Saturday, November 29, 2008
To help you make sure you manage your credit cards--and your credit score--during the upcoming holiday spending season, follow these steps:
Double-check your card limits. Many credit card companies today have started lowering credit limits. That means you have less credit available, but it also may mean that your credit score is about to take a hit. That's because approximately 30% of your credit score is based on the amount you owe in relation to your available credit. So, if a credit card company cuts back your limit, you may find that you're suddenly almost maxed out. That's not a good sign for your long-term credit score rating.
Ask, pay down, or move around. If some of your credit limits have changed or are nearly maxed out, you can take a few steps to help alleviate the problem. First, consider simply asking for a higher limit to your card...not necessarily to use up with spending, but to allow more unused credit line to be available and therefore boost your credit score. You can also pay more money to the cards that are near the credit limit, if you can. Or, if you have cards with little to no remaining credit line, transfer some of the larger balances onto the cards with lower balances. That'll give you a more... well... balanced financial picture.
Leave home without it. One of the best tips for the holiday season is to: make a budget, identify specific items, and then leave home without your credit card. Instead, bring just enough cash to purchase the items on your list. That will help you resist the urge to impulse buy, and keep your credit card balances lower.
Pick a card... not just any card. If you can't bring cash, make a credit card plan. Identify specific items that you'll pay for on specific cards. By making a plan and spreading your purchases to different cards, you won't overspend and you won't risk running up one or two cards that are near the credit limit, which will hurt your credit rating.
Resist card offers at the counter. Retailers are famous for offering "savings" when you open a credit card. But those savings often don't outweigh the long- and short-term negatives. For one thing, opening a new account--or multiple accounts in a short period of time--can negatively impact your credit score. In addition, consumers often spend more than planned when a new card is suddenly available. So this holiday season, resist the temptation.
Stay active. If you have older cards that you don't use, make sure you keep them active. For one thing, some of those older cards help establish a longer history of positive credit. For another, the available credit on those older cards can help keep your credit score higher because it improves your overall debt-to-credit ratio. To keep those cards active, make sure you charge one or two items on them throughout the year... like, say, when you go shopping for the holidays. Then, pay them off when the bill comes in.
Always pay on time. Your payment record is a very large part of your credit score, so it's crucial that you have an idea how your holiday shopping will impact your credit card bills and that you make a plan to pay those bills on time. If you have trouble for any reason, contact your card companies right away to work out a plan that helps you pay down your debt... and save your credit rating from a huge hit.
Information compliments of Wendy Tannenbaum
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Time Frame: If your Medicare claim is denied for less than the full amount, you can ask for a "redetermination" but you must do so within 120 days. Download the Medicare Redetermination Request form at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/cmsforms/downloads/cms20027.pdf, or call 800-633-4227 to receive a copy.
Common Denials: The denial you received will include an explanation, which you will need to contest in your appeal. Ask your doctor to write a letter addressing the reasons in the denial and include this letter with your appeals form.
Common denials include:
The treatment, prescription, or medical service is unlikely to cause your health condition to improve: Fight this by having your doctor write a letter explaining why the care is necessary. Medicare is required to look at your total condition, not just your chance for a full or partial recovery.
You are likely to require care for a very long time: Medicare coverage is not limited to treatments that work quickly, so ask your doctor to write a letter explaining that the treatment is making some positive difference or is expected to.
The prescription dosage level is greater than what is normally prescribed, or the drug prescribed is not normally prescribed for your health problem: Have your doctor write a letter explaining why the unusual drug or dosage is medically necessary. For instance, you may be allergic to the medicine normally prescribed.
You do not qualify for Medicare-covered home care because you are not homebound: Under Medicare rules, homebound does not mean that you are completely unable to leave your home or that you are confined to a bed. It does mean that you require assistance and that it takes considerable effort for you to leave your home. Ask your doctor to write a letter describing in detail how difficult it is for you to leave your home.
Be Persistent: If your first appeal is denied, you can file as many as four more appeals. And the more appeals you file, the greater your odds of success. While your first appeal is made to the same group that denied your initial claim, subsequent appeals are made to independent arbiters.
For more information, visitwww.medicareadvocacy.org
Monday, October 27, 2008
What is Medical Identity Theft? Medical identity theft occurs when criminals access victims' medical records. Since medical records contain a person's social security number and credit card information (if bills have been paid via credit card), criminals can open accounts and make fraudulent charges. However, criminals also gain access to victims' health insurance policy information and medical histories, and they can create forged health insurance cards to sell to people who are uninsured and need expensive medical treatment. A person who buys a fake health insurance ID card would then seek treatment using the victim's name and policy number, and then disappear, leaving the victim with the bills to pay.
