Want Advice About Buying Your First Home? Start Saving!

June 22nd, 2008

Many people are still very unrealistic about what it takes to get financing these days. Despite the unrelenting headlines some people still don’t get that there’s a credit crunch going on that’s not about to end anytime soon.

A friend of mine had the following experience while working with a young couple in their early 30s looking to buy their first home. Both had excellent jobs with strong income. Between them they were bringing in over six figures a year, and their rent was a meager $1400.00. When she heard that she was elated. She thought these two were going to be a shoe-in for a loan. The trouble came when she asked about a down-payment. They hadn’t saved any money at all and wanted 100% financing.

They’d both been working for at least 8 years making oodles of money but they hadn’t saved anything, aside from their 401Ks which, thankfully, they wouldn’t touch. They were also leasing expensive foreign cars and had huge credit card debts that were never paid off because they just kept buying more and more stuff every month

When she told them they were going to have to start saving money, you would have thought she’d thrown holy water on Linda Blair’s character from The Exorcist.

“You only need to save up about 3% to qualify for an FHA loan,” she said as gently as possible. They still didn’t like it one bit. After their heads stopped spinning around they said they’d go home and talk about it, but she confided that she was pretty sure she wouldn’t be hearing from them again. She said she didn’t think either one was willing to give up a latte, let alone their $1000.00 per month shopping habit to save for a house. It’s a shame too, because with their income they could have afforded a really nice house.

One More Reason to Slow Down to Save Gas

June 19th, 2008

USA Today ran an interesting article. It seems that some police forces in GA will soon begin charging a fuel surcharge when you’re pulled over for a speeding ticket.

Drivers caught speeding in one Atlanta suburb will pay $12 to cover the additional cost of chasing them down at $4+ per gallon.

To read the complete article - paste this link into your browser:

http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20080618/

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How to Save Money on Gas

June 18th, 2008

These days it seems like every other headline has to do with the high price of gas. This one from The New York Times caught my eye: Greased Lightening, an op-ed by a young man who converted his car to run on biodiesel fuel.

People are desperate for alternatives to the high price of gas. Even my brother has mentioned that he’s thinking of altering his car to run on biodiesel fuel (AKA - french-fry grease). My father sent away for a manual on how to make his car run on hydrogen extracted from water. Apparently, it’s not that hard to convert your car to run on restaurant grease and a lot of people have done it, but I’m not sure about the simplicity of the water/hydrogen conversion; in-fact it sounds downright dangerous. I envision my parents’ garage exploding when my Dad accidentally splits a hydrogen atom or something in the process. Anyway, he hasn’t said anything about it for a few weeks, so maybe he’s given up since the manual was over 150 pages.

According to the Greased Lightening article, while converting your car to run on biodiesel fuel isn’t hard, it’s the picking-up of the nasty smelling stuff, lugging it home (without spilling it), heating it, straining it and storing it that sounds like a big pain in the neck. Plus, the writer says that when his car runs it stinks like a garbage truck on a hot summer day. Ugh.

Since I can’t see myself driving a car where I have to stop and wretch from the stench every few minutes, I’ve decided that the best way for me to deal with the high gas prices is to keep it simple and do what I can to increase my gas mileage. Here are few things I’m doing to extend the times between refills on my car:

1. When I go out I plan a route that will take me past several stores/stops at one time.

2. When I get stuck at a train crossing I shut the engine off.

3. I emptied out my trunk of all extraneous items to reduce the weight of my car.

4. I’m checking my tire pressure to make sure they aren’t low - as that reduces mileage.

5. No more speeding – it burns too much gas.

6. I’m only using the air conditioner on the hottest days - 90 degrees and over.

7. I coast downhill and to red lights now whenever I can. (If you’re behind me don’t bother honking – If you want me to go faster you’ll have to get out and push my car.)

If anyone has any other gas saving tips – that will not make anything smell like garbage – please share.

