Dollar Bits of Info 10.26.13

october26Real Estate

5 key things to consider when buying a home

The decision to buy a house is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. Here are five key things to keep in mind:

1. What is the seller telling you about the house?

Sellers used to provide disclosure statements, telling buyers about the condition of the home and disclosing problems. These days, lawyers advise against this, because of the potential for lawsuits. Some sellers are doing home inspections before they list the property for sale and giving a copy of the report to any buyer.


Personal Finance

Web scammers get a jump on holiday shoppers

Mini-candy bars haven’t even hit trick-or-treat bags yet, and we’re already hearing about all the Freddy Kruegers that cause credit card nightmares during the holiday shopping season.

“Sometimes, the pathway to being a victim to fraud is the desire to find a bargain without really thinking about it,” said John Buzzard, a consumer fraud expert and product manager of FICO Card Alert Service. “You’re not going to find a Cartier watch for $50. If you could, I’d have one by now.”


How to save money on your holiday flights

Planes are more crowded and fees seem to keep rising, but travel experts say ticket prices aren’t shooting up this year, and, with a little planning, you can fly affordably this holiday season.

“Our data shows ticket prices for Thanksgiving up about 1 percent compared to last year, which is less than inflation,” Rick Seaney, CEO of, wrote in an email.

But cheaper air travel might mean taking flights at odd times or on off-peak days, and even choosing flights to and from outlying cities instead of your destination.

Don’t bank on getting a guaranteed overhead bin. While planes are usually full around Thanksgiving and Christmas, federal data shows how dramatically load factors — the percentage of seats full — have grown in recent years as carriers keep a lid on capacity.


How Secure is Personal Finance Software

Just how much should you trust your financial details with online personal finance sites that help you budget and track your spending? With all your financial information collected in one place, getting hacked could really hurt.  On the other hand, the reward of keeping your finances in line could be worth the risk.

Eva Velasquez, the President and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, joined us to help explain how different types of personal finance software work, and the pros and cons of letting them aggregate your information.

Velasquez started with the example of, a popular personal finance site and smartphone app, that allows users to input all of their financial information, track their spending, and get an overlay of all their finances in order to make a budget. Services like Mint differ from more traditional personal finance software like Quicken in that user’s information is not stored only on their personal computer, but also over the internet on the services’ servers, i.e. the “cloud.”

“With these type of services, you’re putting in all of that information and storing it in one place,” Velasquez says, “So you really have to think about the level of security for that service — are you comfortable enough with the protections that they have in place in order for you to give out that information and allow them to be custodians of that information.”



Warren Buffett Is Wrong — Here’s Why…

Don’t get me wrong, I closely follow what Warren Buffett says  and does with  his money.

And yes, he’s one of the most successful investors in history  — his returns  over more than 60 years have made him the  fourth-wealthiest person on the  planet.

He is rarely wrong, but Buffett is not perfect,   and a recent  comment he made is, in fact,  incorrect.

Let me explain…

The Wall Street Journal found that Buffett made $10 billion on  the  investments he made at the height of the financial crisis.  With characteristic  humility, Buffett said, “In terms of simple  profitability, an average investor  could have done just as well  investing in the stock market if they bought  during the panic  period.”

Actually, an individual investor could have done    significantly better  than Buffett.



401(k) Savers Go Deeper in Debt

One step forward, two steps back. While Americans are saving more for retirement, many are also going even deeper into debt. The treadmill is starting to run in reverse. Over 60% of workers participating in an employer sponsored retirement plan accumulated more debt than they contributed to their retirement savings between 2010 and 2011, according to research conducted by

The study looked at data from the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Census Bureau and found that one in five participants in 401(k) retirement plans particularly added more credit card debt to their family balance sheet than they contributed to retirement savings.

“Through retirement plans and social security taxes, the average 401(k) participant now contributes over 11% of their paycheck to retirement savings every month, yet the typical worker near retirement has only about 2 years of replacement income saved,” says HelloWallet founder and CEO Matt Fellowes. “The growth in household debt is one big reason why retirement readiness is so stubbornly low.”

The research also revealed that monthly debt payments for households nearing retirement increased by 69% between 1992 and 2010, and now totals $0.22 for every $1.00 earned by 401(k) plan participants close to retiring.


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