Monday, June 1, 2009
In This Issue:
Great Deals in a Tough Economy,
Monthly Contest Winner,
Ways to Earn Extra Income,
Mortgage Help Under the HASP
Great Deals in a Tough Economy
Believe it or not there is a silver lining in the turbulent clouds of this economy. Tough times equal opportunities for those willing to find and plan for them.
Jonathan Atler, senior editor at Newsweek addressed the American Planning Association in April. He suggested that now is an exciting time for planners. In his keynote speech, he reminded the audience of when Rahm Emmanuel, the White House chief of staff, said, “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”
Tax credits are one of the major benefits of a weak economy. Currently, a tax credit of up to $8000 is available for qualified first-time homeowners or those who haven’t owned a home in the past three years. The full amount of the credit is available to those whose adjusted gross income does not exceed $75,000 ($150,000 joint return).
The auto industry is another hard hit sector. Many dealers are offering zero percent financing to qualified buyers and cash rebates. Used car sales have also fallen ten percent in the past year. As part of the stimulus package, a sales tax deduction is being offered to purchasers of new cars, light vehicles, RVs, or motorcycles in 2009. This deduction includes state and local taxes and any excise taxes charged on the purchase. It is available to those earning less than $125,000 ($250,000 for joint filers). The purchaser can deduct the sales tax on the first $49,500 of a car purchase.
The retail industry, from nail salons to liquor stores, is offering stellar deals. Prices on computers are down 13% over the previous year. Designer apparel can be found for as much as 50% off normal retail prices. Amazing retail deals can be found on sites such as http://www.slickdeals.net/ and http://www.fatwallet.com/. Companies such as these list hot deals, coupons, and cash back offers. All it takes is a quick Internet search or a visit to one of these sites.
Entertainment is generally considered a luxury, so many restaurants and entertainment venues are offering drastically reduced prices. Bands and other entertainers are offering reductions on ticket prices and, in some circumstances, free shows. Country superstar Keith Urban generally sells tickets for $170.00 per seat. This summer, however, some tickets have been reduced to $20.00. Many other entertainers have followed suit.
Vacations and travel are another form of entertainment that fall under the “luxury” heading. Many hotels such as the Four Seasons are offering a night free after a certain number of days stay. Princess Cruises are offering an “Escape The Economy” package that offers 2-for-1 savings on select cruises. Some airlines have discounted tickets by as much as 55%. An Internet search will reveal many options for those interested in traveling in this economy.
The stock market is another obvious “deal.” Stock prices are down, and, with the recovery of the economy, there is the potential for significant gains. The stock market, of course, runs risks, so the buyer should beware. But for those with patience and the ability to take risks, the reward could be great.
Do you have an update to share with us? Did you get promoted, have a new addition to your family or any other news you’d like to share? Click here to tell us about it.
Ways to Earn Extra Income
Everyone could use a little extra cash these days. Perhaps you have lost your job, taken a pay cut, been laid off, or are just looking for additional income. According to http://www.iplinger.com/, there are several ways to generate extra money.
Use Online Selling Sites. You can sell pretty much anything online. From antiques to CDs, people are always looking for a great deal. Some of the more popular selling sites include Ebay and Craigslist.
Be a “Shopping Spy.” Many companies will pay you (up to $20) to shop at a store “undercover” and provide feedback on customer service, quality of merchandise, and store cleanliness. Visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association at http://www.mysteryshop.org/ to find legitimate companies. Remember to avoid scams, though, and never use a company who requires a fee.
Operate a Call Center From Home. Many companies use “virtual” call centers. Contractors work from the comfort of their home and serve as a customer service or sales representative. Two legitimate companies are Alpine Access (http://www.alpineaccess.com/) and Arise Virtual Solutions (http://www.willowcsn.com/).
Tutoring. If you are particularly good at math, English, or science, this option might be good for you. Talk with local parents, schools, and even universities to advertise your services. Or list your services on Craigslist. You can earn up to $30.00 per hour.
Other Services. Walking dogs and babysitting are other great ways to earn extra cash.
Freelance Writing. If you have good grammar and writing skills, websites such as http://www.ifreelance.com/ offer opportunities for extra income. Articles are needed for newsletters, websites, and even blogging. Generally the writer places a bid for an opportunity and then the person listing selects the most desirable bid.
All of the above are legitimate ways to earn cash. Even when the economy is strong, people are looking for extra income. These are great opportunities that can allow you flexibility and the ability to work from home.
Congratulations to this Month's Winner
Mortgage Help Under the HASP
The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan (HASP) may afford approximately 9 million homeowners mortgage assistance according to the Obama administration.
The HASP is designed to allow as many as 4-5 million responsible homeowners who took out conforming loans owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae to refinance. For many families, low cost refinancing means the difference of thousands of dollars annually, and, hopefully the prevention of foreclosure. An example, provided by the Treasury Department’s website follows:
“Consider a family that took out a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of $207,000 with an interest rate of 6.50% on a house worth $260,000 at the time. Today, that family has about $200,000 remaining on their mortgage, but the value of that home has fallen 15 percent to $221,000 – making them ineligible for today's low interest rates that now generally require the borrower to have 20 percent home equity. Under this refinancing plan, that family could refinance to a rate near 5.16% – reducing their annual payments by over $2,300.”
The second initiative is aimed at stabilizing 3-4 million homeowners through a $75 billion initiative. The plan’s intention is to help struggling homeowners who cannot afford their mortgage payments due to the recession. These homeowners cannot sell their property, because prices have dropped significantly. Many families have seen their mortgage payments increase to as much as one half of their monthly income. This is particularly true for homeowners who received exotic or sub-prime loans with hidden fees and explosive terms. The plan helps homeowners in these situations obtain reasonable monthly payments. According to the Treasury Department, the plan does not provide aid for speculators.
The HASP has several key goals and/or objectives:
An effort to reduce monthly payments
Loan modifications to bring monthly payments to sustainable levels
Clear guidelines for loan modifications
Support low mortgage rates by strengthening confidence in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae
Overall, the HASP is designed to reduce mortgage payments to sustainable monthly payments for families/homeowners affected by the recession. As with any financial initiative, time will tell if the HASP is able to stabilize the mortgage industry and aid homeowners.
Click here for more information.
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