Going to Get My Teeth Straightened

Going to Get My Teeth Straightened

I have come into a little money this month, a settlement with an insurance company from something that happened about a year and a half ago. I am trying to figure out what I really need to do with it, of course there are never any lack of things that you could dispose of money upon. I went to see a dentist who does invisalign veneers in Wollongong and tried to get him to give me a firm price upon what that is going to cost. I have a couple of teeth which are pretty crooked and they need to be straightened out. Of course that is not as vital as other things might be, but of course you have to look in the mirror every morning and it is nice to be able to smile without being self conscious about it. I do not really want to have to do that for the rest of my life, that is probably going to be another six decades if I am lucky to have a long life. Read the rest of this entry

Alt-A Mortgages How They Work

Alt-A Mortgages How They Work

A house is probably the single largest investment you will ever make, and if you’re like most, you’ll need a mortgage to finance it. Mortgages are loans that are secured by specified real estate – namely, the house that the loan is being used to purchase. Depending on factors like your credit score, employment history and the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, you may be offered a prime mortgage, subprime mortgage or something in between: an Alt-A mortgage. Here, we take a quick look at the Alt-A mortgage, and why Wall Street wants to bring them back.

Alt-A Basics

Most mortgages are either prime or subprime. Prime mortgages are offered to borrowers who have higher credit scores (and, therefore, lower risk), and come with lower interest rates. Subprime mortgages go to borrowers with lower credit scores and – to make up for the added risk – lenders charge higher interest rates on them. Alt-A mortgages are loans that fall somewhere in between the prime and subprime category in terms of risk and interest rates. (For more, see How Interest Rates Work on a Mortgage.)

Characteristics

One of the defining characteristics of Alt-As is that they are typically low-documentation or

3 Companies that Graduated from Micro Cap to Small Cap in 2015

3 Companies that Graduated from Micro Cap to Small Cap in 2015

Investors willing to assume the risks of investing in micro-cap stocks need to develop the self-discipline to research those companies and avoid impulse buying. Conducting adequate due diligence, giving serious consideration to the advice provided by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for micro-cap investing and restricting investments to stocks listed on major exchanges can provide opportunities for success in an area where most people fail.

Investors holding shares of stocks that graduate from micro-cap status to the small-cap level have good reason to celebrate. Fund managers generally avoid micro-cap stocks because the relatively large position a fund would take in such a small company can trigger burdensome SEC reporting requirements. Funds provide additional liquidity for their stocks and often boost investor demand for the stocks they report as new holdings. Many of the micro-cap stocks from 2014 benefited from the broad-market bullishness of 2015, finding their way into the small-cap universe.

NeoGenomics

NeoGenomics, Inc. (NASDAQ: NEO) operates cancer testing laboratories, providing genetic and molecular testing services for doctors, clinics, hospitals and other laboratories. Despite this stock’s 16% price decline to $6.78 from Dec. 31, 2015 through Jan. 27, 2016, NeoGenomics remains well within the small-cap

When Are You Too Old for a Mortgage?

When Are You Too Old for a Mortgage?

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act is clear: It is illegal to discriminate against someone who wants to borrow money based on age. You cannot be denied a mortgage or mortgage refinance loan because you are too old.

You can, however, be denied if you do not financially qualify to take out the loan. For more see: Mortgage Basics.

Qualifying

If the bank or mortgage company determines your income is insufficient, you can be denied the loan. The same applies to your credit score: If it’s too low, you may be out of luck.

If your FICO score is 740 or higher, you should be fine. If it is under 640, you may qualify for a mortgage, but at a higher rate.

Some lenders view pensions, Social Security benefits and other forms of fixed income as a problem. Others see fixed income as “certain income” and are happy to grant the loan.

Your debt should be no more than 43% of gross monthly income, but even if that’s the case for you, your budget and personal finances are what really determine whether you can afford the mortgage.