Why Should You Be Concerned? Victims of medical identity theft not only have to repair their credit and convince credit agencies and service providers that bills are fraudulent, they also have to correct inaccurate medical information that becomes part of their health records. Victims could be denied life insurance or individual health insurance if their record shows treatments that they did not have. In addition, victims could receive treatments or medicines that could be harmful to them on the basis of inaccurate content in their medical records.
Steps to Take if You Suspect a Medical Identity Theft
1. Read all bills and "Explanation of Benefits" statements from your insurance company to verify they are for treatment you received.
2. If a bill or statement refers to treatment you did not receive, contact the employee in charge of investigating fraud at your insurance company and at the medical facility involved and explain the situation. Follow up with a letter sent via registered mail with return receipt once again explaining the situation, asking for any bills to be voided, and asking that your medical record be amended to state that you did not have this health problem or receive this treatment.
3. Report the identity theft to the police department and state's attorney general's office.
4. Contact the health care providers you use, explain the situation, ask if the erroneous information has been added to the providers' records, and if so, ask them to correct the records.
5. Report the fraud to the major credit bureaus and set up fraud alerts. Also, request free copies of your credit reports to make sure no new fraudulent accounts have been opened. * 6. Review your medical records every few years to make sure there are no errors.
To learn more about your medical record rights, visit http://ihcrp.georgetown.edu/privacy/records.html.
The extra month that we enjoyed was actually the result of the Energy Policy Act, which was enacted by Congress back in 2005 and first went into effect last year. Originally, the bill was written to extend Daylight Saving by two months, but some very verbal opponents fought the change. Farmers say that DST has a negative impact on their livestock in general--as it is tough for them to adapt to the time change, and they consequently produce less milk, eggs, etc. Because DST is not followed uniformly around the world, airlines claim that it might mean many missed international flight connections. Additionally, TV and Cable stations argued that they would lose viewers and advertising revenue, simply due to less time spent in front of the television because of more time spent outdoors in daylight.
So a compromise of one additional month of DST was reached. However, Congress did retain the right to revert back to the old dates if the change proves to be widely unpopular, or if the energy savings aren't significant.
Why is Daylight Saving Time Longer?
Despite the concerns listed above, Americans overwhelmingly like Daylight Saving Time. There is simply more sunlight in the evenings to enjoy the outdoors and get things done. Additionally, there may be emotional benefits, as we typically feel better with more daylight.
Plus, additional hours of daylight can help save energy on a national scale. Less electricity is needed, as fewer lights are turned on as early in the evening...and with energy costs so high, even a small amount of savings is very welcome.
And brighter is safer - studies have shown that the DST shift reduces traffic accidents. An increase in accidents in the dark mornings is more than offset by the evening decrease in accidents, due to the increased visibility gained with more sunlight. Halloween is also arguably safer. Child pedestrian deaths are four times higher on Halloween than any other night of the year. By extending Daylight Saving Time, however, trick-or-treaters are able to spend an extra hour gathering treats while it's still light out. Candy manufacturers are happy too, as they've lobbied for years to have DST extended through Halloween.
A study by the US Law Enforcement Admin also determined that crime is consistently lower during DST, with violent crimes down as much as 10% to 13%. For many crimes, like mugging, darkness is a factor--so more light in the evening hours reduces these types of crimes.
Falling Back... Manually
Since DST has been extended, you'll want to double-check all of your electronic devices and confirm that the time is correct. Although you may be accustomed to your computer and maybe even your digital clock in your car automatically updating, the recent change of dates for Daylight Saving Time may require that these devices be manually changed, as they now may NOT be ready to update to the correct time on the correct date!
So keep an eye on your electronic devices and remember to change your clocks on Sunday, November 2nd as we turn back the hands of time once again!
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Bring your own mug ~ Each year, Americans discard more than 14 billion paper cups. For instance, that Styrofoam cup you use at your office meeting will linger nine generations before decomposing. Instead, bring a ceramic cup. Same goes for your daily Starbucks or Coffee Bean brew: consider bringing your own cup.
Car pool. Connect with other commuters at eRideShare.
If you use plastic grocery bags, recycle them for doggie poop bags or for small trash can liners.
Buy compact fluorescent light bulbs. You'll find more on energy-efficient products and practices at Energy Star.
Lower your thermostat. Buy a programmable thermostat.
Go paperless. Consider reading your newspaper and magazine subscriptions online. Switch to electronic banking and credit card payment, too. I am now reading my daily paper online.
This morning President Bush signed the "Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008." For the past several years, C.A.R. and the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® have aggressively lobbied for Congress to pass numerous provisions found in this historic bill. Many of you participated in these efforts by communicating with your Members of Congress.
