Archive for July 10th, 2008

I Get To Speak at City Hall!

Posted on July 10, 2008. Filed under: -- Austin Related, -- On MY Calendar, -- What MOLLY's Up To | Tags: , , , , |


By  Molly Greaves

I just locked everything down, and I’m so excited.  I had to set my alarm to wake up at  EARLY this mornig to secure the spot. You have to be within 2 weeks EXACTLY of the next meeting in order to be able to sign up. Luckily I hit my SNOOZE button only once, which was planned, so I was able to talk with the City early enough to score the opportunity!

I’ve got most of my thoughts together, but will let you know when I finalize what I’m going to talk about in case you’re interested.

What I know so far is that I need to utilize my time effectively, and want to cover deposit legislation and also physical mail “spam” at the very least.  We can all sign up to be on the DO NOT CALL phone list, and we can also mark things as SPAM , hoping not to receive crazy stuff from others via email, but the crazy thing though, is it that we are all bombarded with TONS of JUNK MAIL via our physical mailboxes, and there’s really no “opt-out” option. It’s a horrible waste of resources  and if you’re like me, you feel guilty collecting all of the mail you don’t sign up for, and then doing nothing with it.  It’s crazy…at least I think so. The poor mailman has so many other things he should be worrying about rather than the “Sunday Junk Mail Fulfillment.” His poor shoulder =(

 

 

Stay tuned my friend, stay tuned.

Date: July 24

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Austin City Limits 2008! I Can’t WAIT!! Here’s The 3 Day Line-up

Posted on July 10, 2008. Filed under: -- Austin Related, -- On MY Calendar, -- Uncategorized, -- What MOLLY's Up To | Tags: , , , , , , |


 

By Molly Greaves

One of my friends, of over 20 YEARS now, called me saying she and her boyfriend are coming to see me for ACL this year.  I can’t wait for her to see how Texas Friendly Texas is! Ha.

They’ll be coming down from Vermont, where I grew up, so it should be fun. I live right around the corner from Zilker Park so we should be able to take full advantage of everything, which will make it easier with the heat too. 

Here are some pictures and the schedule…the first picture is Matthew Mcconaughey from Austin. What a hottie.

You can learn more here, but don’t forget to come back to my site afterwards!

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Real Estate Survival Guide–Top 10 List For Buyer’s and Seller’s In Today’s Market

Posted on July 10, 2008. Filed under: -- Real Estate Guide For Today's Market | Tags: , , , , , |


 

survival guide

 

 

 

by Molly Greaves

ARE YOU A HOME BUYER OR SELLER IN TODAY’S REAL ESTATE MARKET?

I thought this was important for you to know. MONEY did a “House Rules” article for those of you that areeither buying or selling in today’s market, since the real estate game has CHANGED. To WIN, you’ve got to learn the new rules. So here they are:

Summary and Points From June 2008 MONEY MAGAZINE

BUYERS

       1.  You cant time the bottom; you can pick a great house.

Face it, the house you buy today will likely be worth less next year. That gets some thinking about the bottom. Resist they say. It’s harder than you think, but this is the best buyers have had in 2 decades, with inventories up and mortgage rates low. Pace yourself, find a great place, and drive a hard bargain. Ignore the asker’s selling price and bid 10% below what comparable homes are selling for.

       2. One reason to buy now: Mortgage Rates.

Homes are plentiful, and will remain so, but financing will be getting more expensive. Yep. True, the Fed slashed interest rates, but FIXED mortgages don’t directly follow the Fed. They reflect the bond’s market expectations about inflation, which remains a concern. The 30-year, now at 6.1% will likely reach mid-6% by December and 7% in 2009.   Today a $250,000 loan would set you back $1,500 a month. At 7%, a $1,500 payment gets you only a $225,000 mortgage.

       3.  Another reason to buy: Rates on Big Mortgages. 

Mortgages in amounts higher than $417,000 usually run a 1/5 of a percentage point above conventional products. But investors are shunning jumbos, which they claim now average 7.2% and are unlikely to drop this year.

       4.  Don’t buy Cheap; buy good schools.

You probably know someone who got a great deal on a foreclosure, but don’t forget, that when you buy a house, you’re also buying into a neighborhood.

They say that foreclosures tend to be bunched in areas where residents and speculators alike took out exotic mortagages to get into homes they subsequently found they couldn’t afford. That’s not a recipe for stability. Prices & quality could both decline further.   They also add to also avoid developments that popped up in the past few years. They too are likely to have a lot of riskly loans and little equity. Instead, go for the areas with the highly rated schools. They generally fare better in downturns, and that pattern is holding today.

