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Don’t Get Hosed When Buying Financial Products and Services

Here's how to protect your own interests.

Way back in another life, I worked in the mortgage department of a local bank running credit reports for mortgage preapprovals. I heard a lot of unfamiliar terms while working there, but the one that was the strangest and most puzzling to me was "financial product." The idea that a loan could be considered a product was completely foreign. The house was a product, clearly, but the mortgage? It made my head spin.

In the years since, I've come to understand how mortgages really are products. Each type of mortgage has different attributes and ways that it "works." In this way, a mortgage is just like any other product on a shelf. Each is devised to meet a certain need and has specific traits that you as a customer can use to distinguish between them and choose which best suits your purposes. But here's the thing: Many people I talk to don't know the difference between a financial product and a financial service, and that's a problem.

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