Gunning Daily News

Five Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor

September 23, 2014 12:46 am

Is your relationship with your financial advisor productive? Are you confident about your financial decisions after leaving a meeting, or are you left scratching your head at the proposed investment strategy? Take the lead with your financial advisor by asking these five questions.

1. Are we on the same page?
Have you communicated your investment goals clearly to your financial advisor? With a clear goal in mind, outline long-term objectives, as well as your approach to investing. Setting these expectations will help you avoid searching for a new advisor or worse – potentially damaging your portfolio.

2. How will you achieve my financial goals?
Whether you’re seeking to gain returns or minimize your taxes, it’s important that your financial advisor informs you exactly how he or she is going to make those goals a reality. Be wary of false promises – no matter what your advisor tells you, the stock market is unpredictable. Another red flag: your advisor has not reviewed your tax returns.

3. Can you explain this better?
Financial advisors often use professional terms that may or may not resonate with the average investor. While it’s great that they know their stuff, don’t be afraid to ask that he or she explains everything in detail. If a financial plan seems too complex, even after an explanation, request that the plan be condensed so that you adopt a feasible strategy that meets your needs and understanding.

4. What other resources do you have?
It’s perfectly acceptable to ask your advisor to direct you to other sources of financial information. Ideally, your advisor will have a list of websites, books or pamphlets to further educate you about your investment options.

5. How often will you contact me?
To keep the lines of communication open, establish a schedule with your advisor for quarterly phone calls, annual meetings, etc. Be sure to state which method of communication you prefer, and whether you want your spouse to be involved in the conversation.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


10 Ways to Avoid Fall Youth Sports Injuries

September 22, 2014 12:16 am

Football, soccer, cheerleading and volleyball are popular fall youth sports activities. As kids settle into the new school year, they're also excited to hit the field again. To help reduce the risk of common injuries, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) offer safety tips to keep kids in the game and out of the doctor’s office.

"Overuse injuries are the most common types of sports-related injuries," said AAOS spokesperson Michael S. George, MD. "Often times the initial aches and pains felt during the progression of an injury are overlooked by young athletes. It's essential to teach them about the importance of informing a coach or parent about pain because an undiagnosed injury can become more severe in the long run."

Here are 10 ways to avoid injury:

1. Have a pre-season physical examination and follow doctor recommendations.
2. Warm up and cool down properly with low-impact exercises like walking or cycling.
3. Consistently incorporate strength training and stretching. A good stretch involves not going beyond the point of resistance and should be held for 10-12 seconds.
4. Hydrate adequately to maintain health and minimize muscle cramps. Waiting until you are thirsty is often too late to hydrate properly.
5. Keep an eye out for unsafe play surfaces. Playing grounds should be in good condition.
6. Don't play through the pain. Speak with a sports medicine specialist or athletic trainer if you have any concerns about injuries.
7. When participating, wear protective gear such as properly fitted cleats, pads, helmets, mouth guard or other necessary equipment for the selected sport.
8. Play multiple positions and/or sports during the off-season to minimize overuse injuries.
9. Pay attention to weather conditions such as wet, slippery fields that can lead to injuries.
10. Avoid the pressure to overtrain. Listen to your body and decrease training time and intensity if pain or discomfort develops. This will reduce the risk of injury and help avoid "burn-out."

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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Four Reasons Why Seller-Paid Points Matter

September 22, 2014 12:16 am

‘Seller-paid points’ refer to circumstances in which the seller pays points to reduce the interest rate on the buyer’s mortgage. A sample scenario:

A home is listed for $200,000. The seller is willing to accept $193,000. If the seller reduced the price to $193,000, the buyer would be able to purchase and both would walk away happy. However, if the price remained $200,000, the buyer could ask the seller to contribute $7,000 in closing costs – and both would still walk away happy.

The latter is much more beneficial. Here are four reasons why seller contribution to closing costs benefits the buyer.

1. Your interest rate and monthly payment will be lower.
Interest rates and monthly payments are always lower (rates typically 0.5 percent-0.75 percent lower) when the seller pays closing costs instead of reducing the price.

2. It’s easier to qualify for a mortgage. Because your interest rate and monthly payments are lower, your debt ratio may also be low, resulting in an easier approval process.

3. You’ll pay less interest over the life of the loan.
Your total savings will likely be more with seller-paid points – often 2-3 times more.

