Thinking about buying a home? We have information that can help!
1. Figure out how much you can afford
What you can afford depends on your income, credit rating, current monthly expenses, downpayment and the interest rate.
|How much home can you afford?|
|Buying vs. Renting|
|Homebuying programs in your state|
2. Know your rights
|Fair Housing: Equal Opportunity for All – brochure|
|Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)|
3. Shop for a loan
|Looking for the best mortgage: shop, compare, negotiate – brochure|
|Let FHA help you|
|Why Ask for an FHA Loan?|
|Learn about interest only loans|
|Avoid Predatory Lenders|
|Homebuying programs in your state|
|Let FHA help you (FHA loan programs offer lower downpayments and are a good option for first-time homebuyers!)|
|HUD’s special homebuying programs
5. Shop for a home
|Choose a real estate agent|
|Wish list – what features do you want?|
|Home-shopping checklist – take this list with you when comparing homes|
|Homes for sale (including HUD homes)|
|Fixer-Uppers – home purchase and repair programs|
|Manufactured (mobile) homes|
|Build a home|
|Making an offer|
|For Your Protection Get a Home Inspection|
|10 Questions to ask a home inspector|
|12 ways to lower your homeowners insurance costs|
|Settlement Costs and Helpful Information|
With new research showing a $1 trillion shortfall in state funding for pension programs and cuts to federal Social Security benefits possible, gone is the era when the government was the safest bet for retirement. Coupled with higher healthcare costs, economic losses due to the recession and a negative savings rate, now more than ever, Americans need to understand that protecting their retirement assets is within their power, according to the nonprofit Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE).
“Times have changed and today there is too much economic uncertainty to expect your retirement assets to grow on autopilot,” said Marvin H. Feldman, CLU, ChFC, president and CEO of the LIFE Foundation. “It’s important to prepare for the unexpected with proper financial planning and the right mix of insurance products that can help guarantee your retirement income will always be safe and secure.”
To regain control of their future financial life, the nonprofit LIFE Foundation offers four tips to help people protect their retirement income.
Tip 1: Talk to a Financial Professional Today. You don’t want to wait until it is too late and you discover the pension you were counting on is gone or the social security benefits you expected have been reduced or pushed back to an older age. An insurance agent or other financial professional can help you take control of your retirement assets and conduct a thorough analysis to ensure you are utilizing valuable insurance tools and strategies to help meet your retirement income needs.
Tip 2: Take Another Look at Life Insurance. While the primary purpose of life insurance is to provide a death benefit, whole life insurance also has the added benefit of accumulating cash value that grows over time. That means you can borrow against these savings to help fund future retirement plans, such as higher education, travel or even unforeseen emergencies. A life insurance policy’s proceeds are also generally income tax free and can help you to avoid probate. If your insurance program is properly structured, the proceeds from your life insurance policy won’t add to your estate tax liability.
Tip 3: Consider Long-term Care Insurance. Current industry estimates show that the cost of a home health aide now tops more than $40,000 and private nursing home care is approaching $75,000 a year. Yet, nearly 90 percent of Americans do not have a realistic plan for affording these services, should they need them. According to a recent LIFE survey, most say they will rely on friends or family, or the government. Long-term care insurance is the only way to protect your hard-earned retirement assets for you and your spouse, while ensuring you will have the financial means to afford the kind of long-term care you may need in the future. There are plan options to meet virtually any need or budget. To learn more, visit www.lifehappens.org/longterm.
Tip 4: Stay actively involved. Ensuring that you will retire comfortably with adequate funds takes foresight, planning and time and is not something you can simply do and then forget about. Not only do you have to be aware of shifting company or government policies, but changes in your personal life, such marriage status, guardianship or new financial goals, can all trigger different retirement and insurance needs. For those who have not yet started getting their insurance and retirement house in order, today is the best day to begin. Best advice is to stay active and work closely with a professional to ensure your goals remain on track.
In order to insure something, you first must realize that it has a lot of value and needs to be insured. Perhaps that explains why so many Americans lack disability insurance. A new survey finds that Americans greatly underestimate their earnings potential. The nonprofit LIFE Foundation reports that less than half of working Americans (47%) believe they will earn $1 million over the course of their working years. In reality, U.S. Census data show a vast majority (84%) will earn at least that much.
To help people see that the income they generate over a career is probably greater than they realize, the LIFE Foundation launched an online Lifetime Earnings Calculator. It shows, for instance, that a 45-year-old computer programmer earning an annual salary of $70,000 will earn an additional $1,111,848 by age 65 while a 25-year-old administrative assistant earning $40,000 annually will make $1,525,810 by retirement age.
LIFE created the interactive online tool in support of Disability Insurance Awareness Month to help Americans understand that their ability to earn a living over a lifetime is an asset that should be protected with disability insurance. It is estimated that nearly 90 million Americans lack disability insurance, which replaces a person’s income in the event he or she were to become ill or hurt and couldn’t work.
