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Alive and Well

February 21st, 2010 at 02:59 am

It has been a long time since I have written; almost a year. I have still been struggling with my finances but my head is above the water. The housing market has been picking up the last few weeks and I'm in hopes that things are changing for the better. I got more loan applications this February than I have gotten since 2005. This may be due to the tightened mortgage market and the role banks are having. As a mortgage company I think we have more products and are more flexible with score requirements as low as 620. There are many first time homebuyer incentives out there and the prices for a home are low here. I think the thing that is holding some people back is job stability.

After my blog in April, 2009, many things happened. My mother-in-law became ill and we took her in only to find out she was dying of cancer. It was a very difficult time for all of us and she died in our home after 24 days of arriving.

After that my mother moved to Florida leaving her long time partner here. He had a stroke and I have been caring for his needs for months now and he will be returning home tomorrow in a wheelchair. There are many things he still can not do as he doesn't walk well and his left arm is still paralized; so he will need my help with laundry, groceries, housework, cooking and etc. I've signed up for some home health services to help out as well but they will not be coming until later next week, I also looked into a meals delivery program for the elderly so some of his meals will be delivered. I'm hoping things will improve quickly as I really need my life back (he has no family so I'm it).

My daughter is due for a baby soon and I will going to spend some time with her, the new baby and my 3 year old grandchild. I'm hoping when this is all done I can then focus on me.

I've been marketing my business by doing Realtor presentations, flyers, emails, letters to past customers and etc. I think maybe this year things will be better and I can finally get back on my feet.

Things have not really changed with my husband, he still can't keep his debit card in his pocket and he spends way too much money so we separated finances in the fall of last year. I'm hoping that now that he doesn't have access to my money he will learn how to budget. Last I knew he has already had a few overdrafts (very costly).

So life goes on and I will be filing my taxes soon and paying the last of my interest and penalties for cashing in my IRA last year to pay the IRS for my debt settlement. I'm hoping this will be the end of it and I can put this behind me.

I have a friend that came to me last fall with $85,000 in credit cards; we sat down and did a plan and she was able to settle all the cards and with her tax implications; she got out for about $45,000. She too used her retirement money to get rid of the debt. She had no idea what I've been through, she just knows I know a lot about cleaning up debt and your credit report. I'd like to teach some classes on this subject, but instead I have been doing it on an individual basis with prospective mortgage clients.

Hope all is well with the friends I have met here and best wishes.

Vacation

April 20th, 2009 at 03:35 am

Well it has been two years since I have been able to afford to fly anywhere. The winds are apparently in my favor right now. I heard from my sister who has a client that has offered the use of her condo and car for my DH and myself, all free and on the beach, so we are off on vacation on Thursday for nine days. How great is that? A free condo overlooking the beach and a car. We are so excited, it has been a long time since we have been able to go away and with this gift of generosity we can afford to go. Our airline tickets were $514 and because we have a full kitchen and barbeque grill at the condo, we can cook in and lay by the pool. I bought two books to read while we are there.

Regarding the mortgage business, things are picking up and I think I can see some recovery. With the new $8000 tax credit to first time homebuyers (can't have owned a home in the last three years), I'm expecting to see more purchase activity. This could be a good time to turn our finances around.

My DH is refinancing our home and dropped our rate from 6.50% to 5.25% and he consolidated some various debts he had left over, thereby reducing our monthly debts to give us some breathing room. We have done numerous improvements to the home and it appraised well. We are now working on the yard and doing some pretty extensive landscaping. However, having a contractor husband has it's faults, they work all day long in the business and don't move too fast at home. I'm sure by summer end we will have things looking nice outside.

Yesterday, I staked off my gardens for the summer. I've got two large plots, one for regular crops of corn, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, potato's, radishes, carrots, beets and etc. The second plot will be for my vine crops; cucumbers, squash, summer squash, zucchini, pumpkins and in the far corner of the plot I'm putting in 4-5 blueberry bushes. This will add to the yard appeal and save money in our monthly food budget. I will can and freeze veggies throughout the summer.

Think summer; I'm so glad the snow is gone.

Tax Time

March 10th, 2009 at 11:13 pm

So I finally go to the accountant, we go over my tax situation. In adding up my 1099C-s my actual savings (also called income) in negotiating my credit card debt was $78,400. We added up my assets at the time of settlement and subtracted my liabilities and my insolvent position was $36,000 so I must pay tax on $42,400 .... ouch!! I also got laid off on my job last year and was forced to claim a 401k loan as income (I used that money to help with debt settlement). So when the accountant gets all done with me, I owe the IRS about $14,500 and the state $4,000. So I ask for tax advice from the accountant, do I pay the IRS with my left over 401k money or do I arrange payments with the IRS? Hands down, she says pay the IRS with your remaining retirement.

