The mortgage pain point
And more of the week’s best financial advice
Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial advice, gathered from around the web:
The mortgage pain point Interest rates on the most common type of mortgage topped 5 percent last week for the first time since January 2011, said Wolf Richter at WolfStreet, and another point higher will hit the "pain threshold" for the housing market. Thirty-year fixed rates for "conforming loans" — mortgages for single family homes priced below $453,100, with a 20 percent down payment — are now at 5.05 percent, up from below 4 percent in 2016. While that's still a historically low number, it's likely to rise as the Federal Reserve steadily lifts the interest rate it charges to banks. A 6 percent rate would take mortgages close to where they stood in the housing bubble. That "will block a considerable number of potential buyers from buying at current prices." Cities where prices have "surged" as much as 55 percent from their housing bubble peak — including Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver — could be hit particularly hard.
Child care for Starbucks workers Starbucks this week began providing its employees with 10 days a year of heavily subsidized backup child and senior care, said Benjamin Romano at The Seattle Times. If an employee's child care falls through — if school is canceled, for example — the worker can put a child in a day-care center for $5 a day, or hire in-home care for $1 an hour. Starbucks says the program will help its 180,000 U.S. employees "come to work with fewer worries." Many companies have cut child-care benefits over the past 20 years: only 3 percent of employers now offer subsidized child-care centers, down from 9 percent in 1996.
Hailing a hospital ride Ride-hailing services could help shrink the $14 billion a year that Americans spend on ambulance rides, said Austin Frakt at The New York Times. A trip in an ambulance can cost thousands of dollars, "and a lot of it may not be covered by insurance." Studies also find that nearly a third of rides are inappropriate — ambulances cart many people with minor injuries. For nonemergency medical transportation, Uber and Lyft might be a better and cheaper option. Both companies now offer services that let health-care providers order rides for patients. Or you could hail a car with your own app. "An advantage of arranging your own ride is that you can direct it to a hospital or doctor's office of your choosing." Ambulances only take patients to hospitals "and typically to the nearest one."