This federal housing bill is a significant move in the right direction for California homeowners. It will aid in stabilizing our economy and help stem foreclosures, while also providing support to first-time homeowners.
The legislation will assist an estimated 400,000 homeowners facing foreclosure, many of whom reside in California, by allowing them to refinance their current mortgages with a Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-backed loan. The bill also will permanently increase FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac loan limits in high-cost areas.
The bill permanently increases the conforming loan limit to $625,500. C.A.R. has long advocated for higher conforming loan limits. In February, the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 was signed, temporarily raising the conforming loan limit in high-cost areas to $729,750 from $417,000 until December 31, 2008.
Although we would have liked Congress to make permanent the current $729,750 loan limit, C.A.R. is pleased with the new permanent loan limit of $625,500. It will allow California homeowners to refinance their loans into safe affordable loan products and allow first-time home buyers to enter the market.
The new loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the greater of either $417,000 or 115 percent of an area’s median home price, up to $625,500. The new FHA loan limit will be the greater of $271,050 or 115 percent of an area’s median home price, up to $625,500. Both new loan limits will be effective at the expiration of the economic stimulus limits on December 31, 2008.
C.A.R. also supports the following bill provisions:
1. A temporary increase in mortgage revenue bonds to refinance subprime mortgages.
2. New regulator for Government Sponsored Enterprises to restore investor confidence in GSE loans and help the market and economy stabilize.
3. First-time home buyer tax credit, which allows first-time home buyers to receive a tax refund worth up to 10 percent of a home’s purchase price, up to a maximum of $7,500. The refund serves as an interest-free loan and the homeowner is required to repay it in equal installments over 15 years.
4. Temporary raise in the loan limit for the Veterans Affairs home loan guarantee program to the same level as the economic stimulus limits until the end of 2008.
5. Adjustment to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA), allowing sellers to provide the non-foreign affidavit to a qualified closing entity and not just the buyer.
6. The setting of minimum requirements for mortgage originators, which mandates fingerprinting of loan originators and establishes a nationwide loan originator licensing and registration system. The requirements do not apply to those only performing real estate brokerage activities unless they are compensated by a lender, mortgage broker, or other loan originator. States will have the ability to implement more stringent laws. 7. The creation of a National Affordable Housing Trust Fund to help cover the cost of the FHA rescue plan for the first five years and develop affordable housing in subsequent years.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
The tips below can help you avoid the most common password pitfalls and even implement a few new ideas that will make your passwords easy to remember...and hard to break!
Strength Training ~ A well-protected password is not only unique, but also hard to guess. How do you do that? It's pretty simple really. Just follow this advice:
Use a random string of characters. That means no sequential letters or numbers. None.
Make it looooong. The longer the better--even up to as many as 10 to 14 characters.
Switch things up. Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, along with a few numbers mixed in the middle or end.
Don't use substitutes. Using "@" for "a" or "1" for "I" may look good to you, but most hackers are smart enough to break those substitutes rather quickly.
Avoid easy targets like words straight out of the dictionary or things like family names and birthdays.
Multiplication Facts ~ Most of us cheat when it comes to passwords. We have trouble remembering our passwords, so we come up with two or three that we can remember and use them everywhere. But you should avoid the temptation. The fact is, once a password is compromised, all of your accounts are vulnerable. There's no way around it, you need to a way to create and remember multiple passwords--a different one for each account!
Sure-Fire Technique for Memorable, Unique Passwords ~ For all the advice above, good passwords come down to two things: they're easy for you to remember, and they're hard to break. Implementing the tips above can make your passwords hard to break, but what about remembering them--especially if you have a unique password for every account?
1. Think up a phrase. Instead of a common word or family member name, think up a unique phrase that only you know. For example, you may think up something off the wall such as "I Like Short Hair Too."
2. Make it an acronym. In our example, "I Like Short Hair Too" would become ILSHT.
3. Add Complexity. Remember those substitutes you're not supposed to use with dictionary words? Well, you CAN use them with your acronym. For example, "I Like Short Hair Too" can become "1 Like $hort Hair 2" which makes: 1L$H2. You can also use upper and lower letters to make it 1L$h2. The point is to be creative, but in a way that you can easily remember it.
4. Make it unique. A password is only really unique if you use it for one account and one account only. So you can't just use 1L$h2 for every account. And, in reality it's still too short. Here's the key to the whole process: Mix in additional letters and numbers that are unique to each account. For example, if you're logging into a "gmail account" you can use the "gm" and "@cct" (for acct) to make: 1L$h2gM@cct. Then, for a Netflix account, you may use: 1L$h2Nf@cct.
Of course, these are just examples. You'll want to be creative and think up your own acronym and ways to add unique characters for each account. And then keep that little secret to yourself so no one will be able to guess your account passwords.
