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The Real Deal on Rising Rates: What It Means for Your Home-Buying Plans

February 10, 2017 4:42 pm

You’ve taken all the necessary steps to get ready to buy a home. You’ve saved for a down payment, improved your credit score, got all your financial documentation in line, and figured out what price range you can afford. And then the interest rates went up. Is your dream of homeownership now unachievable?

According to recent data from realtor.com®, the share of first-time buyers planning to buy a home this spring fell sharply when mortgage rates began to rise toward the end of 2016. According to realtor.com®’s January survey of active homebuyers, 44 percent of buyers planning to buy in spring 2017 are first-time buyers. This has dropped significantly since the survey was conducted in October, when 55 percent of buyers planning a spring purchase indicated they were looking for their first home.

However, with inventory shortages and rising home prices, the urgency to buy now has never been greater. So before you shelve your plans for buying a home this spring, know the facts about rising rates and home prices.

The average 30-year conforming rate rose to more than 4.2 percent by the end of December 2016 from 3.4 percent at the end of September 2016. With average rates today about half a percentage point higher than they were in 2016, a median-priced home financed with 20 percent down would cost an additional $720 per year in added interest. That equals more than 1 percent of the median household’s income.

With affordability being a top concern for first-time buyers, a rising interest rate can be enough to scare you off. Kiplinger's expects the 30-year mortgage rate to reach 4.6 percent by year’s end, with the 15-year rate at 3.8 percent. Add to that the continued increase in home prices due to low inventories in many parts of the country and you can see that holding off on a home purchase will probably only cost you more down the line.

Take a cue from repeat homebuyers who are actually being spurred into action by rising rates. Even with the current increases, interest rates remain historically low, and the movement in rates hasn’t yet tipped overall buyer demand down. Experienced buyers, in fact, are trying to close before rates increase further, as evidenced by increased realtor.com® listing views and decreased inventory. In the short term, the rate movement seems to have encouraged, rather than dampened, overall demand.

While concerns about affordability are valid, waiting may not help your long-term financial picture. Instead, consider looking for a home in a slightly lower price range, finding a way to increase your down payment, or looking in a neighborhood that may be more affordable. The good news? In today’s competitive market, your home will most likely increase in value and prove to be one of the smartest investments you could’ve made.

For more information about how rising interest rates will impact your home purchase, contact me today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: The Real Impact Rising Interest Rates Will Have on Your Home-Buying Plans

February 10, 2017 4:42 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines what rising interest rates mean for your future home-buying plans. Other topics covered this month include 10 things you can't afford to overlook when choosing a rental property and simple ways to help your personality shine through when decorating your home. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Protect Your Customer’s Privacy

February 9, 2017 12:30 am

If you run a business, then you know the customer is king. But what about the customer’s privacy? Help your business be more thoughtful about what information is collected and how you can protect that data and foster trust, with these tips from the NCSA.

If you collect it, protect it: Follow reasonable security measures to protect individuals' personal information from inappropriate and unauthorized access.

Be open and honest about how you collect, use and share personal information: Clearly communicate your data use practices and any features or settings you offer to consumers to manage their privacy.

Don't count on your privacy policy as your only tool to educate consumers about your privacy practices: Communicate clearly and often what privacy means to your organization and the steps you take to achieve and maintain consumer privacy and security.

Create a culture of privacy in your organization: Educate employees about their role in privacy, security and respecting and protecting the personal information of colleagues and customers.

In addition to your privacy practices, do your due diligence and monitor partners and vendors: You are also responsible for how they use and collect personal information.

Source: SOURCE National Cyber Security Alliance

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Tax Time: Five Tips to Ensure an Accurate Form W-2

February 9, 2017 12:30 am

Tax season is a troubling time for many of us as we wade through forms and paperwork from the preceding year.  The American Payroll Association, has five W-2 tips to ensure your W-2 is accurate this tax season.

1. Get your hands on all of your W-2s. If you received compensation from more than one company during 2016, you will need to obtain a W-2 from each business. If you haven't received your W-2 by February 3, contact the company's payroll department to request a 'reissued statement.'

Did you earn $600 or more from a single company for freelance or contract work? You need the Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, instead of a W-2. You may be responsible for all taxes on those earnings.

2. Ensure your Social Security Number (SSN) matches your social security card. Your name and SSN on the W-2 must match your social security card to receive the social security benefits to which you are entitled. If they do not match, ask your payroll department for a corrected W-2.

3. Compare your W-2 to your final paystub. 

Items to review on the W-2:

A.  Box 1 will differ from your final 2016 paystub year-to-date gross pay if you participated in a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored savings plan.