There may be two reasons for this decision. First of all I still have not recovered from the financial crisis and am not earning enough for a large payment monthly to the IRS and second, it puts the nightmare to bed finally. So I went to the bank and got the money knowing that next year, I have to pay tax and penalty on the money I took to pay the IRS and the state, but I hope to have enough tax deductions from my business expenses i.e. mileage, advertising, home office use and etc.

So now I have about $16,000 in retirement money left and hopefully there will be no reason to touch it. I think the housing market here in the North will be turning around soon and we should be at least stable and working some of the time. I'm looking for ways to make other income including teaching budgeting and credit counseling, but today it occured to me that maybe I should look for a job writing a monthly column in our local paper about credit, budgeting and how to save money. It could help with my business and help other people as well. I know I have learned so much going through this process.

This week I checked out www.mint.com and started tracking our spending. I'm watching my DH with his ATM debits again and he has headed out of control. I wish he would stop smoking; it is a major expense and it's going up all the time, not to mention the health risk associated with smoking. My DH is a cancer survivor and should definately not be smoking.
With cigarettes over $6.00 a pack here and he smokes a pack a day, that is $42.00 a week and we really can't afford it, but what do you do??

Finances and Taxes

February 23rd, 2009 at 07:30 am

So I have come to the time to start thinking about filing my taxes. I have received all my 1099C's for the credit card debt and the credit card companies did not date the 1099's the day of settlement. This affects everything because the IRS says your point of settlement is the date on the 1099c and the balance sheet has to be prepared on that date. So I had balance sheets done at the point of each settlement, but now I have a different date so I have to reconstruct my balance sheets to the new dates. I'm probably going to actually do better because the money was gone and my asset position was less making for a more insolvent position; so that is a silver lining.

The new job is going great, I only wish there were more customers. It seems that everyone is nervous about buying right now and there are some great deals out there, but if you don't know if you are going to have a job, you don't buy a house.

I have been working deligently on a credit counseling business. I'm thinking of doing this on the side to help people get back on track with their credit and to educate them on how to get out of debt. I'm not confident that I have it down yet, but I'm working on it.

My house is pretty much done and I'm looking to refinance perhaps in another month to get a better rate. It would be a good time for the DH to consolidate some of his final debts as well and get him in a better position.

I'm making plans to leave for Florida on April 16th. My sister is lending us a condo on the ocean for 10 days at no charge, she says she thinks I deserve it. Nice sister!! I can hardly wait to get out of this cold Northern weather, I spend most days in the house because it is so cold out. That is the hardest part about living in a colder climate.


What has been Happening?

December 1st, 2008 at 04:41 am

As my readers know, in September I was laid off by a large national lender that I had worked for for almost 10 years. I felt it coming and had accepted another job with another lender the day before I was laid off, so I was feeling really good about following my intuition and looking for a job when I thought something was going to happen and having a new job when it did.

So I started the new job in October, I was really excited about the new job, it was with one of the largest banks in the country and they had a lot of tools for lenders to use to help market our products and etc. I immediately picked up about $1,000,000 in new loans. I started on a guaranteed salary with the ability to receive additional commission if I exceeded the salary base. With the loans I took in I could have exceeded the salary in November, making for extra money for Xmas. However, I found that the new lender does not have a streamlined and efficient process, they are so unorganized that they can't get a loan to closing. I could bore you with the details of one loan disaster after another that I experienced with this lender and how incompetent and unprofessinal their staff was, and how they appeared to have no regard for human life.

As an experienced lender with 22 years of experience and someone who has a conscience when I deal with my clients, I became very defensive of my customers and felt they were not being treated respectfully, no one even seemed to care what they were doing, there was no smooth loan process and they really didn't care if they met the customers expectation or not, they didn't seem to realize these were people with dreams and lifes and they were messing with them. I would wait and try so hard to get a customer through and then they would come out with new conditions just before we were going to close and I would have to transfer the loans to another lender just to get them through. When I transfer a loan I am not paid for my work, however, I felt great relieve knowing I had finally assisted them with their loan request. After transferring three loans to another lender and watching it close within a week, I got so angry, I quit! Yes, you heard it right, I quit! When there is no regard to a human being in an organization that is suppose to serve them, I just couldn't handle it and the stress was overwhelming, to the point I could not sleep and I was in constant turmoil trying to get more and more ridiculous documentation for inexperienced underwriters who obviously did not know what they were doing. With my years of experience I could have underwritten a loan myself and I was constantly correcting the underwriters and then would have to provide them with documentation from government manuals showing them they were wrong; I'm a government loan specialist and where they got these people, I don't have a clue.