From this point on, it’s not a matter of not being allowed to obtain

Finding Similarities Between Houses and Life

Finding Similarities Between Houses and Life

Owning a House in Meridian, Idaho The third largest city in the entire state of Idaho is the Meridian and this city has be a haven of choices for the real estate investors as they are being lured in having a real estate investment and be one of those who own a Meridian home. This is not something that is new to most of the people because Meridian, Idaho is one of the best places in all of Idaho to purchase a house and settle down. When buying a property, you must be well aware of what you must focus on when you choose which one to buy especially if you are planning to buy in the wonderful city of Meridian. Buying a house is probably one of the biggest decisions that a person will make in his life. Most people will feel overwhelmed when they come across such decision making because this requires a huge amount of money in making the deal aside from the feelings of happiness, pride and joy associated in finally buying a home. The reason for this is that when you are planning to buy a house for the first time, it

Knowing Exactly What Needs are Usually Vital to Homebuying

Knowing Exactly What Needs are Usually Vital to Homebuying

Many people looking to purchase their own first home are not sure what they would like. What capabilities would you like more? What do you prefer or detest about your current house? By giving your ideas to an real estate agent, you both may realize what exactly is best for your position. Sometimes your agent might have to anticipate just what buyers desire, especially if they don’t make their demands and would like clear. You may check my blog or you could check here for more information.

You must also take into account a great many other factors, as though you are any buyer which is looking for the main one home to reside in forever or perhaps you plan on moving again inside a decade. Young families just starting out or even established families who need to locate specific characteristics, such as transport, schools, and so forth is also important. It could be that you have to live closer to family or you are transferring jobs too. You will also have to overcome skepticism about the housing market, especially as soon as the market brought on the recent economic downturn. Existing buyers are more wary than ever before. If

Additional Streams of Income for Seniors

Additional Streams of Income for Seniors

Try and picture a scenario in which a mortgage company sends you a check every month rather than you sending them a check. This is exactly what you get when you take out a reverse mortgage. Reverse mortgages are gaining in popularity because of increased life expectancies, higher medical costs and the downturn of the stock market over the past few years.

Reverse Mortgages

A reverse mortgage is a special type of loan that lets a homeowner, 62 years of age or older, convert the equity in their home into cash without having to sell their home or give up the title. The home can be one of the largest assets a senior owns, and a reverse mortgage allows individuals to access that capital as an income stream without having to vacate the property. “A lot of people are in more of a financial bind than they thought they would be in, at this age, because they’re not getting as high a return on their investments, and their expenses are higher than they anticipated. These are the type of conditions that create demand for reverse mortgages,” says Mike Broderick, a reverse mortgage specialist at Seattle Mortgage Company.

Reverse mortgages are for house rich,

5 Reasons the HELOC Market is Expected to Heat up

5 Reasons the HELOC Market is Expected to Heat up

Following on the heels of the Great Recession home equity line of credits (HELOCs) were hard to come by. Banks were less than willing to extend credit in an environment characterized by record foreclosures that left them stuck with houses nobody wanted to buy. Homeowners who needed cash had to turn to credit cards and personal loans, often paying a higher interest rate than they would have gotten by using the equity in their home. But that’s all changed. Thanks to an improving economy and real estate market, lenders are much more willing to lend, setting the stage for the HELOC market to heat up this year. (For more, see: Home-Equity Loans: What You Need to Know.)

Consider this: according to data from Black Night Financial Services’ data and analytics division, HELOC originations continue to rise, with line of credit amounts originated increasing 35% in January over 2014 levels. HELOC line amounts are the highest Black Knight has seen since it began tracking it in 2005. The reasons for the increased demand vary but one thing is for sure, interest rates are playing a starring role.

Rising Interest Playing a Role

Interest rates have a direct impact on lots of aspects of the

Investing in Manhattan Real Estate with Just $20,000

Investing in Manhattan Real Estate with Just $20,000

You booked an apartment in Barcelona on Airbnb for your last vacation. You prefer Uber to taxis. You just chipped in $50 to a friend’s Kickstarter music project – and you’re looking forward to getting a copy of the CD when it’s released. You may not call yourself a crowdfunding fanatic, but you’ve fully embraced the spirit of the sharing economy.

So why not take the next step and make crowdfunding work for your finances? Until now, investing in New York City real estate was probably something best left to those blessed with an inheritance or at least some seriously great stock options. Now that crowdfunding – scratch that, call this venture crowd investing – has entered the real estate scene, some of America’s most coveted properties just became a little more accessible to the masses.

