Mortgage insurance is a stable, cost-effective way to obtain a low down payment mortgage, and offers distinct benefits to borrowers. It has been a cornerstone of the U.S. housing market since 1957, providing more than 30 million families with the opportunity to own homes despite financial barriers. If you are considering purchasing a home, it is important to understand your options, including your low down payment options.
(BPT) - For many Americans, the biggest hurdle in buying a home is the down payment. According to a recent report, 49% of non-homeowners stated that not having enough money for a down payment and closing costs was a major obstacle to purchasing a home. Many people also mistakenly believe lenders require a 20% down payment to qualify for mortgage financing.
Data shows that by using private mortgage insurance (MI), millions of homebuyers with down payments as low as 3% or 5% have been approved for affordable and well-underwritten mortgages.
In the past year alone, MI has helped more than 1.1 million borrowers purchase or refinance a mortgage. Nearly 60% were first-time homebuyers, and more than 40% had annual incomes below $75,000.
How MI works
In addition to the other elements of the mortgage underwriting process — such as verifying employment and determining the borrower’s ability to afford the monthly payment — lenders require borrowers to commit some of their own money before approving their mortgage loan. This is where MI entered the system more than 60 years ago, to bridge the down payment gap and help creditworthy borrowers qualify for a mortgage without large down payments.
Benefits of MI
MI is a stable, cost-effective way to obtain a low down payment mortgage, and offers distinct benefits to borrowers. It’s been a cornerstone of the U.S. housing market since 1957, providing more than 30 million families with the opportunity to own homes despite financial barriers. If you are considering purchasing a home, it is important to understand your options, including your low down payment options. To learn more, visit LowDownPaymentFacts.org.
Most people don’t have enough money saved for a rainy day. It’s important to have enough money in the bank to be able to survive a major financial downturn like a job loss. You should also be saving for your retirement. Maybe you are worried about the state of your finances and wonder how you can get in control of them. The key to getting control of your money is to live on less than you have. Here’s how.
Putting Away Something in Savings
Building an emergency fund counts as the most important financial step you can take to ensure that you are living below your means. Most financial advisors suggest that you have between three and six months' of income stored in savings in case of an emergency. Most people don’t. The problem is that if they become unemployed, they’re forced to live on credit cards or loans from family because they have no money in savings. If you have to borrow money to live, you’ll eventually have to pay it back or go bankrupt. Putting money into savings each month ensures that you never have to go into debt should a major financial blow occur.
Not Investing Too Much
It's certainly true that real estate, starting with your home, can be a sound investment. That said, you should be careful about putting too much money into real estate because doing so can make you property rich but cash poor. While it’s nice to have property, you may not have enough money in the bank should you experience a job loss or serious illness. So how much can you safely invest in your home? Here’s a rule of thumb. The average American making $61,372, assuming they have no debts, should pay no more than $2,301.45 a month if they buy a house with a conventional 30-year mortgage. This means that you would have no more than 30% to 40% of your money sunk into real estate at any given time. Following this tip will keep you from paying too much on housing.
Living Below Your Means
Living below your means ensures that you always have more money coming in than going out. People who adopt this lifestyle often vow to forego buying something new until they can pay cash for it. If they do get a raise at work, they pretend to themselves that they are still bringing in the same amount of money each month, and the extra money from their raise goes into savings or an IRA. The less of your money you spend, the more of it you can keep.
Spending less cash than you earn takes effort. It’s really a lifestyle choice and not a one-time thing. To get started, you first want to put money into savings each month. Next, be mindful of how you invest your money. Being cash poor can hurt you if tragedy strikes. Finally, do your utmost to spend less money than you have. If you follow all of these steps, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever have to worry about your finances.
The bottom line is that protected retirement income can help provide much-needed peace of mind for many Americans.
(BPT) - How big is your retirement nest egg? Is there a chance you could outlive it? Even if you're socking money into your 401(k) every paycheck like clockwork, that's a question worth pondering.
Americans are living longer, more active, younger lives. They say that 60 is the new 40, and if you look around at who we used to call "senior citizens," you'll see people in their prime. That's the good news.
It also presents a problem. We're all facing a silent, growing crisis. Study after study, including financial research organization LIMRA’s 2016 Secure Retirement Study, shows that many Americans underestimate their retirement expenses. Today, retirement isn't the end of your life, it's a transition point. It's about enjoying the fruits of your labors without the stress of your 9-to-5. Will you have enough money to do that for the rest of your life?