B.  The Box 3 total should not exceed $118,500 – the 2016 social security wage base.

C.  Boxes 1, 3, and 5 will be different from your final 2016 paystub year-to-date gross pay if you use pre-tax dollars to pay insurance premiums or for transit benefits, or to contribute to flexible spending accounts.

4. Check for tax credits. Depending on your eligibility, you may qualify for thousands of dollars from the Earned Income Tax Credit. Read the back of the W-2 copy B, C, and 2 to determine your eligibility.

5. Put some money in your pocket! If you receive more than $1,000 in refunds adjust your Form W-4 to more closely match your tax liability. By updating this information, you could give yourself an instant raise.

SOURCE: American Payroll Association
 

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How to Move During the Winter

February 9, 2017 12:30 am

Moving is rarely fun, but in the winter, it can be downright miserable. From frigid temps to icy roads, there are many challenges with moving in the colder months. Below are a handful of helpful tips from Ross Sapir, CEO and Founder of Roadway Moving.

Make sure your electric is turned on early. Before you move in, be sure that all utilities have been turned on so you can comfortably enjoy heat and light for your first couple nights.

Avoid any falls. Clear the driveways and walkways of snow and make sure you salt the icy areas so you and your movers are safe walking to and from the trucks

Have a back-up plan. If a winter storm is threatening your move, make sure you've already spoken to your moving company to see if they have a policy in place for any unexpected date changes.

Protect your home. Going in and out of your home during the move will drag salt and dirt all over your floors. Avoid this by laying down plastic or cardboard boxes for protection

Dress in layers. Moving boxes in and out will work up a sweat so make sure you have the proper clothing on that you can either add layers when you go outside or take off layers once you get inside.

Source: Roadway Moving.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Smarter Ways to Keep Your Home Warm

February 8, 2017 12:30 am

(Family Features)--When cool winds are blowing and the temperatures outside take a dive, even a well-insulated house may feel the chill. Simply kicking up the thermostat can be expensive and depending on your home’s circulation, you may still have areas that need an extra blast of warmth. Cozy up with these tips for heating up your living space.

Check for gaps and cracks. Poorly sealed windows and doors are among the biggest sources of heat loss in a home. Not only do those imperfections let heat escape, they also let in the cold. If you can see daylight, there’s definitely a problem, but even less visible gaps and cracks can be problematic. Clear plastic sheeting is one temporary DIY solution for windows. It’s also easy to replace the weather stripping around doors.

Rely on supplemental heat. When it’s impractical to completely eliminate drafts, or other measures aren’t fully correcting the problem, you might consider a home upgrade to your cooling and heating system. One of the most efficient products on the market is a floor-mounted indoor heating system, designed to ensure the whole room warms up evenly and quickly.

Layer up. Especially when cooler weather first appears or makes a comeback, many homeowners forget to dress for the weather, even indoors. Trading in your t-shirt and shorts for long sleeves and pants can help push your comfort several degrees warmer, and even a couple of degrees can result in big savings on your heating bill. If extra clothes aren’t enough, invest in a few plush throw blankets and a cozy robe and slippers for more comfortable lounging.

Enjoy a crackling fire. If your home has a fireplace, use it. These features are often treated as ornamental, but they serve a true function. When paired with blowers, the heat from a fireplace can warm a significant portion of the house, well beyond the room where the fireplace is located. Before your first fire, take proper safety precautions, including checking that the flue is clean and open. Also be sure you have protective features such as glass or mesh covering to prevent popping embers, and be sure to create a barrier that keeps small children safely out of reach.

Decorate your way to warmth. Subtle changes to your decor can make a big impact on a room’s climate and comfort level. Two areas that can make a big impact: the floor and windows. An area rug is an addition that not only takes the physical chill out of a wood or tile floor, but adds visual warmth, as well. Although windows can be a major source of energy loss and drafts, they can also let in a natural heat source: sunlight. Use heavy draperies at night to block the chill and provide privacy, but during daylight hours, throw those curtains open and let the warm light shine.

Source: mitsubishicomfort.com.

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Choose the Right Online University

February 8, 2017 12:30 am

For those with busy schedules, a family to take care of, or an already-demanding career, the option of earning a degree online is a game changer. However, not all online universities are the same, and it’s important to choose an accredited program that fits your needs.

WGU Texas offers these tips to help busy adults choose the right online university to stay on track with their goals.

Know your learning style. Learning in an online environment is similar to what you would expect in a more traditional brick and mortar environment. You will study, write papers, complete projects and take tests. Online, when and where you study and interactions with faculty and other students can be quite different. Earning your degree takes self-discipline with a strong commitment to earn a degree. You'll need to set aside sufficient time and effort to realize your goals. When choosing a school, one that offers a competency-based program allows you to study and learn at your own pace, apply what you already know and advance when you demonstrate mastery of the subject matter.

