In This Issue
A Third of Mortgage Holders Don't Know their Rate


Ask any American how much money they make for a living, and they'll tell you down to the weekly penny. Ask what interest rate governs their single-largest monthly expense, and more than a third don't know.


"Your mortgage rate is one of the most important numbers in your financial life, and there's a good chance that one of your neighbors has no idea regarding how much he or she is paying," said Holden Lewis, a senior mortgage analyst at Bankrate.com.


Bankrate.com surveyed a national sample of 1,000 adults and found that 35 percent did not know their mortgage interest rate. One in 7 mortgage holders were either "not too confident," "not at all confident" or had no idea about their rate.  "I'd have to ask my wife," said one borrower who asked not to be identified.


Most borrowers know within a general range, especially if they bought their home or refinanced their loan within the past five years. 


"Our mortgage guy told us, 'Go home and frame this, it's the lowest I've seen in a long time,'" said Wesley Smith, who owns a home in Utah. Smith, however, was unsure of the exact rate. "I think 2.7, well it's in the high 2s." 


Lenders say the finding is not at all surprising. Homebuying is stressful, and most borrowers are honed in on what their monthly payment will be, not how they get to that payment. 


"They're in the heat of the moment, they're talking about rate, but really at the end of the day they're more focused on completing the process," said Matt Weaver, senior mortgage loan originator for PMAC Lending Services in Florida. "Once it's closed, it's just 'Said it, forget it.'" 


Most borrowers know the general range, Weaver said, with somewhere between a half and a quarter percentage point variance. That variance, however, can translate into meaningful savings, especially in today's changing lending environment. Mortgage rates have been dropping lately, and there are new lower-cost mortgage alternatives from the government.


Those two combined could make a refinance worthwhile, that is, if the borrower knows enough to apply.  "The issue is not so much that they don't know their mortgage rate, it's that they don't know that rates are a whole lot lower now," said Lewis. 


He recommends that borrowers check the current rates, and if they're not sure of their own rate, they should go check to make sure they're not missing out on an opportunity for savings; that is ... if they know where their paperwork is.

7 Home-Selling Mistakes to Avoid 
by FoxBusiness.com



You have decided that it is time to sell your home. Regardless of the reason why, you want as smooth and as quick of a sale as possible. To keep your sale trouble-free, consider these potential stumbling blocks before you begin your home-selling journey.


1. Overpricing - Set the price using appraisal values and market rates, not what you think the home is worth or what you expect the profit to be.


Pricing your home too high has a double negative effect. Your house will sit on the market for longer and likely force you eventually to reduce the price. Either situation will put doubt in the minds of potential buyers, making them wonder what else may be wrong with the home.


Do your homework on Zillow and similar sites to assess the market, and take your realtor's advice on how to price your home - whether you like it or not.


2. Signs of Neglect - It does not take much to make a bad first impression. If you see an unkempt lawn, spider webs in an entryway, and a broken front doorknob, what would your first impression be? Buyers are no different.


Take care of all the simple detail repairs that you may have been putting off. Doorknobs, sticking cabinet drawers, leaking faucets, broken gutters... deal with it all or expect trouble with a sale. If you need to hire help to take care of it all, do so.


Once you get things fixed up, keep them clean. Sweep, dust and vacuum regularly. Do not forget the windows, either.


3. Poor Marketing - To make sure your home is seen by the most people and in the best light, you need to plan your home marketing campaign. Find a realtor you trust well in advance of your sale, and coordinate your plans with him or her. Shoot videos or photos during different times of the year to highlight the best properties of your house, and use them in your postings.


Ask a friend for an opinion on whether your marketing package is appealing. You may be too close to it to see things objectively.


4. Excessive Emotional Attachment - It may be hard to let go of your home, but it is essential to look at your home through the eyes of a dispassionate buyer with a different set of preferences and plans. Do not sabotage your sale by stubbornly clinging to your favorite aspects of it that may make the home less sellable - for example, your favorite cherry-red wall color or your collection of vintage 1970's shag carpeting.


Pack away family pictures and other personalized knickknacks that remind buyers that someone currently lives in the house, and accept any advice and criticism from your realtor regarding how your home shows and how to improve it. Do not take it personally. Remember, this is a business transaction.


5. Unwise Renovation - Partial renovations can more than pay themselves off in increased sale value - for example, replacing dated appliances with new stainless steel ones. However, do not embark on a renovation that is disproportionate to the rest of your home, or to other homes in the neighborhood. You will not receive the full benefit of your renovation.


It is also best not make any renovation specific or unusual. Keep it tasteful but generic to attract the most buyers.


6. Incomplete Disclosures - Aside from being morally questionable at best, incomplete disclosures of past fires, water leaks, foundation repairs, and other damage could jeopardize your deal. A home inspection may bring these issues to light and destroy the trust of your potential buyer - "If they didn't tell us about the leak, what else are they hiding?"