But just how accessible? (For related reading on the Big Apple’s real estate scene, see: New York City Real Estate: A Safe Haven?)

An Ambitious Goal

Prodigy Network calls itself “the leader in real estate crowdfunding,” and it certainly is the vanguard. The company’s philosophy, according to its website, seems practically altruistic: to provide unprecedented access to “prime real estate assets in Manhattan, which were previously accessible to

Now’s a Terrific Time to Buy (or Refinance) a Home

Now’s a Terrific Time to Buy (or Refinance) a Home

After the Federal Reserve approved a quarter-point increase in its target funds rate last December – the first increase since June 29, 2006 – the real estate industry, as well as mortgage borrowers, have been concerned about higher interest rates in 2016. So far, all that worry has been unnecessary. With mortgage rates remaining low, now is an excellent time to buy or refinance a house.

Heading into Record Lows

Ever since the Fed raised its funds rate, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has been dropping. The reason? Looking for a safety play in a highly volatile and largely negative stock market, investors are flocking to the U.S. bond market. “If stocks are selling [off], and if people are generally pretty panicked about the state of the global economy, bond markets are a natural safe haven,” said Matthew Graham, COO of Mortgage News Daily. “Popular opinion about rates moving higher only helped. Too many people were on one side of that trade, and it almost always makes sense to root for the underdog in those scenarios.” For more on this topic, see How the Federal Reserve Affects Mortgage Rates.

At the same time, trouble in overseas markets – plus signs of weakness in the

5 Ways an Open House Can Actually Hurt Your Home Sale

5 Ways an Open House Can Actually Hurt Your Home Sale

Anyone selling their home has been trained to believe an open house is a good way to find a buyer. If you open your home to the public all weekend you’re sure to draw some foot traffic that could translate into a sale. But that may no longer be the case. Lots of times an open house can do more harm than good. According to the National Association of Realtors, only 9% of buyers found the home they purchased at an open house in 2014. That’s a 16% decline from 2004. The number of buyers that include open houses in their search stood at 44% in 2014, down 51% from 2004. (For related reading, see: Selling Your House? Avoid These Mistakes.)

The Internet Kills the Open House

Thanks to the Internet, the days of driving around from one open house to the next are over. Buyers do most of their research online, narrowing down their options before they even contact a real estate agent. There are a ton of websites and mobile apps that gives buyers a plethora of homes to search through. They can even be alerted when new homes go on the market, or if a house they are eyeing

HUD vs. FHA Loans What’s the Difference

HUD vs. FHA Loans What’s the Difference

You may have heard that “government loans” are available for would-be homeowners who are saddled with bad credit and/or a history of bankruptcies or foreclosures. In reality, though, it’s not quite that simple.

The federal government is not in the home-loan business. However, in the interest of promoting home ownership – especially for low-income Americans – it may be willing to guarantee a mortgage for you if you have less-than-optimum credit. In other words, the government promises the lender that it will make good on the loan if you don’t.

FHA vs. HUD

The federal government agency charged with encouraging individual home ownership is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through one of its offices, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). While HUD does some loan guarantees on its own, its focus is on multifamily units, not individual homes (with the exception of HUD section 184 loan guarantees, which are available only to Native Americans buying homes or other real estate). It is solely the FHA that insures mortgages for single-family-home buyers.

Qualifying for an FHA Loan

To secure an FHA-guaranteed mortgage, you have to go to an FHA-approved lender, typically a bank. One thing that makes an FHA-guaranteed home loan particularly attractive

The Real Estate Market’s Supply and Demand Dilemma

The Real Estate Market’s Supply and Demand Dilemma

In most healthy real estate markets, reduced supply leads to increased demand and all is well. That is still the case today for the most part, but today’s market is much different than those in the past. Limited supply and increased demand has instead created a problem.

Hot Markets

According to the National Association of Realtors, home sales hit a nine-year high in 2015. For a more recent snapshot, homes sales increased 0.4% in January 2016 while the median home price jumped 8.2% to $213,800. The hottest markets for home price increases?

