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General

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — but for people trying to balance work, home, and a slew of holiday commitments, the holiday season may not be so jolly. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath, grab an eggnog, and follow these steps for de-stressing your holidays.  1. Make a list and check it twice. To-do lists are an amazingly simple and straightforward way to stay on task and make sure nothing gets missed. Review your list every morning and evening, and be sure to cross off the tasks you accomplish — you’ll see that things are getting done, even if you’re too busy to feel it. 2. Use your vacation time. This is what it’s for! Plan a lunch date with friends, set aside a day to get your last-minute shopping done, or reward yourself with a day for just relaxing. You'll enjoy the season more if you know you've got a full day coming to get personal holiday tasks completed. 3. Give yourself a break. It’s just not possible to accept every invite, handmake gifts for everyone on your list, and keep your home and work organized. Remember, everyone else is wrapped up in the holiday chaos too, and this is a time of forgiveness and understanding. The first person to offer understanding to is yourself!  

Mortgage Speak

Waiting to buy a home until spring or summer seems like the obvious choice for most families. The weather is warmer, kids get to finish out the school year, and there’s (usually) an abundance of homes on the market to choose from. But what about that other crucial factor — affordability? If saving money falls high on your list of priorities, here’s why buying a home during winter might be right for you. Lower Prices A 2016 study  by NerdWallet that analyzed home sales prices in the 50 most populous U.S. metro areas found that homes are 8.45% cheaper (on average) in January and February compared to June through August. That can translate to thousands of dollars in savings. To give you an idea, consider this scenario: The median existing-home price  in June 2017 was $263,800. Assuming the 8.45% discount that you could get by buying in winter, you could save $22,291. Keep in mind, the extent of your savings will vary depending on where you live, but consider the benefits of those potential savings. Higher down payment? Money for updates or repairs? Extra funds for your retirement account? Buying during winter could open up a lot more possibilities for you. Less Competition Part of the reason prices are lower in wintertime is due to the lack of competition. Buyers come out in droves during spring and summer, but the holidays, cooler weather, and tighter housing inventory are all factors that typically keep buyers at bay during winter. With less demand, it drives prices down, making it the ideal time for buyers who are looking for the best deal possible. Plus, with fewer people to compete with, there’s less ...

General

During this time of year, we all need a reminder about the true spirit of the holidays — giving. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the consumerism of the holidays, giving back is a great way to bring some balance into your life, while spreading a little bit of joy to others. With a plethora of worthy nonprofits out there, how do you choose the right one? If you feel inspired to give back this holiday season, use the following tips to help you find an organization and cause that you care about. While researching charities, here are three questions to ask yourself. 1. Is the charity fiscally and ethically responsible? Find out how the organization manages their finances. Reputable nonprofits should be transparent with this information and make sure their practices are in line with how you want your dollars to be used. 2. Are they a true nonprofit? For your contribution to be tax-deductible, make sure the organization is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. The IRS has an online tool you can use to check if an organization is eligible. 3. Do their values align with yours? Aside from the cause itself, research the organization's background and beliefs. Be sure to ask not just about what they do but why they do it to ensure your donations are powering the kind of change you're passionate about. Once you know your criteria for choosing a nonprofit, it's time to narrow it down to the specific cause. If you're not sure where to begin, here are just a few types of charities that you can seek out.  Animal Welfare:  Animal shelters, animal cruelty prevention, veterinary science Arts ...

General

How Not to Break the Bank This Holiday Season The holidays are almost here. Get ready for festive parties, family gatherings, and...financial stress? Hold up, let's scratch that last one. The holidays should be a time for celebration, not financial frustration, yet why do so many people find themselves worrying about their bank accounts this time of year? With the amount of commercialism we're bombarded with around the holidays, it's tempting to splurge on all the latest gifts and gadgets, but doing so without a plan can get you in a sticky financial situation. This year, follow these five tips to help you celebrate the holidays without breaking the bank. Make a list (and a budget) From the get-go, create a list of who/what you need to buy for, and assign a dollar value to each. Knowing how much you can spend will help keep you on track throughout the season, and if you stick to it, you should be able to avoid those bank account notifications containing the dreaded "overdraft" word. Most importantly, consider the consequences if you go over budget, such as paying overdraft fees or credit card interest if you cannot pay your balance in full. Look for deals As you tackle your holiday shopping, be strategic about finding the best deals. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are the most obvious times to snag a deal, but you can also check with your favorite stores to find out when ...

News

Yesterday the House Republican Party’s “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” was publicly released and many are wondering what the proposal will actually mean for American homeownership. Here is a summary of what we understand the act to have proposed and what changes could be implemented: Mortgage Interest Deductions: The most dramatic change in the proposal is reducing the allowable mortgage interest deduction cap to $500,000. Currently, homeowners can itemize their mortgage interest as a tax deduction for interest paid on up to $1 million in principal mortgage balance. As proposed, this would primarily affect areas of homes that typically have more than $500,000 borrowed for the mortgages and especially states, such as California, where average home prices are among some of the highest in the nation. Per the reports, the plan will apply to newly purchased homes and will grandfather in current homeowners for the current $1 million maximum. Property Tax Deductions: Another significant element to the proposal is limiting property tax deductions to $10,000. As home prices have increased, we have also seen a rise in property taxes, and this cap would likely affect the same aforementioned group of people that are purchasing higher priced homes and other homeowners that live in areas with rising property tax rates. Capital Gains Exemptions: In addition, sources say the plan proposes to alter the capital gains tax rules. Under the proposal, the exemption can only be claimed on primary residences that have been occupied for at least 5 years ...

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