Kent Sluyter, president of Prudential Annuities, says the first step toward achieving that goal is to change your mindset. We're all programmed to think about retirement savings, contributing to that 401(k) and accumulating wealth month after month and year after year. That's important, no doubt, but it's only one part of the retirement puzzle. It's also about generating regular income during retirement, so you're not simply depleting your accumulated retirement savings with nothing coming in to replenish the pot.
One way to get a regular "paycheck" during retirement, Sluyter says, is with annuities. But they're not top of mind for many people, and misinformation and confusion is floating around out there, even in financial advisors' offices.
"The annuities market is at an inflection point," says Sluyter. "Annuities are passed over by many consumers and investors because they are often perceived as expensive and unnecessary."
Annuity sales fell 8 percent in 2017, according to LIMRA data. Observers attribute much of the drop to the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule that governs the way financial professionals sell and market annuities. The rule made it less attractive for many to sell annuities and created a great deal of media coverage that amplified existing negative perceptions of them. Annuities have a reputation of being complex, which only increases the risk of their being misunderstood. However, annuities can serve a critical purpose within a retirement portfolio among a combination of strategies, investments and products.
That’s why several companies, including Prudential, recently established the Alliance for Lifetime Income with the goal of promoting greater understanding of how annuities can protect retirement income and help grow retirement savings.
“Through the Alliance, we’re fostering clarity and simplicity, so consumers have confidence in lifetime income solutions such as annuities," says Sluyter.
What are annuities, exactly, and how do they differ from other retirement savings? Here's a short course in Annuity 101.
An annuity is an insurance product that guarantees income. Just like an insurance policy, you pay into it, often in a lump sum, and it guarantees you monthly, quarterly or yearly payouts for the rest of your life. There are three different types:
Why are more consumers investing in annuities? Sluyter explains:
The bottom line is that protected retirement income can help provide much-needed peace of mind for many Americans.
Annuities are issued by The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Pruco Life Insurance Company (in New York, by Pruco Life Insurance Company of New Jersey), located in Newark, NJ (main office), or by Prudential Annuities Life Assurance Corporation located in Shelton, CT. (main office). Variable annuities are distributed by Prudential Annuities Distributors, Inc., Shelton, CT. All are Prudential Financial companies and each is solely responsible for its own financial condition and contractual obligations.
(BPT) - A recent study by the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College suggests an alarming state of awareness about retirement readiness: Of surveyed households, 33 percent realize they are not well prepared, 19 percent are not well prepared but don't know it, and 24 percent are well prepared but don't know it.
For the Americans at risk of not being able to maintain an adequate retirement lifestyle, it's critical to take action. For the households that are well prepared and don't know it, they risk sacrificing a comfortable retirement. Understanding the behaviors associated with good retirement planning, in turn, can help you get a better sense of where you stand. Consider the following behaviors, which are more likely to be modeled by those who are well prepared for retirement.
A high-level approach to ensuring adequate retirement assets is to save a minimum of 10 percent of your gross income each year. You may need to save even more depending on your asset accumulation goals and how many years you have left to save before retirement.
If you would rather have a dollar goal, multiply your annual income goal by 25 to arrive at the amount you should try to save. For example, if after considering Social Security and any pension payment, you want $30,000 more of annual income in retirement, you will need to save $750,000. Lower goals mean you need to withdraw at a faster rate and increase the risk you will deplete your assets too soon.
Not all budgets need to detail specific spending items. Rather, you can consider yourself working within a budget if you know that each year you are saving and not creating new debt (and paying off legacy debt for your education or home). If you want to squeeze out more savings, a line-by-line review of spending may well be fruitful.
Many of us are saddled with personal debt from college and graduate school. This debt has become so burdensome that the customary progression to home ownership has been delayed for many. The debt has also had a domino effect on the ability to save for retirement. Paying down personal debt should be job one. Other personal debt, such as for a car purchase, should be avoided, minimized or paid down as quickly as possible. Credit card debt, which carries high interest rates, should be avoided entirely. Remember, each dollar of debt limits your ability to save for the future.
It used to be commonly accepted that you pay off your mortgage before retirement, but more and more retirees are entering retirement with mortgage debt. The old rule remains the best approach, since any indebtedness in retirement will limit your ability to react and adjust to poor investment return on your assets.