To read the article in The NYT from June 9, paste this link into your browser:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/09/opinion/09melville.html?scp=1&sq=

Greased%20Lightning%20Op-Ed&st=nyt

Creating Kindergarten Consumers

June 11th, 2008

Not long ago I came across a cable show about little girls competing in beauty pageants. I’d planned on turning in early, instead I was glued to the tube watching kindergarten aged girls in glitzy outfits, dancing and singing their hearts out. One of the show’s stars was a spunky 6-year-old, wearing a red cow-girl outfit, plastered in hair-spray and heavy eye make-up complete with a spray-tan, who proudly belted out a show tune unaffected by the fact that she could not sing.

What struck me about her was the bio the master of ceremonies gave when she was introduced and took the stage. Her hobbies were listed as: babysitting, t-ball and shopping. Aside from wondering who in the hell lets a 6-year-old baby-sit, my other immediate reaction was what 6-year-old says shopping is their hobby?

I’m sure that on her list, she didn’t mean shopping for toys either. This little girl was already developing a serious shopping addiction for clothes and earrings and bracelets to match her bejeweled pageant outfits, which her mother attested to later on in the show. My first thought was - someday that little girl will have whopping credit card debts and need a debt consolidation loan or cash-out refinance because of her lack of financial discipline.

I’ve refinanced way too many shoppers who just couldn’t control their spending. Do yourself a favor – don’t allow your kid to get hooked on shopping. It’s a disaster waiting to happen and not a habit you easily outgrow, especially once you have a wallet full of credit cards and a mailbox full of 0% offers.

Why Senator Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Inspired Me

June 9th, 2008

“Never listen to anyone who says you can’t, or shouldn’t go on!” Senator Hillary Clinton’s speech to end her bid for the White House. 6/7/2008

Growing up I believed that I could do and be whatever I dreamed of due to the hard work of many women who fought to obtain equal rights. Thanks to them I knew that I had the smarts, and the right to go as far as I wanted - no doubt about it. So, when I first bumped up against the glass ceiling I was shocked. My own career frustrations showed me women still had miles to go before perceptions changed.

Senator Clinton’s campaign gave me hope that now, finally, the world would accept women as equals to accomplish anything. Her candidacy gave meaning to my own effort to be all I can be in my life and career, and to be free to do it on my own terms. All the sexism and disrespect I encountered along the way, the harassing remarks, lower pay raises, and the anger and frustration at being unable to stop it were reconciled by the sight of Senator Clinton forging ahead and winning so many states. The fact that so many people voted for her gave me enormous hope that finally women are on an even playing field.

During the campaign when media repeatedly showed the clip of Senator Clinton, then First Lady, saying she wasn’t going to stay home and bake cookies during her husband’s presidency, I understood her too. I never wanted to stay home and bake cookies either, not that I think there’s anything wrong in doing that, but because, first, it’s not me, and second, it speaks to the belief that home is the only place a woman belongs. I could also relate to her when some idiot stood up in the crowd and shouted, “Iron my shirts.” I know how annoyed and angry she must have felt.

Even when subjected to endless attacks by small-minded pundits spewing sexist criticisms about her hair, her clothing, her emoting, or making ridiculous comments about “crossing [their] legs when she entered the room,” and “the reason she may be a front-runner is because her husband messed around,” none of which Obama, nor McCain has been subjected to, she persisted and her supporters grew. (I do believe the fact that Chris Matthews wasn’t taken off the air for his messing around remark speaks volumes about the tolerance for sexism - look at Don Imus and Geraldine Ferraro’s racist remarks - we didn’t tolerate those did we?)

In spite of all this, I do feel positive that someday I will see a woman president in my lifetime, and that when she runs her gender will not be an issue what-so-ever. I think of my young nieces and how much they will inherit from her efforts that they will just take for granted, and I am even more grateful to her for her fortitude. Senator Clinton has shown the world that women are as capable, and just as qualified to be commander-in-chief, and for that I thank her.