Follow these simple steps and you'll have passwords that are tough to break, unique to every account, and easy to remember!
Considering Moving to the East Bay? ~ Do you want to Buy or Sell a home?
Do you have clients with needs in the East Bay?
Search East Bay Area Properties
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
First-time buyers typically purchase a home equal to 85 percent of the prevailing median price. The monthly payment including taxes and insurance was $2,260for the first quarter of 2008. The minimum income required with 10 % down would be approx. $67,000.
Interest rates are low, inventory is high and it is a great time to get into the market and start to increase your personal wealth.
For detailed information you can view the article in it's entirity at the C.A.R. website.
Do you have clients with needs in the East Bay?
Please give me a call if you have questions about the East Bay Real Estate market.
I can be reached at 925 824-4878 or Toll Free 877 876-8889 or you can visit my website at http://pamwinterbauer.com
• Regular Sale ~ a sale where the seller has equity in the property, the buyer and seller will the negotiate price and terms of the sale. The seller is required to provide Transfer Disclosures according to California Law and statute. There is sense of urgency with the seller to negotiate and move on.
• Short Sale ~ a short sale is the sale of real property where the fair market sale price is less than the loan(s) on the property. A short sale means the seller's lender is accepting a less than the existing loans on the property. Just because a property is listed with short "sale terms" does not mean the lender will accept your offer, even if the seller accepts it. Many of these properties have been trashed, are in ill repair and are sold their present "as is" condition (what you see is what your get) without any repairs to the property. The property may not meet your lenders standards to obtain your loan. There is not much flexibility and room to negotiate price.
If there are two loans, there could be a problem. The first mortgage lender's position is protected by the second lender, unless the second lender does not want to foreclose. The first lender will need to give something to the second to gain cooperation.
The process for lender approval can take as long as 5 months. There is no guarantee the lender will approve of the sale. Statistics show over the last six months that only 20 % of these sales have closed.
• REO/Bank Owned Property ~ REO is an acronym for a real estate owned property that has been foreclosed on or repossessed by banks or lenders. These properties are sold in "as is" condition (what you see is what you get) without any repairs or warranties, in ill repair and some have been trashed. There are no disclosures on the property. The property may not meet your lenders standards in obtaining your loan. Not much flexibility and room to negotiate price. The process for bank approval can be anywhere from 3 - 10 days.
• Pre-Foreclosure Property ~ a property where the homeowner has fallen behind in their payments or when a Notice of Default (NOD) has been filed against the property by the lender. May not have much flexibility in negotiating. These properties may be regular sales or potential Short Sales.
• Auctions ~ Many properties that have been turned over to auction houses have been bank owned properties that did not sell or in some instances they can be builder closeouts. The condition varies depending where the property came from. When the auction is all said and done there is a 5-10% fee paid to the auction house in addition to the find bid price. These properties are all "as is" sales without inspections or warranties and may not meet your lender's standards in obtaining your loan.
• New Construction ~ Most builders are cooperating with your Realtor in today's market. It is important to take your Realtor accompany you on the 1st visit to the new development to register you. Your Realtor will represent you in the negotiation process so you obtain the best price and builder upgrades for your price.
(Copyright © 2008 By Pam Winterbuaer All Rights Reserved.)
Do you have clients with needs in the East Bay?
Please give me a call if you have questions about the East Bay Real Estate market.
I can be reached at 925 824-4878 or Toll Free 877 876-8889 or you can visit my website at http://pamwinterbauer.com
Thursday, July 3, 2008
The resulting impacts of the hard work and dedication of our "pioneers" of incorporation are most evident today as our beautiful City has evolved into one of the best places to live and work in America. From the beautiful landscaping that is along virtually every major roadway to our over 50 wonderful parks, our own citizen serving police department, two outstanding libraries, the best schools in California, community sporting facilities that are "world class," our City enjoys a quality of life that is the envy of communities across California and beyond.
Celebrate San Ramon!
Run San Ramon July 4, 2008 ~ 3K Fun Walk ~ 5K Run/Walk & 10K Run
Star Spangled Spectacular San Ramon Central Park - 12501 Alcosta Blvd 5pm - 10pm
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The economic downturn is causing some Baby Boomers to downsize or postpone retirement, but they still are in no hurry to pay off their mortgages, according to the annual “Affluent Boomers at 60” survey from Oaklandbased Bell Investment Advisors. Historically, most seniors paid off their mortgage before retiring. Not so today. More than 55 percent of those surveyed who currently hold a mortgage don’t intend to pay off their loan until their 70s, if then. That could change if the economy worsens or the slowdown is prolonged. One in four Baby boomers already are changing their retirement plans and 40 percent are “downsizing” their lifestyles. More than one quarter (28 percent) have lost a job in recent months or know someone over age 60 who has. As a result, 22 percent say they are cutting down on charitable contributions, 21 percent are changing vacation plans, 18 percent are reducing the amount they are saving, and 11 percent are postponing retirement entirely. Sixty-nine percent say the economy is causing them to change to a more conservative investment strategy. The survey included equal numbers of men and women born in 1948, all of whom reported investable assets of $1 million or more.
