Finance

First-Time Homebuyers

Vacation Savings Selling or Buying a Home Selling and Buying Process Finding Work with the Gov't Longer Retirement What "Steers" the Price of Beef Researching Your Investment

Help For First-Time Homebuyers

(NAPSI)—As the U.S. housing market continues its rebound, many buyers and lenders are trying to understand the new landscape and what it means. With tougher credit standards, fewer buyers qualify for mortgage loans. While housing prices remain below the peak of several years ago, they have been steadily rising, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors.

To help Illinois residents, the state has introduced a new home loan program, Welcome Home Illinois, administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA). The program aims to stimulate activity among first-time homebuyers who have been missing from the market.

By offering qualified borrowers $7,500 in down-payment assistance and a below-market, 30-year, fixed-rate loan, the program frees many buyers who have been trapped on the sidelines to get into the homebuying marketplace.

“Homeownership is essential to our economy, and Welcome Home Illinois represents the best opportunity for everyday, hardworking residents to own a home,” said Governor Pat Quinn.

There are several steps that applicants can take to become more attractive to a lender, according to IHDA Executive Director Mary R. Kenney.

She recommends those considering buying a home for the first time:

• Consult a homeownership counselor. Try asking your lender if you need help finding a counselor. Homeownership counselors can provide advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures and credit issues.

• Strengthen your credit score.

• Save for down payment and closing costs and build a healthy savings account. Lenders want to see that you’re not living paycheck to paycheck.

In addition to creating homeownership opportunities, it’s believed the program will stimulate statewide economic activity and will generate an estimated:

• 1,500 full-time jobs

• $50 million from real estate-related industries

• More than $40 million in economic activity for the state

• Additional $16 million in other statewide spending

To qualify for this program, borrowers must be first-time buyers or not have owned their primary residence in the last three years.

To learn more about this and other affordable housing programs, visit www.welcomehomeillinois.gov.

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Get Away And Save

(NAPSI)--It’s not always where you’re going but who’s by your side that can create some of your best vacation memories. According to a recent PhoCusWright study, 70 percent of travelers said vacations are more about spending time with the people they care about rather than the destination.

That said, the place you stay at can make a difference in the quality of time you get to spend with friends and family. You can reconnect in spacious and comfortable accommodations with a vacation rental. Unlike hotels, these come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from beach homes to villas to houseboats. They can fit large groups opting to stay together and share vacation costs, and small parties looking for a more intimate vacation.

Vacation Rental Benefits

• Room for everyone to enjoy. Travelers can spread out, relax and cherish time together in roomy common living areas as well as retreat to private bedrooms, many of which have individual televisions. Plus, in a vacation rental, you’ll likely have more than one bathroom.

• Homelike amenities. Familiar conveniences such as in-unit washers and dryers can make packing for vacation easier, lighter and less time consuming. Simpler packing can translate to less stress throughout the vacation and the possibility of saving money on airline baggage charges.

• Fully equipped kitchens. These can also cut costs since you can prepare and enjoy a home-made meal together in the rental instead of dining out. Eating in can also be the healthier option, according to recent studies.

• More value for your money. With an average size of 1,850 square feet, vacation rentals are more than five times as large as the average hotel room, so you get more space for the money. What’s more, the average rental costs less: $68.51 per bedroom compared to the average hotel room price of $106.08.

Find Deals On Vacation Rentals

Right now, vacationers can take advantage of deals of up to 35 percent off a stay with Wyndham Vacation Rentals. Opting for professionally managed companies such as Wyndham Vacation Rentals, which is backed by a Vacation Rental Bill of Rights that ensures quality standards and service, can offer peace of mind throughout the vacation experience.

Learn More

For more information about the benefits of a vacation rental or to book your next stay, visit www.WyndhamVacationRentals.com.

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WELCOME HOME

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Welcome Home: Top Five Things To Know When Preparing To Sell Or Buy A Home In 2014

(NAPSI)—For the first time in years, rising home prices are boosting sellers’ confidence. At the same time, interest rates remain relatively low, helping to boost potential homebuyers’ confidence. Millions of Americans will decide in 2014 to put their houses on the market and/or shop for new homes, and need to understand the current housing market conditions as they move closer to buying or selling homes.

The following “top five things to know when preparing to sell or buy a home in 2014” should be considered by anyone thinking about a home sale or purchase.

1. Is 2014 the time to make a move?

What sellers should know: The pool of prospective buyers hasn’t been this large in several years. Now may be the time to move, depending on your market.

