March 26, 2018

Well it finally happened and I have officially retired after 15 years in the mortgage business in our resort towns. I’ve been contemplating this move for the past year and Sue & I decided that now is the right time to give up the stress and enjoy life more. I’m not getting any younger as most of you know 

I’m going to continue with the blog, writing mostly about local issues golf, and retirement life.  I know I will see most of you around our beautiful resort towns and I look forward to continuing the friendships that have developed over the years.

If you don’t see Sue & I at the Parkway, you’ll definitely be able to find me on the golf course somewhere.  All the very best to everyone one of you and thank you for all of your help and loyalty over the years.

The Jobs Machine Hums

A View from the Beach

March 13, 2018 – 


The wild year has continued with regard to volatility in the markets, political headlines and, sadly, national tragedies. Through it all, we have seen three patterns emerge. First, the volatility has been focused mostly in the stock and bond markets. Stock gains were some of the strongest in memory in January and the losses in February came close to wiping out those gains. The bond market has been weak, and this has led to higher long-term interest rates.

Secondly, we have seen an economy which has continued to strengthen, but not overheat. There is no longer talk of the lack of inflation being a threat to growth. But, on the other hand, inflation has not been a major issue either. Lastly, up until now, jobs growth has been rather steady. Other than a hiccup late last year due to the devastating storms we had during the hurricane season, our jobs growth has been holding at a strong enough level to keep unemployment low.

February’s job report saw this trend grow stronger with 313,000 jobs added. The unemployment rate remained at 4.1%. With regard to wages, the story there showed no acceleration of wage growth. Overall this report was viewed as good news. For those waiting and wondering what the Federal Reserve Board’s Open Market Committee will do with interest rates next week when they meet, the consensus is that this report will not change the odds much that the Fed will increase rates. Nothing is a certainty, but if you listened to the Congressional testimony of the new Chairman, Jerome Powell, a rate hike this month is definitely a strong possibility.


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Telltale Signs that It’s a Scam!

History is jammed packed with stories of innovative ways that scammers have used to trick people to give them their money.  Their possessions. Their homes.

With e-commerce.  Information on the web.  Social media.  Robo-phone calls.  It’s even easier to fall into a scammer’s web of deceit.

So, how can you tell if you are one of their targets?

Well, there is no single solution, but there are warning signs that can tip you off to whether it’s a bona fide offer (or company) or a trick to get your money.

The Offer Is Too Good to Be True.  A product that you’ve always wanted at a ridiculous low price.  That you won a contest (that you never entered).  That you were recommended by a friend (hackers create fake identities using your friends’ profiles) and the friend never mentioned it to you.  That you won a lottery.  A prize.

Find out as much as you can and then Google it.  For example, you won a Samsung TV and all have to do is pay $100 for shipping charges.  Google the term “Samsung TV Scam”.  Get phone numbers to call back.  Most scammers won’t give you phone numbers.  Don’t rely on email addresses because those could be fake too.

Are There Grammatical or Spelling Errors?  Yes, we all make mistakes, but poor English or grammar is a sign that you might be dealing with a scammer.  You may think that the person is not well-educated, but experts say that might not be the case.  Sometimes they are deliberately worded that way to filter out the smarter people, and the most gullible become the victims.

Hurry, This Offer Won’t Last Long  – Scammers use fear or urgency as a tactic to bully you into action, so you don’t have time to ask for help or think things through or do your research.  Legitimate companies will give you time to make a decision.

They Ask You for Money – At some point, they are going to ask for money.  (See The Offer Is Too Good To Be True.)   They will ask for payment in advance to give you the information about the lottery that you “just won”.  They will ask you to “wire” funds.  Even though the bank can trace the funds, scammers often close the bank accounts right after receiving the money.  Don’t give your credit card info either—unless you are absolutely certain that it’s not a scam.  They will use your credit card info to buy stuff.

Do you have a scammer story that you’d like to share so we can warn others?

Tweak Your Withholding Taxes: Filing a New W-4 Form with your Employer

Remember filling out a W-4 form when you were first hired?  It’s the form that determines how much money your employer withholds from your paycheck to pay federal and state taxes—based upon the number of “allowances” that you claimed.

But have you checked to see if it’s still applicable?  Consider adjusting your W-4 form if the following applies:

  1. You owed the IRS money – You may want to have more money withheld from your paycheck. In fact, if you owe too much, the IRS can assess you and add a penalty for not depositing enough money into your account.
  2. You’ve experienced a “life change,” such as
    1. Marriage
    2. Divorce
    3. Birth or adoption of a child
    4. Purchase of home
    5. Refinance of mortgage
    6. Retirement
  3. You expect to earn money from your home-based business or other source that does not withhold income taxes from the check.
  4. You have a change in itemized deductions
    1. Medical expenses
    2. Gifts to charity
    3. Dependent care expenses
    4. Education credits
    5. Child tax credit

To INCREASE the amount of taxes from your paycheck, you will need to DECREASE the number of dependents.  You can also specify a dollar amount—like $50 per pay period.  Likewise, to have LESS money deducted, INCREASE that number.

