In This Issue
Cupid or Stupid? Valentine's Day Do's and Don'ts
by Huffington Post



Most life and relationship experts would be for all the Valentine's Day hoopla! Mending broken hearts, suggesting which restaurants to take your significant other out to dinner, or how many roses and chocolates to buy, etc.  


To me, Valentine's Day is just another day and we shouldn't get caught up in the pressure to buy our partner's love.  


I believe if you truly love someone, everyday should feel like Valentine's Day and one day out of the year shouldn't be a reflection of the love you have for your partner.  


Below you'll find 6 tips Valentine's Day Do's and Don'ts that may help you have a more meaningful Valentine's Day this Holiday season.


1) Be Comfortable in Your Relationship 


If you need a dozen roses, a diamond ring or a box of chocolates to prove the love found in the relationship, chances are the love isn't really there. It's the little things that count (i.e. Time spent, hugs, kisses, love and affection).  

Don't let the holidays and the pressure from media, friends and family force you to do something just for the sake of doing it. Show your love in your own special way.


2) Be Comfortable If You're Single


You don't need a man to enjoy Valentine's Day. Date yourself! Don't think that you have to have someone in your life in order for you to love your life.  


3) Save Your Money 


On holidays like Valentine's Day, restaurants are packed, cards, roses and chocolate sales are at an all-time high, and most men are spending ridiculous amounts all in efforts to please a woman. Instead of spending hours traveling to and from a destination, sitting in a crowded restaurant where you can't actually enjoy the intimate time with one another, think of creative ways to enjoy each other's company in a romantic way right at home. Don't let Valentine's Day pressure you into breaking the bank.


This is a time of great anxiety for millions of Americans. How much should you spend? What should you say on the card? If you're only been dating for a short period of time, how do you make sure you're not sending the wrong signals?

FHA attempts to change rules to spur lending
by HousingWire


The Federal Housing Administration is attempting to limit one of the most powerful tools federal attorneys have to punish banks for making mistakes in mortgage lending, an article in The Wall Street Journal said.

Because banks must certify that FHA-backed mortgages they originate have no errors, when mistakes are found the Justice Department has sometimes pursued damages under a Civil War-era law known as the False Claims Act that lets the government recover triple damages.

The article explained that banks started to pull back from originating mortgages since they feel penalties are too harsh relative to the errors made.

FHA's attempt to change the provision shows the tightrope policy makers and regulators are trying to walk. While they want to hold lenders accountable for crisis-era mistakes and retain recourse should the loans go bad, they also want the banks to extend loans to some consumers who have been largely shut out of the mortgage market since the crisis. 

Zillow "Zestimates" under fire again
by HousineWire


Inside the housing industry, consternation over "Zestimates," the property value estimation tool built into every listing on Zillow (Z), isn't anything new.

For years, Realtors, real estate agents, and brokers have questioned the accuracy of Zestimates and its benefit for buyers and sellers. But a new report from the Los Angeles Times delves into Zestimates, finding that the margin of error for the property value estimates can be massive in some areas.


From the Los Angeles Times report:


Are Zestimates accurate? And if they're off the mark, how far off? Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff answered that they're "a good starting point" but that nationwide Zestimates have a "median error rate" of about 8%.


Whoa. That sounds high. On a $500,000 house, that would be a $40,000 disparity - a lot of money on the table - and could create problems. But here's something Rascoff was not asked about: Localized median error rates on Zestimates sometimes far exceed the national median, which raises the odds that sellers and buyers will have conflicts over pricing.


According to the LA Times report, the Zestimates in some states and counties have enormous margins of error, including Somerset County, Maryland, where the median valuation error rate is 42%.

Again from the LA Times report:


Last July, Robert Earl, an agent with Choice Homes Team in the Charlottesville, Va., area, examined selling prices and Zestimates of all 21 homes sold that month in the nearby community of Lake Monticello. On 17 sales Zillow overestimated values, including two houses that sold for 61% below the Zestimate. 



Is Your Home Ready to Sell This Spring?
by FoxBusiness

Selling a home doesn't happen overnight. To maximize your sale price, stand out from the competition and sell quickly, your home needs to go on the market in tip-top condition.


Prepping the home rarely happens in one weekend. It takes time and thoughtful planning. If you intend to sell your home this spring, here are a few steps you need to take now.


Have your home inspected

It may seem counterintuitive to spend money on a property inspection, but you need to know about your home's condition. If there are issues - big or small - you need to address, it is better to know about them early so you can either remedy them prior to going to market or account for them with a lower listing price.


The last thing you want is for the buyer to uncover flaws once they are under contract. You will get stuck paying more under those circumstances than it would cost you to address the issues now.


Stash your stuff 

As you prepare to sell, think of your home as an investment and start to see it through the eyes of potential buyers and the market. When you're trying to sell your home, the less-is-more approach applies.


Put away big furniture and personal items. Store or put away all the things you won't be using until you move into your new home. In the kitchen, make space in the cabinets for items you will need to use daily, but will want to put away for showings.


Paint, clean and make small improvements

It's common for sellers to make cosmetic improvements before they list. Kitchens and bathrooms sell your home. Plan to have the bathroom grout cleaned and have some parts of the house painted to give it a fresh look.


