Shopping for a Lender (Part 2)

October 24, 2009

It is just as important to look for a lender with a reputation for integrity and service. You will be sharing all of your most private financial information with your loan company. Signing for a loan is a big commitment, so make sure that you feel comfortable with your lender. Here are some important items to consider when shopping for a mortgage lender:

Rate Commitment
Many lenders quote an interest rate at the time of application. However, if market interest rates should go up or down during the period before you close on your loan, you need to find out what interest rate you will ultimately be charged. It is also important to know how long the lender will commit to this rate.

Loan Servicing
After your loan is closed, you will be dealing with a loan servicing company. The loan servicing company will accept your payment every month and handle any questions you may have concerning your mortgage balance. Many lenders service their own loans while many others sell their servicing to outside firms. You should know upfront that the lender you choose works with reputable loan servicing companies.

Considering the cost involved, your final choice of a lender should be one who offers you a good deal financially. However, keep in mind that you will be dealing with your lender for many years and it is always easier to deal with people you like and trust.

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The Loss Damage Waiver

October 15, 2009

You’re standing at the rental car counter and the car agent asks if you would like to purchase the insurance on the car you are about to rent. The insurance seems so expensive. What do you do?

The insurance the rental car companies are trying to sell you is called “the loss damage waiver”. Purchasing this coverage from the rental agency relieves you of any responsibility for damage to a rented vehicle. Sounds good on the surface, but is it? It’s possible that you have probably already purchased the majority of what the rental agent is offering. When you purchase physical damage coverage (comprehensive and collision) for a car you own, the coverage will extend to any short-term rental vehicle. In some states (Minnesota included) the coverage for the rental vehicle extends from the liability coverage you purchased for your own personal vehicle.

Think twice before you purchase coverage you may very well already have.


Plan To Get There!

October 13, 2009

Planning is the only way to make sense of the five things you can do with money. If you don’t plan, you will likely spend more, save less, invest less, and do nothing to reduce your taxes.

Don’t sell yourself short by planning your retirement based on some arbitrary percentage of your income. “Needs planning” is a good start for someone who has given no thought to retirement savings. It’s one way to convince people that they should save something, but it’s not good for people who want to do better than just get by. Don’t settle for mediocrity in your investment planning; try to excel. It’s fine to set a floor for what you will need, but then aim higher-and plan to get there! Become a “wants” planner, instead of a “needs” planner. Only when you determine what you want from life can you determine the role that money will play in helping you achieve your dreams.


Final Words on Debt

September 29, 2009

If you have incurred inefficient debt, one method of eliminating It is to transfer the debt to your home equity. Many people are reluctant to use their home equity to consolidate other debt. This reluctance really stems from a mind-set that is behind the times. Certainly, 30 years ago, if people refinanced their home or took out a second mortgage, you can be sure the neighbors were talking behind their backs about their financial woes. But using your home’s equity is economically wise.

It provides low Interest rates, a tax deduction, and an extended amortization.

However, even this form of debt should not be used recklessly. Defaulting on a mortgage of any kind has greater consequences than defaulting on consumer loans. Mortgage loans are secured by your home, which means that if you can’t make payments, you will lose your home. Consumer credit lenders cannot take such drastic remedies.

Avoid all other kinds of debt, including the high-risk debt of stock margin purchases and stock and commodity options. Leave those investments to the professional gamblers. Otherwise, buy only what you can pay for with cash.

Final words on debt. When to use it: rarely. How to use it: to increase your net worth or long-term quality of life, not to buy more things…


Vacation Properties and Income – Part 2

September 14, 2009

Another way for retirees to generate income from a vacation home is to sell it. By using the federal capital gains exclusion in conjunction with the sale of your primary residence, you can potentially realize tax-free income. Here’s how it works. The basic capital gains exclusion rules state that you must have owned and used the home as your primary residence for at least two years out of the five-year period ending on the date of the sale. If you are married, the full $500,000 exclusion ($250,000 for single homeowners) is available as long as one or both of you satisfies the ownership test (two years) and you both satisfy the use test (primary residence).


Vacation Properties and Income – Part 1

September 10, 2009

If you have a vacation home, you’re already aware of the enjoyment it provides and the benefits it can offer at tax time. But you may not be aware of how vacation property can be used to generate income in retirement or how it can play into an estate plan. In fact, vacation properties offer retirees a number of different options in managing their finances and estate.
Vacation property may be used to generate income in several different ways. The first, and most obvious, is renting it. The IRS allows you to deduct mortgage interest on your primary residence and one additional property up to a limit of $1 million in combined mortgage debt for mortgages taken out after 1987. Current tax rules also allow you to rent out a second home for up to 14 days per year without having to report the rent as income. If you rent for more than 14 days, the home is considered investment property, and rent must be reported as income. Converting the property to an investment property, however, allows you to deduct rental expenses, such as insurance and utilities, if you have a net profit on the property (deductions are limited if you report a loss). You can still use an income-producing property for personal use while maintaining your tax advantages — but only for the greater of 14 days or 10 percent of the total days it is rented. Maintenance days do not count as personal-use days, but use by in-laws or other part-owners does, even if rent is charged.


Simple Truths

September 8, 2009

As a financial advising firm, one of the simple truths we have learned is that relationships are the single greatest influence on how people use their money and plan for the future. When people talk about their hopes and dreams, they talk about the people they love. Their future, the life they wish to live, is always full of the people most important to them. They don’t talk first about dollars and cents, Dow averages, or bond yields. They talk about a spouse, a parent, a child. When imagining their financial futures, even those without family often focus on others, such as employees, friends, faith communities, and charities.