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Why do Reverse Mortgages have Insurance?

Question from our Reader:

Is it common for Reverse Mortgages to include an additional monthly fee for “Mortgage Insurance”?
What companies do not charge for Mortgage Insurance?

Hi Ronald,

The lenders do not charge for the Reverse Mortgage Insurance; HUD does on the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM or “Heck-um”) which is an FHA or government insured program. At this time, there are very few proprietary or private programs available that do not require this insurance as most disappeared when the market experienced all the difficulties in 2009 and 2010. The programs that have come out since the collapse of the market are mainly for Jumbo or high balance loans and I think you will find that the cost with the insurance is still typically less than what these programs have to offer.

The government insurance is what makes the program work. It protects borrowers, lenders, heirs and even the folks who buy the securities backed by the loans. Without the insurance, the viability of the program is very questionable and that is borne out by the fact that most of the programs that were not FHA-insured disappeared when the market collapsed and there are very few that have returned and those that have offer borrowers very few options and at higher rates.

Borrowers who do obtain the proprietary programs, typically because of the loan sizes and property values, currently have fewer programs
available to them. I am only aware of 2 proprietary programs at this time, both are fixed rate requiring a full draw of the funds available and both have interest rates in excess of 7% (greater than the HECM rates plus the insurance renewal of 1.25% of the outstanding balance). There are no guarantees on these programs by HUD, so growing balance lines of credit that they can access at later times would not be guaranteed and therefore borrowers would be open to the risk that something might happen to the lender before they accessed all of their funds, causing their line to close prematurely. Therefore, the fixed rate full draw option on the private programs is the only way to ensure that all funds are available to every borrower.

So Ronald, forgive me for taking so long to answer what is a quick question, but the HECM loans plus the insurance are still below the rate that accrues on the proprietary or private offerings that are available and I wanted to be sure you understood that this insurance protects you on future draws as well as gives you the availability of programs that offer a reverse mortgage line of credit, monthly payments, a full draw or a combination of these features instead of just the one lump sum that the private programs offer. If you need the higher balances that the private programs can give, they are the only way to get them but if not, even with the insurance, the HECM program still gives you more options.

Sources:
About Reverse Mortgage Insurance Premiums
HUD.gov
Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium

Will we see negative interest rates in the US?

Interest rates in Europe on a variety of debt instruments actually reached negative levels this year, a bizarre economic environment with a lasting impact on the Eurozone’s economy. Essentially this means that investors in debt instruments are receiving less than their original investment over time.

The reason is simple: to encourage spending and ward off deflationary concerns. It’s a case of basic supply and demand – investors seeking a safe haven for their money invest in bonds. As demand grows, interest rates drop. Ideally, the rate would bottom out at zero, but with a heavy demand for safety, debt rates turned negative instead. Adding to the demand is the potential for currency appreciation. Even if the debt instrument returns a negative yield, the inherent currency could appreciate relative to the euro creating a gain overall for the investor.

The state of the US economy and bond yields

One of the biggest concerns for US investors is whether the atmosphere of negative yields will spill over into the domestic economy. The results for the first quarter in 2015 were disappointing, but inclement winter weather was partially blamed for the lackluster data. Economists believe the rest of the year should show a robust and growth oriented economy.

Yields on US debt instruments are still near all time lows, but the Federal Reserve has made several statements this year that indicate a rate hike is very likely to happen. While the European Central Bank (ECB) is prepared to begin a quantitative easing program intended to stimulate growth, the Fed officially ended its program late in 2014. It’s very unlikely that the US will actually see negative interest rates. Evidence suggests that US interest rates may currently be as low as they’re going to be before heading back up again later this year.

One major impact that negative rates would have in the US that makes it even more unlikely is the fact that consumers would essentially be paying banks just to hold their money. It’s a situation that the Fed wouldn’t let happen as consumers would simply hoard cash at home rather than make deposits. If that were to occur, it could create a liquidity crisis and halt lending activity.

As the US economy continues to gain strength, interest rates will rise as the demand for investment increases. For the US, negative yields won’t be a concern.

How the IRS Works

The IRS is one of the most loathed and essential organizations in the country. When the United States was first established, America was wary of taxation and there was no organization set up to collect taxes. When the Civil War was over, the Bureau of Internal Revenue was created. This led to the establishment of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Today, the IRS is the country’s tax collecting agency. So how does it work?

Government Organization
The IRS is part of the Department of Treasury, and it employs thousands of employees. A commissioner heads the organization and is selected by the President to serve a five-year term. The President also selects a Chief Counsel to the IRS. This person handles all legal matters relating to the agency. The IRS is primarily located in Washington, D.C.; however, there are regional offices located in cities throughout the United States.

Oversight Board
There is an IRS Oversight Board that is compiled of nine members. These people are responsible for supervising the activities of the IRS and ensuring that audits are performed correctly. They also review and approve budget requests each year. However, they do not have any control over policy changes.

