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Personal Finance News 02/2010

Stocks climb as manufacturing, spending increase (AP)
AP - Stock indexes rose Monday as a flurry of reports bolstered hopes that the economy is recovering.

7 Saving Tips (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - Humans are programmed for self-preservation. Ironically, that doesn't mean we're instinctively inclined toward wealth preservation.

Cure Your Holiday Hangover (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - Went a little overboard during the holidays? Let's waste no time lamenting our overindulgences -- it's time to get those finances back in tip-top form.

MetLife profit falls 70 percent on higher claims (AP)
AP - MetLife Inc., a leading life insurance company, says its profit tumbled 70 percent in the fourth quarter as it paid out more in claims and benefits.

Mortgage demand at six-week highs on refinance wave (Reuters)
Reuters - Demand for home loans rose to a six-week high on a mini refinance wave, with borrowers pushing to lock in rates before they climb later this year, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Wednesday,

Pace of private sector job losses slows (Reuters)
Reuters - The pace of job losses in the private sector slowed in January as employers reported the smallest payroll decline in nearly two years while demand for home loans hit a six-week high last week, data showed on Wednesday.

Make Finances a Family Affair (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - Many families delegate chores and other responsibilities by assigning them to particular family members. You might be responsible for mowing the lawn every week, while your partner takes care of making sure your cars get regular maintenance, your son cleans out the cat's litter box every few days, and your daughter puts the toys away every night. By giving everyone something to do, you not only make sure that important things get done, but also create an environment of teamwork.

Juggling Your Financial Goals (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - I have a frequent and pleasant daydream in which the Virginia lottery board calls and says, "Congratulations! You've won the highest jackpot ever! Would you like to take that in a lump sum or divided up over 30 years?" This is truly the stuff of fantasy, though, particularly because I don't buy lottery tickets. Much more realistic for my family is what to do in the face of too many important financial goals and too little money to fund them all.

GMAC posts $5 billion Q4 loss (Reuters)
Reuters - GMAC Financial Services, a lender that is majority-owned by the U.S. government after multiple bailouts, said it lost $5 billion in the fourth quarter after writing down bad mortgage assets.

Government-owned GMAC loses $5 billion in 4Q (AP)
AP - Home and auto lender GMAC Financial Services said Thursday it lost $5 billion in the last three months of 2009, as losses from its mortgage operations kept the company in the red for another quarter.

How Much Life Insurance Do You Need? (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - To put it simply, life insurance protects those who depend on your paycheck. If you die prematurely, life insurance provides your dependents with ongoing income to replace yours, until (or unless) they can live comfortably without it. It can also provide a timely emergency fund for medical, legal, and funeral costs, should family savings not be adequate to cover them. (After all, that golf-inspired Fairway to Heaven casket ain't cheap.)

Keep Emotions Out of Your Portfolio (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - Stop over-thinking your portfolio. Take a mental "time out" and try some deep-breathing exercises. Do whatever it takes to rein in your caveman brain, because right now, your mind is one of your biggest liabilities -- emotionally and financially.

Mortgage rates edge up slightly (AP)
AP - Rates on 30-year fixed mortgages rose slightly this week, inching above 5 percent, Freddie Mac said Thursday.

Mortgage investors try to regroup after meltdown (AP)
AP - The financial wizards who concocted the complicated mortgage-linked investments that nearly brought down the world economy are trying to come back from the dead.

Smart Choices, Dumb Moves (BusinessWeek)
BusinessWeek - Financial planners can advise, books can inform, worksheets can approximate. But they'll never replace the advice you can get from folks who have ventured before you into that great unknown: retirement. To help you avoid dead ends and pitfalls, we asked retirees to look back over their time outside the working world and talk about their smartest financial moves, biggest surprises, and worst mistakes.

Visteon retirees appeal decision on benefits (AP)
AP - Attorneys for retired Visteon workers are appealing a bankruptcy judge's order allowing the auto parts supplier to terminate their health and life insurance benefits.