Consider cleaning rugs, refinishing hardwood floors or painting kitchen cabinets. If you plan to list in the spring, you likely have a good local real estate agent on your side by now. Get their advice and ask for referrals to do the work. There are lots of inexpensive contractors who can help spruce up your home quickly.


Research like a buyer

Today's buyers have research in their DNA and will investigate all they can. Check with your local building department and ensure there are no outstanding issues with your home.


Verify that property records reflect your home accurately, and prepare to remedy any discrepancy. Make sure your title report is clean, and talk about potential disclosure items with your agent. Banks won't lend if there are outstanding issues, and you don't want to jump through hoops at the eleventh hour. Researching now will keep you one step ahead of the buyers.


The sale of your home is likely one of your biggest financial transactions. Get a real estate agent on your team early, and make a list of all the tasks you need to complete before listing this spring. Now is the time to have those discussions. Smart planning and a good strategy will ensure a quick, painless and profitable home sale.

Financial Intimacy Can Lead to Better Sexual Intimacy
by Daily Finance



Valentine's Day is an opportunity to express your love and appreciation for your significant other. Some men believe flowers, Champagne or a dinner out shows that they care, yet often what women truly value in a relationship is intimacy. I have observed that men, in general, are open to both partners sharing their wants, needs, desires and vulnerabilities in the bedroom, but when it comes to sharing those same feelings and emotions when discussing finances, Romeos can turn into the money-equivalent of frigid.

The next time your wife wants to discuss the budget for new furniture, how many people to invite to your daughter's wedding or how you will afford to send Johnny to college, think before you say, "I'm too tired." How do you feel when you initiate sex and she says she's too tired? Do you feel rejected, unappreciated or unloved? That's how your wife might feel when she brings up money issues and you shut her down.

Money is never just about dollars and cents. Money is wrapped up with emotions -- such as fear, insecurity, envy and guilt -- and attitudes, such as control. Both genders can feel vulnerable when discussing finances. Discussing and resolving money challenges can increase the level of trust and intimacy in a relationship.

Financial Priorities and Feelings

As a financial adviser, I often meet with couples. I get to watch firsthand how they deal with competing priorities over the current and future use of investment money. The couples who disagree with each other -- but do so in a loving and respectful manner -- are the ones who have achieved financial intimacy.

I recall when a woman asked for a consultation with her and her husband. At the beginning of our meeting, I was impressed with how the husband had built up his 401(k), which I thought his wife would appreciate, considering she did not work and they had two young children. 


Instead of focusing on how their investments were performing (which is what he wanted to discuss), she repeatedly asked how much they should devote to a nice vacation. Visibly annoyed and looking at her with disdain, he stated that they had recently moved into a larger house and that paying the mortgage and reducing income taxes by maxing out on the 401(k) were more important priorities than a vacation.

The woman clearly needed a vacation, but I wondered why they hadn't discussed a budget before they decided to move into a larger house that would require a larger monthly payment. Both were frustrated and talking past each other. This couple had a lot of work to do with each other before working with a financial adviser.

Stop Judging and Start Listening

While we can't expect to have exactly the same values and priorities as our partners, if we stop judging and start listening, we'll have fewer arguments about money. I used to judge my husband's spending habits until we openly discussed our feelings about money. His philosophy was that when he received a bonus at work, he'd reward himself by taking a ski trip or buying new electronics and saving just a portion of it. When I received a bonus at work, I'd invest the entire amount and spend none of it.

When he explained to me that he was prepared to reduce his spending on fun stuff should his income decline in a particular year, I was cynical. Yet when he left the corporate world to launch his own company, he did just that. He followed through, which solidified my trust in him. We don't fight about money because we trust and respect each other. If there were a test, I bet we'd score in the top 10 percentile of couples regarding financial intimacy. 


Four Tips to Improve Financial Intimacy

Here are four tips to improve your financial intimacy and your sexual intimacy at the same time. Believe me, when you don't fight with your partner over money, your sex life can't help but improve.

  1. Find common ground while embracing differences. Are you a saver and your spouse is a spender? There are emotional reasons why people fall into one category and not the other. Take the time to understand where your partner is coming from without judging. Why is she so frugal and unwilling to spend money? Why does buying a new car make him feel so exhilarated? Understand each other's "wants" vs. "needs" and develop a budget you both can accept.
  2. Don't keep secrets. Do you buy clothes or electronics and hide them from your partner or lie about the cost because you don't want to fight? How is that any different than hiding a lover? Cheating is cheating, whether it's love or money.
  3. Divide labor when managing money. One spouse might be more efficient at paying bills while the other more skilled at allocating the investments in the retirement accounts. Make a commitment to sharing equally in the responsibility and accountability for all decisions. Don't leave your partner in the dark. If something happens to you, ensure that your partner can keep the lights on when you are gone.
  4. Discuss "what if's." What happens if the higher-income spouse loses his or her job? How will the other adapt spending habits in order to accommodate a loss of income? Will you sell the house? Raid the 401(k) or college savings account? Have a plan before unexpected events occur. The stress over an unwanted event is high. Fighting over money on top of that is unbearable.
So while you are planning a big date with your honey for Valentine's Day, remember that monthly mini-date money discussions can go a long way in making every day feel like Valentine's Day.