The rapid rise in gas prices is causing similar lifestyle changes on America’s highways and byways, particularly those leading to and from the suburbs. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation reported that American drivers reduced the number of miles they drove in March by 4.3 percent over the same month a year ago. Now, Coldwell Banker says 81 percent of the agents it surveyed said their clients increasingly are looking to urban housing as a way to cut commuting costs. A third study by CEOs for Cities, a government-business coalition, said higher gasoline prices will push new housing developments closer to the urban core in many U.S. cities and cause home values to decline in those suburbs where there are few transit options for commuters.
The percentage of American households headed by homeowners experienced its most significant decline in two decades at the end of the first quarter of 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Only 67.9 percent of households were headed by homeowners, down from a record 69.1 percent achieved in 2005. Renter households increased from 30.9 percent to 32.2 percent, erasing gains achieved in recent years. The jump in renter households was not unexpected: it simply happened far faster than anticipated. The Joint Center for Housing at Harvard University projected the number of renters would increase by 1.8 million between 2005 and 2015. Instead, the housing market decline and subsequent dramatic rise in foreclosures pushed 1.5 million additional households into rental housing between 2005 and 2007 alone. Not surprisingly, rents have increased by about 11 percent and vacancy rates have fallen in many urban markets over the same period.
Compliments of the California Association of Realtors
Friday, June 20, 2008
Our office volunteered to work at Shephard's Gate an emergency shelter for homeless women and children, while committing to change their lives.
We had a testimonial from a 41 year old woman who was raped at 14 and hit the drug trail shortly there after. She has turned her life around since arriving at Shephard's Gate just 10 months ago.
We painted, cleaned, repaired fences and play structures getting ready for the reopening of one of their residance halls on July 1st.
During our lunch break we were move by the stories of the residents and we felt blessed to be a part of giving back to the community.
Do you have clients with needs in the East Bay?
Contact Pam Winterbauer, 2006 REALTOR® of the Year
Broker Associate, ASR, CRS, e-PRO, GRI, PMN, SRES, At Home with Diversity Certified
Windermere Welcome Home
Please contact Pam Winterbauer for all of your real estate needs in the East Bay
Visit http://pamwinterbauer.com/ for home prices, local information & featured listings.
Toll Free: 877 876-8889 or 925 824-4878
Sunday, June 15, 2008
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that there is no way for consumers to detect salmonella since it can't be smelled, tasted, or seen. Here's what they recommend to reduce the risk of exposure during this latest outbreak:
Check the Type ~ Since April 16, more than 220 people from twenty-three states have contracted salmonella poisoning from tainted tomatoes. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising people to eat only cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, and tomatoes grown at home since these tomatoes are not associated with the outbreak.
If you have raw red plum, Roma, or round red tomatoes, which are the tomatoes associated with the outbreak according to preliminary data compiled by the FDA, the best thing to do is either throw them away or return them to the store where you purchased them.
Wash, Wash, Wash ~ One of the best ways to protect yourself is to wash all produce, including organic produce, with cold running water. You should scrub your produce gently with a vegetable brush, or you can use your hands if you don't have a brush. Make sure you remove outer layers of cabbage and lettuce. And make sure you wash fruit, too, even if you don't eat the peel.
In addition, wash your hands with soap and water before handling food and also wash cutting boards, counters, and utensils to avoid cross-contamination. When you are preparing fresh vegetables, make sure you avoid any kind of contact with raw meat. And don't forget to refrigerate sliced up fruits and vegetables.
Ask Your Waiter ~ If you eat out, ask your waiter what the restaurant has done in response to the outbreak. Several restaurants...including chains McDonalds, Burger King, and Taco Bell, among others...have stopped serving tomatoes, but it's always wise to double check. Keep in mind that ketchup and cooked sauces are not affected since cooking tomatoes at 145 degrees kills salmonella. Don't hesitate to ask your waiter to leave tomatoes off a sandwich or salad if the restaurant hasn't removed tomatoes from its menu. Note that if you remove the tomatoes once your order comes, the food could still be contaminated.
Make the Call ~ Salmonella poisoning typically resembles the flu, and symptoms usually appear 12 to 72 hours after infection and include abdominal cramps, headache, fever, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. If you suspect that you've contracted a case of salmonella poisoning, call your local health department. Reported cases help the CDC and FDA track the source of salmonella.
