Posts by Lisa Scherzer

  • People are refinancing their mortgages like crazy

    Lisa Scherzer at Lisa Scherzer 3 mths ago

    Mortgage rates have fallen even further and you can thank Brexit.

    The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage followed Treasury yields lower, falling 7 basis points to 3.41% this week, according toFreddie Mac. Last week the fixed-rate averaged 3.48%, and a year ago it was at 4.04%. “Continuing fallout from the Brexit vote drove Treasury yields lower again this week,” said Sean Becketti, chief economist at Freddie Mac.

    So if you’ve been considering a mortgage refinance, now’s the time. And you won’t be the only one – interest in refis is spiking,Google Trends shows. The last time there was this level of interest in refinancing searches was in July 2012.

    A few factors have been contributing to keep US interest rates so low, including the surprise vote in the UK to leave the European Union, a change in what investors expect theFederal Reserve to do, and a strengthening US dollar.

  • Aging parents: Your adult kids aren't total ingrates like you think they are

    Lisa Scherzer at Yahoo Finance 4 mths ago

    Parents getting closer to retirement might be (pleasantly) surprised to learn their offspring expect to help them out. According to a new Fidelity Investments Family & Finance Study, most parents (93%) feel it’s wrong to become financially dependent on one's kids, but only 30% of adult children surveyed feel the same. So parents might not want to become a financial burden — despite the fact that their kids expect and are willing to step in and help.

    See, parents, your children aren’t total ingrates: All those years supporting them might finally pay off.

    The findings “point to the fact that adult children are looking at their parents and their parents’ need for help not as an obligation, but as an opportunity to help, to pay them back,” says Suzanne Schmitt, vice president for family engagement at Fidelity Investments. Parents are often under the impression that they must be entirely self-sufficient in retirement, and they make decisions based on that assumption — including where they are or aren’t able to travel and generally what kind of lifestyle they can afford.

    “If they knew their kids might help out, it could radically improve their life,” she says.

  • Lessons one rabbi learned from listening to Warren Buffett

    Lisa Scherzer at Yahoo Finance 6 mths ago

    Warren Buffett is universally admired for his wide-ranging wisdom. His sage insights on investing, as well as pithy quips on everything from leadership to marriage to Harley Davidson, have been quoted countless times.

    Adding to the library of books mining the Berkshire Buddha’s wise investing principles is a new one that aims to draw parallels between Buffett’s philosophies and Jewish teachings.

    In “ Values Investing : An Omaha Rabbi Learns Torah From Warren Buffett,” Rabbi Jonathan Gross, who served as a rabbi of the only Orthodox synagogue in Omaha from 2004 to 2014, says he became a student of Warren Buffett, but not in the financial sense. “I have read his teachings looking for deeper meaning and I have found lessons about morality, ethics, and character development that are consistent with the values of the Torah and Jewish tradition.”

    Salad Oil

    Value investing

  • When retiring isn’t an option: 'I couldn't retire if I wanted to'

    Lisa Scherzer at Yahoo Finance 7 mths ago

    People just aren't prepared. According to a study on retirement confidence by the Employee Benefit Research Institute published last week, less than half of those surveyed have tried to calculate how much money they'll need in retirement, and 39% simply guess rather than doing a systematic analysis. And it gets worse. Last month the New York Federal Reserve released a report that found that people over 50 are carrying more debt than they had in the past. It found that the debt held by younger borrowers dropped slightly from 2003 to 2015, whereas debt held by people between ages 50 and 80 spiked by 60% over the same period.

    What types of borrowing play the largest role in the observed surge in debt at older ages? 

  • What are millennials really doing with their money?

    Lisa Scherzer at Yahoo Finance 1 yr ago

    When it comes to the millennials’ relationship with money and investing, we have no shortage of stories. Their saving and investing habits as explained by myriad studies and surveys are a bit of a mixed bag:

    Their fear of the market is holding them back. About a quarter of 20-somethings are investing in low-risk, low-return investments, which are likely too conservative given their long time horizon, according to a 2015 report by Transamerica. On the positive side, 67% of this group are already saving for retirement, compared with 76% of respondents in their 30s and 40s. This was confirmed by another survey Goldman Sachs published in June, in which just 18% of millennials said they trust the stock market as “the best way to save for the future,” while 45% said they’re skeptical and would only be in low-risk investments.

  • Here's why the first day of work makes you want to crawl under your desk and die

    Lisa Scherzer at Yahoo Finance 1 yr ago

    You did it! After months of applying for jobs and nerve-wracking interviews, you landed your first job! Now comes the hard part – your first day.

    As it approaches, the first-day jitters take over. It’s understandable. You don’t know exactly what to expect or what’s expected of you. You want to make a good impression. You want to bring your A game.

    Know that you’re not alone – and you will likely have to navigate a handful of first-day landmines throughout your career. The average 50-something person has held 11.7 jobs from age 18 to 48, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and nearly half of these jobs were held from ages 18 to 24.