4. The IRS allows free tax deductions.
The IRS accepts tax deductions for seller paid-points, meaning you can claim $7,000 in closing costs that year, even though they were paid by someone else on your behalf.

Source: HomeQB.com

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10 Signs You Are Ready to Invest in Real Estate

September 22, 2014 12:16 am

When it comes to property investment, timing is everything. Ultimately, choosing the right time to enter the market will have a significant impact on the long-term success of your investment.

But how can you as an investor know whether the timing is right? Global property portal Lamudi has compiled a list of 10 tell-tale signs that now is the time to start building your investment portfolio.

1. You are financially ready. You have saved enough for the down payment and you have also established your emergency fund. You have taken into account home maintenance expenses. Your credit history is good and you are able to meet all the financial obligations.

2. You have set your long-term goals. You have a clear picture in your mind of the purpose of your investment and you are flexible enough to adjust to changing circumstances. You are not hesitant and when the timing is right, you are able to adapt to the market needs and the development of technologies.

3. You have done your research. You know the neighborhood of your future property well enough to foresee the coming trends and the possible changes in the community. You have researched all the schools in the area as well as the best commuting means and you are able to predict the next homebuyers needs.

4. You have chosen a stable economy. The area is financially stable, economic trends are promising and equities are surging. No demographic fluctuation or no irregular variation of population have been recorded in the area.

5. You understand the country’s policies regarding real estate. The policies of the region promote and encourage a positive, innovative environment as well as drive further economic growth. The tax policy in the country is positive for homeowners. Global innovation index is rising in the area.

6. Infrastructure projects are underway and likely to lead to an increase in property values. The infrastructure of the area is being developed with a focus on: transport, energy, solid waste and water management developments.

7. The region is moving toward sustainable development. The region’s awareness of global and local environmental issues is increasing, the demand for eco-friendly homes as well as for sustainable rural and urban development is rising. As more and more people head toward sustainable living, investing in sustainable property will increase its value in the future.

8. The location draws a lot of interest. Whether it is the best travel destination or the hot jobs spot, the location is always on the top of the search engine. It has become a successful startup hub already or is planning to do so in the coming years, driving a lot of job seekers into the area. The number of enrolled students is increasing every year, the area draws interest of international students.

9. You have found a reliable real estate agent. If you are an overseas buyer, it is particularly crucial to make sure you have a good representative on the ground. Your real estate agent is trustworthy and knows the local market well enough to be able to help you make the choice.

10. You have researched local differences in the property market. Whether you plan to invest in a residential property and turn it into a rental or an office space, you are fully aware of all cultural differences that might occur when you deal with a property seller.

Source: Lamudi

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Social Media Safety for Teens: 6 Tips

September 19, 2014 12:45 am

Going back to school is about more than shiny shoes and trendy notebooks. It's also about kids making new friends and adding those friends on social network sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

More than 60 percent of teens in the United States have at least one social media account, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. And while being online is a good way to keep in touch with friends, it's important for parents to be proactive about Internet safety.

Unfortunately, there are people who can use your child's personal information to steal identities, bully them or begin an inappropriate relationship. Help protect students from online dangers by following these safety tips:

1. Keep your child’s profile private so that only family and people you know see photos, important dates and other information.

2. Make sure they're not posting personal details, like phone numbers, home addresses, the name of their school or Social Security number.

3. Only allow them to publish photos and videos that don't jeopardize their safety or integrity.

4. Make sure they choose a strong password that can't be guessed, and that it gets changed every three months.

5. Never allow them to accept friend requests from people they don't know.

6. Keep an open dialogue with your children. Ask them to let you know if they've received private messages from a stranger, or from someone at school who is teasing, harassing or threatening them.

Source: USA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Mix Old Treasures and New Trends at Home

September 19, 2014 12:45 am

(BPT) - It can be difficult to keep up with the latest changes in decorating styles at home, but an increasingly popular design trend may ease the burden, especially if you've kept some family treasures around. Designers are now focused on keeping those traditional accents, furniture pieces or wallpaper and blending them with clean, bright, contemporary elements.

