What the experts say
States help first-time homebuyers
Growing numbers of state legislatures are helping aspiring homeowners save for a down payment, said Ann Carrns in The New York Times. Six states, including Iowa, Colorado, and Virginia, have approved the creation of special tax-favored savings accounts that allow first-time homebuyers to sock away cash for a down payment and other purchasing fees, such as closing costs. The most generous states allow savers to “get a tax break for their contributions by deducting the amount they’ve saved that year from their state income tax returns.” If you’re a potential first homebuyer, start by checking with your state’s housing finance agency to see how you can establish your account and what benefits are offered. Another five states are looking to authorize accounts this year.
The future of banking
“Banking isn’t what it used to be,” said Geoff Williams in USNews.com. The industry is fast “on its way to being even more futuristic.” Experts say most credit and debit cards will soon be able to be turned on or off “instantaneously” via an app. For instance, to protect your card’s security, you could “leave it off” most of the time and simply activate it only “when you’re buying something.” Cards will also soon know your smartphone’s location and will use it to verify that you are making a purchase. Cardholders can also expect to see more bank branches evolve to feature “a community center feel.” Some branches will incorporate coffeehouses to appeal to Millennial customers, while others will “offer yoga classes, wine tastings, and knitting sessions.”
Retirement costs are booming
Higher-than-anticipated costs and taxes “are throwing off Baby Boomers’ spending patterns,” said Darla Mercado in CNBC.com, leading some retirees to rethink their budgets. Some 43 percent of retirees over age 65 say health-care costs consume more of their budget than they anticipated. Taxes are also taking a large bite out of Boomers’ budgets, with 30 percent being taxed more than they expected. Even travel, the most popular perk of retirement, is costing more than many anticipated: 35 percent are taking “fewer trips than they would have liked.” Experts say retirees can offset budget surprises somewhat by checking and minimizing the fees charged on investments, diversifying their portfolio, and taking proactive steps with a financial adviser to guard against downturns.