With traditional pension plans less commonly offered by employers, Social Security has become an even more important source of guaranteed lifetime retirement income. By waiting to age 70, you can increase the benefit payment significantly, which is also the base for annual Social Security cost-of-living increases for the rest of your life. That increased Social Security benefit may also increase the benefit that a surviving spouse will receive after you die. Unless you have a health care issue that could reduce your life expectancy and no spouse who might need a spousal benefit based on your earnings record, claiming Social Security early is the greatest retirement planning mistake made.
Health care is the single greatest cost in retirement, and various studies estimate the cost to be $250,000 or more for a healthy 65-year-old couple. The cost of health care will be even greater to the extent one retires before age 65 and Medicare eligibility.
Moreover, health care costs can vary and may come sooner than expected. The best plan, then, is to work until at least age 65 and understand that health care is a unique challenge in retirement. To the extent possible, utilize Health Savings Accounts and bank any unused amounts annually to build up a tax-free health care fund for retirement.
No later than 10 years before your planned retirement, you should be translating your retirement assets into an annual or monthly retirement income stream. Start with your Social Security and any pension plan payments as your income base, and then consider how much income your other assets can safely generate. Depending on this analysis, you may want to consider purchasing an annuity to make more of your retirement income guaranteed and avoid the twin risks of poor investment return and living longer than expected.
Consider also that many of your retirement assets have an embedded tax liability. You will need to look through your retirement assets to determine after-tax income, since your food, rent and cable bills are paid with after-tax money. Only by seeing your after-tax income can you decide if you have enough to live on.
Annual financial wellness check-ups
During your early working years, you are likely to be focused on debt reduction and asset accumulation. As you get closer to retirement, you will need to focus on the strategies associated with Social Security, health care and income generation. At all times you should annually revisit your goals and make adjustments, as needed, to how much and where you are saving, how much you are spending, how aggressively you are investing, and when your target retirement date is.
Modeling such behaviors will make it more likely you will be well prepared for retirement. By doing so you will also make it more likely that you are properly assessing the state of your retirement readiness and not over- or underestimating your financial health.
Whether you’re considering ways to give to deserving causes or looking for the perfect gift for a loved one for a special occasion, remember that not every gift is a tangible item. In fact, some of the best gifts are those you can’t touch at all, but those that make the world a better place. Consider these giving options to make a lasting impact.
Make a Lasting Difference
(Family Features) Whether you’re considering ways to give to deserving causes or looking for the perfect gift for a loved one for a special occasion, remember that not every gift is a tangible item. In fact, some of the best gifts are those you can’t touch at all, but those that make the world a better place.
Socially motivated gifts, of your own accord or on behalf of someone else, are much more than a one-time present. They have the potential to make a significant impact on lives or to further the work of a cause-based organization.
Consider these giving options to make a lasting impact:
Retirement plans: Because retirement plans are taxed differently than most assets, they may actually become a tax liability. Naming a nonprofit organization as a beneficiary of your retirement account can be an attractive option for leaving a legacy and reducing income, and possibly estate taxes, for loved ones. A tax-exempt organization may be eligible to receive the full amount, bypassing income taxes. This means, for example, that a $100,000 IRA can be worth the full $100,000.
Life insurance plans: A gift of life insurance is an affordable way to make a significant gift while also enjoying tax savings during your lifetime. Benefits include the ability to give a significant gift at a fraction of the value; tax savings that can be immediately realized; a reduction in the final taxes of your estate and the ability to pass gifts outside of your estate.
Gifts of real estate: You may decide that the greatest gift you can make is to leave your home or other property to a charitable organization. This kind of gift is ideal for someone who intends to continue living in his or her home or property through their lifetime, but still make a charitable gift. You can leave this generous gift by signing an agreement with an organization about maintaining the property so you can use it throughout your lifetime. You may even receive a tax deduction for your gift.
Gifts of stock: Stocks, bonds and mutual funds that have appreciated in value are among the best ways to gift a nonprofit organization. You may receive a charitable income tax deduction for the full market value of the stock (up to a maximum of 30 percent of your adjusted gross income) and avoid paying the capital gains tax on any increase in the value of the stock.
Gifts of cash: This type of gift is simple and eligible for an immediate charitable tax credit. Although many organizations allow you to specify how you would like the funds to be used, an unrestricted monetary donation allows the organization to allocate your contribution into the project or area that needs funds most.
If you designate a gift on someone’s behalf, be sure to share a card or a note with the honoree letting them know about the contribution. Particularly if it’s a cause close to the heart, it’s sure to be just as gratefully received, if not more so, as any trinket you might buy.
Find more ideas for gifts that make a lasting difference at eLivingToday.com.