For the latest information on the tomato salmonella outbreak, visit:
FDA: Link to FDA Information CDC: Link to CDC Information
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Buyers in todays market are looking for good solid financing that is close to 100% and provides help with downpayment and closing costs. Here is your Nehemiah!
Guidelines for this Nehemiah: This is a grant program that provides gift funds for downpayment and closing costs to qualified homebuyers.
The seller contributes 6% to the Nehemiah Program. The program grants up to 3% for down payment and 3% for closing costs. The cost of the program at closing is $599.00 to Nehemiah. Nehemiah does not underwrite the package. FHA 1st loan and underwriting guidelines. Propeprty must appraise, value to include 6%. Some lenders cap price if using program (wells 417K). Increasing value 6% over list price and lender will scrutinize appraisal.
Sounds like the best thing since sliced bread and subprime loans?
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
Kilobyte, which can be abbreviated as KB or kbyte, is a unit of measurement equivalent to one thousand bytes of computer memory or disk capacity. For example, a device that has 256k of memory can store approximately 256,000 bytes (or characters) at one time. In decimal systems, kilo stands for 1,000, but the computer world is based on a binary system of twos instead of tens.
So, a kilobyte is actually 1,024 (210) bytes. To distinguish between a decimal K (1,000) and a binary K (1,024), the Institute of Electronics Engineers, IEEE, has suggested using a small k for a decimal kilo and a capital K for a binary kilo. In international English, outside the U.S.A., the equivalent unit is sometimes seen as "KB" or "kbyte." Note: Kb is kilobit, KB is kilobyte
Thursday, April 17, 2008
MAKING SENSE OF THE STORY FOR CONSUMERS
- The seller-financed downpayment program today accounts for 35 percent of all FHA loans, up from 2 percent in 2000. Under the program, sellers cover the buyer’s downpayment and typically add it to the total cost being financed through a mortgage. These loans became more popular as homebuyers struggling to qualify for a home abandoned conventional FHA loans in favor of subprime mortgages. Between 2002 and 2006, the number of conventional home loans insured by the agency plunged from 1.3 million to about 314,000. Congress has been urged to take action to discontinue these loans, but opponents of such an action argue the program is necessary to help first-time buyers.
- Despite worries about FHA’s future, since September the agency has helped more than 150,000 homeowners refinance their mortgages. The president hopes to increase that number to 400,000 by the end of the year, and Congress is considering legislation that would expand FHA programs to even greater numbers of Americans.
To read the full story, please click here:
Corporate balance sheets of American businesses – other than banks – are in better shape today to face a recession than in previous economic contractions because they have banked some half a trillion dollars in cash, reduced short-term debt and slashed inventories, according to former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspace and current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. That means companies aren’t likely to be as reliant on beleaguered banks to fund their operations.
MAKING SENSE OF THE STORY FOR CONSUMERS
- Since the last recession, disciplined companies have been rewarded with 20 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth in profits. S&P 500 companies alone have amassed about $615.5 billion in cash, compared with $352.4 billion prior to the 2001 downturn and $95.5 billion prior to the 1990-91 recession.
- Debt as a percentage of net worth for non-bank companies was only 63 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007, compared with 93.6 percent in 1990-91.
Together, these figures indicate that companies may have to do less trimming of excess capacity and workers than they have done in recent recessions. Some companies are even expanding, albeit cautiously.
- While these trends don’t ensure a rapid recovery if the country falls into a recession, it does position companies to ride out the storm.
To read the full story, please click here:http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=ao6RcBfOUJz8&refer=home
- April 15 provides an annual reminder about the tax benefits of owning a home: Most people know that mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible in most cases, as is the interest paid when homeowners borrow against the equity in their home. What they may not realize is that the Tax Payer Relief Act of 1997 provides that owners who have lived in their home for more than two years don’t have to pay taxes on the first $250,000 of profits (if they are single) and $500,000 of profits (if the owners are married) when they sell the home.
- Watch out for Generation Y prospects! The 2008 Swanepoel Trends Report notes that younger buyers represent a larger portion of the total home-buying population than ever before. Between 2003 and 2006, the percentage of under-30 homebuyers skyrocketed. Forty-two percent of the under-30 crowd reported owning a home, but what’s more surprising is that buyers under age 25 accounted for one-quarter of the home sales to this demographic group.
