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Publicado el 06-22-2009
Reportero: Jason Alderman

Read contracts carefully before signing

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(To read the Spanish version of this article you can follow the link of relationed news.Para leer la versión española de este artículo puede seguir el link de noticias relacionadas).

When people hear the word "contract," some start daydreaming about signing a multimillion dollar deal with the NFL while others recall how their knees shook the day they signed that first car loan. If you think about it, though, many of our day-to-day decisions involve contracts.

Broadly defined, contracts are mutually binding agreements between two or more parties to do – or not do – something. It could be as simple as buying coffee (you agree to pay $2.50 and the restaurant agrees to serve you a drinkable beverage); or as complex as signing a mortgage to which you'll be tied financially for the next 30 years.

Here are a few considerations to bear in mind before entering any agreement:

Sometimes contracts are formal, signed documents that outline specific conditions and penalties if those conditions are not met: For example, if you don't make your mortgage payments, the lender can foreclose on your house. Other times they are verbal or implied agreements: If the coffee is cold, you can ask for a refund.

It's important to anticipate things that might possibly go wrong, such as:

You sign a lease but later realize you can't afford the rent or don't like the neighborhood.

You buy a car you can't afford and when you try to sell it, the car is worth less than your outstanding loan balance.

You buy something on sale and don't notice the "No returns on sale items" policy.

You rent a car and later learn you accidentally agreed to optional insurance coverage you didn't want or need.

You join a cell phone plan and later realize it has stiff early cancelation penalties.

Financially inexperienced teenagers and young adults often get into this type of trouble, so make sure you discuss the implications of signing contracts with your kids well before they turn 18.

Here are a few additional tips:

Make sure anything you sign contains no unfilled blank spaces, even if the other party promises to fill them in a certain way. (To prevent misunderstandings, many contracts specify you must initial ...
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