“Just as you would insure your home, car or expensive jewelry, it’s critical to make sure your income is protected in case you get sick or hurt and can’t earn a paycheck,” said Marvin H. Feldman, CLU, ChFC, RFC, president and CEO of the LIFE Foundation. “If you’re unable to work, disability insurance helps you stay afloat financially. It’s a lifeline that works when you can’t.”
Those who use LIFE’s Lifetime Earnings Calculator need only enter their age and income level, and select from one of nine occupational categories. Projections are based on data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What You Need to Know about Disability Insurance
To encourage working Americans to assess their coverage needs, LIFE offers answers to four of the most common questions people have about disability insurance:
1. Do I need disability insurance? The simple rule of thumb is that if you work for a living, you need disability insurance. If you have any doubt how you or your family would manage without an income for an extended period, it’s time to look into your coverage options. Consider that nearly one out of every three workers will suffer a disability that keeps them out of work for 90 days or longer during their working careers. LIFE’s online disability insurance needs calculator can help you estimate how much is right for you.
2. Can’t I rely on Workers’ Compensation? All states require employers to provide workers’ compensation coverage, which typically pays about two-thirds of your pre-disability income. But keep in mind that it only pays in cases when your illness or injury is related to your work, but the vast majority of long-term disabilities are not job-related.
3. Won’t the government help if I become disabled? The federal government also provides disability benefits through the Social Security Administration, but qualifying for them is far from a sure thing and the benefits (determined by your salary and work history) are very modest. About 55% of applications for Social Security disability insurance are initially denied, and the average monthly payment is about $1,062, barely above the poverty line.
4. Where can I get disability insurance? First, talk to your benefits manager at work. Many companies, especially larger ones, provide their employees with group long-term or short-term disability insurance coverage, or both. Your employer may also provide you with an opportunity to purchase coverage on a voluntary basis – meaning you, rather than your company, pay the premiums. If your employer doesn’t provide coverage options, you can purchase an individual disability insurance policy on your own with the help of an insurance professional in your area. Professional associations can also be a source for group coverage options.
For more helpful tips, tools and information on disability insurance, visit the disability insurance section of LIFE’s website.
About the LIFE Survey
The LIFE survey was fielded online by Kelton Research April 2-7 and asked a nationally representative sample of 1,007 adult Americans whether they thought they would make more than one million dollars over the course of their entire working career. Of the 488 working Americans (either employed part- or full-time) who responded, 47% said yes and 53% said no. The survey has a margin of error of + 3.1 percent.
About Disability Insurance Awareness Month
Disability Insurance Awareness Month (DIAM) was created to get American workers to think about the need to protect their greatest asset – their ability to earn an income. Held in May, DIAM is an industry-wide effort that is coordinated by the nonprofit LIFE Foundation. More information is available at www.lifehappens.org/diam.
If you find yourself in Milan’s Malpensa airport—or a few other places around Italy—you can watch as your dough is kneaded, your desired toppings doled out, and your pizza bakes … all in just under three minutes. But if you’re hoping to watch a real Italian pie guy work his magic, you’ll have to go somewhere else—this pizza’s made entirely inside a vending machine.
For travelers, a vending machine can be a welcome sight. Perhaps it’s just for a quick snack when the rest of the airport is closed. Or, overseas, an easy transaction without any language hurdles. But these days, the vending machine is diversifying. Now travelers can find all sorts of things inside these contraptions—items that range from the practical to the absurd.
The world’s first vending machine apparently dates back to the first century, when Hero of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician, devised a coin-operated mechanism that would dispense holy water. Perhaps because that was such a tough act to follow, vending machines didn’t really evolve again until the 19th century, when Industrial Age machines started selling postcards or gum.
Today, vending machines tend to be more prevalent—and therefore more exotic—in Europe and Asia, says Michael Provost, president of vending machine company Wurlitzer Vending Machines. A big reason: they have more mass transit. “Vending machines are on the train platforms everywhere—they’re open for 24 hours and don’t need employees.”At the intersection of technology and quirkiness, Japan is the hands-down leader, with all sorts of items offered for automated sale. “Japan has the highest vending machine density in the world—about one per 23 people,” says Christopher Salyers, author of “Vending Machines: Coined Consumerism”.“Machines sell liquor, noodles, underwear, fresh meat, to name but a few,” he says. “And why not?”
The U.S. is making its own strides, too. At Miami’s Mondrian South Beach Hotel, you can use the vending machine in the lobby to buy anything from a toothbrush to gold-plated handcuffs(!), or even to rent a Cadillac convertible. And taking a cue, perhaps, from the Japanese, more than 100 bars and restaurants in the U.S. now carry the Maine Lobster Game. For a mere $3, you get 15 seconds to try to catch a live lobster with a claw on a crane. It’s a big hit with customers, says Chris Keslinger, president of Vending Extreme. “We have had machines bring in over $2,000 in one week.” If you win, just hope the bartender has a pot of boiling water handy.
And if you end up taking your live lobster home in a bag? People will likely still pony up $3. “We love vending machines because their very nature will always remain consistent,” says Salyers. “Some of us would prefer having access to goods 24 hours a day, devoid of human interaction or adult supervision.”
“Change is inevitable,” he says, quoting the aphorism. “Except from a vending machine.”