JLP’s Weekly Roundup (Week of September 17, 2007)

Here’s a quick review of some of the posts from the MoneyBlogNetwork over the past week:

Jim tells us to beware of those on-campus credit card application booths. – I always hated those booths when I was in college.

Flexo takes on a reader question about couples combining their finances. – My wife and I didn’t have any problems combining our finances because we didn’t have any!

Nickel does a follow-up post on dealing with found money. – And no, a tax refund is not found money!

FMF features a guest post on earning extra money by becoming a home stager.

JD addresses how to stop procrastinating.

MBH asks his readers how they keep up with financial news. – For me it’s the Wall Street Journal.

Finally, NCN continues his “33 Days and 33 Ways to Save Money and Reduce Debt” series with Day 21 – Focus.

I Love My iPAQ!

Well, I have had my iPAQ (Affiliate Link) for about a week now and I REALLY like it. I have had to get used to using it but so far it works like a charm. The coolest thing about it is the transcriber tool, which recognizes my handwriting. I’m amazed at what a good job it does! Yeah, it messes up on some letters, but for the most part it works great and it is MUCH faster to write than it is to peck on letters on the screen.

The coolest part is I don’t have to carry a paper planner!

So far the only thing I have had problems with is Outlook. For some reason the “send/receive” feature doesn’t work and I can’t figure out how to make it work. The instruction book is really vague so I’m not sure what to do. It’s not that big of a deal but I would like it to work properly.

I’m sure I look like a nerd with my iPAQ hanging off my belt on one side and my cell phone on the other side. Oh well, at least I’m an organized nerd.

Kitchen Remodel Update

Before (minus the cabinet doors and drawers):

How it looks right now:

Isn’t it lovely?

Today they busted up the concrete so that we can run the plumbing to the other side. Most of the wall that you see on the right hand side will be removed, allowing the kitchen to overlook the family room. It will be MUCH more open and it will be nice to able to be in the kitchen and still be in the family room at the same time. The kitchen sink will look directly at the wall that will house my TV so that I can watch football while doing the dishes. YIPPY!

Oh, and that window on the left wall looks into the garage! We’re pulling it out since that’s where the range with an overhead microwave will go. It seems silly to have a window look out into the garage. My theory is that our floorplan offered a carport and people could upgrade to a garage. A window looking out to a carport makes more sense.

I’ll post some more pictures as the project proceeds.

President Bush Wants to Expand Mortgage Disclosures

Today’s Wall Street Journal featured an article about the Bush Administration’s plan to expand mortgage disclosures ($), which will give borrowers a clear picture of how much they are paying and what they are paying for. This is a good thing!

According to the article, the Bush Administration had tried to do something three years ago but faced so much opposition from the mortgage industry that they shelved the plan. I guess the mortgage industry loved being able to hide fees from borrowers.

The Bush Adminstration also wants to make changes to the Good Faith Estimate. From the article:

The biggest change is expected to be to the Good Faith Estimate, a document given to borrowers that lists costs such as title insurance, appraisals and other fees. The administration wants a more explicit detailing of mortgage-broker fees and loan terms, such as whether the interest rate increases or if there is a prepayment penalty.

I think these are good things to do. No, they won’t bail out people from their mistakes, but it could help to keep people from making the same mistakes in the future. I don’t understand why the AFFIL isn’t praising these changes. Are they truly the Americans For Fairness in Lending or just another Moveon.org?

Broker Fees

One other interesting thing I found in the article:

The housing industry is bracing for HUD’s revised proposal — in particular, mortgage brokers, who are barraged with criticism in the current housing crisis. Members of Congress, consumer groups and others have accused mortgage brokers of steering individuals, including those with good credit, into subprime loans with higher interest rates that benefited them financially.

Brokers often receive fees from the lender when the borrower agrees to pay a higher interest rate than he or she qualifies for. The higher the rate, the higher the fee for the broker, though some lenders cap the amount they will pay. HUD is expected to require more explicit disclosure of broker compensation so borrowers clearly understand the relationship between broker and lender.

President Bush singled out the industry in a speech last month, saying his administration “will soon issue regulations that require mortgage brokers to fully disclose their fees and closing costs.”

Mark Savitt, president-elect of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, said his industry already provides adequate compensation information. “I don’t know of anybody else in our industry where you completely disclose every dime you make in a transaction, so I don’t know what more we could disclose,” he said.

Regarding Mark Savitt’s comment: I would be willing to bet that the fee disclosure does not mention the fact that the broker makes MORE money from a subprime loan than a regular loan. So, although they may disclose their fees, there’s nothing for borrowers to base those fees on.

I think this is a move in the right direction.

“Americans For Fairness in Lending” Gets on My Nerves!

Yesterday I received an email from a PR person for Americans for Fairness in Lending with an attached copy of their Reporter’s Guide (PDF). Although I understand what the AFFIL is trying to do, their message comes across as:

“You Americans are SO STUPID that we have to have more legislation to save you from yourselves!”

For example, check out this paragraph from their guide (emphasis mine):

Mortgage borrowing is a complicated process, and consumers need and deserve to be protected. Just as supermarkets are prohibited from selling poisonous food, borrowers should be protected from toxic mortgages that have a one-in-five chance of choking them. Borrowers should be able to trust that lenders will not sell them loans they cannot afford, and that our government will protect them against deceptive and unfair lending practices. Neither assumption is currently accurate. This lack of lender responsibility and government oversight needs to change.

This is so ludicrous that I don’t even know what to say! Can’t borrowers figure out for themselves what they can and cannot afford? Not ONCE does their Reporter’s Guide mention personal responsibility – NOT ONCE! This can only leave us with the impression that this crisis is 100% on the shoulders of the lenders.

Now, before you misunderstand me, I’m am not supporting the lenders. I know that they created lots of crappy products that should have NEVER been used in the first place. And yes, there were brokers who did underhanded things. For that, I do think changes need to be made. I would just like to see less coddling of the borrowers, who were just as much to blame for this crisis as the lenders were.

Anyway, I urge to read their Reporter’s Guide. What do you like/dislike about this guide?

How About Some $13 Meat Loaf?

We’re having meat loaf for dinner tonight – $13 meat loaf. How? Well, my wife and I have been trying to buy more organic stuff at the store. So far, we have concentrated on fruits and vegetables, milk, juice, and meat. So, yesterday, I picked up a packet of meat loaf seasoning that called for two pounds of ground beef. Laura’s Lean Ground Beef is $5.99 a pound at Kroger. Add the $1.69 seasoning packet and I got myself a $13 meat loaf. Yummy!

Back in the days when I didn’t care so much about what we ate, I would buy the 5 pound logs of beef for under $10. Meat loaf was A LOT cheaper back in those days!

I’m sure if I was dedicated, I could shop around and find better prices. I’m just not sure if it is worth it.

To be continued…

Too Busy to Blog!

Sorry for the lack of blogging over the last couple of days. I’ve been too busy to blog. We decided to move forward with our kitchen remodel and the contractor is ready to begin work tomorrow. That means we have to get the kitchen emptied out by then. I’m sure I’ll have updates on this project as it moves forward (maybe even some before and after pictures). I feel good about this project even though it’s going to cost us some serious money. We were fortunate to buy our house at a very good price, in a very good neighborhood.

Anyhow, if you notice my posting being a little sparse, it’s because I have other stuff on my mind.