So how smart was that? We are in the peak of a financial crisis and I've been through one myself and I quit my job. Well, I am also no dummy and I know my business reputation and that my name is worth something, so the word hit the street that I had quit and immediately two lenders called. One lender was a local bank desk job lending on an annual salary (very low) plus a commission and no sign on bonus. The other lender was a mortgage company that a few of my former friends had gone to when our company laid us off, they offered a nice incentive package and they were the lender that pickup up my crippled loans and put them through within a week (obviously efficient and organized). So I have chosen the mortgage company with a guaranteed salary into March, which is great because that is our slowest time of year and I also have the ability to make commission if I exceed salary, which I will try very hard to do. I actually start work today and they are allowing me to work out of my home like I have for years.

Am I scared taking a new job in this lending environment? Absolutely, but I'm more confident that I can do my job with these people and I'll just let time take care of things. I'm a little nervous right now with what has happened to me in the last few months with my employment and all the major changes in my life.

I'm really going through a tough time emotionally right now because I sold my home of 26 years, moved an hour away from my kids, my 19 year old baby moved out so I'm experiencing the empty nest syndrome and I've been working nonstop in my new home renovating it so it is more liveable (painting, painting and more painting).

While I'm going through all this, my DH decides to act up, he takes over $700 of money out of our budget and just blows it, he is still out of control with the debit card and adds about another $400 on top of that and he decides to take out a student loan for his child without consulting with me (with a total debt now of $20,000 on student loans). I get the statement in the mail and that is how I find out. Now should this bother me? No it shouldn't if he could pay it by himself, but he is already maxed with his debt and is barely able to meet his expenses and our joint housing expense. We have a joint checking and he is out of control with debit charges and by the end of the month he usually spends more than he brings into the budget. This has been a continuing problem for over a year now. My husband and I have been together for a little over two years, we made some financial decisions in the beginning on how our finances would be handled, because I make more money than my husband we decided on a joint checking so there would no fighting about who was going to pay for this and that, but he has not been able to control his spending and does not have the same frugal nature as I do, it has caused some serious problems in our relationship and when he just takes large sums of money and blows them, I become very upset.

So the house is almost finished, I have just two more rooms to paint, the job situation still shaky and my husband is out of financial control; I'm feeling just a little overwhelmed right now. I'm of the belief that God never gives you more than you can handle, but right now he is pushing it. I'm finding that when all this is going on in your life, it is very hard to keep a positive attitude and I have caught myself being very negative lately; something I intend to work on.

I also have the opinion that when you don't know what to do; do nothing. So I'm just giving all this more time and we will see what happens next, but I am very tired.

Getting Ready for Winter

October 28th, 2008 at 03:59 am

I'm glad to see that oil prices are dropping, but the DH and I took some extra steps to cut fuel consumption this long, cold winter. The first step was buying a wood pellet stove in August when they had sales and we were able to get a stove for $1,500. We also ordered pellets and locked the price at $240 a ton (they are now $300 a ton). We had replaced two doors last year and three storm windows so that should help.

As we were renovating our property I noticed our kitchen door window was losing a lot of heat. The door is an aluminum door and has a window in the top and the window looked like it moved and there was a gap, it also had a very dirty window (the tenant didn't wash windows for an entire year and a half). Aluminum doors will last a long time and the actual door appeared to be in good shape. I started messing around with the window and tried to wash it and etc., and the whole window fell out. My DH thought we needed a whole new door which would mean a new casing, a lot of work and money. However, after researching through his supply catalog, we found that the window could be replaced for $40.00 and it solved our heat loss problem as well; it's like finding gold, we saved $300 or more.

My DH is an experienced builder and he was able to work a deal out with some contractors to come to the house and add more insulation to our attic for $100. So this should save on additional heat loss. We knew we were losing heat in the attic because there were dark areas on the ceiling were the rafters are which means you are losing heat through the ceiling. So this problem is solved as well.

We orderd our first 100 gallons of oil at $3.38 a gallon (ouch). We are hurrying to get that pellet stove running so we can stop using oil, it needs a new stove pipe which we purchased and painted black to match the stove and a new thermostat which we have installed, this weekend we should have that pipe installed and we hope to burn our first pellets. I can hardly wait, it has been so cold out and I won't turn the thermostat up above 68 and today we are suppose to get snow, so it's not that warm in the house; being thin I get cold easily and once the feet are cold, they never get warm again.

