Savings program from Wells Fargo is anything but


Photo: RLHyde

Are you looking for an easier way to meet your savings goals? Here’s a product you can skip.

Wells Fargo’s Way2Save program is supposed to help consumers by automating savings.

The Way2Save account automatically transfers $1 from your Wells Fargo checking account to your linked Wells Fargo savings account each time you make a debit card purchase, pay a bill online through Wells Fargo Bill Pay or make an automatic payment from your checking account when you sign up for Save As You Go transfers.

However, this product is more likely to harm consumers than help them for three big reasons. Find out what they are in my Interest.com article, Savings program from Wells Fargo is anything but.

Hot mortgage rates greet warmer weather

Photo: Chasqui (Luis Tamayo)

After a brief spike in mortgage rates earlier this spring, the cost of home loans has once again has settled to record lows.

Right now, the average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage will cost you a bit more than 4%. This is great news if you’re beginning a housing search.

With mortgage rates as low as they've ever been, and home prices off by a third or more from their highs last decade, is now the right time to buy, or will there be a better deal around the corner?

Find out in my Interest.com article, Hot mortgage rates greet warmer weather.

4 Behaviors That Sabotage Your Investment Goals



Photo: Alan Cleaver

Sometimes we think we're doing everything right, yet we fail to achieve our goals.

If you've noticed that your investment returns are falling short of your expectations, it might not be the market's fault.

One of these four reasons could be the true culprit.

Find out what they are in my Investopedia article, 4 Behaviors That Sabotage Your Investment Goals.

New Construction's Hidden Costs Can Burn Buyers

Photo: j_arred

Many homebuyers think that purchasing a brand-new home is smarter than purchasing a "used" home.

A new home's maintenance costs should be minimal; its construction materials, systems and appliances should be up-to-code and energy efficient; the floor plan and amenities should meet the needs of modern buyers; and the home should be move-in ready.

A new construction home also has an emotional appeal for buyers who like the idea of living in a home that's completely clean and potentially perfect.

What many buyers don't realize is that new homes often have numerous hidden costs.

If you're considering new construction, learn what you should look out for to make sure you're spending your money wisely and you don't experience any unpleasant surprises in my Investopedia article, New Construction's Hidden Costs Can Burn Buyers.

Savvy sellers never pay full real estate commission

Photo: NicestAlan

There's a dirty little secret some real estate agents probably don't want you to know.

You don't have to pay 6% commission to sell your home.

If you do, you're throwing away thousands of dollars that should go into your pocket.

"Technically, there's no such thing as a 6% commission unless the client agrees to it," says Michael Soon Lee, broker-owner of Realty Unlimited in Dublin, Calif.

That's because commissions, like closing costs, are negotiable.

Get the full story in my Interest.com article, Savvy sellers never pay full real estate commission.



A cash-out refinance can cost you big

Photo: Ben Husmann

Cash-out refinancing has a somewhat deservedly bad reputation because during the housing bubble years, people used their homes as ATMs or piggybanks. Cash-out refinancing contributed to the number of homeowners who ended up underwater and played a role in the housing crisis.

The popularity of cash-out refinancing may have declined, but many borrowers are still doing it.

A cash-out refinance -- assuming you have the equity -- might seem like a good short-term solution when you don't have enough money to pay for a major expense.

It's easy, interest rates are low and mortgage interest is tax-deductible.

But even if you don't end up underwater or otherwise get in trouble by cashing out, you could still be hurting your finances in the long run.

Cashing out often works out to be very expensive because of how mortgage amortization works. At the beginning of your loan, most of your monthly payment goes toward interest. It’s not until the later years of your loan that most of your monthly payment goes toward principal.

Before doing a cash out refinance, you need to calculate the long-term costs of doing so in order to make an informed decision. To uncover the total costs, use an online amortization calculator.

Think about whether what you're cashing out for is worth the true cost and the impact on your net worth.

Waiting isn't fun, but consider delaying gratification. Instead of cashing out now, why not do a regular refinance to a lower interest rate and use the monthly savings to pay off the mortgage early? Without a mortgage, most people will experience a huge increase in monthly cash flow.

That money can be used for anything, interest-free.

Owning a home free and clear can also bring a significant feeling of accomplishment and might allow for freedoms like quitting your day job to start your own business or working part-time and traveling more.

Avoiding a cash-out refinance now could mean reaching a place of significantly greater financial and personal freedom sooner rather than later.

Learn more about the math behind cash-out refinancing decisions in my Interest.com article, A cash-out refinance can cost you big.

Do Your Research Before Claiming These Deductions

Photo: twicepix

Can you really claim that deduction?

Some of the tax deductions you hear about most often are actually quite difficult to qualify for.

It's important to understand how these deductions work so you don't anticipate tax savings that you won't receive.

Read about are the rules and limitations you should be aware of for five common deductions in my Investopedia article, Do Your Research Before Claiming These Deductions.

Get The Best Prices On Clothes

Photo: Diego3336

If you make an unplanned visit to a clothing store, the regular prices can really kill your budget.

But only suckers pay those prices.

Learn how to spend significantly less than full price in my Investopedia article, Get The Best Prices On Clothes.

How To Get Gift Cards At A Discount

Photo: Shorts and Longs

Are you still shelling out full price to buy gift cards?

You shouldn't be. There are plenty of ways to acquire them without paying face value.

Learn about five ways to do so in my Investopedia article, How To Get Gift Cards At A Discount.

