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Our Blog Puts YOU in the Driver’s Seat

Helping customers like you achieve their financial goals is all we do, which is why we’re arming you with our expert insight, tips, and advice to help you get there.

APM Elevate: February 2024

It's the month of love and we wanted to share some financial love with you in celebration! Below are some articles about smart money moves, buying investment properties (hint: down payment requirements have changed!), and ways to save in filing your taxes this year. We even included a delicious salmon recipe if you're feeling like a spring meal!

february elevate

We hope you're celebrating the month with those you love in all the ways that count - we understand that love is not only found in grand gestures but also in the warmth of a welcoming home.

REACH YOUR GOALS

Smart Money Moves for the Year of the Dragon

Many of us are breathing a collective sigh of relief as this year has begun on a more positive note than 2023. In addition, the Lunar New Year holiday began earlier this week, with millions celebrating the start of the Year of the Dragon.  If you're wondering about the best financial strategies to review, here are three that can help you look to the future while you repair any remaining damage from the inflation that plagued our economy during 2022 and 2023.

Increase or rebuild your emergency fund.  Last year, less than 20% of us were able to increase our nest egg balances. Rising prices were forcing many of us to divert potential savings for financing groceries and other everyday expenses. Even though a complete recovery won't happen overnight, it's an ideal time to begin rebuilding your emergency fund. However, you may want to make smaller contributions to your nest egg while you pay off credit cards. Here's why.

Attack your high-interest debt. Many of us ended up surviving inflation-fueled prices by charging purchases instead of paying cash. Now it's time to review the accounts where you're still carrying a balance and plan to pay them off as soon as possible...especially those with painfully high rates.

Review your retirement contributions. Most of us are already contributing to a 401(k) or IRA. If you've just joined the workforce, this is something you'll want to check out sooner than later, especially if your employer offers a matching contribution.

Source: kiplinger.com

MORTGAGE IQ

Low Down Payments Announced for Multi-Unit Properties

An increasing number of home buyers are considering the advantages of buying a multi-unit property, such as a duplex. Until recently, these required a bigger down payment and a stringent approval process. But here's some good news: as qualifying rules have been relaxed for this type of mortgage, you may qualify for multi-unit financing with a 5% down payment.

Multi-unit properties offer several advantages for buyers who plan to live in one unit and rent out the others. You can invest in a multifamily home while enjoying all the benefits of home ownership.

In addition, qualifying guidelines for multi-unit financing have been simplified. For example, the FHA self-sufficiency test for buyers of three- or four-unit properties has been eliminated. This means that you aren't required to research the potential rental rates for the unit or units you'll be managing as a landlord.

If you're looking for ways to make homeownership more accessible, purchasing a multi-family property may be an attractive option. You'll be able to gain valuable experience as an owner/landlord, which could help you eventually manage your own investment properties, while building valuable equity in your first property.

Connect with your local APM Loan Advisor to look at your options for 2024 and beyond.

FINANCIAL NEWS

Ways to save on filing federal taxes

Chances are that if you're expecting a refund, you're already considering filing your federal tax return for 2023. While there are plenty of options for preparing your return, over 66 million Americans decided on the DIY option last year. While many chose this route because their return was simple, others wanted to save money.

If you're one of the frugal tax filers, you may want to consider Free File, an IRS program that's been designed to enable around 70% of the nation's taxpayers to file their federal tax returns free of charge. Each year, the income threshold for eligibility is adjusted so that around 70% of the nation's taxpayers qualify. For tax year 2023 (those we're preparing to file now), you can qualify to use Free File if your adjusted gross income maxes out at $79,000.

Free File is a partnership between the IRS and many tax preparation and filing software industry companies who provide their online tax preparation and filing for free. It provides two ways for taxpayers to prepare and file their federal income tax online for free:

Guided Tax Software provides free online tax preparation and filing at an IRS partner site. Generally, you'll be able to choose from at least two different partners. This option may also offer preparation in Spanish. Accessing partner providers through the IRS.gov site helps ensure you're not landing on a page that appears to offer free tax filing but pulls a switcheroo.

Free File Fillable Forms are federal tax forms, equivalent to a paper 1040 form. If this is more your style, keep in mind that you should know the basics of preparing a return, including which IRS publications apply to your situation. Unlike the Guided Tax Software option, there's no income limit for this option.

