Monday, September 29, 2008

Wachoiva : Another Bank Failure and How it Affects You

Wachovia was seized by the government and on September 29, 2008, and was bought by Citigroup. Wachovia has 3,300 retail offices in 21 states with 40 international offices. Citigroup will pay Wachovia $2.1 billion to pay for its subordinated debt (a debt obligation whose holder is placed in precedence below secured and general creditors) which basically means the debts bought by Citigroup will be paid after Wachovia's secured debt and debt owed to their creditors is paid. It will also assume $53 billion of Wachovia senior and subordinated debt. The buy will make Citigroup the largest bank in the US. The buy should be complete by the end of 2008.

Wachovia states that "Customers of both companies should continue banking as usual, and feel confident that their deposits are secure. Also, employees and vendors should continue to operate business as usual."

To down play the severity of the buy of Wachovia by Citigroup they use terms that the average consumer may not understand. When you visit the Wachovia website a blurb states "Wachovia announces bank subsidiary divestitures to Citigroup."

What does this mean? I am a customer of Wachovia and it saddens me that messages like this appear. Press releases and other messages should be explained in a manner so that all customers of Wachovia understand exactly what the buy by Citigroup means to them.
Divestitures are the sales of business holdings of a company. Citigroup purchased the retail bank, corporate and investment bank and wealth management businesses (divestitures) of Wachovia.

Wachovia investors will receive approximately $1 of Citigroup stock for each of their Wachovia shares of stock. For now, it appears that it is business as usual at Wachovia so don't take your money out of the bank.

Some Wachovia bank branches may close within the next year when Citigroup takes over the 3,300 retail offices. This will have a devasting effect on the Charlotte area where Wachovia is headquartered.

I advise all Wachovia customers to keep an eye on their account balances and monitor the behavior of your local branch staff to see if they started acting differently or see if you can pick up on hints about the health of the company.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Get Your Equifax Credit Score for Free

Get a free Equifax credit score for a limited time. Visit for more information.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How the Merrill Lynch Buy Affects You

The recent buy of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America over a week ago supposedly kept Merrill from failing and filing for bankruptcy. Merrill Lynch has billions of dollars in bad debts from the sub-prime market. Merrill Lynch posted loses for the past 4 quarters and has wrote down $40 billion in loses.

The buy of Merrill Lynch was originally valued at $50 billion but reduced to a final purchase price of $40 billion.

It is shocking how the deal occurred in just 2 short days. It makes one wonder how can a deal be that sound if it occurred in that short amount of time. Bank of America’s interest in Merrill was due to Merrill Lynch’s investment banking services. Both companies offer different products and services to their customers which could cause a potential problem in the future.

For investors, Bank of America would exchange 0.8595 shares of Bank of America stock for each Merrill Lynch share of stock. If you currently have investments in Merrill Lynch now is the time to diversify your portfolio to protect yourself from severe market losses. However, don’t make any drastic changes.

The Securities Investor Protection Corporation protects cash and securities, such as stocks and bonds held by customer at a financially troubled brokerage firm but does not protect you the same as the FDIC. Check with your financial advisor to see what options are available to you.

Remember, it’s now what happens day to day, it’s how long you stay in the game. Your money double every 72 months so just ride it out.

Monday, September 15, 2008

How the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Bail Out Affects You

The collapse of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae that occurred on September 7, 2008 occurred because of company greed and consumer responsibility. Company greed led mortgage industry professionals to lure unsuspecting consumers into loans they could not afford and would not be able to maintain. Greed and responsibility led consumers to believe they could afford a home out of their price range and still be able to pay all their other bills. Consumers are partly to blame for the following reasons:

1. Believing everything a mortgage professional tells you without verifying the information
2. Buying a house you know you could not afford
3. Not reading the fine print on the mortgage documents
4. Lack of education about the home buying process
5. Forging documents (income, number of years on a job etc.)

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are partly to blame:
1. Allowing illegal mortgage loans to be approved
2. Approving consumers for homes they could not afford
3. Not developing plans to help consumers stay in their homes
4. Not being truthful with consumers during the home buying process
5. Not being truthful with consumers about the company's financial problems
6. Forging documents

Many of you may have considered or already purchased Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stock. Don't. For each share of stock you buy, you will only get $.20 on the dollar, so if you buy 100 shares, you really only have 20 shares. Preferred investors with hundreds and thousands of shares will get $.50 on the dollar for each share owned.

Although the government is providing $200 billion to help Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac recover, it will take both companies several years to pay off the government loan. Share prices will not begin to rise a significant amount until the company begins to make a profit which could take years if at all.

Many of the mortgages Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own will never be repaid which would have caused them to file bankruptcy if the government had not taken over both companies.

If you currently have a high mortgage interest rate or your ARM will expire within the next 6 months or year now is a good time to try to refinance. If you have bad credit, spend the next few months paying off debt and repairing your credit so you can refinance your home to ensure you remain a homeowner.

Since the government doesn't have the $200 billion on hand to bailout out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, someone has to come up with the money, who you ask? Us, the taxpayers by paying higher taxes. Show your frustruation, anger, disappointment and resentment during this year's election by demanding a change in how the government is run and how companies are run. One vote can make a difference.

There is one bright star as a result of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapse, executives of both companies will not get paid their the combined total $24 million severance pay.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Downpayment Assistance Ends 10/1/08

Please contact your state congressmen to demand that Down Payment Assistance programs do not end on October 1, 2008. Tell them to pass H.R. 6694.