  • Portland, Ore.: 11.4%
  • San Francisco: 10.3%
  • Denver: 10.2%

With the unemployment rate at 4.9%, wage growth at 2.5% over the past year, and the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate at 3.65% versus a historical average of 6%, it would seem as though real estate is in a perfect spot. Those low mortgage rates won’t last forever, which has helped drive demand because potential homebuyers want to lock in low rates while they still can.

With all of this bullish information for the real estate market, what could possibly go wrong?

Real Estate Market Risks

While there are a lot of potential homebuyers who want to lock in low rates, there are more potential homebuyers who are being

The Most Overlooked Tax Deductions

The Most Overlooked Tax Deductions

Through deductions, American wage earners have the chance to pocket more income, rather than hand over their hard-earned cash to the government. For those who keep good records, deductions can mean more money them – and less for the IRS. You probably know the most common deductions, such as deductions for property taxes and charitable donations, but there are related deductions you might be overlooking. Read on for some of the common fees and expenses you can deduct to reduce your tax bill.

The Deductions Caveat

Some of the deductions listed here fall under the label of miscellaneous deductions, and they are below the line – that is, you take the deductions after you’ve calculated your adjusted gross income (AGI). To cash in, you must itemize deductions on Schedule A of your federal return rather than take the standard deduction. The sum of all of your miscellaneous deductions must be more than 2% of your AGI; therefore, if your AGI is $50,000, all of your miscellaneous deductions must top $1,000. The kicker, of course, is that you can deduct only the amount that exceeds 2% (that is, the amount above and beyond $1,000). (For background reading, see An Overview of Itemized Deductions.)

Meeting

The Activist Report Starboard’s Plans for Macy’s Inc

The Activist Report Starboard’s Plans for Macy’s Inc

In a presentation to Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M) shareholders last summer, shareholder activist Jeff Smith of Starboard Value claimed that Macy’s shares could be worth $125 if it were to implement his strategic plan. The central element of the plan is to convert the massive portfolio of real estate under Macy’s control into a series of real estate investment trusts (REITs), thereby unlocking billions of dollars in value for shareholders. In a more recent presentation, Smith lowered his share price estimate to $70, but he still insists the company is undervalued and that its shareholders will be better served if Macy’s separates itself from its real estate.

The initial proposal by Starboard sent Macy’s share prices higher, topping out at $73 a share in July 2015. Its share price has since tumbled to a low of $35 in December 2015. Investors are showing their disappointment in Macy’s management, which has shown little interest in pursuing Starboard’s strategies. The stock is also down on deteriorating earnings.

Starboard’s Plans

Smith’s rapid rise to activist investor stardom accelerated after his successful campaign to have Darden Restaurants’ board of directors entirely replaced. That paved the way for his strategy for spinning off the restaurant chain’s real estate

It Pays to Be a ‘HENRY’

It Pays to Be a ‘HENRY’

Following the Great Recession, a 20% minimum down payment became the industry standard for jumbo mortgages. Today, however, lenders are relaxing the 20% down payment requirement on jumbos – especially for HENRYs (“High Earners, Not Rich Yet”), who tend to be younger professionals with great credit and incomes, but not much cash.

Jumbo Loans

Jumbo loans are mortgages that exceed conforming loan limits. For 2016, that’s $417,000 in most real estate markets, and up to $721,050 in a few high-cost housing markets, such as Honolulu, Hawaii. These loans fall outside conforming loan restrictions, so they aren’t backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Because lenders assume more risk on these loans, they typically impose stricter credit requirements and charge higher interest rates to offset their financial exposure. For more, see A Quick Guide to Jumbo Mortgages and What Are Your Options for Big-Money Mortgages?

Income Rich, Cash Poor

The term “HENRY” refers to a segment of individuals or families who earn between $250,000 and $500,000 per year, but don’t have much cash left after paying for taxes, housing costs, schooling and setting money aside for retirement and college savings accounts. Without much cash, these borrowers may not have the money to cover a large

CBRE Group An Activist Investment Analysis

CBRE Group An Activist Investment Analysis

In many cases, the arrival of an activist investor is unwelcome for corporate boards and management teams. Activists often jockey to remove and replace leadership, disperse more dividends and earnings to shareholders, or even break up entire companies. Fortunately, at least for big corporations, some activist investors are highly collaborative. This was the case when Jeffrey Ubben and ValueAct Capital took a large stake in CBRE Group, Inc. (NYSE: CBG) and advocated for a more expansive future. The story is a happy one, even if it is a little blander than you get with contentious battles, such as Carl Icahn’s failed bid for Clorox. In the end, CBG stocks appreciated, the company grew, and Jeffrey Ubben doubled his position and earnings per share (EPS) over the course of three-plus years.