You, too, can incorporate this style in any room of the home, allowing you to display grandmother’s mirror or repurpose aged marble countertops. Use these tips to get the most out of the old and usher in the new:

Accent with white - A great way to give an outdated room a contemporary balance is to accent with white on trim, molding, doors or decorative linens. Blending the soft wood tones of older furniture or dark wood floors with fresh white accents will make the room pop, breathing new life into a treasured heirloom piece you’ve had in your family for years. You can achieve a similar effect in your kitchen with stainless steel finishes.

Add small, vintage touches – Think of ways to repurpose older items. An old six-paned window with cracked and worn wood can become a frame for family photos. Wood from an old barn can be used for a coffee table or fireplace mantel. Mix up the chairs around your dining room table by blending both modern and contemporary styles. These small changes showcase two distinctive styles that work seamlessly together.

Incorporate focal points - If the shell of your room has a contemporary look, add a few traditional elements as conversation pieces. An antique lamp, an old trunk that becomes a side table or a church pew in an entryway can all be attention-getting additions. On the flipside, if your home features traditional wooden floors that have aged beautifully, let the floor take center stage with simple, modern decorations.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Large Lenders Expect Credit Standards to Ease in Next Three Months

September 19, 2014 12:45 am

Large lenders’ expectations that underwriting standards will ease over the next three months coincide with overall lenders’ expected pullback in the demand for single-family purchase mortgages, according to results from Fannie Mae’s third-quarter Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey. The share of lenders who expect purchase mortgage demand to go up over the next three months decreased significantly – between 26 to 33 percentage points depending on loan type – with the largest decline of 33 percentage points on GSE-eligible loans.

Among those surveyed, larger lenders continue to be more likely than their smaller counterparts to say they expect to ease their credit standards during the next three months, in particular for non-GSE-eligible and government loans, perhaps indicating an effort to boost purchase mortgage activity before the year comes to a close.

"Lenders’ diminished purchase mortgage demand outlook is broadly in line with the softened consumer housing sentiment seen in the August National Housing Survey results released last week," said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. "Historically, as lenders face a more competitive market for loan volume, it’s not uncommon to see some loosening in the lending standards; however, this time, the easing will likely be around the edges."

These latest third quarter results are largely consistent with Fannie Mae’s study released last month, titled "Impact of QM," that shows larger lenders are more likely than smaller lenders to pursue non-QM loans. "Larger lenders are expecting to tap into the non-GSE-eligible and government loan market to maintain or grow their market share and offset their anticipated slowing mortgage demand as the peak spring/summer selling seasons are coming to an end," said Duncan.

Highlights from the survey include:
  • Compared to general consumers, senior mortgage executives continue to be more optimistic about the overall economy.
  • Consumer demand reported for single-family purchase mortgages over the prior three months remain little changed from Q2 to Q3 2014.
  • Larger lenders continue to be more likely than smaller lenders to say their credit standards eased over the prior three months and that they expect standards to ease during the next three months, in particular for non-GSE eligible and government loans.
  • As in Q1 and Q2, most lending institutions surveyed in Q3 2014 reported that they expect to maintain their post mortgage origination execution strategies for the next three months.
  • As in Q1 and Q2, the majority of lenders surveyed in Q3 2014 reported that they expect to maintain their Mortgage Servicing Rights (MSR) strategies for the next three months.
Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Demographic Shifts Signal Need for Housing Changes

September 18, 2014 12:45 am

America’s older population is in the midst of unprecedented growth. According to a recent report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP Foundation, the number of adults in the U.S. aged 50 and over is expected to grow to 133 million by 2030, an increase of more than 70 percent since 2000. It is more important than ever for older Americans to have access to affordable, physically accessible and well-located housing options.

Housing is critical to quality of life for people of all ages, but especially for older adults. Considering current housing costs, a third of adults 50 and over—including 37 percent of those 80 and over—pay more than 30 percent of their income for homes that may or may not fit their needs, resulting in cutbacks elsewhere, including retirement savings. Much of the nation’s inventory also lacks basic accessibility features (such as no-step entries, extra-wide doorways, and lever-style door and faucet handles), preventing older persons with disabilities from living safely and comfortably in their homes. Additionally, with a majority of older adults aging in car-dependent suburban and rural locations, transportation and pedestrian infrastructure that meets the needs of non-drivers is paramount.

