The Benefits—and Dangers—of Serial Refinancing

Millions of Americans have taken Refinancing-home-mortgages-rebounded-higheradvantage of today’s record-low interest rates on home mortgages. With rates consistently dropping over the last four years, the housing market has spawned a new group of consumers: the serial refinancers.

But the heyday may not last much longer. The Mortgage Bankers Association projects rates will drift up in 2013, with the 30-year rate on a fixed mortgage rising above 4 percent by the middle of next year, which will curtail retail volume.

However, with interest rates currently hovering around 3.5 percent, now is an opportune time for many to refinance—so long as they land their best offer. Click here to read the article.

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How to Find the Right Contractor for the Job

Thinking about updating your Construction Workers Looking at Roofcontemporary kitchen to something more modern? Or maybe you want to give the master bathroom that Jacuzzi tub and steam shower you’ve been dreaming of? Whatever the home renovation, you’ll want to find the right contractor—someone you can trust to do a great job for a fair price.

More Americans are staying in their homes due to the sluggish housing market, and many are choosing to remodel. Last year, the National Association of Home Builders’ Remodeling Market Index (RMI), a good benchmark for judging the pulse of the remodeling industry, reached a five-year high and has stayed strong this year.

Click here to read the article. You can also listen to me discuss the tips with Michael Finney, the host of KGO 810 San Francisco’s Consumer Talk show (the interview starts at 13:00).

Wallet 101: What to Keep and What to Take Out

Wallets can be pesky business. The last thing
you want to have is a George Costanza moment—your wallet so stuffed to the brim with receipts that one big gust of wind will send its contents flying through the streets.

A poorly managed wallet is also a huge security risk. You might be carrying contents around that someone could use to easily steal your identity, if your wallet were to end up in the wrong hands. Identity theft was the No. 1 consumer complaint last year for the 12th year in a row, proving more bothersome to consumers than debt collectors, imposter scams, and shady credit-repair companies, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

To protect yourself, make sure what you’re carrying around in your wallet doesn’t pose a security risk. For an article for U.S. News & World Report, I spoke to Denisa Tova, a certified financial planner based in Denver, and Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments based in Chicago, about what’s OK to keep in your wallet and what you should remove. Click here to read what they said.

Boomers Flock to Niche Retirement Communities

Retirement communities aren’t just geared6516226823_44c5b6a980 toward golfers and pool loungers anymore. Niche retirement communities are on the rise, says Andrew Carle, the founding director of George Mason University’s Senior Housing Administration, a management program for retirement facilities. “Retirees want more choices,” Carle explains. “When you have 78 million baby boomers, they have a lot of expectations with retirement.”

For my first story for U.S. News & World Report, I examined this trend and highlighted eight of these specialized retirement communities. Click here to read the story and click here for the related slideshow.

Photo courtesy of SalFalko via Flickr