4 Ways to Make an Impact on Children
When looking for opportunities to make an impact on the lives of others, selecting a cause to support can be an overwhelming task with so many options to choose from. However, considering opportunities that can change the lives of kids is one way to make a lasting impact for generations to come.
Helping children early on can change the trajectory of their lives, set them up for success and empower them to achieve their dreams. This is especially important for kids living in poverty who are not guaranteed access to things like medical care and quality educations. According to global humanitarian organization Children International, nearly half the world lives on less than $2.50 a day and 1 in 5 kids in the United States lives in poverty.
Consider these ideas to make an impact on children in need now and well into the future:
Become a mentor or coach. A positive role model can make a life-changing difference for a child from disadvantaged circumstances. As a mentor or a coach, you can help children explore and nurture their unique talents and guide them toward a successful future.
Volunteer at a local school. Families increasingly rely on two incomes to support their households, which means parents are less available to lend their time to their children’s classrooms or schools. At the same time, public school funding is shrinking. As a volunteer, you can help fill these gaps and contribute to bettering the learning opportunities for children in your community.
Sponsor a child. You may be surprised to learn how far a monetary donation can go. For example, Children International supporters can join a monthly giving program and sponsor a child in poverty for $32 per month. Your donation establishes a connection with an individual child who receives access to life-changing benefits like medical care, educational support and life-skills training. The institution is a CharityWatch top-rated organization that serves 250,000 children in 10 countries. If a reoccurring donation is not right for you, the organization also accepts one-time donations. Learn more at children.org.
Donate new or used items. Service organizations such as shelters generally operate on tight budgets and rely on contributions from the community. Gently used items in good condition such as children’s clothing of all sizes and warm bedding are generally welcome.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (Young boy and Grandmother)SOURCE:
(BPT) - You’re familiar with the saying “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”?
Just like any other scheme to “get rich quick,” attempting to buy low and sell high based on intermittent fluctuations in the stock market—also known as “market timing”—is almost always a losing proposition over the long term for the investor. Studies have repeatedly shown that those who attempt to align their investments with short-term fluctuations earn less than those who stay in over the long haul.
“Once again, market fluctuations are messing with average investors’ minds,” says J.D. Roth, author of “Your Money: The Missing Manual” in Entrepreneur. “They panic and sell when prices drop, then fall victim to what Alan Greenspan in 1996 called ‘irrational exuberance’ and buy when prices soar. That's a sure way to lose money.”
The truth is that even the most stellar investment advisor lacks a crystal ball into the future, and can only make recommendations based on historical research, industry guidelines, and experience. Unfortunately, past performance in the stock market is not at all an indicator of future performance.
So what are some better guidelines for investing in the stock market? Consider the following sound strategies, built on the mounds of evidence saying market timing doesn’t work as a long-term strategy:
1. Establish a long-term plan.
Set clear goals and objectives such as funding children’s college educations or investing for your own retirement. An advisor can help you evaluate risks, decide on asset allocation and set benchmarks for success while minimizing risk.
2. Use dollar-cost averaging.
Instead of trading when you think it’s the right time, the principle of dollar-cost averaging (DCA) says to invest a fixed dollar amount at predetermined intervals. The result is that you’ll end up buying fewer shares when prices are high and more shares when prices are low.
The advantage of dollar-cost averaging is that you put your money into the market earlier—increasing the likelihood of price change—rather than holding onto cash until you think prices are low. Regardless of whether you have a flat, positive, or negative price return, if your investments earn dividends, dollar-cost averaging is a useful strategy for earning dividend returns.
3. Ride the market by tracking an index and optimize your costs.
Trying to achieve alpha—i.e., beating the market with price returns—isn’t necessarily the most evidence-based way of getting the highest returns over time, especially looking at your returns net of costs and taxes.
By investing in funds that largely track a market index (index funds), historical results show that the lower fees typical of index funds and the long-term gains often outperform actively managed funds with higher fees. Investors should always focus on what they take home over the long term after fees and taxes. Looking purely at the price return can lead to lower-than-expected results.
4. Be aware of tax implications.
A major reason why investors should lean on professional support in today’s world is so that they can optimize their investments to lower taxes. Specifically, how assets are located within tax-advantaged and taxable accounts can be managed to lower your tax liability. Also, investment losses can be “harvested” via a process called “tax-loss harvesting,” and that’s generally a process many investors cannot do themselves.