“Recognizing the implications of this profound demographic shift and taking immediate steps to address these issues is vital to our national standard of living,” says Chris Herbert, acting managing director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. “While it is ultimately up to individuals and their families to plan for future housing needs, it is also incumbent upon policy makers at all levels of government to see that affordable, appropriate housing, as well as supports for long-term aging in the community, are available for older adults across the income spectrum.”

Of special concern are the younger baby boomers now in their 50s. While a majority of people over 45 would like to stay in their current residences as long as possible, estimates indicate that 70 percent of those who reach the age of 65 will eventually need some form of long-term care. In this regard, older homeowners are in a better position than older renters when they retire. The typical homeowner age 65 and over has enough wealth to cover the costs of in-home assistance for nearly nine years, or assisted living for 6 and half years. The typical renter, however, can only afford two months of these supports.

“As Americans age, the need for safe and affordable housing options becomes even more critical,” says Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President of the AARP Foundation. “High housing costs, aging homes, and costly repairs can greatly impact those with limited incomes.”

Source: AARP

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Six Homeowner Expenses Renters Must Consider

September 18, 2014 12:45 am

Transitioning from renter to homeowner means much more than simply having a place to call your own. Purchasing a home is well worth the investment, but it’s important for renters to be totally financially committed. Renters seeking to buy a home should budget not only monthly expenses, but also these overlooked costs:

Home maintenance
– Unlike renters, homeowners are responsible for upkeep, including expensive projects like replacing a roof or windows.

Utility bills
– Keep in mind that bills are generally higher than those for apartment dwellers, where some are often included in rent.

Closing costs – Closing costs can vary by state, so if you plan to relocate from a rental in one area to a home in another, research thoroughly while budgeting.

Home repairs
– Renters typically don’t have to save for emergency repairs. As a homeowner, make sure you have funds set aside for unexpected issues.

Furniture
– Furnishing an apartment is normally cheaper than furnishing several rooms in a home.

Seasonal projects – Many first-time homeowners fail to factor in seasonal projects, such as spring and summer landscaping and holiday decorating.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Three Common Credit Questions Answered

September 18, 2014 12:45 am

School is back in session, but many people still have questions about a subject that is rarely taught in the classroom: their credit. Here, credit reporting bureau Experian explains the truth behind these common credit questions.

What is my credit report used for?

Credit reports often are referenced to help lenders quickly and objectively decide whether to grant consumers credit and under what terms. Information from credit reports can be used for select employment, rental housing, licensing, insurance and other specific business relationship decisions. Consumers also can check their credit reports for signs of identity theft or use them to better understand what influences credit so they can make more informed financial decisions.

Typical credit reports include the following main categories of information:
  • Identification: the consumer's name, current and previous addresses, telephone number, reported variations of his or her Social Security number, date of birth, employer and spouse's name
  • Account history: specific information about each account, such as date opened, credit limit or loan amount, balance, monthly payment, payment status and payment history
  • Public records: bankruptcy filings, court records of tax liens and monetary judgments
  • Inquiries: a record of those who have reviewed a consumer's credit information
How often are credit reports updated?
In general, creditors forward information to the credit reporting agencies monthly after payments for that billing cycle are posted. Because billing cycles vary, account updates are received by the credit reporting agencies throughout the month. However, it is important to note that lenders are not required to report account information to the national credit reporting agencies. Participation is entirely voluntary.

What do I need to know about my credit score?

Credit scoring is a separate process from credit reporting. Lenders and other credit grantors obtain consumers' scores by selecting the scoring methods that are most predictive of risk for their specific kind of business. There is not one credit score. In fact, there are hundreds of credit scoring systems used by lenders. However, a credit score results from information in a consumer's credit report, translating various score factors into a simple number. This enables lenders to make more objective, consistent lending decisions — and make them more fairly and quickly.

Consumers also may track their own credit scores from a number of sources, including Experian.com. Any score consumers receive through a consumer score disclosure service, such as a credit reporting agency, will explain what the number means in terms of general credit risk and will describe the factors from the credit report that most influenced the score.

Credit score factors are the elements from consumers' credit reports that shape their credit scores. They could include:
  • Payment history
  • Credit usage
  • Average age of accounts
  • Account types
  • Inquiries
Factors like total debt, types of accounts, number of late payments and age of accounts affect credit scores; however, information such as marital status, age and occupation does not. Credit factors indicate what elements of a consumer's credit report most affected the credit score at the time it was calculated.

Source: Experian

Published with permission from RISMedia.