Gunning Daily News

Money Matters for the Newly Married

April 29, 2013 4:50 pm

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…money talk? It might not sound romantic, but if you’re newly married and you haven’t gone over financial facts, then it’s time to talk seriously about your money and your financial plan as a couple.

According to a study conducted by Money magazine, 13 percent of couples say they fight about money several times a month. "Worrying about your finances as a single person is hard enough. Adding in another person's financial aspirations and money issues can make it that much more daunting and complicated," says Dean Urbanski, Vice President, National Sales Manager, BMO Harris Financial Advisors, Inc.

"Agreeing on certain points financially can establish guidelines, direct actions and hopefully prevent future disagreements."

What should you do with your money now that you are joined financially? What should be on the list? And, equally important, how should the items on the list be prioritized?

According to Urbanski, the most important things to do in the short-term are the following:
  • Have a conversation. Sit down and have a frank discussion about each other's money history. Don't be ashamed of mistakes made in the past. Commit to not repeating the mistakes again in your new life together.
  • Create a spending plan or budget. Develop a written budget and make sure that each person knows about all of the expenses. In addition, you should decide together how both of you will contribute to household expenses. Even if one person is the primary bill payer, the other spouse needs to have an idea of what's going on.
  • Set goals together. Besides getting a handle on income and expenses, it's wise to talk about the future and what you want individually. This does not mean you have to have the same goals but it's important to get buy in from each other on your hopes and dreams.
  • Build an emergency fund. Create an emergency fund that equals three to six months of living expenses. If your adjusted gross income is below $166,000, put part of that money in a Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
  • Save for your home. If a home purchase is in your plans, begin saving for a down payment on a home. But, don't overextend.
  • Save for your retirement. Save 10 percent of annual income, which includes contributing to retirement plans.
  • Avoid debt. Steer clear from credit card debt if at all possible.
Urbanski concluded, "It's always a good idea to seek out and work with a financial advisor who can help you both identify your financial goals and work with you to develop a financial plan that can help you achieve them as a couple."

Source: www.bmoharris.com.

Top Career Tips for Woman

April 29, 2013 4:50 pm

What becomes of the women who graduate with MBAs from Harvard Business School? Do most go on to fulfilling careers, or do they drop out of the work force when they become moms?

“The number that has been floated for years, and is quoted by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in her book ‘Lean In,’ is that 15 years after graduation, only a third of them are working full-time—and they’re working for their male classmates,’’ says executive and business coach Debora McLaughlin, author of “The Renegade Leader, 9 Success Strategies Driven Leaders Use to Ignite People, Performance and Profits,” and the forthcoming “Running in High Heels.”

“That statement suggests that, even when they hold advanced degrees from an Ivy League university, women are less ambitious, less willing and less committed than their male fellow graduates. I just don’t believe that.”

In fact, McLaughlin is right. Harvard Business School recently surveyed more than 6,400 male and female alumni and found that well more than half the women aged 31 to 47 were working full-time. Sixteen percent were working part-time, and 10 percent were caring for children full-time.

Ninety-five percent of the men were working full-time.

“This tells me that women are making difficult choices. Certainly, to do what it takes to get into Harvard and complete an MBA, they’re ambitious,” McLaughlin says. “But women, especially those who want to become mothers, face extra challenges in trying to strike a work-life balance. And, let’s face it; it’s still a male-dominated business world that lacks understanding of the needs of working moms.”

No matter where a person – male or female – earns her master’s in business administration, there’s a lot they won’t learn in business school, McLaughlin notes. She offers her own MBA for successfully having it all:

• M – Management skills: A lot of the female professionals and business owners McLaughlin works with don’t enjoy managing people. “They may have gone into a particular industry because it’s their passion – whether it’s architecture, engineering or small business. They want to move up, but in business, that almost always involves assuming managerial responsibilities,” McLaughlin says. You can’t duck this and you won’t be successful if you’re half a manager. Find a mentor, an executive coach, a good course or just read up on current management tools – you’ll be happier and so will your employees. And you’ll be on the path to becoming an inspiring leader.

• B – Balance: Finding the right work-life balance for you is essential! If your dream is to own that corner office or grow your business into a Fortune 100, carefully “choose your regrets,” McLaughlin advises. Will you regret giving up your career to manage a home and children? Will you regret the lost mommy time if you continue working full time? Be bold, ask for what you need. “Why do women give up their careers and men do not?” McLaughlin asks. Striking a balance means being unapologetic about what you need when you need it. When you say “yes” understand what you are saying “no” to.

• A – Advancement: In order to achieve your dreams of success, you have to put yourself out there. “You have to show up and speak up, be authentic and unapologetic,” McLaughlin says. Although women now account for more than half the bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the United States, they fill only16.6 percent of the seats on Fortune 500 boards and women CEOs represent only 4 percent. Get the experience that puts you in the position to be a board candidate, McLaughlin advises. Actively network, find female role models who can help you to achieve the kind of success you’re aiming for, and be seen and heard in the workplace.