- The economy has replaced transportation as the San Francisco Bay Region’s most pressing problem for only the ninth time in 28 years, according to an annual survey conducted in early March by the Bay Area Council. Twenty-two percent of residents surveyed ranked the economy first, 18 percent said transportation was the biggest issue, and 15 percent cited housing as the region’s greatest challenge in this year’s poll. The economy was last cited as the greatest issue in 2003, but only 7 percent of those surveyed in 2006 ranked it at the top of their list, reflecting the top-of-mind nature of the current mortgage credit and economic situations. Despite economic concerns, Bay Area residents were relatively optimistic: 59 percent said their financial situation would be about the same as last year, with 30 percent saying they expect to do even better this year. Only 13 percent said they expect to be worse off. And 74 percent rated their quality of life in the Bay Area “very well” or “going somewhat well.”
To read the full article go to: http://www.insidebayarea.com/sanmateocountytimes/localnews/ci_8861454
Sunday, April 13, 2008
18. Eat right.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
As such, your credit cards can have a major impact on your financial wellbeing and even your credit score. But did you know that your credit score can also impact your credit cards...specifically your interest rates? Although some companies have abandoned the practice, many won't hesitate to raise your interest rate if your credit score declines - even if you are paying them on time! By following these tips, you can help avoid inflated interest rates on your credit cards...and perhaps even enjoy more trips to the ballpark:
Understand the terms. The best way to protect yourself from high interest rates and hikes is to read and understand your credit cards policy terms. Pay particular attention to the interest rate, how long that rate is in effect, and what actions can lead to a hike - such as a late payment on your card, a declining credit score, or even a late payment on a completely unrelated bill.
Don't be late. Making a late payment can lead to increased interest rates on all your cards. In addition, they can lower your credit score, causing you even more problems down the road. So make a schedule and always pay on time.
Watch the mail. We all get junk mail, but some of it may not be junk after all. Whenever you receive any information in the mail from your credit card, read it carefully in case any policies or interest rates are changing.
Make a call. If your rate does change, call the company. If you've made your payments on time consistently, you may be able to get your original rate restored. If the company seems hesitant, you may want to threaten to transfer your balances to another card - customers in good standing may find they have more bargaining power than they realize. And don't just threaten to make a change...actually do it if it makes sense. You may find the grass actually is greener on the other side.
Be careful what you close. Closing a card that has a current balance will likely send your interest rate soaring. In addition, closing your oldest credit cards can have a negative impact on your overall credit score. So make sure you check and double check which cards are best to close.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
MAKING SENSE OF THE STORY FOR CONSUMERS:
< The riskiest markets are those with high foreclosure rates, slow or no job growth, and a glut of homes on the market. Markets like Detroit, Cleveland, and Miami display all three characteristics.
< By contrast, transactions are rising in San Diego, and that’s a good sign assuming the increase is sustained. Rising transaction numbers may mean credit is becoming easier to come by and buyers are looking somewhat more favorably on the market. In fact, Forbes suggests prices also may begin to rise over the next six months. That’s because there usually is a lag between increases in transaction numbers and price increases.
By viewing your credit activity on a regular basis you can manage any detrimental items that need to be removed or fixed. These actions will create a better rating under your name and benefit you throughout your life. The easiest and fastest way to do this is by going online.
Go Free Credit offers an easy way to check your credit instantly. You can try this service free for 30 days to monitor any activity and make changes in your life so that your score increases. You will get a detailed, personalized analysis of your credit report with advice on how to improve it. You will also find information on how to understand your credit report. Experts advise checking your credit report more than once a year, but checking too often can make your credit score go down.
Credit monitoring, automatic notification of credit activity and a detailed personal analysis are all included in this service. You can find out who has recently viewed your credit report and even see the best ways to improve your credit score based on your personal history. Improving your credit increases your options for financial success. Bankruptcies, judgments, collections and past 30-days late payments are the top damaging factors that can negatively affect your credit score and need to be checked now. Additionally, by being aware of the activity on your credit report you can keep a close eye on fraudulent activity and be confident of your financial future.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
REO's and Working With Financial Institutions...
An REO (Real Estate Owned) is a property that goes back to Lender after an unsuccessful foreclosure auction. Most foreclosure auctions result in adequate bids. Typically there is rarely enough equity in the property to satisfy the loan(s) full repayment.
With regard to REO properties, the bank now owns the property and the mortgage loan no longer exists. The bank will handle the eviction, if necessary, and may manage some of the repair process. They will typically negotiate with the IRS for removal of tax liens and pay off any homeowner's association dues.
Each bank/lender manages the REO process based on guidelines that are individually defined, but they all have similar goals. They want to get the best price possible and have often negotiated to achieve the highest possible price. However the market and expectations of asset managers may vary as inventories have swelled and markets have slowed. Generally, banks have an entire department set up to manage their REO inventory.
Generally, banks have an entire department set up to mange their REO inventory.
Banks always desire to sell a property in an "as is" condition. You may choose to obtain professional inspection services companies to determine the condition of the property. This is usually done to assist a potential bidder to better understand the highest price they are willing to offer based on the property condition.