    So you’ve got your first-day outfit laid out the night before (and it better be the right one because you agonized over that perfect dress/pants/shirt/tie for the last 72 hours). You go to bed extra early to make sure you’re well rested. You set your alarm and check three times that it’s AM, not PM. You’ve got your commute all mapped out. You. Are. Ready.

    But more importantly, when’s quitting time?

  • Your worst money habit might not be that bad

    Lisa Scherzer at Yahoo Finance 1 yr ago

    Everyone has bad habits. Maybe you interrupt people when they talk, let your dirty gym clothes pile up on the floor, or misuse the word “literally.”   We asked readers to tell us what their worst money habits are, the one they wish they could kick but just can't seem to follow through on. More than 300 of you fessed up to things like paying off credit card bills late, carrying a credit card balance month to month, buying clothes you don’t need, not being able to quit smoking despite rising cigarette costs, and a lot of spending too much on food.   A robust industry of websites , apps, and services exists to help people keep to their budgets . And we’re all familiar with the time-worn advice dispensed to big food spenders: keep a list and stick to it, don’t go food shopping when you’re hungry, look for coupons, buy food that’s in season, etc.   So if we know what we’re overspending on and we know how to stop doing that, what’s the problem? Is it simply a lack willpower?   People tend to overestimate how much willpower they have, says George Loewenstein, professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. One reason we do that is because we...

  • Obamacare navigators will face tougher second enrollment period

    Lisa Scherzer at Yahoo Finance 2 yrs ago

    After last year’s ugly rollout of the healthcare marketplace, the Obama administration is no doubt counting on a smoother course for its second enrollment period. The technical glitches that bedeviled a year ago may be largely gone. But those tasked with signing up consumers in health plans are sure to face plenty of challenges for the second open enrollment go-around. Throughout the Marketplace’s first year, healthcare navigators served a vital function. These workers, trained with federal grant funds to help consumers analyze insurance options, helped shepherd people through a new and cumbersome process. “In-person assisters have an impact on the lives of so many Americans, helping individuals and families across the country access quality, affordable health coverage,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. According to a July Kaiser Family Foundation survey of the health insurance marketplace assistor programs, more than 4,400 of them, employing over 28,000 full-time-equivalent staff and volunteers, helped an estimated 10.6 million people during the first open enrollment period.  The navigators typically work in local libraries, churches and food bank offices. Over 80% of those programs reported that most consumers who sought help didn’t understand the ACA or the coverage choices offered them, or simply lacked confidence to apply on their own. Almost 90% of programs reported the majority of consumers they helped were uninsured. (There are different types of assistor programs that provide outreach; they include navigators, in-person assistors and certified application counselors. Each receives training to provide enrollment assistance to consumers, but they differ in the extent of their duties.) HHS announced this month it’s giving $60 million in grants to 90 nonprofit groups that hire navigators and assistors nationwide. That’s down from $67 million for the first enrollment cycle. New challenges In some regards, navigators and assistors, considered the backbone of Obamacare’s ongoing outreach effort, are likely to have a tougher job this year for a few reasons. “I think the biggest challenge for assisters will be to help more people with more tasks in half the time,” says Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation. The coming enrollment lasts three months (Nov. 15, 2014 -- Feb. 15, 2015), compared with six months for the launch. Many of the consumers who haven’t yet signed up for a plan are the hardest to get to. The 8 million newly insured people were the easier targets – out of more than 47 million nonelderly Americans who were uninsured in 2012 – and the 5 million people who the Congressional Budget Office forecasts will enroll for 2015 coverage may be less informed and resourced than the initial enrollees. And if that’s the case, consumers may require even more help from assisters than they did last year, Pollitz says. Another unknown is continuity among assistor-navigator programs. People who worked as assistors and navigators last time can work more efficiently because they’re experienced and have established systems and procedures. But almost 40% of 2015 navigator programs that received federal grants are new, which means these groups and the navigators they hire “will have to master the learning curve,” Pollitz says. And again this year, HHS awarded the navigator grants late in the season, so time to prepare for the second enrollment period is limited. “All these factors suggest a net increase in the workload, and intensity of workload, for this next class of marketplace assisters,” Pollitz says. The ABCs of health insurance The chief hurdle for navigators last year was a lack of consumer awareness and understanding of the law. A recent survey by Transamerica Center for Health Studies shows this ignorance hasn’t dramatically abated. It found that 46% of those who remain uninsured have still not heard of the individual mandate, and 43% haven’t heard of the health exchanges. Answering questions about what the ACA was and its impact on consumers was the most important part of many navigators’ jobs in the first go-round, and it’s likely to be so again this year.  Fully comprehending the details of an insurance plan can be a struggle for someone who’s had it their whole working lives, but for those who’ve never carried an insurance card, it’s a whole other language. Julie Leon, a navigator with the Ohio Association of Food Banks, last year helped enroll many people who had been uninsured before the ACA kicked in. Explaining the basics of having health insurance  was a prodigious effort, says Leon, who plans to work as a navigator again this year. The slogging nature of navigators’ work has been universal. “Getting into the basics of insurance with an individual who’s never had insurance is complicated,” says Jodi Ray, principal investigator for the University of South Florida Navigator grant. (USF got a $5.38 million grant, the largest in the country.) “You’re talking about deductibles, co-insurance, how do you pick a network, a plan. It’s very time-consuming.” Shopping for a health plan involves evaluating multiple price points – for instance, some plans have lower premiums but smaller doctor networks, while others have higher premiums but lower co-pays – adding another layer of complication to navigators’ work. “That conversation really takes a long time – longer than we ever anticipated. Oftentimes it took several visits,” says Zach Reat, who oversees the navigator program at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, which received a $2.18 million grant this year and $2.05 million last year. Tax complications For the second enrollment period navigators expect inquiries similar  to those they received the first time around, along with an increased focus on questions around tax subsidies. Insurers are sending customers auto-renewal notices now, and many, if not most, of those already enrolled should go back to to review their plan choices and subsidy eligibility, says Pollitz. Plans and premiums have changed. Consumers who don’t review their options may get the incorrect credit amount for 2015 and risk over-collecting on the subsidy (which they’d have to ultimately pay back) or not collect all the subsidies they’re entitled to. For example, if a consumer received subsidies for a silver plan last year that became cheaper for the following year, they may end up owing the IRS money when they file their 2015 taxes, even if their own income remained steady, Pollitz says.  Also, consumers’ subsidy eligibility may change if their income for 2014 looks like it will be significantly higher or lower than they estimated originally. Though navigators aren’t tax experts and are not tasked with helping consumers file their tax returns, they have to be ready to answer these kinds of questions, Ray says. “Navigators need to take time to be sure that consumers walk away with an understanding of how to pick a plan and what they do with the plan once they get it,” she says. “It’s not just filling out a form.” Read more in our Obamacare series: The Obamacare marketplace one year later: How you’re faring How to see through opaque health care costs

