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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 Financial Fitness: April 2024

As April blossoms forth, signs of renewal are all around us. Though inflation and the specter of higher interest rates linger, there's hope in the air. Forecasters predict a gradual upturn in the residential real estate market, with more new constructions and existing homes hitting the market throughout 2024, akin to buds bursting into bloom. Moreover, consumers may find relief in their finances following the recent decision by the CFPB to rein in bank overdraft fees and credit card late payment charges, promising a brighter financial landscape ahead.

financial fitness april 2024

Home Financing

Proposed Tax Incentives for Home Buyers and Sellers

During his March State of the Union speech, President Biden introduced plans to address the nation's issues with lack of affordable housing. These included the introduction of two new tax breaks: one for first-time buyers, and another for the sellers of the starter homes that have become scarce.

First time homebuyers would receive a $5,000 mortgage relief credit for the first two years after their purchase. This would be roughly equal to lowering mortgage interest rates for these buyers by 1.5 percentage points.

Sellers who part with their starter homes would receive a one-year credit of up to $10,000. In this instance, starter homes are defined as properties valued below the median price for the seller's county.

These tax breaks are estimated to assist over 3 million first-time buyers, together with a similar number of sellers.

Details of these and other housing-related matters, including proposals to assist renters, were recently released by the White House and made available within the March 7 Fact Sheet. The content discusses the familiar "golden handcuffs" problem that plagues homeowners who obtained their mortgages during 2020 and 2021, when rates were at near-historic lows. Although many of these homeowners are experiencing buyer's regret and would like to sell, they're understandably reluctant, as buying another home would require a new mortgage at a considerably higher interest rate.

Source: cnbc.com

Insurance

Protection From Unwelcome Surprises: Umbrella Insurance

While insurance coverage is designed to protect your belongings from losses, unforeseen circumstances—or just plain bad luck—can play havoc with your finances and more. This is when an umbrella insurance policy can prevent this from happening by covering claims that are outside, or exceed, your existing policies' limits.

Here are some examples of unpredictable events where umbrella coverage could save the day:

  • Your dog escapes and attacks a neighbor, who sues you to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
  • You cause a six-car accident, and your insurance coverage doesn't cover the medical and repair costs of all drivers and their vehicles.
  • You send sandwiches to your son's school for a field trip lunch. Several students come down with food poisoning, and their parents sue you.

Umbrella insurance also covers certain liability claims such as libel, slander, and false imprisonment. And if you own rental property, umbrella insurance provides liability coverage beyond what your renter's policy covers. It could be the coverage that helps you and your family members (and your pets) sleep better at night.

Source: bankrate.com

In the News

Inflation's Not a Quitter

Even though this year's inflation numbers are considerably lower than in 2022 and 2023, they're still playing havoc with prices and budgets. Data released earlier this week reflected a rising Consumer Price Index (CPI). Some of the items that are still dogged by inflation include housing costs and insurance premiums. Gasoline prices also spiked during February.

The CPI rose 0.4% in February, while the Core CPI number that excludes food and energy prices increased by the same amount. Core CPI, which economists see as a key gauge of underlying inflation, also rose 0.4% in January, reflecting an increase from more mild increases in late 2023.

Looking at the numbers for the last 12 months through February, overall inflation was 3.2%, compared to the 3.1% as of January. Core CPI was 3.8%, versus the 3.9% the prior month—the lowest since 2021.

The new data will most certainly affect the timing for the Federal Reserve's planned rate cuts for this year. Members of the Fed have described plans to cut interest rates at some point this year, though policymakers say they want more proof that inflation is truly receding.

Source: axios.com

Credit and Consumer Finance

CFPB Slashes Credit Card Late Fees

Earlier this month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a new ruling to reduce the typical credit card late fee from around $32 to $8. The agency said that the 45 million consumers who incur occasional late fees could save more than $10 billion (about $31 per person in the US) each year.

While some banking trade groups objected to this move, legislators see it as an effort to close a loophole in the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009. The CARD Act banned credit card companies from charging higher late fees than necessary to cover the costs associated with the late payment. But the Federal Reserve Board of Governors voted to include a provision in the CARD Act that allowed banks to charge up to $25 for the first late payment and $35 for other late payments. In addition, these figures were adjusted for inflation. This resulted in average late fees growing to $32 in 2022, which was $10 more than 2010 fees.

The lower fees are expected to take effect later this year, which would give card issuers time to update their disclosures and systems.

Source: nerdwallet.com

Did You Know?

Take Spring Cleaning Outdoors

While we're all familiar with the phrase spring cleaning, many of us tend to think it only applies to our home's interiors. However, your home's exteriors will benefit from inspections and tidying just as much as the indoors, especially as you can save on repair bills by spotting and remedying problems. Here's a handy list of spring tasks that will keep your home looking and performing its best.

Air Conditioning Systems

Trim any weeds or other plant growth near your A/C compressor. If you have an owner's manual, check to see if other maintenance is needed.

Foundation

If you find cracks in your house's foundation or exterior walls, or gaps around one or more windows, consult a professional.

Roof Gutters

Inspect your gutters and downspouts for rust or leaks. If water isn't diverted away from your home, it could eventually cause foundation and other problems

Trees

Look for broken limbs or any signs of disease or insect infestation. You may want to consult a tree surgeon or arborist if one or more trees are dying.

Windows

If caulking and/or weather stripping are leaking, it's time to renew or replace. Consider replacing your windows if last year's electricity bills were painfully high.

Source: frontdoor.com

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