While there's nothing wrong with using a paid online tax application, some users have complained that the costs aren't always clear until they're ready to hit the E-File button. For example, at least one tax software provider allows users to pay the basic preparation and E-File fee from their refund...but charges them a hefty fee when they choose this option.

Looking for the top 5 tax breaks for homeowners? We've got you covered!  Our article goes over the top 5 with details about what parts are and aren't deductible.

Source: nerdwallet.com

DID YOU KNOW?

Does Money Buy Happiness? Yes...Especially If It Buys Coffee, Too.

Recently, the financial services company Empower set out to find out if money really does buy happiness, and for who. Here are some key takeaways from their survey respondents.

The answer is "yes" for six in 10 respondents, with the price tag for financial happiness averaging out at $1.2 million. However, different age groups had differing opinions.

For example, 72% of Millennials (aged 28 to 43) said that money could buy happiness, while few Gen Z respondents (aged 18 to 27) agreed with this statement. When it came to defining financial happiness, freedom was at the top of the list, followed by security.

There were also several different definitions of money and happiness. For example, 71% of respondents stated that more money "would solve most of my problems". However, only 17% said that financial happiness was defined by reaching a certain net worth. Most associated happiness with on-time bill payments (67%), followed by debt-free status (65%). For the majority of Millennials and Generation X (aged 44 to 59) respondents, financial happiness was equal to a good work/life balance.

When it comes to happy salaries, Millennials came out on top. They needed around $525k per annum to be happy, while Gen X, Z and Boomers were fine with $130k or less. Men's estimates for a satisfactory salary were higher than women: men wanted $381k per annum while women estimated $183k.

Independence and coffee were strongly linked to feelings of financial happiness: Almost 90% respondents defined contentment as not having to rely on anyone else financially. But don't overlook the little things: 62% of Millennials say they're willing to pay $7 for a daily coffee because of the joy it brings.

Source: empower.com

PERSONAL FINANCES

Good News for Financial Late Bloomers

If you're one of the many 40-somethings (or older) with little or no savings, there's no reason to panic. Instead, set aside an afternoon to take a closer look at your income and spending habits before setting some goals. The following steps can get you there.

Review your spending. The best way to find out where your money goes is to document everything you spend for a month. Many of us aren't aware how much we spend on streaming services, vanilla lattes or eating out. When you identify non-essentials, you can reduce this spending and use this "found" money to build savings or tackle debt.

Create a debt payoff plan. While there are several popular ways to do this, such as paying off credit accounts with the highest rates first, this is ultimately up to you. For example, you may prefer to pay off your smallest credit card balance before moving on to another.

Consider a second gig. If your friends love your paintings, consider selling them online. If you have spare time on weekends, you may be able to locate part-time work. The more you can focus on improving your finances, the better you'll feel about yourself and your future.

Be kind to yourself. Berating yourself for your money habits can backfire in the form of fear-based decision-making. Instead, celebrate each time you reach another financial goal, so you'll have the confidence to keep making smarter decisions down the line.

Source: lifehacker.com

FOOD

Salmon with garlic butter

Easily the most popular fish on dinner tables, you can serve Sticky Garlic Butter Salmon with a variety of sides. You can go green with broccoli or brussels sprouts, or serve it with brown or white rice.

REAL ESTATE TRENDS

Throw Your Living Room a Curve

Even though some of last year's design trends, including earth tones and bringing the outdoors inside, are still going strong, there are some brave new looks that interior designers are embracing.

Curvy furniture continues to make a comeback. Crescent-shaped sectional sofas, combined with soft-edged dining tables and freeform coffee tables, promote a soft, calm energy that makes for a welcoming space.  One interior designer described the origin of the curvy craze: "Mother Nature does organic shapes best, so it makes sense we'd want to pull that inspiration into our homes."

The color purple's popularity has been ramping up as more homeowners decide to differentiate their premises with strong colors. Interior decorators encourage their clients to skip lilac and mauve in favor of deeper shades like plum, berry, amethyst, and deep magenta. Bolder looks aren't limited to color schemes, as oversized statement chandeliers, gallery-style artwork displays, and even graphic stone elements are in demand.

Creating a calming bathroom oasis is still a top priority, with more builders adding spa-inspired enhancements to their new home offerings. Homeowners are renovating by adding steam showers, infrared saunas, and cold plunges into their bathrooms as the economy recovers and these items become accessible. Spa-style lighting and backlit mirrors are also appearing in more homes.

Source: thespruce.com

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