What buyers should know: You’re competing with more buyers, but interest rates are still ideal, so the hunt for your next home could be well worth it in the end.

2. The price is right, right?

What sellers should know: Don’t overprice your house. After the first 21 days on the market its “freshness appeal” diminishes.

What buyers should know: The house is probably too expensive if your debt-to-income ratio (mortgage, property taxes and insurance) is higher than 36 percent of your monthly gross income.

3. Look for added value in a home protection plan.

What sellers should know: Homes sold with home warranties spend an average of almost 11 fewer days on the market and sell for an average of $2,300 more than homes without a home warranty, according to a recent home sales study conducted by American Home Shield®. For full results and methodology, visit http://bit.ly/1mTrWkU).

What buyers should know: If covered home system components or appliances fail, you’ll worry less knowing they’ll be repaired or replaced under a home warranty.

4. Improvements ... to make them or not?

What sellers should know: View your home as a potential buyer and make improvements accordingly. Consult with a real estate agent to see if improvements are good investments, and to avoid overimproving the property.

What buyers should know: Assess your abilities, time constraints and commitment level when it comes to renovation work. Negotiate improvements with the sale of the house, when appropriate.

5. Know the full scope of a Realtor’s responsibility.

What sellers should know: Real estate professionals can identify the appropriate list price, determine necessary improvements, create a plan to promote the listing, and facilitate showings of the house to potential buyers.

What buyers should know: Real estate professionals can access the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), help you understand what you want in a house and find a good fit. They can provide market trends and comparable pricing and guide you through the negotiation and closing processes.

Learn More

If you’re considering selling or buying a home in 2014, visit www.firsthomeresources.com for information that will help you throughout the selling and buying processes. For more information on a home protection plan from American Home Shield, visit www.ahs.com or call (866) 250-4313.

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Tips For Finding Work With The Government

(NAPSI)—Jobs with the federal government offer many benefits, everything from good pay to pensions.

If you are looking for a government job, here are some tips:

• Get to know the landscape. Take the time to identify the specific government departments or agencies that are a good match for your interests and experience. For example, if you’re a financial professional intrigued with the environment, you might investigate finance jobs with the National Park Service.

The government Web portal USAjobs.gov is an excellent starting point to learn about federal agencies and the positions they need to fill. You can search the site by location, the type of job you want, the department you’d like to work for or your skills.

• Look for openings on agency sites. All federal agencies are required to list their openings publicly and most do so on USAjobs.gov. But some agencies prefer to post on their own sites, so be sure to check those, too.

• Talk to friends who are government employees to learn about openings and to gain insights into the job application and interview process. Also check in with your college’s career services department to see if it has established relationships with any government agencies and recruiters. Many of them have.

• Reformat your résumé. The terminology used by the federal government in job descriptions can differ from what you’ll find in the nonprofit and private sectors. Be sure your résumé speaks their language.

• If you are male, make sure you have registered with the Selective Service within 30 days of your 18th birthday. Young men must register with the Selective Service System to be eligible for a federal job or a Pell Grant. In addition, many states and municipalities now link their jobs to Selective Service registration. Even some government contractors are now requiring proof of registration for employment.

A man can register on his smartphone at www.sss.gov or at any U.S. post office.

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Longevity Annuity Alleviates Worry Of Outliving Your Money

(NAPSI)—Flexibility, predictability and a manageable tax liability—these are among the features those planning for retirement often look for.

In addition, a growing number of people want to make sure they have enough money for a retirement lasting 30 years or even longer.

To meet the growing need for predictable retirement income, one firm has responded by launching a single-premium income annuity. Called the Single Pay Longevity Annuity, from First Investors Life Insurance Company, it’s designed to offer individuals the opportunity to receive guaranteed* future retirement income in exchange for a lump-sum payment.

A Guaranteed* Income Source

“This product is designed for individuals who seek a guaranteed* supplemental source of income as part of a diversified retirement strategy. The annuity is intended for those individuals who don’t need income now, but would like to lock in a future guaranteed* income stream during their retirement years,” says Carol Springsteen, president of First Investors Life.

Its key features include:

• Flexibility: Policies can be issued from ages 45 to 80; plus, you have an opportunity to change your income start date.

• Simplicity: Easy to understand and integrate into your retirement income strategy.

• Predictability: Provides guaranteed* lifetime income that is not subject to stock or bond market risk.

• Security: You have the peace of mind of knowing your payments begin on the date you select and will arrive on the same day every month for the rest of your life.

• Higher Income: By deferring income distribution to a later start date, you can enjoy higher income payments.