Lender will buy your car after four years under new loan program

Photo: Mrs. FireMom

Last fall, Ally Financial unveiled a new form of vehicle financing that works as a traditional auto loan but allows the buyer to sell the vehicle to Ally after four years.

The rollout of Ally Buyer’s Choice started in just a handful of states. Now the program is available in 29 states with plans for future expansion.

Find out how Buyer's Choice works in my Interest.com article, Lender will buy your car after four years under new loan program.

The Oddest Houses You Can Rent or Buy

Photo: chief_huddleston

Do cookie-cutter suburban homes make you feel dead inside? Do you need to feel inspired by your living space? Are you looking for a dwelling that's more than just a place to live, but a reflection of your values?

Learn about three unusual living options allow their residents to do just that in my article, The Oddest Houses You Can Rent or Buy.

5 Little-Known Tax Deductions And Credits

Photo: goldstardeputy

Do you want to minimize your tax bill?

Then you need to know about all the deductions and credits available and which ones apply to you.

However, if you don't have the time or desire to read tax-prep books in your spare time, just keep an eye out for these five deductions and credits that might save you some money come tax season. For example, did you know that the miles you drive to volunteer are tax deductible?

Read more in my article, 5 Little-Known Tax Deductions And Credits.

Factors That Influence a Home's Appraisal Value

Photo: Relaxe

When you buy a home, your lender will order an appraisal to determine the fair market value

The appraisal is important to the lender because the home serves as collateral for the loan. If you’re unable to repay your mortgage and the lender forecloses, it wants to be able to sell the home to recoup the money it lent you, so it has to make sure you’re not overpaying.

Learn more in my Mortgage-Calc.com article, Factors That Influence a Home's Appraisal Value.

It’s possible to get a fixed rate on a line of credit

Photo: jdtornow

One of the major advantages of a home equity line of credit is its flexibility.

A major disadvantage is that HELOCs have variable interest rates, which means as rates increase, you'll pay more for that loan.

But Chase and Bank of America each offer an option that lets consumers combine the best of both loans. With this option, borrowers can lock in a fixed interest rate on all or a portion of a home equity line of credit.

Learn more about this loan product in my Interest.com article, It’s possible to get a fixed rate on a line of credit.

What to Expect from a Home Inspection

Photo: molajen

Buyers want to make sure that a home they have under contract doesn’t contain major problems that they can’t afford to repair or don’t want to hassle with.

The person they rely on to go beyond the obvious and reveal the home’s true condition is a home inspector.

Home inspectors are specially trained to spot problems the average person is likely to miss. However, there are limitations on what inspectors can legally examine.

Find out what a home inspector should check out and what they can't examine in my Interest.com article, What to Expect from a Home Inspection.

Spring’s best mortgage rates remain near record lows

Photo: daryl_mitchell

Wondering what it takes to qualify for a mortgage right now?

“It is noticeably more difficult for borrowers to qualify for loans under the newly established lending standards since last year,” says Chad J. Jampedro, chief operating officer of Brookfield, Wis.-based GSF Mortgage.

Borrowers can scrape by with credit scores as low as 620, but should have compensating financial strengths in other areas.

“I have been originating residential mortgage loans since 1985. In all that time, I have never seen lending standards as high and burdensome as they exist today,” says Rich Spears, president of Prodigy Mortgage in Nyack, N.Y.

Other experts say lending standards haven’t changed much recently—or even in the last few decades.

California mortgage broker and first-time homebuyer specialist Greg Cook has been a loan originator since 1981. He says today’s conventional loan approvals aren’t much different than they were back then.

Get the details about current mortgage rates and lending standards in my latest mortgage story for Interest.com, Spring’s best mortgage rates remain near record lows.

The Best Type Of Life Insurance For You Right Now

Photo: comedy_nose

Many people don't understand why they need life insurance, when they should buy it or what type of policy would best meet their needs. To learn what type of life insurance will probably make the most sense for you at major milestones in your life, read my article, The Best Type Of Life Insurance For You Right Now, over at Yahoo! Finance.

The Oddest Houses You Can Rent Or Buy

Photo: ChicagoGeek

Do cookie-cutter suburban homes make you feel dead inside? Do you need to feel inspired by your living space? Are you looking for a dwelling that's more than just a place to live, but a reflection of your values? Read about three unusual living options allow their residents to do just that in my article, The Oddest Houses You Can Rent Or Buy.

Should You Open A Joint Bank Account?

Photo: phil_g

If you've recently taken that next step in your relationship and increased your level of commitment to each other, say, by moving in together or getting engaged, you might be wondering if it's time to combine bank accounts. You're probably sharing a number of expenses and it might seem impractical to continue keeping tabs on who owes what to whom.

While many couples do choose to combine their finances for convenience and simplicity, sometimes even married couples choose to keep all of their accounts separate. There are a number of issues to consider if you're trying to decide whether opening a joint account is right for you at this stage in your relationship. Read more in my article, Should You Open a Joint Bank Account?

A Settlement Company Helps Protect Your Interests at Closing

Photo: talliskeeton

When you buy or sell a home, escrow is the process that transfers the home from the seller to the buyer. A neutral third party oversees this process.

That third party can be an escrow company, a title company or a real estate attorney. They work with all the parties involved in the transaction to collect all the paperwork and funds necessary to close the deal. The escrow process typically takes 30 to 60 days.

Learn more about this process in my Mortgage-Calc.com article, A Settlement Company Helps Protect Your Interests at Closing.