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The Walking Debt: 4 real-life financial zombies

The fifth season of “The Walking Dead” is well underway, and viewers’ minds are being captivated by images of bloodthirsty zombies lumbering through deserted towns, on the hunt for their human dinners. But did you know that zombies exist off screen, too? Except it’s not your delicious brains they’re after — it’s your bank account.

The Walking Dead of Finance

Below are the real-life zombies of banking and investing you should be on the lookout for:

1. Zombie Checking Accounts

Your checking account is closed, dead and buried, until out of nowhere it mysteriously rises from the grave and starts wreaking havoc on your finances. It’s called a zombie bank account, and it can be hard to kill off for good.

When a forgotten automatic bill payment or transfer is connected with an old account, many banks will resurrect that account and allow the transaction to go through. However, the old account holder is never informed that their account has come back to life, so maintenance, overdraft and other fees are allowed to accumulate. When the account holder finally finds out what has happened, they have a mess on their hands.

Survival Tip: When you decide to close an account, allow a couple of weeks between when you open the new one and close the old one to ensure all automatic transactions have been moved. Also, check with your bank to find out their policy on closed accounts — Bank of America is one of the larger banks to recently put an end to zombie accounts.

2. Zombie Debt

Companies often write off debts as a loss when they’ve been unable to recover the money for some time. In fact, a debt could be so old it no longer shows up on your credit history anymore, allowing you to rebuild your credit and start fresh.

However, in order to recoup some of that money, the company will often sell the debt to a collection agency for pennies on the dollar, and then that agency will take over attempts to get the debt paid off. Suddenly, the debt you thought had died off years ago is back to bite you.

Survival Tip: Just because the company you owe money to has stopped sending bills doesn’t mean the debt is gone. Don’t allow old bills to be sent off to collections and take care of debt as soon as possible.

3. Zombie Economy

We are just emerging from what has been deemed a “zombie economy” — low-level job creation and high unemployment, as well as slow global growth and a debt ceiling crisis looming on the horizon. The economy certainly isn’t alive and kicking– but it’s not exactly dead either.

“Zombie Economics” authors Lisa Desjardins and Rick Emerson explain, “In a zombie economy, there is a self-perpetuating sense of doom — the feeling that there is no solution; that the sickness is unstoppable and the predator unkillable; the fear that even those in command have little idea how to fix things.”

Survival Tip: Add “Zombie Economics: A Guide to Personal Finance,” to your reading list. It’s written from the perspective that the skills necessary to survive a zombie apocalypse can be applied to successfully navigating the world of finance.

4. Zombie Stocks

Stock values that have plummeted from their peaks, total market value that nears net cash — there are hoards of zombies in the stock market made up of businesses that are shuffling along, likely on their way out. Or so investors believe.

Survival Tip: Unlike most of the walking dead, zombie stocks are not necessarily something to be avoided. Careful planning and evaluation of these stocks can lead to landing a future cash cow. Case in point: Fannie Mae, considered by most to be a toxic investment due to its involvement in the Great Recession, reported a record net income of more than $58 billion for the first quarter of 2013 and shares shot up by 400 percent shortly thereafter, according to CNBC.

The world of finance can be a scary place when the undead are lurking about. However, arming yourself with the right survival skills and tools will ensure you don’t become victim to a hungry zombie.

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