December consumer credit down for 11th straight month (Reuters)
Reuters - A weak job market and tight credit conditions caused consumer credit to fall $1.73 billion in December, the eleventh straight monthly decline, a report from the Federal Reserve showed on Friday.

Consumer credit down in Nov. for record 11th month (AP)
AP - Americans borrowed less for an 11th consecutive month in December, paying off credit cards while increasing borrowing for cars and other products.

Goldman's payment demands on AIG probed: report (Reuters)
Reuters - U.S. regulators are investigating whether the mortgage insurance market was improperly distressed in 2008 because of payment demands that Goldman Sachs Group Inc and other banks made on American International Group Inc , The New York Times reported on Sunday.

Hanmi brings in financial adviser (AP)
AP - Hanmi Financial said Monday that it has retained Cappello Capital Corp. as a financial adviser while the company pursues strategic alternatives.

American Capital Agency says earnings rose in 4Q (AP)
AP - American Capital Agency Corp. reported sharply higher earnings for the fourth quarter of 2009 Monday as the government-backed mortgage securities it holds gained value.

Forget the Mortgage, I'm Paying My Credit Card Bill (U.S. News & World Report)
U.S. News & World Report - Amid high unemployment and sliding home prices, a growing number of struggling consumers are doing what was once considered unthinkable: paying their credit card bills instead of their mortgages. A recent study developed by TransUnion found the percentage of Americans who were current on their credit cards but behind on their mortgage increased to 6.6 percent in the third quarter of 2009, up from 4.3 percent in the first quarter of 2008. Meanwhile, the share of consumers making mortgage payments on time but behind on their credit cards moved in the opposite direction, sliding from 4. ...

BofA spent $1.18M lobbying government in 4Q (AP)
AP - Bank of America Corp., the nation's largest lender, spent $1.18 million in the fourth quarter to lobby the federal government on issues such as executive compensation, credit cards and mortgage lending practices, according to a recent disclosure report.

How to Make Your Insurer Pay (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - When disaster hits your home, it pays to know whose side your insurance company is on. If insurance companies are to be believed, "you're in good hands" -- they'll treat you "like a good neighbor."

Get in the Mood to Talk Money (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - In the mood for a money talk? Yeah, we know. It's hardly on the top of anyone's list. But the task does fall somewhere between teaching the kids the birds 'n' bees and remembering to give the dog its heartworm pill.

MetLife may pay AIG in stock, cash for unit: source (Reuters)
Reuters - MetLife Inc plans to pay American International Group Inc in stock and cash for American Life Insurance Co (Alico), as the two sides negotiate what could be a roughly $15 billion deal, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Kansas House panel reviews tax credit reform (AP)
AP - A Kansas House committee considered a proposal Tuesday that would eliminate some seldom-used income tax credits and improve efficiency within the Department of Revenue.

Home loan demand drops despite drop in rates (Reuters)
Reuters - U.S. mortgage applications dipped last week, reflecting reduced demand for home purchase loans even as rates on 30-year loans fell to their lowest since December, an industry group said on Wednesday.

Freddie Mac to start buying back bad loans (AP)
AP - Government controlled mortgage finance company Freddie Mac said Wednesday it will buy back an unspecified amount of troubled loans contained in securities it has already sold to investors.

Fannie, Freddie to start buying back bad loans (AP)
AP - Government controlled mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac said Wednesday they will buy back troubled loans contained in securities they have already sold to investors.

Stop Slow Leaks From Your Bank Account (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - Bank statements don't make for scintillating reading, but if you take a close look, you could find a few unpleasant surprises. Such was the case when one family glanced at one of its statements and discovered that its bank was simultaneously charging it for banking with online bill pay and banking without it. How the family could be doing both -- and paying for it -- was perplexing. But there the charges were, $9.95 and $5.95 respectively, leaking dollars out of the checking account.

Rates on 30-year mortgages average under 5 pct (AP)
AP - Rates on 30-year fixed mortgages fell slightly this week, dipping below 5 percent, the mortgage financier Freddie Mac said Thursday.

