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Property Taxes: $358
Car Insurance: $190
Electricity and water: $175
Home insurance: $50
Cellphone + internet: $120
Life insurance: $42
Travel and Entertainment: $300
Home maintenance: $100
I know that I didn’t include donations, taxes, and health insurance, but I did include a generous estimate of our core expenses. We actually don’t spend that much in some of the categories above. So what does this mean?
By my calculations, if we maxed out our 401k and then threw every penny of our earnings at our mortgage right now we can pay it off in a little over five years. And in lieu of a sale at the or cash raining from the sky, it may be our only alternative. If we had the mortgage completely paid off, then we would be very close to financial independence because it is not extremely difficult for us to generate $2000 a month through part time work or online ventures. Even though I am not blogging much as before, I am still making money from my old articles. If I had more time to develop my websites then it is not inconceivable to generate another $1000 a month.
The hubby is telling me to do what I think is best, and I have been prepaying the mortgage, but not at an extreme level. We have thrown a few hundred extra to the principal every month. Perhaps I should start throwing every penny at it from now on. Our mortgage rate is only 4.875% and some may say that there are better investments out there now, but I feel that it is tough to find something with a guaranteed return of 4.875% now. The economy is still at a precarious stage where deflation seems imminent. We already have a good cash emergency fund that would last about 2 years, and we are still investing in the stock market for the long term in our 401ks. Basically, there is no reason not to pay off this debt now.
Some people have told me that I am crazy, but I really think that I am just being conservative. Why would I want to keep debt for decades?
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First of all, many commenters berated Ms. Munna and her mother for choosing an expensive school they could not afford, and then choosing a liberal arts major that has very little career prospect. I think the major that she chose isn’t the problem, but the real issue that both she and her mother chose to pay for an expensive school they really knew they could not afford. Even if she were an engineering major, she would be a lot better off if she went to a cheaper school because it would take less time to pay off the costs.
In the housing bubble, many people started to regard their dwellings as investments and disregarded the fundamentals of affordability. There is a parallel here since many people believe that a prestigious degree is an “investment”. Speaking from experience, having a degree from a highly ranked engineering school does get your resume to the top of the pile so in these times of economic distress it is worth it to have that extra credential. However, once you are experienced enough and have proven that you can do a certain job competently, then where you got the degree does not matter as much. Another aspect of the “investment” is that you build a network in college that could offer you opportunities in the future, but you could really do that at any college and later on at work. Also, having a degree from a top school usually means a paycheck that is slightly above average, but the difference is not that great once years of experience are added. Basically, there are definitely benefits in holding a degree from a prestigious school, but I doubt it is worth a lifetime of debt.
Another similarity I can see in these student loans stories and the foreclosure stories is that these people were paying for a “dream”. Many people sought the “American dream” of home ownership at any cost, and similarly, many young students get accepted to their “dream schools” and try to attend at any cost. Although dreams are worth pursuing, I think borrows and lenders need to get in touch with reality.
One thing I do think is unfortunate is that most of those who rack up piles of student loans come from middle class families because they . In many of these cases, they might have thought that going to a prestigious private school is the way to upward mobility, but find the opposite to be true after graduation. The solution here is once again to pick a school that is affordable.
Personally, I never had student loans since but if I had to pay for it on my own I would have wiped out the entire four years’ cost in my first year of work. I consider that to be a very affordable school. Basically, I think that these students and parents really need to sit down and think about things rationally before taking out huge loans. Four years of education should not end up being a lifetime of indentured servitude. I don’t believe that student loans are “good debt” at all, and I am glad that I never had to deal with them. In 17 years my son will be choosing a college, and I will definitely explain the financial aspects of each college offer to him. If he chooses a school that we as a family could not reasonably afford, then I would have failed as a parent.
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The provision I am talking about is embedded in the ginormous that recently was passed by the House. The plan is a authored by Congressman Chaka Fattah. It is based on a Pennsylvania program Fattah created a couple decades ago called . The way it works in Pennsylvania is that before a homeowner is foreclosed on, they get a notice from the lender that tells them they can apply for the HEMAP program. Then if they qualify for the program they are given another loan that is worth up to 24 months of mortgage payments or $60,000, whichever is smaller. The HEMAP program determines whether or not the borrower can repay the loan in 24 months, and they consider many things including job skills and medical situation. Once the loan is secured from HEMAP, the borrower starts paying HEMAP at least $25 a month and at most 40% of the borrower’s net income, and HEMAP pays the entire mortgage amount to the lender. The HEMAP agency establishes a repayment schedule for the assistance loan, but if the borrower has enough equity and credit to the entire mortgage then the loan must be repaid in part or in full.