“If you have a fingerprint to leave on the world and you want to live your life with the greatest impact, know that you can,” McLaughlin says. “You can have all that you want, when you want it.”

Debora McLaughlin is the best-selling author of “The Renegade Leader, 9 Success Strategies Driven Leaders Use to Ignite People, Performance and Profits” and the forthcoming book, “Running in High Heels.”

For more information, visit www.TheRenegadeLeader.com.

Word of the Day

April 29, 2013 4:50 pm

Qualification. Act of determining a potential buyer’s needs, abilities, and urgency to buy and matching these with available properties.

Q: What Should I Know about Zoning Issues and Approvals?

April 29, 2013 4:50 pm

A: Zoning regulations establish how the land can be used, either for residential, industrial, commercial, or recreational purposes, or sometimes a combination thereof. Designed to protect property owners and communities from undesirable, or inappropriate, land uses and/or construction, zoning laws can be very rigid and inflexible. On the other hand, they can protect your property value and ensure against the stationing of a mega-store right next to your home. Before you begin any remodeling job, determine how your local zoning laws might affect your project. You can visit your local zoning office, city hall, or some other local planning board to get a copy of your local ordinance and determine how you will need to seek approval for your project. Take nothing for granted; some communities even require approval to erect fences.

Choosing Your Most Sustainable Mortgage Option

April 26, 2013 5:26 pm

Your RIS Consumer Confidant recently ran across some good advice from Scott Sheldon (bayarearealestatetrends.com) who blogs about how the shrinking inventory of available housing is taking some home buyers' focus off the bottom line.

Sheldon says pre-approved buyers typically focus on purchase price, when in most cases, it’s the monthly payment over time relative to the purchase price that dictates whether or not that particular property can be identified as an opportunity.

He says consumers are beginning to place more emphasis on sustainable payment over time considering they could be paying more for the property than anticipated. And today's real estate market conditions are causing many buyers to switch mortgage loan programs during the pre-approval phase and well into after they’ve gotten they have gotten into contract.

While qualifying for the mortgage is the end result, to perform on a purchase contract, Sheldon says the appropriate loan program promoting long-term payments sustainability becomes next critically important piece of the puzzle.

In his blog, Sheldon details the following borrowing options:

  • Conventional loans represent the lowest cost combination of rate and payment over time. This type of financing represents the cream of the crop, available in the market today. 20 percent down to avoid monthly mortgage insurance, with the lowest possible payment being 3 percent is common.
  • FHA Loans/Including first-time home buyer options are typically geared towards consumers entering the real estate market for the first time. This type of financing however, is eligible for anyone and is not solely a first-time home buyer program.
  • Fannie Mae's Homepath.com program offers two main advantages, those being no appraisal requirement and no monthly mortgage insurance requirement. The cost of these two advantages comes in the form of a higher risk based pricing, an inherently higher cost loan.
  • VA Loans for military families through the US Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees loans for veterans looking to purchase real estate. The program allows for 100 percent financing and no money down and does not contain any monthly mortgage insurance.

Source: www.bayarearealestatetrends.com

Tips to Ease First Time Homebuyer Jitters

April 26, 2013 5:26 pm

Traditionally, spring marks a busy period of time for housing market activity. With the heat of summer seemingly only weeks away, BMO Harris Bank offers first-time homebuyers strategies for finding their ideal home while keeping financial priorities in check.

Buying a home can be the largest and most important financial decision one can make, so it is important to be aware of all the factors that go into making a responsible purchasing decision.

"The first step is figuring out how much you can afford to spend on homeownership, which means an honest assessment of the household balance sheet," says Kevin Christopher, Head of Mortgages Sales, BMO Harris Bank. "Once you have a clear idea of where you stand financially, you can then make a responsible decision of what you can afford, including your down payment, monthly mortgage costs and other expenses like utility costs, property insurance and taxes."

Here are tips for first timers:

Making an affordability assessment
Christopher noted that there are two rules of thumb first time homebuyers can use to determine what they can afford.

"First of all, housing costs, including mortgage payments, property insurance and taxes, should not take up more than one-third of your income. In addition to this, servicing your overall debt, including loans, utilities, credit card payments and lines of credit, should not account for more than 40 percent. If you can land safely within these parameters, then homeownership is an affordable and realistic option."

Many banks offer free online tools to help you wade through the home lending process.

Coming up with the down payment
In general, the bigger the down payment you come up with, the less interest you'll pay over the life of your mortgage. Financial institutions may offer special accounts designed to help you save for that first home. Consider opening a savings account specifically to fund your down payment. One easy way to save is to set up an automatic monthly deposit from your checking account to your savings account, allowing you to build the balance over time.