Need-to-Knows About Mom and Dad (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - Your relationship with your parents changes many times during your lifetime. When you were a child, your parents were responsible for you. They helped you overcome hurdles that you faced for the first time, and they gave you their emotional and financial support. As a young adult, you sought and achieved independence for yourself, but your parents were still there as a source of advice and guidance. And if you eventually had children of your own, you gained a little insight about why your parents made the choices they did.

Make Your Family Miserable (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - Supposedly, you love your family. You don't want to cause them any undue agony. But if you neglect to take care of a few important paperwork issues, then your loved ones could suffer unnecessarily.

Services You Can Get for Free (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - You know the old line: "If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is." But, occasionally, you can find legitimate low-cost or even free services. The catch? Getting something for next-to-nothing generally means that you have no leverage to complain.

Wis. agency will resume lending to home buyers (AP)
AP - Wisconsin residents seeking to buy a home for the first time got a boost Friday when the state's affordable housing agency announced plans to resume lending after a 17-month suspension.

Mortgage insurer PMI posts wider-than-expected Q4 loss (Reuters)
Reuters - Mortgage insurer PMI Group Inc reported a much wider-than-expected quarterly loss, as its U.S. unit continued to post disappointing results, sending its shares down 5 percent before the bell.

Cleaning up toxic mortgage assets a slow task ( - With $45bn of investments in securities backed by US mortgages - or nearly a quarter of the insurance group's total assets - it is no overstatement to say that MetLife is a heavyweight in the mortgage market.

Canada tightens mortgage lending rules (AP)
AP - Canada is tightening mortgage lending rules as historic low rates are raising fears of a potential housing bubble, the country's finance minister said Tuesday.

Cleaning up toxic mortgage assets a slow task ( - With $45bn of investments in securities backed by US mortgages - or nearly a quarter of the insurance group's total assets - it is no overstatement to say that MetLife is a heavyweight in the mortgage market.

Mortgage delinquencies tick higher in 4th-qtr 2009 (AP)
AP - The percentage of homeowners late with mortgage payments hit another record during the last three months of 2009, and the pace at which they fell behind took a turn for the worse, a new report says.

Credit card delinquency rates level off (Reuters)
Reuters - The percentage of Americans falling behind on credit card bills stabilized in January, according to data from the six major lenders, signaling that U.S. consumer credit woes may be leveling off.

Mortgage applications fell in latest week (Reuters)
Reuters - Applications for U.S. home mortgages fell slightly last week even as interest rates held near record low levels below 5 percent, an industry group said on Wednesday.

Housing starts post sharp rebound (Reuters)
Reuters - Housing starts rebounded more strongly than expected to their highest level in six months in January, while permits fell slightly less than forecast, pointing a mild housing market recovery.

Fannie, Freddie regulator pitches new housing goals (Reuters)
Reuters - The federal regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Wednesday proposed an overhaul of rules governing how the mortgage funding giants serve low-income homeowners while limiting their risks.

Housing starts, industrial output fuel US recovery (AFP)
AFP - US housing construction and industrial production posted better-than-expected increases at the start of the year, the government said Wednesday, fueling economic recovery from recession.

5 Easy Ways to Save on Taxes (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - It's hard to get ahead with Uncle Sam stretching out his hand every time you earn a few extra bucks. While paying what you owe is the patriotic way, it's always nice to owe less rather than more. Here are some of the best (and strictly legal) ways to reduce your taxable income but still satisfy Uncle Sam when he comes knocking.

Starting a Business? Don't Tap Your 401(k) (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - Building your own business is a common American dream, but not an easy one. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, about half of small businesses fail within the first five years. That hard truth gives you even more good reasons not to start your business with money you've borrowed from your retirement savings.

Housing starts hit 6-month high, output rises (Reuters)
Reuters - U.S. housing starts rose to a six-month high in January and industrial output increased solidly, pointing to an economic recovery that was taking a firm hold and respectable first-quarter growth.

Plosser: Fed should sell MBS sooner instead of later (Reuters)
Reuters - The Federal Reserve should sell its mortgage-backed securities holdings sooner rather than later as the economic recovery gathers steam in order to extricate itself from fiscal policy, a senior central bank official said on Wednesday.

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