Three-quarters of Americans are stressed about this


Look to your left. Look to your right. One of you will have financial stress this year.


Almost three-quarters of Americans are experiencing financial stress at least some of the time, and nearly a quarter of us are experiencing extreme financial stress, according to a study released today by the American Psychological Association.


Overall stress levels have been declining since the association published its first annual stress survey in 2007. But underneath that larger trend, disturbing patterns are emerging.

Widening gap


For one thing, there is a widening gap in stress levels between low-income and higher-income Americans.


People with incomes under $50,000 and with incomes over $50,000 reported comparable overall stress levels in 2007, at 6.2 on a 10- point scale (where 10 represents extreme stress.) While overall stress levels were lower in 2014, the wealthier group reported overall stress levels of 4.7 and the lower-income group reported a 5.2 stress level, the widest that gap has been.


"Until very recently, with things looking better, wages have been stagnant. When your cost of living continues to increase and your wages don't keep up, the impact of that is disproportionate," said Katherine Nordal, executive director for professional practice at the American Psychological Association. "Those of us who are fortunate enough to be in the $50,000-plus category, we have more options or discretion about how we spend money, for the most part."


Money stress and health

Higher financial stress levels have worrisome health implications, according to the report, which is titled "Paying With Our Health." Lower-income Americans reporting financial stress of 8 or more on a 10-point scale are distinctly more likely than lower-income Americans with low financial stress to spend excessive time watching TV or surfing the Internet, and they are more than twice as likely to overeat, drink or smoke.


Americans with high levels of financial stress may be harming their health in other ways too. Some 12 percent of respondents said they had skipped going to the doctor at some point in the past year because of financial pressures, and 9 percent had considered doing so. Almost a third of the respondents said their financial situation prevented them from living a healthy lifestyle.


Those behaviors will have a major impact on the long-term health of those stressed-out Americans, Nordal said. "About 40 percent of health-care outcomes are driven by individual behaviors," she said, much more than the 10 percent attributable to the quality of medical care.


Support cuts stress

The American Psychological Association report follows a poll published last July that also pointed to the toll that financial stress takes. In that poll, by the Harvard School of Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NPR, 53 percent of respondents who experienced a great deal of stress in the last month said financial problems were a factor.


There is a glimmer of positive news in the report. "For those Americans who feel the burden of stress about money the most-parents, younger generations, lower-income households and women-it seems that emotional support is even harder to come by," the survey found.


But respondents who reported having an emotional support system reported markedly lower stress levels, at 4.8 on a 10-point scale, than people without support, who reported stress levels averaging 6.2. (The American Psychological Association provides tips for managing financial stress.)


Look to your left. Look to your right. One of you will have financial stress this year, so lend a hand.



Fighting with your spouse? It's probably about this



Fighting over money with your better half? Join the club.


Finances are the leading cause of stress in a relationship, according to a survey of people in a relationship or partnership released Wednesday by SunTrust Bank. Some 35 percent of all respondents experiencing relationship stress said money was the primary cause of friction. (Annoying habits came in second, at 25 percent.) Among respondents with relationship stress aged 44 to 54, 44 percent said money was the primary cause.


"Money really touches everything. It impacts people's lives," said Emmet Burns, brand marketing director for SunTrust. 


Money and stress do seem to go hand in hand for many Americans, whether they're in relationships or not. A study released earlier this week by the American Psychological Association found almost three-quarters of Americans are experiencing financial stress at least some of the time, and nearly a quarter of us are feeling extreme financial stress.

But divergent views and values can make money a particular source of tension within couples.


It's no fun to accept blame in an argument, and sure enough, the SunTrust survey respondents were far more likely to attribute virtuous financial habits to themselves. Some 34 percent said they were the saver and their partner was the spender, and just 13 percent said the reverse. That also means that 47 percent of the respondents said they and their partner had different saving and spending habits.


"A spender or a saver is really in the eye of the beholder," Burns said.

Couples don't just argue about money: they hide transactions from each other. One in 5 Americans in a relationship say they have spent $500 or more and not told their partner, and 6 percent maintain secret accounts or credit cards, according to a poll conducted for CreditCards.com.


SunTrust, for its part, found that 36 percent of partners in a relationship do not consult their significant other about even large purchases.


The SunTrust study is being published on the heels of a similar survey by Ally Bank. In that survey, which was not limited to people married or in relationships, 55 percent of respondents said that a strong budgeting and saving strategy was the most appealing money-related quality a partner or potential partner could have. In addition, three-fourths of the respondents to this survey said it was moderately or highly important to find a partner with a similar approach to money and budgeting.


Two-thirds of the Ally Bank survey respondents said they did not have serious, recurring arguments with significant others about money. But among those who did, spending was a more likely culprit than saving habits.

Ally conducted its survey in December, as consumers were in the midst of a robust holiday shopping season. SunTrust's survey was taken in January, just as outsized post-holiday credit card bills were landing