Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Interactive Map with Bank Failures

Source: WSJ

The Wall Street Journal has posted an interactive map that tracks bank failures by state and over time.

Interactive Map

New FHA Data on Home Mortgages

Source: FHA News Release (September 13, 2010)

FHFA Releases Key Data on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Single-Family Mortgages for 2001-2008

In an effort to inform the current discussion on the future of the housing finance system, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) today released data on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) that compare the credit quality and performance of the loans they acquired relative to loans financed with private-label mortgage-backed securities.

“Data on the Risk Characteristics and Performance of Single-Family Mortgages Originated from 2001-2008 and Financed in the Secondary Market” documents the differences in single-family, conventional mortgages acquired by the Enterprises versus those financed through the issuance of private-label mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities (private-label MBS) during the recent mortgage lending and house price boom and the ensuing bust.

Key Findings:

  • Credit Scores. Eighty-four percent of single-family mortgages acquired by the Enterprises during 2001 to 2008 were made to borrowers with FICO credit scores above 660, while 5 percent were made to borrowers with FICO scores below 620. In contrast, 47 percent of mortgages financed with private-label MBS originated during this period were made to borrowers with FICO scores above 660, while 32 percent were made to borrowers with FICO scores lower than 620.
  • Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratios. Over 82 percent of Enterprise-acquired loans had LTV ratios at origination of 80 percent or less, while two-thirds of mortgages financed with private-label MBS had LTV ratios at or below 80 percent, with that share increasing from 54 percent of 2001 originations to 81 percent of 2008 originations. The pattern of decreasing LTV ratios over time, most pronounced for loans financed with private-label MBS, is consistent with the greater use of second liens to avoid mortgage insurance on low-down payment mortgages, a practice that was increasingly common into 2007 and that contributed to the unusually poor performance of loans with low LTV ratios relative to past experience.
  • Loan Payment Type. Eighty-eight percent of Enterprise-acquired mortgages were fixed-rate loans originated between 2001 and 2008 and ranged from 79 percent for 2004 originations to 96 percent for 2001 originations. Mortgages financed with private-label MBS were predominantly adjustable-rate loans. These loans comprised 70 percent of mortgages financed with private-label MBS originated between 2001 and 2008 and ranged from 53 percent of 2008 originations to 75 percent of 2004 originations. Adjustable-rate loans offer borrowers lower initial payments in return for less certainty about future payments. In the data analyzed here, adjustable-rate loans perform worse than fixed-rate loans in part because some originators of adjustable-rate loans evaluated borrower repayment capacity using artificially low rates, called “teaser rates.”
  • Performance. Roughly 5 percent of Enterprise-acquired, fixed-rate mortgages and 10 percent of Enterprise-acquired ARMs were over 90 days delinquent at some point before the end of 2009. Roughly 20 percent of fixed-rate mortgages and 30 percent of ARMs financed with private-label MBS were over 90-days delinquent at some point before year-end 2009.

Data on the Risk Characteristics and Performance of Single-Family Mortgages Originated in 2001 - 2008 and Financed in the Secondary Market

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Household Debt Continues to Decline

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Household Debt and Credit Developments in 2010 Q2 (PDF)

Aggregate consumer debt continued to decline in the second quarter, continuing its trend of the previous six quarters. As of June 30, 2010, total consumer indebtedness was $11.7 trillion, a reduction of $812 billion (6.5%) from its peak level at the close of 2008Q3, and $178 billion (1.5%) below its March 31, 2010 level.

The number of open credit accounts continued to decline, although at a somewhat slower rate, during the quarter. About 272 million credit accounts were closed during the four quarters that ended June 30, while 161 million accounts were opened. The number of credit account inquiries within six months – an indicator of consumer credit demand –ticked up for the first time since 2007Q3. Credit cards have been the primary source of the reductions in accounts over the past two years, and during 2010Q2 the number of open credit card accounts fell from 385 to 381 million. Still, the number of open credit card accounts on June 30 was down 23.2% from their 2008Q2 peak.

Household mortgage indebtedness has declined 6.4%, and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) have fallen 4.4% since their respective peaks in 2008Q3 and 2009Q1. Excluding mortgage and HELOC balances, consumer indebtedness fell 1.5% in the quarter and, after having fallen for six consecutive quarters, stands at $2.31 trillion, 8.4% below its 2008Q4 peak.

For the first time since early 2006, total household delinquency rates declined in 2010Q2. As of June 30, 11.4% of outstanding debt was in some stage of delinquency, compared to 11.9% on March 31, and 11.2% a year ago. Currently about $1.3 trillion of consumer debt is delinquent and $986 billion is seriously delinquent (at least 90 days late or “severely derogatory”). Delinquent balances are now down 2.9% from a year ago, but serious delinquencies are up 3.1%.