       5.  Make sure your agent has your interest at heart.

The real estate game has a built-in conflict of interest since the listing agent and your agent both get paid by the seller. And these days, more sellers are offering cash to buyer’s agents. So, make sure you’re not being steered to a house that’s better for your agent than for you.

SELLERS

 

1.     Get real about price.

Too many sellers set their price based on yesterday’s market. Big mistake. They say to have 3 area brokers prepare what’s called a comparable market analysis. It will list asking and selling prices of similar homes, as well as amenities and sizes. If there is little inventory in your price range, list for what others are asking for.  If there are a lot of homes like yours on the market , then look to generate buzz. Set an asking price 10% below what homes like yours have been selling for. That raises the odds of getting multiple offers. If your market is really frozen and you need to drop the price, make one large cut. No baby steps.

 

2.     Age your agent—especially if it’s you. 

Selling on your own in an unprecendented slowdown means you’ll have to work awfully hard marketing your home. If you aren’t prepared for that, hire a broker. Avoid newbies. You want an agent who has been through good times and bad and who also has a track record that you can verify with clients.

 

3.     Pimp your house, hire a home stager.

To sell today, you’ve got to glam up your home. A stager will help get rid of clutter (especially clutter you don’t see); rearrange furniture to create attractive focal points; repurpose underused rooms, turning, say, that makeshift bedroom in the basement into a rec room, and pick paint and curtains that make room seem spacious. A consultation could run $200. Completing the plan could cost $1,000 or more. It’s worth it. If you live in Austin, I can be your consultant if you’d like. I have experience doing this.

 

4.     Cash will make your home look even better.

Instead of offering a cruise or plasma, offer something that will make your home more affordable, such as paying part of the buyer’s closing costs. In the MLS description of your house that agents can see, let them know you’re offering a $1000 bounty or 4% commission to the one that brings in the purchase. It will mean more knocks on your door.

 

5.     Underwater? Learn to swim!

   About 1/3 of those that bought last year or in 2006 now have negative equity. If a job or family issues compels you to move, your options aren’t that great. But, here are a few. First, you may be able to pursuade your employer to make you whole on the loan. Second, if the rental market in your area is strong, you can become a landlord and wait out the stump. Third, sell for as much as you can and then raid your savings for the difference. Short sales, in which a bank agrees to take less than is owed and release you from your debt, is getting a lot of media these days. A bank will only usually consider one if you’re at risk for foreclosure. Even then, it may say “No, thanks.”

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Why a Pre-Mixed Portfolio/Target Date Portfolio?

Posted on July 10, 2008. Filed under: -- Building Wealth, -- Money Help (in simple terms), -- YOUR Retirement | Tags: , , , , |


By Molly Greaves

These portfolios are becoming more and more popular. The wonderful thing about them, is that you only have to decide on ONE thing: When are you going to retire? They’re especially great for people that dont understand how to choose their own funds, but understand the importance of investing and still want to be able to participate.

They’re designed to help you achieve the right mix of investments for your 410(k) (for example) based on when you want to retire.   They grow more conservative as your retirement date nears. So, as the years go on, these people called fund managers, will adjust your allocation (your mixture of stocks, bonds, and cash reserves) as you get closer to your retirement date, so you have less risk.

Which Fund is right for YOU?!

Find your current age using the chart below (that I got from Vanguard’s website). You’ll be able to then see the approximate amount of years until you retire (of course this varies with each person, but this is following standard US typical guidelines) and also the recommended fund for YOU based on the age you’ve selected. 

Fund Name Your Current Age Years to Retirement
Vanguard® Target Retirement 2050 Fund 18–25 About 44
Vanguard® Target Retirement 2045 Fund 26–30 About 37
Vanguard® Target Retirement 2040 Fund 31–35 About 32
Vanguard® Target Retirement 2035 Fund 36–40 About 27
Vanguard® Target Retirement 2030 Fund 41–45 About 22
Vanguard® Target Retirement 2025 Fund 46–50 About 17
Vanguard® Target Retirement 2020 Fund 51–55 About 12
Vanguard® Target Retirement 2015 Fund 56–60 About 7
Vanguard® Target Retirement 2010 Fund 61–65 About 2
Vanguard® Target Retirement 2005 Fund 66–71 In retirement
Vanguard® Target Retirement Income Fund 72+ In retirement

Although the above suggests the Target Fund 2045 for me, since I am 26,  I also used other thought when deciding which account was right for me, in case you’re interested at all.

I am 26 years old, and although I’d love to say I could retire  tomorrow, I most likely wont be able to do that, so I invest money when I can and enjoy, moving and playing with what I’ve accumulated. Within my portfolio mixture, I do have some money in a Target 2045 Fund with Vanguard.