I recommend that you check your withholding every year—right after you’ve filed your income tax return.  The IRS offers a withholding calculator at and you’ll need your most recent tax return and current paycheck stub.  Or, ask your tax preparer to help you adjust your withholding so you don’t owe too much—or get a large refund from the IRS—at the end of the year.

If you are looking for a tax preparer or CPA, please send me a message because I work with many excellent professionals for you to choose from.

What Are the Top Kitchen Trends for 2018?

So, every year, the website Houzz creates a trends report regarding design, kitchens, color, housing and remodeling trends.

You may be thinking of remodeling your kitchen.

Maybe just making minor upgrades.

Or just changing the color and accessories.

I just recently read a report that I would like to share with you on Kitchen Trends for 2018 that will remain trendy at least for the next few years.

First of all, some goals that homeowners are striving for when upgrading their kitchens:

  • Decluttering counters – 75%
  • Putting things away – 65%
  • Recycling bins – 49%
  • More home cooking – 48%
  • Dishwasher – 46%
  • High-end coffee makers – 38%

Refreshing the surface of the countertops was mentioned by 94% of those who responded to the survey.

  • 43% Engineered Quartz
  • 34% Granite

40% wanted to add a kitchen island.

And it’s 50/50 split on whether homeowners opted for a traditional or a farmhouse-style kitchen.

Total kitchen remodeling costs can run up to $40,000 depending on your area of the country.  However, upgrading countertops could cost as little at $3,000 to $5,000.  Depending on the brand, updating appliances averages $3,000.

Some less expensive updates are:

  • Changing countertops only
  • Upgrading faucets and handles
  • Adding a tile backsplash
  • Changing the door style (only the doors and drawer fronts) on the cabinets
  • Changing the sink
  • Changing the lighting fixtures
  • Painting the walls.

Home Improvement stores usually employ kitchen designers who will help you with the process.

In addition, keeping your kitchen on trend will be a huge selling point if you ever decide to sell your home.

The Fed Will Be Watching

A View from the Beach

March 6, 2018 –


The minutes of the Federal Reserve’s January meeting were released the week before last. These minutes indicated that the Fed is comfortable that an expansion with “substantial underlying economic momentum” could sustain additional increases in interest rates this year. This statement was of no surprise to the markets, as rates have been increasing for several weeks now in anticipation of action by the Fed due to a strong economy.

With the next meeting of the Fed just two weeks away, obviously this statement heightens the possibility of a rate increase announcement at the March meeting. A rate increase at this meeting is not a certainty, but it definitely could happen. What could keep the Fed from holding off at this late juncture? The volatility of the stock market could be a factor, especially if additional drops become precipitous. Additionally, late economic data showing the economy is not as “hot” as expected would be taken into consideration.

The most important data is to be released this week. The jobs report is the first reading of data for February and is watched closely by the Fed. The Fed will be watching both the amount of jobs created, but also will be looking for any signs of stronger wage inflation. We may actually need a disappointing jobs report with no acceleration of inflation to convince the Central Bank from holding off at this point.


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Assessing Returns

A View from the Beach

February 27, 2018 – 

There are many questions which have arisen because of the movements in the stock market and interest rates. For example, how high will interest rates need to go in order for investors to start thinking that they can achieve better returns than the stock market? That seems far-fetched because the stock market has done so well since the great recession, with the S&P gaining an average of over 10% per year. But, keep in mind that these gains have included a rebound from sharp losses during the recession and were fueled by record low interest rates.

And where would one go to achieve these better returns? One possible place would be real estate. One reason rates are rising is because recently, inflation has become a factor. Well, inflation has affected rents being paid and home prices for some time. If someone purchased a house five years ago, chances are they have done very well — whether they are living in the home or it is an investment property.

As we have said, this year’s wild ride has made it even tougher than normal to make predictions. It is possible that these gyrations could start affecting economic growth, despite the stimulus of the tax legislation. Investor and consumer confidence are really important factors — and neither likes to witness the uncertainty that volatility brings. The best news would be for the markets, rates and inflation all to calm down a bit as spring approaches. Next week’s jobs report could go a long way to convince the masses that everything is on-track and not overheating — if we don’t get a surprise on the low or high side.


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