Choosing the right mortgage for you
Your mortgage needs to fit in with the rest of your financial priorities -- which could mean increased flexibility or security. Consider the following when choosing your mortgage:

  • Choose a shorter amortization period - In general, the shorter the life of the mortgage, the lower the overall interest cost. Consider choosing a 20-year amortization rather than a 30-year amortization to save you money on interest costs and help you become debt-free sooner.
  • Fixed vs. variable - Variable-rate mortgages have been a winning strategy over the long term, but fixed rate mortgages (currently at historic lows) provide cost certainty and peace of mind.
  • Stress-test your mortgage payments - Use a mortgage payment based on a higher rate to stress-test your budget; total housing costs (mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance, etc.) should not consume more than one-third of household income.

Applying for pre-approval
A pre-approval establishes the amount you can reasonably afford to borrow towards the purchase of your first home. Consider the following benefits to getting pre-approved:

  • Have a good idea of your finances - You will receive a better idea of how much you are qualified to borrow, saving time looking at homes that meet your affordability range. Your term and amortization, as well as estimated monthly payments, are provided at approval so you can use these figures when planning your overall budget.
  • Moving quickly - If you are pre-approved for a mortgage, you'll be able to move quickly to make an offer when you finally find the perfect home for you.
Source: BMO Harris Bank

3 Important Finance Lessons for Your Teen

April 26, 2013 5:26 pm

More high school students than ever will be collecting diplomas in the coming weeks, an increase attributed in part to new career-oriented schools that help students appreciate the link between learning and earning.

“After 40 years, we’re finally seeing significant improvements in high school graduation rates. The national average shot up from 72 percent in 2001 to 78 percent in 2010,” says retired business executive Cary Siegel author of “Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By,”

“While it’s wonderful to offer initiatives like career-prep schools, I worry these new high school and college graduates won’t have a clue about how to manage their paychecks.”

“I wished I’d learned these things in school – I would’ve made fewer mistakes,” he says. “My main goal was to retire early enough to spend time with my kids while they were still young, and I was able to do that. It’s not because I’m rich; I’m not! It’s because I learned how to effectively manage my money.”

All high school and college grads should leave school armed with that knowledge, says the father of five teenagers ages 13 to 17.

He offers three of his favorite tips:

• Just say no to credit cards. (And don’t get one in college!) Credit card companies inundate college students with special offers. They want to hook you early on! But getting hooked on credit cards is as bad as getting hooked on drugs. The more you use them, the easier they are to use, and since you’re not required to pay off the balance each month, you can quickly spiral into debt. You pay for that debt, too. The average interest rate on student credit cards in April was 17.4 percent – which means for every dollar of debt you have, you’re charged almost 18 cents every month.

• Know what your bills are and take action when they go up. It’s amazing how many people don’t know what they’re paying their service providers each month. (If you don’t know within $5 what each monthly bill is, you’re probably overpaying on many of them.) When your cable, internet or cell phone company tells you it’s increasing its rates, call the company and ask to speak to a manager or someone in the retention department. Be polite and don’t raise your voice. Ask for detailed rationale for the increase; often, this will immediately stop the increase. If it doesn’t, stress how long you’ve been with the company and your excellent payment history.

• Spend an hour a week learning about personal finance.
Once you start, you’ll find you’re learning so much, you’ll spend more than an hour exploring. Some free resources include the internet and the library. Look for a financially savvy individual, write up a list of questions, and ask if you can interview them. You may not have to look any further for this than your own family. Just one hour a week adds up to a lot of time over a few years: 52 hours your first year, and more than 200 hours during four years of college. “I’m fairly certain that is more time than 95 percent of other college students spend on learning personal money management,” Siegel says.

Source: www.carysiegel.com

Word of the Day

April 26, 2013 5:26 pm

Mortgage. Legal document that creates a lien on property; it secures the repayment of a loan.

Q: Should I Buy a Vacation Home?

April 26, 2013 5:26 pm

A: The second home market has more ebbs and flows than the primary home market. Sales are iffy in a bad economy except, perhaps, on the high-end. That said, there is a growing trend toward the purchase of vacation homes. They are being bought for investment purposes, enjoyment, as well as retirement. In the latter instance, some people are buying with the idea of turning a vacation home into a permanent retirement haven down the road, a move that puts them ahead of the game now.

Some of the tax benefits of a second home mirror those for a primary residence. Before taking the leap, however, ask yourself if you can afford to carry two mortgages, maintain two households, and pay the extra utilities and maintenance costs. Also, learn about financing requirements and options, which can differ slightly from those on a primary residence.

Word of the Day

April 26, 2013 4:24 pm

Maturity date. Date on which principal and interest on a mortgage or other loan must be paid in full.