I selected the 2045 Fund for a few reasons. I know that’s far away, but that is the fund associated with my age. Another reason,  I like it for me is because it is also more aggressive than let’s say a 2015 Fund. That’s because people that retire in 2015 will be retiring 30 years earlier than those at 2045. Therefore, their portfolio mix should be less aggressive since they don’t have as much time to ride out the ups and downs. That means that people retiring in 2015 would have much more bonds than stocks in their portfolio mix, whereas the opposite is true for 2045 retirees.

The above chart is just a recommendation. Heck you could be 26 and already retired. That’s why I’ve been thinking about becoming more aggressive and moving the money from my Target 2045 Fund to the 2050 fund, which would expose me to more stocks and less bonds.

Let’s take a peak at how the average asset allocation portfolio looks for the 2015 and 2045 Funds. Again,I’m using examples from Vanguard’s actual accounts.

  Target Retirement 2045 Target Retirement 2015
Effective Date 05/31/2008 05/31/2008
Stocks 89.73% 63.30%
Bonds 10.01% 36.69%
Short-Term Investments 0.26% 0.01%
Other 0.00% 0.00% —        

 

Notice the difference between the % of stocks vs bonds in each account. See how the 2015 account becomes less aggressive as you get closer to retirement?  There become more bonds and less stocks with time to help safeguard your money as you get closer to retirement.

**If you’d like to take this information to the next level, the breakdown of the specific funds this account invests in are listed below:    

                                                             2015 FUND’S INVESTMENTS:   

                                                                    As of: 5/31/2008                                   

          

Ranking By Percentage Fund Percentage
1 Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund 50.9%
2 Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund 36.7%
3 Vanguard European Stock Index Fund 6.8%
4 Vanguard Pacific Stock Index Fund 3.0%
5 Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund 2.6%
Total 100.0%            

 

                                                                           2045 FUND’S INVESTMENTS:
                                                                                    As of: 5/31/2008   
Ranking By Percentage Fund Percentage
1 Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund 72.1%
2 Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund 10.0%
3 Vanguard European Stock Index Fund 9.7%
4 Vanguard Pacific Stock Index Fund 4.4%
5 Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund 3.8%
Total 100.0%            

 

Now, let’s compare their returns. Here are some historicals on them:
Target Retirement 2045 Target Retirement 2015  
Year To Date –2.25%    
1 Year –3.51%    
3 Year 9.56%    
5 Year    
10 Year    
Since Inception 10.56%    
Inception Date 10/27/2003 10/27/2003
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ARE YOU GETTING ALL OF THE INSURANCE CREDITS YOU DESERVE?

Posted on July 10, 2008. Filed under: -- Insurance Help For YOU | Tags: , , |


Dear Readers =) I thought this might be of value to you. I know this was written in May and it’s now July, but the information is still helpful. Best, Molly
WSJ
 by Amy Hoak
Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Homeowners often don’t take time to reassess home-insurance coverage when it’s time to pay the premium. But with many Americans looking for ways to save a buck these days, examining that paperwork could pay off.

While raising the deductible is often an easy way to reduce premium costs, it isn’t the only way. Discounts in the form of credits are also available for many homeowners.

“Credits can really add up and become substantial,” says Pete Spicer, vice president and new product manager for Warren, N.J.-based Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.

A renovated-house credit, for example, is available through Chubb for homes that have been renovated in the last 10 years. Those eligible to take advantage of that credit may shave off as much as 10% of their premium if the renovation occurred in the last year.

It’s likely that some of these breaks will be brought to your attention by your agent, says Dick Luedke, spokesman for Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm Insurance, but it doesn’t hurt to ask about them yourself if you think you may qualify.

Below are five home-insurance credits that are offered. Availability and eligibility will vary by carrier.

Security Protection Credit

Many carriers offer a credit if a home has a functioning security system, with the amount of the credit dependent on the type of system. According to the Insurance Information Institute, homeowners can often get at least 5% off their bill for a smoke detector, burglar alarm or dead-bolt locks. Add a sophisticated sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings the police, fire department or another monitoring station, and you may be in for a premium reduction of as much as 15% or 20%, according to the institute.

Central Monitoring

Central monitoring systems can shut off the water if there’s a leak detected while the homeowner is away, or raise the indoor temperature if it moves out of a specified range. Chubb, for example, offers 2% credits for water-leak detection systems as well as temperature monitoring systems that protect a home’s pipes from freezing.