It is unclear what the final bill will look like in Congress, but if it is exactly like the Pennsylvania program it still might not do much good. The main reason is that most people have no equity in their homes, so why would they get another loan to put themselves in further debt? This is basically a shell game that uses debt to pay debt, and I don’t see how homeowners will benefit unless they have significant equity in their homes and just need a little help to tide themselves through a period of unemployment. There are definitely people in this category, but they might do better to just get the money from friends and family, and the truly responsible folks would have an emergency fund that they could use. I also could not find much information on the default rate of the HEMAP loans in Pennsylvania, so it is unclear just how “successful” it is for the taxpayer, but I guess the government is just planning to spend TARP money, and that is not real money to the congress people anyway. What do you think? Does it make sense to directly pay for the mortgages of those facing foreclosure?
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First of all, the FHA doesn’t make loans. It simply insures lenders against losses on defaults. This means that if a loan defaults completely, then the FHA is on the hook to make the lender whole. The money it uses comes from mortgage insurance premiums that borrowers pay. The current rate is 1.75% of the loan amount upfront, and some additional monthly insurance on 30 year loans. The monthly mortgage insurance goes away when the borrower gains enough equity. When you add it all together the premium is less than 3% of the loan. The borrowers will need a minimum downpayment of only 3.5%, and they can borrow up to $729k in high cost areas. The problem with this whole scheme is that the lenders do not care if the FHA loses money because they will be compensated if things go wrong. Since private insurers, Fannie, and Freddie tightened up their lending guidelines, the new subprime loans are practically all going to the FHA. This has pushed the mortgage loan market share of in the second quarter of 2009.
Basically, the FHA has taken on a vast expansion, and with that expansion it has taken on a lot more risk. The 90+ late and foreclosure rate of FHA loans is now at 7.8% according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, and this is only expected to rise since those who take out FHA loans generally have very little downpayment, and their average credit scores are lower than the prime borrowers. Unemployment has not stopped rising and the economy isn’t totally recovered. The FHA currently insures about 5.2 million according to its website, and 7.8% means that about 405,000 of these loans are practically lost. Additionally, there are another 400 to 500k borrowers that have missed at least one payment. Since the value of the FHA reserve funds are going to fall below 2% of the value of the insured loans, it is hard to imagine how the agency would cover all the losses when they come due unless all the loans that defaulted have balances much much lower than the average loan. It is pretty simple math when you think about it.
I really do not see how the FHA could build up its reserve fund in two to three years when the foreclosure rate of the loans it is insuring is not exactly decreasing. The FHA is insuring many more loans than before, but those new loans are also defaulting and draining the reserve funds. You have to remember that the insurance premium is very small, so in many instances the FHA is using the premiums from 20 to 30 homes to repay the lender for one default. That is only sustainable if the default rate is very small, but a 30 day late rate of 17% is not exactly encouraging.
Anyway, the FHA does not expect to increase its insurance premium rates or downpayment limits, but it is requiring audits of the lenders that send loans to the FHA to prevent fraud. I would have thought that those audits were already happening, but I guess not. If the FHA really wants to decrease the amount of its defaults it would need to increase its downpayment limits so that people have more equity in their homes, but I don’t really see that happening. Eventually this agency is going to need a bailout. They may not call it a bailout, but I think it is pretty much inevitable unless the FHA changes course drastically.
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Personally, I did not know that there was an option of the Fannie Mae to Fannie Mae streamline loan, but I talked to my lender in January about refinancing and they said that we qualify for a streamline loan Basically, there is no need for a new appraisal and broker fees were waived since we are just doing the refinance with the same bank. Some fees cannot be avoided, such as a new title search and title insurance. They also ran a new credit check, but the process was very easy overall since they had pretty much all of our information.
After running a bunch of calculations on the costs I determined that it was still worth it to refinance because we would be saving over $80,000 on interest over the lifetime of the loan with the 1% difference in the rate. We will recover our costs in a little less than 2 years and since we intend to keep the home for a long time it is not a bad deal.
Also, since we only paid our old loan for 3 months, we are not really stretching out the loan by all that much. Now if we apply the extra money we are saving towards the principal every month, we will pay off the loan six years early so I consider this a good move for us.
I am not sure if interest rates will move even lower, but 4.875% is a rate I am willing to stick with for a while and if it really goes down to 3.5 I could just refinance again. If you are interested in finding out about the Fannie Mae to Fannie Mae streamline refinance you can check out.
The basic requirements are these:
1. Your loan must be originally fully documented and underwritten by Fannie Mae guidelines. It has to be held by Fannie Mae right now.
2. You cannot have late payments within the 30 days you are applying
3. You have to submit to a credit check, and your credit score needs to be 720 – 740 if your loan is more than 90% of the value, and 660 – 680 if your loan is less than 75% of the value. Basically, your credit score has to be fairly good.
There are also a bunch of variations on the requirements based on the type of property and loan to value calculations that you have to read the Product Matrix to figure out. I think this could be helpful to people who have homes that lost value dramatically because they really do not do an appraisal. I would have been okay with an appraisal since we just bought the home 3 months ago and prices haven’t slid 20% in 3 months, but I know a lot of people who bought in 2006 or 2007 who have lost 20% to 30% and can’t take advantage of the great rates now. My suggestion is to ask your lender if you qualify for a streamline, and you may be able to save thousands of dollars.
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