you and your spouse are really that clueless, you should see a non-profit debt counsellor. Your local civic office will have contact information for community services like that in your area.

    After you do that, give that $3500 to your local food bank or Salvation Army branch. If you’re not going to do something sensible with it, you might as well do some good in your community instead of pissing it away.

  15. roo 10/14/2008 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Tracy-for someone claiming to be so intelligent, you certainly have a way with words. None of you have offered an alternative to the MMA plan. What are people supposed to do when they are stretching paychecks each month never getting ahead? Read a book? I don’t have time. I work 3 jobs and my husband works one 45 hour week job. There is no other solution to our problem as I see. How can it be a scam when I see the numbers and final result of us paying off 233K of debt in less than 10 years? What other choice do I have? PLEASE tell me?

  16. quixtarisacult 10/14/2008 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Recently, during the fiscal meltdown, employees of banks have gone public describing the “boiler rooms” that were being operated “out of greed” to push banking products onto consumers. Sub prime loans being chief amongst these. Now, here we have an obvious money making situation that United First Financial is trying to push onto their customers. The problem with this is that customers are prone to view these sellers as being financial authorities, ones to be trusted, regardless of what joetaxpayer or Cindy Coenen honestly say about the stupidity of the program. Bankers with all their hidden fees and the like are very stealthy greed inspired people. Roo, I didn’t mean to disparage you, but people actually do care for your well being, and it isn’t necessarily UFF!

    Why not just start applying the $3500 you’ll save to your mortgage, maybe at $l00 or $50 each payment? Anything but squirreling it down the UFF rat hole!

    I am considering whether you are sincere, or just a company shill posting on Fraud Files so as to make this scam appear reasonable?

  17. Tracy Coenen 10/14/2008 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    The alternative to MMA has been offered over and over on this site. It’s a simple spreadsheet and one extra payment to your mortgage each month (which could actually be combined with your regular payment so you don’t even have to write an extra check!). That’s your alternative AND THAT IS FREE. If you’re saying you’re so stupid that you need to pay $3,500 to find it in your heart to make an extra payment, so be it. But then don’t get offended when I call you DUMB. Because that’s exactly what it is. You are spending $3,500 with UFF so they can tell you SEND EXTRA MONEY TO YOUR MORTGAGE EACH MONTH. Any freak who needs to flush $3,500 down the toilet before they can make the effort to do that extra payment IS AN IDIOT.

  18. roo 10/14/2008 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    I heard your spreadsheet idea but I have no idea on how to even start one. It is starting to become clear to me that some of you (minus Tracy) truly want to help me and my husband. After sleeping on it, I decided that $3500 is outrageous to spend on silly software and could invest in something else but use the same strategy? I’m only 27 years old and in no way have the amount of experience as the rest of you. I just manage my own massage business. My business is in healing and helping people on a face to face level. I know I come across as STUPID to some, but I am just an average, hardworking American woman.
    Moving on, is it my understanding that the MMA strategy is doable, just the UFF con is not worth the money? Can I make this work through some other spreadsheet and how does one learn how to do so?

  19. JoeTaxpayer 10/14/2008 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    “What are people supposed to do when they are stretching paychecks each month never getting ahead?”

    Roo – you actually need to understand MMA a bit better. All MMA examples I’ve seen start with one scenario – $200K, 6% fixed, 30 yr mortgage, $5,000 net income, $1000 “extra funds’ at month’s end. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you have no extra money each month. But even if you had a bit extra, there’s a better priority for you to follow.
    Do any of your employers offer a 401(k) with matching? Are you depositing up to the match? Those who match offer 50-100% of the first X% of your income, this is free money.
    Do you have any credit card debt? If so, pay it down. Why pay a 6% (or so) mortgage faster if you owe money at 12%+ ?

    I saw your note through my blog, and forwarding the spreadsheet. (A note to all, I have no product I am selling, I do this to help other as it’s good karma.)


  20. Tracy Coenen 10/14/2008 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    The spreadsheets have been offered up by several of our posters. Maybe you are smart after all if you’re willing to consider other options. I’m sorry, it’s just dumb to waste $3,500 while admitting you really don’t know what you’re buying. Hold onto your hat. There are several people who have spreadsheets to help you. You can also look into Quicken software, which has some very nice budgeting tools for you.

  21. Lee D 10/14/2008 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    I’ll reiterate my advice that you passed over, which is that if your family is in financial distress, you need to talk to a non-profit debt counsellor, as opposed to somebody who just wants to take your money.

    Additionally, I call bullshit on you not having time to read. We make the time for the things that matter to us. Your local library will have plenty of titles on debt reduction and money management. If you actually care about your future you’ll make time to educate yourself.

  22. fletch 10/16/2008 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    Throughout history it has been difficult to drag the hoi polloi from the cave, because it has always been human nature to resist admitting mistakes and reconcile less comfortable truth. Lies are often more comforting than the truth, even the most dastardly lies that hurt you.

    The MMA scheme, the heloc voodoo, is like a Poison Cookie… it looks sweet and tasty, but anyone who knows the truth will not eat it or even touch it. Anyone who knows it is poison should grab their neighbor by the collar and say “DONT EAT THIS MMA CRAP, IT’S POISON”.

