What the experts say
Is 2018 the year to buy a house?
“Homebuyers aren’t going to catch much of a break this year,” said Kathryn Vasel in CNN.com. The “low housing supply” that plagued buyers last year will continue to place sellers firmly “in the driver’s seat” in 2018. A “balanced” housing market has about six months of supply; “in December, the market had less than three months.” That means househunters can expect bidding wars and fast sales. Mortgage rates, which last week sat at 4.15 percent, will also rise. Some good news: Home building is expected to increase 10 percent in 2018, to around 1.3 million new single-family homes, though that’s not quite enough to keep up with population growth or job creation.
Financially preparing for widowhood
Eventually becoming a widow or widower “is unavoidable” for married couples in retirement, said Robert Powell in USA Today. Aside from the harrowing emotional impact of losing your partner, “the death of a spouse is often accompanied by a decline in economic status.” That’s why it’s important for couples to “set aside time to talk” about money. Make sure you both know how the household finances operate and where important paperwork is located. Determine whether your current financial track “will provide enough lifetime income to the surviving spouse.” If not, prune expenses slightly. Draw up lists of previous employers and ensure your employer-sponsored retirement accounts were claimed. Compile a strong support network of financial advisers, including an attorney, accountant, and certified financial planner. Perhaps most importantly, confirm your estate plan is up to date.
Budget weekly, not monthly
Setting a weekly budget will help you “gain greater control” of your finances, said Anna Bahney in CNN.com. Even though many popular budgeting programs are organized by months, “a month is way too long for us to keep our financial impulses in check.” Budgeting weekly allows you to “better anticipate and examine” expenses. While many bills arrive monthly, a weekly budget allows you to more accurately monitor and adjust your discretionary spending. Because there are fewer transactions to monitor in a week than in a month of spending, tracking your expenses will seem “much easier, less tedious, and more manageable.” Set up a separate checking or debit card account and move your discretionary funds there each week. This way you can track expenses and work out how to curb spending.