Why CBRE Group Was Targeted

CBRE Group, Inc., formerly CB Richard Ellis, is a huge commercial real estate and investment firm and one of the leading global outsourcing services providers. It offers its services to owners, lenders and investors in office, multifamily and other types of real estate, almost all of which are commercial. Forbes reported

What’s Ahead for U.S. Commercial Banks (WFC, JPM)

What’s Ahead for U.S. Commercial Banks (WFC, JPM)

What’s the long-term outlook for U.S. commercial banks? Can the group finally overcome headwinds generated by the worst recession since the Great Depression? How will the Federal Reserve’s commitment to higher interest rates impact the performance of key players, including JP Morgan Chase Co. (JPM), Goldman Sachs Inc. (GS), Wells-Fargo Co. (WFC) and Bank of America Corp. (BAC). Finally, can they prosper despite growing anxiety about a worldwide economic contraction?

The U.S. commercial banking sector has lagged broad benchmarks throughout the bull market cycle that began in 2009. This weak performance isn’t surprising, given the group’s wholesale destruction during the 2008 economic collapse. Adding to the burden, reliquification after near bankruptcies ran into regulatory speed bumps created by Dodd-Frank reform while lawsuits and penalties generated enormous legal costs, diverting much-needed attention from core businesses.

The majority of legal actions have now been settled, and government penalties paid, allowing the group to focus on growth in a mixed economic environment. While the U.S. economy continues to show strength in 2016, the rest of the world is struggling, with Europe and Japan instituting negative interest rates to boost growth while Chinese markets go through wild gyrations, upsetting its function as the world’s biggest exporter.

FOMC

Still a Viable Investment?

Still a Viable Investment?

In a version of the Periodic Chart of Investment Returns put together by JP Morgan Asset Management for the years 2000-2015, real estate investment trusts (REITs) were the top-performing asset class in eight of those sixteen years. Further, over that timeframe, REITs, as represented by the NAREIT Equity REIT Index, compiled an average annual return of 12.9%. The next best asset class over the same period was high-yield bonds with an average annual return of 8.6%.

As the disclaimer says, past performance is no guarantee of future returns. So, in the current environment, are REITs still viable investments for individual investors as well as financial advisors and their clients? (For related reading, see: REIT ETFs Offer Stability.)

Interest Rates + REITS

According to Morningstar (MORN), the Vanguard REIT Index Adm (VGSLX), which tracks the MSCI U.S. REIT Index, has a current yield of just over 4%. In today’s low interest rate environment, this is certainly attractive to many investors. Rising interest rates are generally a negative factor for REITs and their outflows increase due to higher interest payments which reduce the cash they have available to make

10 Steps to Tax Preparation

10 Steps to Tax Preparation

The federal government estimates that 60% of individuals use paid preparers to complete and submit their tax returns. If you are one of these people, it’s important to get started right away so you can have a successful tax return experience. This year, 2015 federal tax returns (or applications for an extension) are due on April 18, 2016 because Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in the District of Columbia observed one day early this year, means offices are closed April 15, 2016. (Due to Patriot’s Day, Maine and Massachusetts residents have until April 19, 2016, to file.) But even with this slight delay, you still need to start promptly.

Your preparer may take information directly from you or ask you to complete a questionnaire. Either way, you’ll need time to gather and organize the information. Here are 10 steps to take before meeting for your tax prep.

Tax-Prep List

1. Choose a preparer.

If you don’t yet have a tax preparer, now’s the time to find one. A great way to find a preparer is to ask friends and advisors (e.g., an attorney you know) to make a referral. (For more, read How to Find the Best Tax Preparer for You.) Be sure that