Taxes
During 2013, the IRS collected nearly $2.86 trillion in revenue. They also processed approximately 240 million tax returns and paid refunds totaling $364 billion. The money that they collect is used to pay for government operations.

Audits
Each year, certain businesses and individuals will receive audits on their tax returns. The IRS performs audits to make sure that a business or individual is providing accurate financial information and paying the right amount of taxes. The possibility of a future audit encourages the majority of people to be honest on their taxes. However, paying your taxes on time and honestly does not guarantee that you will avoid an audit. Audits are chosen based on different reasons including some of the following:

  • Random computer selections
  • Mismatching documents or information
  • Transactions involving people who have been audited

Computer System
Since the IRS stores and processes so much information, they need extremely powerful computer systems. According to 2290tax.com, the main IRS computer system handles the majority of their work. This computer or server is used for IRS notices, EIN’s, and SSN’s. It also calculates penalties and determines who gets audited. Another important IRS computer system controls the e-file system. Once the returns are filed, it checks for any errors, issues confirmations, and it backs up the information.

Although most people are wary of the agency, the truth is that the IRS is necessary and extremely efficient. While some view the agency as antiquated, in recent years the agency has aimed to work better with taxpayers, even setting up the Office of Appeals, which helps to resolve tax disputes impartially and out of court.

Financial literacy impacts decision making

Research by the US Federal Trade Commission shows that financial education affects financial decision-making. Failure to plan for retirement, lack of participation in the stock market, and poor borrowing behavior can all be linked to ignorance of basic financial concepts.

Some of these findings, from the 2008 paper Financial Literacy: An Essential Tool for Informed Consumer Choice? by Annamaria Lusardi, may seem quite obvious at first glance. For example, the author points out that those who demonstrate even a basic understanding of relevant financial topics are much more likely to have planned for retirement. These are not sophisticated topics, but basic things such as knowledge of interest compounding and the ability to perform simple mathematical calculations . Skills like these were shown to be among the strongest predictors of successful retirement planning.

To appeal to the average person, who may not have had a lot of prior exposure to financial topics or investment experience, the study suggest a social or even a psychological approach to financial education, for example exploiting “teachable moments” like the beginning of a new job, in order to get a person to think about taking action when their minds are open to new ideas about how financial decisions may affect their lives.

While the points raised by this study are reasonable, the challenge faced by society, even wealthy countries, is vast. Since the late 1980s when there were significant changes in laws regarding retirement planning, companies were much more free to move from traditional defined benefit plans like pensions to defined contribution plans like 401K plans that shift the responsibility of planning from the corporation to the individual.

While individuals and organizations with high levels of financial sophistication, such as firms specializing in industry specific areas such as chemicals m&a experts can easily manage rather exotic financial decisions, the average person has a much more difficult situation. Financial instruments have become increasingly complex and individuals are constantly being bombarded by the investment industry with new and financial products. However, most individuals are not well equipped to make financial decisions.

The study showed that most individuals cannot perform simple calculations and lack knowledge of basic financial concepts. Knowledge of more complex concepts, such as the difference between bonds and stocks, how mutual funds, and how to estimate the value of an asset is even rarer. Financial illiteracy is widespread among the general population, and particularly evident in some demographic groups that happen to also be overrepresented among the poor and struggling working class, such as women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and those with low levels of formal education.

Analyzing The Making Home Affordable Program created by Obama

The Obama administration created the Making Home Affordable program in 2009 to help homeowners who were threatened by foreclosures from the housing market crisis. The homeowners were underwater, and their mortgage costs were more than the falling housing values. They could not sell their homes without being in debt to the banks. Many of them had lost their jobs and were trapped in foreclosures because the banks had refused to make loan modifications.

The Making Home Affordable program consisted of two components: the Home Affordable Refinance Program and the Home Affordable Modification Program. Republicans did not support the program claiming it led to deficit increases. They argued that the homeowners should have been held responsible for the signed mortgage contracts.

HARP allowed qualified homeowners who had mainly kept up with payments to refinance Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans into fixed-rate, 15- or 30-year low-interest mortgages. Four million homeowners were expected to qualify for the program, but by mid-2011, only 900,000 had successfully used it.

HARP was reformatted into HARP 2 by November 2011 with major changes that included no loan-to-value ceiling, no credit score requirement, faster underwriting and less restrictions as long as one was current on their mortgage. HAMP had been fashioned for those homeowners who had experienced a financial hardship, their mortgages exceeded 31 percent of their income and they were at risk of foreclosure.

Through early 2012, there has been a better response to the more flexible HARP 2. It appears that improved publicity has brought in more homeowners and, importantly, more responsive lenders. Major banks, feeling possible profit losses, had been initially slow to process HARP.