• No Fees: There are no annual or recurring fees or charges.

Payment Options

The Single Pay Longevity Annuity offers two convenient monthly payout options at the time of purchase:

• Single Life provides lifetime income benefits for one person only.

• Joint & Survivor Life provides lifetime income benefits to two individuals as long as one or both are living.

“What’s so appealing about this product,” adds Springsteen, “is that it provides regular payments for as long as you live. You simply make an initial payment and select a future start date, at which time you will begin to receive guaranteed* monthly income payments for the rest of your life. As a result, you don’t need to worry about outliving your retirement assets.”

Return of Premium Death Benefit Option

The Single Pay Longevity Annuity also provides you with the option of adding a Return of Premium Death Benefit. The benefit provides you with the ability to leave something behind in the event of your premature death. This option, however, will reduce your monthly annuity payments. If you die before annuity payments have begun, your beneficiary will receive an amount equal to the premium paid in one lump sum. If, on the other hand, you die after annuity payments have begun, your beneficiary will continue to receive the same monthly annuity payment until the total payout is equal to the premium, minus the annuity payments received before death.

It’s important to note that annuity contracts and insurance policies contain certain exclusions, limitations and other terms for keeping them in force. For complete costs and details, it’s wise to contact your Representative.

The Single Pay Longevity Annuity is offered by First Investors Life Insurance Company and distributed by First Investors Corporation; each is a wholly owned subsidiary of First Investors Consolidated Corporation.

For more information, visit www.firstinvestors.com or call 1-800-832-7783.

*All guarantees are subject to the financial strength and claims-paying ability of First Investors Life Insurance Company.

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4-H and CME Group to Educate Youth On What “Steers” the Price of Beef

(NAPSI)—Fairgoers looking to “beef up” their understanding of the economics of agriculture, including the risks and costs of bringing commodities to the marketplace, will get their chance at 120 state and county fairs this summer. National 4-H Council and CME Group are again bringing their Commodity Carnival, an educational fair experience, to 11 states in year two of their partnership.

New this year, the Carnival can be experienced beyond the fairgrounds, as Commodity Carnival’s “Risk Ranch” app can be downloaded onto desktops and smartphones.

Risk Ranch—at the fair or on your screen—allows young people to learn about the risks farmers and ranchers face every day by growing a “steer” and bringing it to market. They can choose the amount of feed, medicine and equipment costs to invest in their steer, then take it through the “Plinko style” Risk Ranch to see if they can avoid market risks to make a profit—and take home that blue ribbon.

“Commodity Carnival resonates with our 4-H’ers and young people visiting the fairs,” says National 4-H Council’s President & CEO Jennifer Sirangelo. “4-H youth respect the challenges in getting food from farm to table, and this partnership allows them to serve as teachers to their peers. We’re proud to bring this important concept to them in a fun and accessible way.”

“As the world’s leading futures exchange, we haven’t lost sight of the fact that our roots have always been in the heart of this country with farm and ranch families,” says CME Group Executive Chairman and President Terry Duffy. “Understanding the economics of agriculture is critically important for all of us, and this partnership gives us the unique opportunity to interact with the next generation of our nation’s food producers in their own communities.”

To see “Risk Ranch” in action or to find participating fairs this summer and fall, go to http://www.cmegroup.com/4Hcarnival.

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Researching Your Investment

(NAPSI)—Most people have heard of someone who made a bundle from investing in a stock. For every person who made a small fortune, however, there’s probably someone who lost his pants. Simply hearing about a potential winning stock and blindly investing isn’t good enough these days.

Richard DiBiase, a 15-year expert in the financial markets who specializes in research and advanced analytics and who has invested in companies ranging from technology to energy, says, “Investors, especially novices, must research public companies before investing their hard-earned dollars and, luckily, this research is at everyone’s fingertips—thanks to the Internet.”

DiBiase suggests these basic stock research tips: (1) At www.finance.yahoo.com, investors can find press releases, news articles, trading history and other key statistics for each public company. (2) Visit the company’s website, especially its Investor Relations section. He cautions: “If a company’s site is weak or they have no Investor section, that tells you something about the company.” (3) Browse through www.SEC.gov to view the filings the company has made with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (4) Take a close look at the company’s management team. Remember, executive leadership provides direction and vision for a company. (5) Use www.Google.com to discover if the company has had any recent media coverage. If the media is writing about the company in a positive light, that’s a good sign.

For more investment and research tips, visit Richard Dibiase’s website www.Richard-DiBiase.com.

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