  • Mobile payments once again on the cusp of taking off

    Lisa Scherzer at Yahoo Finance 2 yrs ago

    Consumers have been forever "this close" to making every purchase with just a tap of their smartphones. For years we’ve been told cash and credit cards will be obsolete as technology makes mobile payments more convenient and worthwhile than pulling out your wallet. That hasn’t quite happened yet. There is, apparently, strong consumer interest in mobile payments. But despite an array of players – including Google Wallet (GOOG), PayPal, Isis, LevelUp, Square and Loop – widespread adoption has not occurred. According to a study published last week by Yankee Group, just 16% of mobile device owners have used their phone to make an in-store payment in the past three months, while two-thirds of consumers are interested in doing so. Mobile payment transactions more than tripled from 2011 to 2012 in the U.S., reaching $539 million that year, according to eMarketer, which expects these transactions to increase and reach an estimated $58 billion by 2017. But in a report eMarketer said the market is growing slower than expected, noting how it scaled back estimates of user adoption and transaction value from its initial projections in 2012. Part of what’s holding consumers back, analysts say, is that using credit cards isn’t that much of a hassle. “It’s not solving a clear customer problem. Taking out your card and paying is not a problem or inconvenience in the U.S.,” says Kebbie Sebastian, president of Penser Consulting, a firm focused on the payments industry. Where’s the value? A bigger factor keeping consumers from embracing mobile wallets is the lack of incentive. “There’s not a lot of value around it,” says Jordan McKee, an analyst at Yankee Group. Consumers need a financial reason to make the change. “Loyalty, offers, coupons – things that add immediate value that your credit card can’t do – should take a front seat. It should be about the overall value proposition, not just the payment,” McKee says. Mobile payment systems could take a page from the playbook of the very successful Starbucks (SBUX) app. The app, which generated $1 billion in transactions in 2013, not only lets customers pay for their daily coffee quickly and easily but also lets them refill their loyalty accounts with a few taps, offers instant discounts on menu items and links directly to Starbucks’ reward program. “It’s a great example of what a mobile wallet should be – it’s not only about payment, but the loyalty and offers,” McKee says. So in an ideal scenario, for instance, your mobile wallet app would track your movement and know you’re turning the corner at Baby Gap and you’ve shopped there before, then send a coupon to your phone to entice you to go in, Sebastian says. Name recognition Of all the mobile payment options and players jockeying for position, who’s set to come out ahead? Leading the pack is PayPal, whose clear advantage lies in the company’s 143 million active user base. In the Yankee Group’s survey, 15% of mobile phone owners said they used PayPal’s app in a store in the past month, by far the most of any wallet app.