By the end of 2010, a quarter of all homeowners were underwater. Real estate researcher Zillow reported that at the end of the first quarter this year, 15.7 million people were underwater, representing one of every three homeowners. Foreclosures have been served on 2.5 million homes and 4.5 million homeowners had stopped paying mortgages.

The Obama programs began tenuously and in a contentious atmosphere of heavy criticism from Republicans who did not want to allow funding. Costing nearly $50 billion, the programs are expected to help some two million homeowners by year’s end and possibly many more.

Housing Price Declines 18.5% – Time to Buy?

If you are currently looking for a new home or have been on the fence about trying real estate as an investment option now could be a great time.

It is truly a buyer’s market. Home prices are low, there is a large selection to choose from and even new home prices are being driven down by builders eager to scrape up any business they can.

Even though everyone keeps talking about the credit crunch mortgage rates are extremely low. The graph below shows the interest rate of a 30 year mortgage over the last 30 years.

30yearfixed

But wait there’s more. With the passage of HR 1 up to $8,000 can be used as a tax credit for first-time home buyers purchasing between 1/1/2009 and 12/1/2009. The credit does not require repayment and will be used to reduce the purchasers income tax liability. If any credit amount remains unused, then the unused amount will be refunded as a check to the purchaser.

From an investment standpoint the picture is a bit mixed. There are certain areas where home prices have been falling, but rents have been stable. This is an ideal situation for an investor to swoop in and make large profits.

However, large metro areas have also seen drops in occupancy rates. If you take the case of Salt Lake City the
apartment vacancy rate went from 3.1% to 6.8% year over year at the end of the fourth quarter for 2008.

As long as you can get renters in you are good, but with vacancy rates rising in some areas it definitely pays to do your homework before you invest.

Pay Day Loans – Legislating Rates

The payday loan industry is enormous at over 85 billion dollars. In 2008 the state of Ohio passed legislation limiting the interest rate to 28% for businesses offering payday advance loans. This puts the interest rate at close to the same rate as a credit card. The state supported this bill by 64%. Proponents of the bill noted that payday loans cause the poor to get caught in a vicious cycle of debt that they cannot escape.

The interest rates on these types of loans ranges from 300% -600%. It is also important to understand the amount of risk involved with this type of transaction for the person lending the money. Given the size of the industry it would seem that there is plenty of profit motive to enter the market and that someone would lend at a lower percentage to pick up more business. However, the only thing to factor in must be the size of risk involved. More innovative online pay day lenders such as those that offer no fax payday loan have actually decided to stop lending in Ohio due to the new legislation.

This limits choice for Ohioans and others in States that limit pay day interest rates. Some have suggested that state level assistance programs may be necessary in the absence of this form of credit.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the subject. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Does the new legislation protect those who would otherwise be taken advantage of or is this a necessary service that people depend on that will no longer be an option?

Government Grants to Pay-Off Your Credit Card Debt: Blessings in Disguise

National Debt CountIf you are hoping for a miracle in clearing your credit card debts, you will probably wasting your time.

But if you are diligent enough in looking for information in the right places, you might found something that could be very well your small miracle.

One of the small miracles in today’s recession is Federal grants for credit card debt.

What is Federal grants for credit card debt?

In essence, the Federal grants for credit card debt is Government grants that allow you to pay off all your credit card debts, should you meet the criteria and requirements.

The main purposes of this grant are:

  • To stop you from drowning deeper into debt by taking new loans to pay off your previously taken loans.
  • To help you sustain your credit ratings and reputation.

The best thing of Federal grants is obvious – It doesn’t require to be paid back.

However, there are certain criteria and requirements to be met to be eligible – the first and foremost criteria, you have to be a US citizen, as this grants only apply in the United States.

Federal grants can have tax implications so consult your tax preparer before you file the 1040EZ.

First of all, you need to know how to apply for one.

How to get Federal grants for credit card debt

In general, the requirements to apply for the grants are as follow:

  1. Find the right Government Agencies and seek the information about the Government grants and funding programs – You can find such information from these Government’s sites: CFDA.gov and Grants.gov.
  2. Have the needed information ready: proof of income, your loan monthly payments information, and your total amount of loan taken.
  3. Along with the information the Government Agencies gather about your financial status, your application is then assessed to determine whether you qualify or not.
  4. You will be informed regarding your eligibility, and if you are judged to be eligible, your debt will be cleared as the government pays off the debt on your behalf.

Beware of scams

Just like anything that involves money, there are some organisations and companies that claim to help you getting the grant you’ve always wanted. They are too smart to know that, these days, people are often acting irrationally to get out of debt as soon as possible, by any means.

You homework is to keep your head cool and rational, while focusing your effort to find the right information. Again, the good places to start are these Government’s sites: CFDA.gov and Grants.gov.

Hopefully this post will help you with an opportunity to have a fresh start and build your personal finance the right way.

Image by Kevin Krejci.