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FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America: Ask-A-Desi

This section will attempt to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions on Life in the US, Canada and North America that immigrants, visitors and others from different cultures attempt to address. If you have any additional inputs or wish  to see more topics addressed, mail us at

Check Your Check Number  // Dow Jones Basics // FICO Scores and Credit History


Finance 101

Check Your Check Number 

Even after the advent of plastic money (credit cards), using checks for paying utility bills, grocery, subscriptions etc., is inevitable. We all have at least one checking account with a local/national Bank. After opening a new checking account, the Bank issues (either free or at a nominal fee) checkbooks. Have you noticed that the new check-number starts not from 1 but from 101? Have you ever wondered why so? Well, here are two reasons behind this:

Why new Check numbers start from 101?

Financial Reason

Any banker will easily vouch that 90% of all forged checks are drawn on accounts less than barely 3 or 6 months old. So, lower the check-number, more prone for suspicion it is. Many merchants outrightly used to deny checks of lower check-numbers. So, consumers started asking the Check-providers (whether it's the Bank itself or private third party providers) to supply checks bearing higher numbers. After all, in US, check number is just a reference for the consumer, the Bank and payment-receiving party are concerned only about the "Routing Number" of the Bank and "Account Number" of the consumer. That way, consumer has the freedom of choosing his own number for checks. Instead of making any arbitrary number as the starting of check-number sequence, most Banks today follow the procedure of issuing checks for new checking accounts starting with the number 101. Anyway, forgery/fraud can still happen. This is not fool-proof remedy for it.

Technical Reason
Check Your Check Number!

When checks are printed, the first sheet through is at the bottom of the hopper (paper stack at the printing machine assembly) and the last sheet through is at the top. This necessitates backward-functioning (countdown) numbering machines, which are set to start at the ending number and finish with the starting number. The order of checks can then be completed and shipped in proper numerical sequence ready for use by the customer.

As the order is printed, and the numbers recede, they would read say 117, 116,...,102,101,100,099,098, etc. unless the press is stopped and the superfluous zero is manually depressed after 100 so that 99 is printed instead of 099.

Again, at the point of 13,12,11,10,09, the press would have to be stopped again to eliminate the second superfluous zero. By encouraging the use of starting check orders with 101, the printer has saved the need to stop the press twice. This is a saving in time and efficiency, not to mention money!

Dow Jones Basics

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW) is an index of the average closing prices of thirty blue-chip stocks. There are more than 6,700 stocks in the market, but the DOW, with its thirty stocks, is used to gauge and forecast the health of the economy.

How does the Dow work?

It began simply enough in 1884, when financial journalist Charles Henrry Dow devised a way to help his readers track the fluctuations in the market. He chose eleven stocks - mostly railroads - and added up the closing price of one share of each company's stock. Then he divided by 11 to come up with an average. In 1928 Dow added another nineteen industrial companies to the list. The editors of the Wall Street Journal (which is owned by Dow Jones & Co.) substitute new companies for the originals only if a business changes drastically, merges, or goes bankrupt. That's happened just seventeen times in the past seventy four years. Following are the constituent companies of Dow Jones Industrial Average as of now.

AT&T Corp., Allied-Signal Inc., Alcoa Inc., American Express Co., Boeing Co., Caterpillar Inc., Citigroup Inc., Coca Cola Co., Walt Disney Co., DuPont E I De Nemours & Co., Eastman Kodak Co., Exxon Corp., General Electric Co., General Motors Corp., Hewlett Packard Co., Home Depot Inc., Intel Corp., International Business Machines Corp., International Paper Co., Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's Corp., Merck & Co. Inc., Microsoft Corp., Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., Morgan J. P. & Co. Inc., Philip Morris Companies Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., SBC Communications Inc., United Technologies Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Other changes in the financial landscape have affected the Dow, and some experts question its worth as an accurate gauge of the market. One complaint is that about 80 percent of the country's workforce is employed by service industries, yet about 80 percent of the Dow is made up of stocks for manufacturing, not service, companies. That means the bulk of America's industry is underrepresented by the Dow. Another problem lies in the Dow's size. Because it contains only thirty stocks, a strong move by any of them can skew the index. How? Because the Dow is based on the closing price of a single share of a company's stock, not the market value of the entire company. The result: Small companies with high-priced shares can have a greater effect on the Dow's average than huge companies with many more lower-priced shares - even though the big company may be more profitable than the small one.

For these reasons and more, true financial professionals hardly use the Dow in research. Yet they all continue to quote it. The Dow is ingrained in Wall Street culture and is recognized and basically understood by everybody in the field.

Significant levels on the Dow in recent past:
Date Dow Value Description
December 6, 1974 577 The last Bear Market bottom
July 12, 1976 1011 Highest point between Jan '73 and Oct. '82
August 12, 1982 776 The start of the "Reagan Bull"
August 25, 1987 2722 The 1987 high
October 19, 1987 1738 The (508 point) crash of 1987
February 2, 1994 3975 The top of the post 1987 crash recovery
November 23, 1994 3674 The start of the Clinton "super bull"
March 29, 1999 10006 The first Dow close above 10000
January 14, 2000 11723 The all time high
March 17, 2000 10630 The biggest one day gain (499 points)
March 20, 2001 9720 Dow closes below previous year low - first time since 1982
Sept 11-14, 2001 9605 Terrorist attack - Dow closed for four days
Sept 17, 2000 8920 The biggest one day fall (685 points)
Sept. 21, 2001 8235 Dow's second worst week ever -14.26%
Dec 31, 2001 10021 Dow up 21.7% from Sept. 21 low but down 7.2% on the year
July 23, 2002 7702 Low close of break below post 9/11 low.

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Trivia and Questions for Indians and Immigrants in America

General Trivia : Introduction //Dollars and Cents // Social Security Number // About Mail and USPS // Story of The Old Glory // Green Card– Why Not Green? // Telephone Area Codes // Convex Mirrors and Caution // Bankruptcy and Chapter 11 // Radio and TV Broadcasting // Consumerism: Trivia on Wal-Mart. // Retail Trivia // Gas Prices– What's 0.9 Cent? // Roads and Interstate Highways // Road Driving Trivia // Finance 101 // Daylight Saving Time // Trivia on Etiquette

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