Disaster Preparedness

Credits are available for people who guard their homes against natural disaster. Storm shutters and shatter-proof glass can help reduce premiums in some areas, according to the Insurance Information Institute. At State Farm, a wind-resistant roof can result in a discount from 3% to 20%, Mr. Luedke says. At Chubb, an automatic seismic shut-off valve that protects gas lines in the event of an earthquake, as well as a back-up generator, can reduce an insurance bill.

Other Discounts

Live in a gated community? Chubb provides a 5% credit for that level of security. Many carriers will also offer breaks if the home’s plumbing or electrical system has been completely modernized, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Discounts for Repeat Customers

There’s often a discount if at least one car is insured under the same carrier that insures your home, Mr. Luedke says. And the longer you’ve been a customer — and haven’t racked up any claims — the better the price break. At State Farm, for example, a claim-free customer who has used the company for more than nine years is eligible for a 20% break on his or her premium.

Copyrighted, Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
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INFLATION–Current Rate AND Keeping YOUR Purchasing Power…

Posted on July 10, 2008. Filed under: -- Building Wealth, -- For The Investor In YOU, -- Money Help (in simple terms), -- Saving Money And YOU, -- YOUR Retirement | Tags: , , , |


 

By Molly Greaves

If the inflation rate grows faster than your investment’s rate of return, it can cause your savings–and your purchasing power–to erode. To maintain your purchasing power, you need to earn a rate of return higher than the inflation rate. Currently, the US inflation rate is about 4%. 

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What is COMPOUNDING INTEREST and How It Can Benefit YOU!

Posted on July 10, 2008. Filed under: -- Building Wealth, -- For The Investor In YOU, -- Investing, -- Money Help (in simple terms), -- YOUR Retirement | Tags: , , , , |


 

By Molly Greaves

If read my posts regularly, you’ve probably noticed that I always say ” if time is on your side.” That’s because when you’re so lucky and don’t even realize the opportunities you have to create a large abundance of wealth. That’s because the sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to compound.

Compounding occurs when the money you invest earns money–such as interest in a savings account or returns on your 401(k) investments– and those earnings in turn earn money. In other words, the more you save now, the more compounding can increase your savings. 

Let’s apply it to real-life.

Start at 20, and set aside 15% of everything you earn (including gifts and such) and you will be in good shape at retirement. Wait until you’re 40, and it will be 25% or more of every dollar earned. Wait until 50, and it will be 45% of every dollar earned.

You can look at it this way too. If you invest $1,000 per year in a tax-deferred account that earns 7% a year beginning at age 25, you will end up with $199,635. If you invest the same amount, starting at age 40, and you’ll end up with only $63,249.

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WHY I LOVE ROTH IRAs!

Posted on July 10, 2008. Filed under: -- Building Wealth, -- For The Investor In YOU, -- Money Help (in simple terms), -- Saving Money And YOU, -- YOUR Retirement | Tags: , , , , |


by Molly Greaves

Unlike a 401(k) you get no tax break on the dollars you put into the Roth, but you get to withdraw your money tax-free when you retire.  I think it’s a great hedge against higher taxes in the future. I dont know about you, but I only see them continuing to rise as the years go by. 

Also, a Roth IRA is just about the best financial gift you could ever give to your kids. 

Here’s why: Your assets in your Roth dont have to be tapped at any time during your lifetime, should you be so lucky, and when your kids inherit them, they can withdraw the money tax-free.

Compare that to a regular IRA. If you own this investment vehicle, you’ll have to start taking out distributions from the account starting April 1 of the year AFTER you turn 70 1/2, even if you dont need the money. And then, once your kids inherit the money, they will have to pay income taxes on the money when they take it out. So, they’ll end up with a LOT less. 

If you’re already seeking an employer’s full match, I would recommend putting the rest in the Roth until that is maxed out.  More to be added to this topic…much more.

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Austin’s Top FINANCIAL PLANNING FIRMS 2008

Posted on July 10, 2008. Filed under: -- Austin Related, -- Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |


This is just in alphabetical order as per the Austin Business Journal Book of Lists 2008. Typed up for you by Molly Greaves…because I care!!

1. Ames & Weinheimer 372-8118

2. Davila Buschhorn & Associates PC 258-6637

3. InNet Financial Group Inc. 328-7526

4. Kenty Yung Ozias & Associates 744-4800

5. Stabil Capital Management Inc. 963-6883

6. The Austin Retirement Specialist 302-5534

7. Thorton Capital Strategies LLc 891-7526

8.  Weaver Kading & Associates 231-8180

 

And why there aren’t 10? Just 8? That’s what I wonder. The only reason I have right now is because that’s how the Business Journal wanted it… I’m OK with that.

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About Molly

Posted on July 10, 2008. Filed under: -- About Molly, -- Uncategorized, -- What MOLLY's Up To | Tags: , , , , |


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