Understand the total cost of your education. Tuition at online universities varies widely. Before you make your decision, be sure to understand all of the costs. Compare tuition rates, books, fees and financial aid options of various schools. Speak to a financial advisor about financial aid, and only borrow what you need to graduate, as this will help keep costs under control without incurring unnecessary additional student debt. Another factor in your cost consideration should be the length of time you expect to take to complete your degree—the longer it takes, the more it is likely to cost.

Make sure the university is accredited and the degree is meaningful. Regional accreditation is the highest form of accreditation and ensures that employers and other academic institutions will respect and recognize your degree. The U.S. Department of Education publishes a list of regional accrediting agencies that are recognized as reliable authorities on educational quality and effectiveness of the institution. The degree program you choose should offer relevant and up-to-date curriculum to ensure that you'll earn the credentials you need for the job market. Ask for information about alumni placements, employer surveys and graduate rankings on national test scores.

Source: texas.wgu.edu 

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What Americans Would Give Up to See Their Team Win the Super Bowl

February 8, 2017 12:30 am

It’s no shocker that Americans love their football—especially when it comes time for the Super Bowl. But what would you give up to see your team win? That’s the question GoBankingRates asked their audience, and you may be surprised to read the results.

GoBankingRates asked their respondents to choose from one of the following, in exchange for their team winning the big game.

Would you rather:
- Give up your vacation days for one year
- Give up your annual bonus
- Give up your 401k
- Give up the total amount in your savings account

The result? Fifty two percent of respondents said they would give up an entire year's worth of vacation days in order to secure a win for their favorite team in this year's Super Bowl.

Additional Findings:

- 1 in 3 respondents said they would give up their annual bonuses to see their team win, the second most popular choice among all age groups.

- Perhaps surprisingly to some, more female respondents (57%) were willing to sacrifice a year's worth of vacation days over men (48%).

- Zero percent of those aged 35 years and above said they would scrap their 401k savings, compared to 12% of those ages 18-24.

- While women might be more comfortable giving up vacation days, they were 9% less likely than men to give up an annual bonus for a Super Bowl win.

Source: GOBankingRates.com

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Save Energy This Winter

February 7, 2017 12:27 am

Regardless of how cool or warm you like your home to feel, you probably like to save on heating bills.  Below are a handful of simple tips you can use to save energy and money this winter, courtesy of the Florida Power & Light Company.

Start at 68 – If you need to heat your home, set your thermostat to 68 degrees with the fan set to "auto" and be sure to turn off your heat when you leave. Every degree below 68 saves you five percent on heating costs.

Check your filters – Clean or replace your air conditioner filter regularly (approximately each month) to help your unit operate more efficiently.

Keep warm air in – Seal doors and windows with weatherstripping or caulk, which helps prevent warm air from leaking out.

Harness the sun – Make sure your south-facing windows are clean and open those curtains during the day to heat your home with the sun.

Lower your water heater temperature – Set your water heater temperature at 115 to 120 degrees to conserve energy. Shortening your showers helps, too!

Source: FPL.com/wintertips.

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How is Your Financial Fitness?

February 7, 2017 12:27 am

The gym isn’t the only area you can work on your fitness. How about your finances? The following financial wellness tips, courtesy of CFP, can help you save more, all year long.

Create a budget: Creating a budget is a simple way to determine how best to spend your money. Start by reconciling last year's expenditures and creating a list of necessary payments. Giving yourself a "cheap month," such as spending $100 a week, can help define your needs. In addition, working with your spouse or partner can help identify a realistic budget and prevent overspending.

Put yourself first: Spending too much on adult children, parents and other family members can jeopardize your long-term financial situation. Having children live within a budget will force more careful spending while teaching a valuable lesson. For adult dependents, spend carefully; you can't take care of others if you haven't taken care of yourself.

Maximize benefits: Take full advantage of your existing benefits package, such as your 401(k) or retirement plan. For a 401(k), make sure to maximize your investment by matching your employer's contribution. If you operate within individual funds, rebalance your 401(k) account periodically. Establishing a dollar cost averaging arrangement – investing set amounts at regular intervals regardless of the financial climate – for a new account, such as a Roth IRA or 529 plans, can also increase your savings.

Know yourself: Many people have chronic issues of overspending or mismanaging debt. Developing smart habits can improve your finances. If you fail to prudently spend with credit cards, cut them up. If you struggle to meet basic payments, round up to the nearest whole number on larger expenses. For example, if your car payment is $375, plan on spending $400 per month.

Big or small, everyone can take steps to improve their financial well-being.  

Source: www.CFP.net  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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