    Kudos to Tracy and all the experts who are speaking up, educating the public, and exposing the deception and lies of the UFF/MMA SCAM! It a duty of conscience, and a shame more citizens don’t follow the example.

  23. dabr 12/17/2008 at 5:07 am - Reply

    Like roo, I was also thinking of purchasing the MMA software. I was convinced it would be a valuable asset in paying off my many mortgages.

    My first set back was shocking! I was unable to obtain a HELOC. Then there was an upgrade of the software and now you do not need the HELOC but reserve cash, like Joe mentioned, extra spending money each month. However, I was hesitant about using half my emergency cash reserves to purchase this software. After reading all your comments, I think it is best to leave MMA along and like Joe stated, apply an extra $100 or so to my mortgages. Joe, can you please send me a copy of the spread sheet? Everyone, thanks for all your excellent and convincing comments.

    Can anyone recommend other blogs which focus on building business credit?

  24. JoeTaxpayer 12/17/2008 at 11:49 am - Reply

    dabr – I am happy to send the sheet to any who request. Clicking on my name will get you to my blog, or I can be sent mail directly, Joe at
    As long as I am in town, I respond quickly.

  25. Jon 12/24/2008 at 1:45 am - Reply

    Roo, I think your first decision was the better one.

    These people here were very quick to use words like dumb and idiot to describe your potential decision which shows me their intent is to validate their inaction rather than guide you with wisdom.

    The examples here are absurd as they are based on a clear misunderstanding of how compounding and simple interest work differently.

    The MMA has over 50,000 clients. The beta program lasted one year and included 400 families. 397 of the families continued using the product after the beta.

    That is amazing retention for a financial services product aimed at consumers.

    More info:

    Many people here seem to think MLM is a scam. Does a talk show become a scam when it moves from FM to AM radio? Don’t fault the medium people, fault the message.

    Pre-Paid Legal, Mannatech, iLearningGlobal, and a host of other tremendously valuable services are offered via MLM in the same way that cars, electronics, and professional services are offered through commissioned salespeople.

    Lose the MLM allergy and do the math.

    The US has the lowest savings rate in our history with the highest average consumer debt. If MMA can help people get a grip on their situation and do it with a 10,000% ROI it is a gem.

    Remember, just because someone CAN do something, doesn’t mean they WILL. You CAN put hundreds away in savings every month but you don’t. You can create a budget in OpenOffice and update it every month but you don’t.

    The bottom line is 90% of us need something VERY simple, proactive, and already created for us to just step into.

    Making a purchase like this should not be considered based on whether it is expensive or cheap. It should be considered on whether it is VALUABLE.

    My conservative estimate is I will be paying $3,500 for $370,000 in interest savings – and it’s backed with a guarantee.

    I would be dumb not to consider this option.

    Maybe you’re like me Roo.

    And maybe you are too…

  26. Tracy Coenen 12/24/2008 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Hi Jon – You’re apparently another UFF supporter who can’t be bothered to read this site before you comment? Those of us debunking UFF know all too well about compound and simple interest, and that no matter how you slice it 8% is larger than 6%. It makes no sense for a homeowner to use an 8% HELOC to pay down a 6% first mortgage. The monthly interest at 6% is less than the monthly interest at 8%, so a homeowner would be stupid to use that HELOC to pay down the first mortgage.

    You’re right. Consumers need a simple proactive tool to help them. Like the free spreadsheet my readers keep offering everyone. It costs nothing and is far more efficient in terms of the amount of time it takes to use the “tool” and in how quickly a consumer can pay off debt using it.

    You’re proud of yourself for spending $3,500 to allegedly save $370,000. You could have spent $0 and saved $390,000. But what’s another $20,000 to a smart man like you?

  27. Craig Hansen 12/24/2008 at 10:03 am - Reply


    You wrote, “The MMA has over 50,000 clients.”

    I’ve seen claims as high as 120,000. 50,000 clients is very interesting, because we have the master agent list, and there are 60,000 agents. Here, go find your own name and agent number in the list:

    60,000 agents for 50,000 sales? There’s a word for that kind of success: Failure.

  28. JoeTaxpayer 12/24/2008 at 10:33 am - Reply

    “You CAN put hundreds away in savings every month but you don’t. You can create a budget in OpenOffice and update it every month but you don’t.”

    Well Jon, as most agents do, you’ve spouted rhetoric which is pretty meaningless, as well as some things unrelated to anything. Talk show move? Is this a post on one topic or “open mike night”?

    I’ll comment on your one remark above that caught my attention. My, or anyone’s, spreadsheet does take a monthly visit to update, if one wishes. MMA requires a visit to the software for any purchase or check that comes in. The level of effort to work your simple system is anywhere from 10 to 100 times the effort actually needed to see the results. When one agent described how one can now text message the software to decide if today is a good day to buy the steak that’s on sale and get an instant reply, I couldn’t help but ponder the existence that a client would endure having to query a system to make a $50 decision.

    I’ll leave you with one question, Jon, if people don’t save every month, where does the money come from to pay down their mortgage? And if it’s from their HELOC, well how does that get paid back? If their spending is greater than their income, no system, even if free, would help them.

  29. Justin Hawk 02/19/2009 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    This was the most insightful research on the MMA and the United First program by Joe that I have read. Simply thankyou!!!!

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