There are some things we wish we learnt in school instead of algebra – things like doing your taxes, and remembering to always read the fine print.

Documents to do with financial and legal matters are an everyday part of adult life. These documents are a necessary, and useful part of carrying out transactions and contracts are an unavoidable part of modern living. Alongside every contract and document there is some small print, sometimes referred to as fine print.

What are Fine Print?

This fine print can work to protect both parties in the contract – but in some cases, the fine print may include clauses and details that may not be in your best interest. This is why it is important, when entering into financial and legal agreements, to have an awareness and understanding of the fine print involved and the various pitfalls this may entail further down the line. By being aware and prepared up front, you can avoid facing a negative, unexpected surprise later down the line – which could end up costing you a lot of time and money to rectify.

Deposits

When socking your money away into a deposit account, make sure you read the terms involved. The key things to look out for in the small print include the rate of interest you can expect to earn on your deposit, and also the level of protection to your money. If the bank goes into financial turmoil will your deposit be returned and protected? Also, you should check if there is a minimum term for holding the deposit and what, if any, are the charges if you want to remove your money before this minimum term is over.

Insurance

Insurance is notorious for being a common contract in which consumers do not understand or read the terms properly. The main things to read properly in the fine print are for what events exactly you are covered and in what amount. Check if there is an excess amount that you have to pay before you receive your insurance payout and clearly identify the start date and the end date of the policy. Make sure there isn’t a clause that automatically renews your policy without your permission so that you can check you are getting the best deal when the time to renew comes around.

Investments

Opening an investment account is typically a simple process and can, in most cases, be completed within the same day. However, before signing up you should check all the details. In particular,  what are the charges involved with your investment account This includes the management fee on your account, as well as the fees associated with the range of transactions that you are interesting in executing within your investments.  Keep an eye out for annual service fees that can creep up year after year if you do not keep track properly. What, if any, are the costs if you want to withdraw your investments from the account? It is also a good idea to ask about the fees ahead of time because this presents the opportunity for negotiation for a better deal – which can be more flexible as compared to other accounts when it comes to costs.

Mortgage

At the moment, the numero uno clause in your mortgage  you should look out for is the clause that stops you from suing your mortgage provider in case of error or dispute.  Make sure you do not sign any document that involved you signing away these kinds of rights. Look out for one off unknown charges in the small print and clarify any matters that you do not understand fully.  Also, watch out for small print that indicates your personal information will be shared. The most important thing to check are the costs – the rates on your mortgage and payment schedule as well as any taxes and insurance that may be bolted on to your mortgage agreement at a later time.

Personal Loans – Cash Advance, Car

If you do not read the fine print carefully when it comes to any kind of loan you can end up losing a lot of time and money further down the line in time. In the case of car loans, consumers are often surprised by the monthly payments involved. Check the details of the loan and the rate of return. Payment dates are also important to know as some loans include clauses that will have you pay a fee if you miss the payment date – leaving you owing even more money.

Check that the loan details refer to the correct vehicle number at all points in the contract also.  If there is an error on this detail you may lose some rights when it comes to your agreement.

The key point is to read all documents carefully. It is becoming more commonplace for business contracts to contain clauses where you inadvertently agree to give up the right to have a court held dispute resolution. Whichever contract you are currently dealing with make sure you take a close look at the fine print and understand what you are getting into before signing. This small amount of effort that you put in ahead of time will far outweigh the costs to your time and money which you may face losing later if stung by a small print detail.

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C.E.O @ The New Savvy
Anna Haotanto is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment and children’s issues. Anna has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, The Straits Times, Business Insider, INC and The Peak Singapore. She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen). Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).