Research by Zelman & Associates reports that 10-25% of potential homebuyers will have no way of securing homeownership without down payment assistance. Since 1997, downpayment assistance has helped more than one million families become homeowners. Between 1997 and 2005, $12.3 billion has been generated in taxes for state and local governments through the purchases of 150,000 homes.

A quote from Scott Syphax, President and CEO of Nehemiah Corporation of America praised some members of congress.

“Maxine Waters, Gary Miller, Al Green and Christopher Shays have demonstrated the willingness to understand all sides of this issue and the courage and leadership to follow their conscience. All those who understand the importance of working class American’s having their shot at homeownership, need to work together to encourage our elected officials to pass this bill.”

“There are dire consequences to America waking up on October 1st without downpayment assistance. In fact, 300,000 working class families will be locked out of homeownership in the next year alone.”

You can contact the following House Committee on Financial Services committee members to show your support for down payment assistance programs which have helped thousands of Americans achieve the dream of owning a home.

Chairman Barney Frank represents Massachusetts' Fourth Congressional District of the House Committee on Financial Services which oversees the country's housing and financial services including real estate, public and assisted housing. The Committee reviews the laws and programs relating to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Democratic Members of the Committee are:
Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, PA
Rep. Maxine Waters, CA
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, NY
Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, IL
Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, NY
Rep. Melvin L. Watt, NC
Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, NY
Rep. Brad Sherman, CA
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, NY
Rep. Dennis Moore, KS
Rep. Michael E. Capuano, MA
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, TX
Rep. William Lacy Clay, MO
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, NY
Rep. Joe Baca, CA
Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, MA
Rep. Brad Miller, NC
Rep. David Scott, GA
Rep. Al Green, TX
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, MO
Rep. Melissa L. Bean, IL
Rep. Gwen Moore, WI
Rep. Lincoln Davis, TN
Rep. Paul W. Hodes, NH
Rep. Keith Ellison, MN
Rep. Ron Klein, FL
Rep. Tim Mahoney, FL
Rep. Charles Wilson, OH
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, CO
Rep. Christopher S. Murphy, CT
Rep. Joe Donnelly, IN
Rep. Bill Foster, IL
Rep. Andre Carson, IN
Rep. Jackie Speier, CA
Rep. Don Cazayoux, LA
Rep. Travis Childers, MS

Republican Members of the Committee are:
Rep. Spencer Bachus, AL
Rep. Deborah Pryce, OH
Rep. Michael N. Castle, DE
Rep. Peter King, NY
Rep. Edward R. Royce, CA
Rep. Frank D. Lucas, OK
Rep. Ron Paul, TX
Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, OH
Rep. Donald A. Manzullo, IL
Rep. Walter B. Jones , NC
Rep. Judy Biggert, IL
Rep. Christopher Shays, CT
Rep. Gary G. Miller, CA
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, WV
Rep. Tom Feeney, FL
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, TX
Rep. Scott Garrett, NJ
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, FL
Rep. J. Gresham Barrett, SC
Rep. Jim Gerlach, PA
Rep. Stevan Pearce, NM
Rep. Randy Neugebauer, TX
Rep. Tom Price, GA
Rep. Geoff Davis, KY
Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, NC
Rep. John Campbell, CA
Rep. Adam Putnam, FL
Rep. Michele Bachmann, MN
Rep. Peter J. Roskam, IL
Rep. Kenny Marchant, TX
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, MI
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, CA
Rep. Dean Heller, NV

You can visit the Get Down Payment website to get more information.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

6 Ways to Recession Proof Your Income

The Federal Reserve has dropped interest rates 2.25% points since August 2007. There were approximately 700,000 foreclosure filings in 2008. Congress is trying to combat the recession by giving Americans tax rebates. Oil prices are over $120 a barrel and gas is $4 or more a gallon. Food prices rose more than 4% from last year. With the high cost of gas, food, housing, utilities and travel costs you have to develop a plan to ensure you can sustain yourself through the current recession. Here are 6 ways to ensure you survive the recession.

1. Find stable employment – Many companies are having layoffs or reducing salaries or employee hours. To protect yourself, if you are a contractor or a seasonal employee try to find a stable job or get a part-time job to get additional income. Do research on a company to see their annual finance report, see what the company's plans are for the future and ask others if they have heard about the company to ensure you are working with a stable company. If you hear rumors of layoffs dust off that resume and start looking for a new job.

2. Reevaluate your finances – If you don't have health, life or disability insurance consider getting at least basic health insurance. Health costs are one of the biggest reasons for filing for bankruptcy and bad credit ratings. Get life insurance to at least cover funeral costs and cover bills for a few months.

3. Pay down debt – A balanced budget should consist of no more than 15% of your monthly income to pay monthly debt such as credit cards or student loan (this can vary based on your income and does not include rent or mortgage). Start small and pay off small bills first then work your way up to pay off larger debts. Double the minimum monthly payments when you can to pay down debt faster.

4. Create a budget or spending plan – create a budget and write down all of your monthly expenses and bills and your total monthly income to quickly see what you are spending your money on. Find ways to reduce expenses. Include savings goal in your budget and save enough money to cover at least 3 to 6 months worth of expenses.

5. Reduce Expenses – reduce your expenses one step at a time. Start small by taking your lunch to work, skipping that Starbucks Latte and bringing your coffee from home, use coupons or buy items on sale to save money. All these little things add up and will give you extra money to pay bills or pay down debt.

6. Don't avoid overdue bills. Many companies are desperate for money and may not follow the proper procedures to collect on a debt. They may file for judgment against you without ever notifying you. Call your creditors right away to setup payment plans to get current on old bills and prevent harassing calls or letters and damage to your credit report

Following these 6 tips will ensure you survive the current recession.

Monday, September 01, 2008