Your offer should include an inspection contingency to ensure that your offer represents the best interest and appropriate price for both parties.
Banks are increasingly partnering with auction houses to offer multiple properties though the auction process. Depending on the property, location, condition, numbers of bidders etc. This is an excellent alternative to find great deals in purchasing real estate.
The auction Method Advantage
Choosing the auction method actually allows a property owner a specific timeline for selling real estate. In today's slowing real estate marketplace, having the option to spotlight your property and maximize visibility is a critical benefit to getting it sold. It is by far the best possible method of attracting as many possible bidders on a single day and using a competitive bidding process to achieve the highest possible sale price. Buyers act on your schedule by complying with the terms, conditions and sale date of the auction.
They are committed to sale on a specific date; therefore, they conduct their due diligence in advance and are prepared to bid on the day of the sale. Closings typically never exceed 45 days beyond the sale/auction date, offering you a complete timeline from the minute you agree to move forward. Whether your property has been on the market longer than you expected, you wish to avoid a long drawn out sales and negotiation process, or are just ready to make that move that will enable you to move forward on your schedule.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Qualifying for the Home Office Deduction
The deduction allows you to deduct a pro-rata portion of your residential costs as a business expense when it's used as your principal place of business. The percentage of allowable expense (found by dividing the square footage of the office by the home's total square footage) can be applied to mortgage interest, insurance, property tax, rent, depreciation, utilities, and other home-related expenses.
The two requirements:
The home office deduction can only be taken if a portion of the home is used "exclusively and primarily" for business. That means the designated space cannot be used for any other purpose, like a guest room.
Although the space must be "separately identifiable," it needn't be blocked off with a permanent partition. This deduction can also apply to a separate structure not attached to the dwelling unit.
Your Home Office Needs to be Your Principal Place of Business
More taxpayers qualify since the definition of "principal place of business" was broadened to include a place where administrative or management activities are conducted on a substantial basis, if there is no other fixed location where they conduct substantial administrative or management activities (Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997). In short, this means that a self-employed person needs to spend more time running their business from home, not the brokerage sales office.
In my experience, real estate agents often fail to qualify for this deduction because they already have a brokerage sales office, where most of their activities in running their business are conducted.
Also, if you are an employee who works at home, the rules state that the home office must be for your employer's convenience, rather than your own. As popular as tele-commuting has become, make sure this point is clarified with your employer. That way you can document that the office space is specifically required by them.
One caveat for anyone taking this deduction. It cannot be taken for any year when the amount claimed will generate a net loss for the business. However, the untaken deduction can be carried forward to a year when there is sufficient profit to avoid that limitation.
Selling a Residence with a Home Office
In December, 2002, the US Treasury approved a change that removed a major negative for those who'd been taking the home office deduction. (And for those who feared taking it.) Normally, gain on the sale of a principal residence (where you resided two or more years) is tax free. Until that change, homeowners who sold would owe tax on the gain allocated to the office portion of their home.
The new Treasury rules change mean that a seller must no longer allocate the amount of gain between their business and personal use. The home office had to be within the house, however. And the new rules don't excuse any depreciation recapture that may have been taken for the home office.
Make Your House "Pay its Way"
Whether taking the home office deduction is tax-wise depends on your circumstances. Study the details in IRS Publication 587 http://www.irs.gov/publications/p587/Here's a tax strategy that every self-employed person should reconsider. Especially since several of the "traps" regarding the home-office deduction have been dismantled. Its tax advantages are substantial and could bring you significant savings-year after year
As always, please always consult withe your CPA or tax person regarding tax advice!
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
TIPS ON PUMPING GAS I don't know what you guys are paying for gasoline.... but here in California we are also paying higher, up to $3.50 per gallon. But my line of work is in petroleum for about 31 years now, so here are some tricks to get more of your money's worth for every gallon..
**(It always felt like the gas lasted longer if it was above ½ a tank!!!)
Monday, March 24, 2008
The oil industry on the other hand is another story. The oil companies are making billions in profit as we are having to cut back on certain things to be able to drive our cars. That is bad enough and somehow we need to get away from depending on oil for our automobiles. But today I heard that the independent truckers are possibly going on strike because they can not afford the high cost of diesel. This weekend I saw regular gas at $3.15 and deisel was $4.20. Ouch!
Apparently it is costing the trucking industrymore money to run a load than they are making.
This is going to cause the price of everything to go up. Look at all the materials and food that is transported by the trucking industry. This is crazy. There ae so many smart people out there, hopefully someone can come up with an alternative method to run our trucks, our homes and our cars. After all, we can send a man to the moon.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Just click on the name of the cookie and bam the recipe is there. Good to keep handy