Finally, any time you want to reinvest dividends or have reason to switch to a different investment, there are ways to make regular transactions as tax-efficient as possible. The same goes for making your eventual withdrawal. This kind of back-office tax work can have a major impact on how much you, as an investor, keep from your investment, so it’s important to find the right solution—whether that’s a financial advisor or learning to do it yourself.
5. Stay skeptical.
When it comes to outlasting a spike in the market, any investor should be aware of their own biases and behaviors. Pay little attention to financial TV shows and other media reports that hype short-term fluctuations. And be cognizant of the speaker’s motivation. Those who think they have a real get-rich-quick scheme are unlikely to share it with others.
Above all, don’t let uncertainty stop you from investing. If you look back all the way to 1926, keeping your money in cash/cash equivalents has underperformed both bonds and stocks. The key thing is to just get invested.
Betterment optimizes its technology and experience to help you make informed decisions in your investment strategy. Founded in 2008, the company manages $9 billion in assets. Investing in securities involves risks, and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest in securities. Before investing, consider your investment objectives and Betterment’s charges and expenses. Betterment distributed this article through Brandpoint. Visit Betterment.com for more information.
(BPT) - Most people want to help their children pay for a quality college education, but it can be difficult to balance personal financial goals and funding your kids' educational aspirations. When retirement savings is sacrificed for college costs, it can be a disservice to the entire family.
To help guide you in determining the best way to pay for your kids' college while still funding your retirement savings, personal finance expert and host of the So Money podcast Farnoosh Torabi offers seven smart tips.
Tip 1: Don't put retirement on the back burner.
While funding your children's college education is important, your retirement savings should take priority. Strive to contribute 10 to 15 percent of your take-home pay toward retirement savings. The reality is college is four years and retirement can be 30+ years. Plus, there's no scholarship for retirement like there is for college!
Tip 2: Take the free money.
If your workplace retirement plan comes with a match, take it. Contribute the minimum to receive your employer match. At the end of the day, it's free money and that's the best kind.
Tip 3: Involve your children in the college cost discussion.
College is expensive, so make sure you're discussing with your kids overall costs and what you're willing to contribute. Have them help research financial aid and scholarship opportunities, too. Remember, you want to find a school that's the best fit — so don't let the initial "sticker price" scare your children from applying. Some private colleges may give the best aid packages, but other times they may not. Don’t make assumptions and always keep your options open. The goal is to find the college with the best value.
Tip 4: Don't take on more than you can afford.
While involving your children in the discussion, it's also important to make sure you're not setting them up for failure when they graduate. As they research student loan possibilities, make sure they'll be able to comfortably afford payments once they graduate, and that they're not taking on too much debt.
An easy way to start researching together is to visit College Ave Student Loans and use the configure-it-out tool. Answer a short series of questions regarding how much you'll borrow, how many years of schooling are left, whether you want to make payments during school or not, etc. This shows your child what repayment will look like under each option so you can both be clear on the details and agree on a game plan.
Tip 5: Consider the college savings plan that's best for you.
Consider opening a 529 that allows flexible spending toward higher education. Should your child choose to forgo traditional college education or not require the funds set aside, you can easily change the beneficiary to another child or relative.
If you're skeptical of a 529, consider a Roth IRA if your income limits allow. Although typically used for retirement, the Roth IRA has an exception where you can withdraw your contributions from the account at any time tax- and penalty-free for qualified education expenses. The remaining money can be collected in your retirement.
Tip 6: Starting late? Play catch-up.
If saving for retirement has not been a priority, it's time to get aggressive. Pare down costs where possible and take advantage of catch-up contributions. People who are 50 or older can contribute an extra $6,000 to their 401(k) or an extra $1,000 to an IRA this tax year.
Tip 7: Don't become the "bank of Mom and Dad."
You want to help your kids, but once you set the precedent that it's OK for your children to ask for money (or a contribution toward college), they may feel they can frequently approach you later in life for funds. Don't set the tone that you'll always be there to financially support them. You want them to grow wings so they can fly independently (and so you can happily enter retirement and enjoy those golden years).
While you should talk with your child about potential majors and career paths, it's important also to add financial conversations into the mix. For more tips, and to learn more about personalized student loan solutions, visit www.collegeavestudentloans.com.
Whether you’re trying to pay off bills, save for a dream vacation or create a nest egg for retirement, having a sound budget is often the first step toward bringing your financial goals to fruition. While budgeting is often associated with finding places to curb your spending, creating and sticking to a budget can be a fairly painless process with these guidelines that can help you build, manage and maintain a realistic budget that will set you on the path toward reaching your financial aspirations.
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