The house is coming along very well. We apparently had a faulty propane burner in the house we were not aware of and our tenant didn't tell us, so all the ceilings and walls are stained with black smoke stains, I have to paint every wall and all the ceilings. I've almost got the upstairs done and have started the largest room in the downstairs. I also painted the cupboards and replaced some of the hardware to give them a fresh look. I found some beautiful floor tile on sale in earth tones for $85 at the Home Depot. We needed a new entry way into the house because the prior one was water damaged. My DH installed it and it looks beautiful with the old red oak floors, it blended nicely and took care of what could have been a very expensive repair. My DH originally thought we would have to rag out the old floor and replace it and sand all the floors in the upstairs area so they would blend, this would have probably cost about $3000 and we were able to fix it with new tile and no sanding, a huge savings of time and money.

My DH did some custom construction of beams and crown molding in the main living area and we painted it with a semi gloss ivory color. He had also taken down a wall and made a much larger living area with a combined dining room and living room. The room we removed was wasted space we used for an office. Now the space is more family oriented and it gives a warm and cozy feeling. Since we are doing all the work ourselves, these improvements have been very inexpensive and it looks lovely.

My DH is able to get all his materials either at discount or free because some of the materials are scrap materials from one of his jobs. I bought paint at Walmart because someone told me that was generic Sherwin Williams paint, I only paid $10 a gallon. The color was rich and nice, but it didn't have the quality of a thick paint and required two coats instead of one. Overall, I'm happy with the results and the paint spread evenly. Paint can do amazing things to a room, but would not recommend Walmart paint, I found Glidden paint to be a good paint and reasonable.

I made an interesting discovery through this process too. When someone from the past was decorating this house, they had put in a brick tile floor space under the area for the woodstove and a pale yellow tile wall behind the woodstove. The yellow tile goes from the floor to the ceiling and is about six feet wide. It looks awful and doesn't match the room and is some what of an eye sore and stood out in the room saying "hello, look at me". So I lightly sanded the wall tile, which was ceramic and I primed and sealed it with a nice Behr product, then I painted the wall tile the same color as the walls in the room, it blended right in and looks the way it should and now the floor underneath the stove looks more like it belongs there. I didn't know you could paint ceramic tile on a wall; a painter told me about it.

I feel like I've started my own "This is your House" a series on cheap home repairs that look like a million bucks.

Closed on the house..

October 10th, 2008 at 07:30 am

So I closed on the house finally, it was a nightmare closing with a two hour notice and then there is a probably with the title and I closed two weeks ago and my money is still in escrow and the people are living in my house. Don't even ask, it only happens to me.

So we have moved and we are renovating the new property. We have no furniture and no money to buy any until they release my money. So we wait or we hire an attorney - so I guess we wait.

Meanwhile the stock market has gone crazy and I checked what is left of my 401k and I have lost $16,633 since I lost my job. I'm panicking because of all my tax implications on the credit card savings and I can't pay back my 401k loan so I'll have to pay tax there too so I now owe the IRS and I was counting on my 401k to bail me out; if need be, but if I have no money left in my 401k I'll have to find another way to pay the IRS. It just seems never ending and President Bush is making a statement on the economy; we would like to hear something positive.

I hope that when the elections are over our economy will begin to recover. I am thankful I sold a house in these times; so living without furniture is a minor inconvience.

Lost my job, but saw it coming ....

September 4th, 2008 at 01:51 am

About two weeks ago I started reading info on the company I work for and saw they were in huge financial distress. I decided that I should start job searching and had an interview with a top mortgage company in the country and was offered a position. On Tuesday I accepted the job and put in for a background check and etc. before they could officially hire me. Yesterday all employees of my company were summoned to a conference call; I and many other employees were laid off effective Friday. I'm not expecting problems with my background check, my credit is in good standing now and it should go through.

I can't believe I saw this coming and had a job lined up when I was laid off; I'm truly blessed and am so thankful for the things that are happening in my life right now. Sometimes when you look at things, they were suppose to happen this way.

I think of the "what ifs" - what if I had not cleaned up my credit? What if I hadn't sold my house? What if I hadn't found a reliable car? So many things have happened and they have all happened as they should. Being in a financial mess helped me to straighten out my life in many ways and although my job may be in limbo right now, I know things are working out the way they should and I will be fine through this. Today I heard the first positive reports on the news for "first time homebuyers" this is what we need, some positive reports about buying a home now while the market is down. If "first time homebuyers" take advantage of the programs and start buying houses, it will allow current home owners to move on and buy their new homes and the cycle will begin and the economy will start to recover. Let's hope that this is it and things start moving forward in the near future so we can start to recover in this country.