About 496,000 individuals had a foreclosure notation added to their credit reports between March 31 and June 30, an 8.7% increase from the 2010Q1 level of new foreclosures. New bankruptcies noted on credit reports rose over 34% during the quarter, from 463,000 to 621,000. While we usually see jumps in the bankruptcy rate between the first and second quarter of each year, the current increase is higher than in the past few years, when it was around 20%.

Read more.



Thursday, September 16, 2010

Federal Benefits for Veterans Dependents & Survivors: 2010 Edition

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

This website describes the wide range of updated benefits that are available to U.S. military veterans.

Access website.

Student Loan Default Rate Increases

Source: U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced that the FY 2008 national cohort default rate is 7.0 percent, up from the FY 2007 rate of 6.7 percent. The default rates increased from 5.9 to 6 percent for public institutions, from 3.7 to 4 percent for private institutions, and from 11 to 11.6 percent for for-profit schools.

The default rate announced today -- the most recent data available -- is a snapshot in time, representing the cohort of borrowers whose first loan repayments came due between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008, and who defaulted before September 30, 2009. During this time, almost 3.4 million borrowers entered repayment, and more than 238,000 defaulted on their loans. They attended 5,860 participating institutions. Borrowers who default after their first two years of repayment are not measured as defaulters in today's data.

"This data confirms what we already know: that many students are struggling to pay back their student loans during very difficult economic times. That's why the Administration has expanded programs like income based repayment and Pell grants to help students in financial need," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Read more.

Your Guide to an IRS Audit

Source: IRS

The IRS has posted a series of lessons with video and audio that explain describe an IRS audit.

Your Guide to an IRS Audit

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CBO -- How Does Obesity in Adults Affect Spending on Health Care?

Source: Congressional Budget Office

According to CBO’s analysis of survey data, health care spending per adult grew substantially in all weight categories between 1987 and 2007, but the rate of growth was much more rapid among the obese (defined as those with a body-mass index greater than or equal to 30). Spending per capita for obese adults exceeded spending for adults of normal weight by about 8 percent in 1987 and by about 38 percent in 2007. That increasing gap in spending between the two groups probably reflects a combination of factors, including changes in the average health status of the obese population and technological advances that offer new, costly treatments for conditions that are particularly common among obese individuals.

Review study.

Employer Health Benefits 2010 Annual Survey

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

This annual survey of employers provides a detailed look at trends in employer-sponsored health coverage, including premiums, employee contributions, cost-sharing provisions, and other relevant information. The survey continued to document the prevalence of high-deductible health plans associated with a savings option and included questions on wellness benefits and health risk assessments. The 2010 survey included 3,143 randomly selected public and private firms with three or more employees (2,046 of which responded to the full survey and 1,097 of which responded to an additional question about offering coverage). Researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and Health Research & Educational Trust designed and analyzed the survey.

Review Survey

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Does Money Buy Happiness?

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being

Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton

Recent research has begun to distinguish two aspects of subjective well-being. Emotional well-being refers to the emotional quality of an individual's everyday experience—the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection that make one's life pleasant or unpleasant. Life evaluation refers to the thoughts that people have about their life when they think about it. We raise the question of whether money buys happiness, separately for these two aspects of well-being. We report an analysis of more than 450,000 responses to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a daily survey of 1,000 US residents conducted by the Gallup Organization. We find that emotional well-being (measured by questions about emotional experiences yesterday) and life evaluation (measured by Cantril's Self-Anchoring Scale) have different correlates. Income and education are more closely related to life evaluation, but health, care giving, loneliness, and smoking are relatively stronger predictors of daily emotions. When plotted against log income, life evaluation rises steadily. Emotional well-being also rises with log income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of ?$75,000. Low income exacerbates the emotional pain associated with such misfortunes as divorce, ill health, and being alone. We conclude that high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.

Read paper.

Monday, September 6, 2010

IRS Issues Guidance Explaining 2011 Changes to Flexible Spending Arrangements

Source: IRS Press Release

IR-2010-95, Sept. 3, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued guidance reflecting statutory changes regarding the use of certain tax-favored arrangements, such as flexible spending arrangements (FSAs), to pay for over-the-counter medicines and drugs.
The Affordable Care Act, enacted in March, established a new uniform standard that, effective Jan. 1, 2011, applies to FSAs and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). Under the new standard, the cost of an over-the-counter medicine or drug cannot be reimbursed from the account unless a prescription is obtained. The change does not affect insulin, even if purchased without a prescription, or other health care expenses such as medical devices, eye glasses, contact lenses, co-pays and deductibles. The new standard applies only to purchases made on or after Jan. 1, 2011, so claims for medicines or drugs purchased without a prescription in 2010 can still be reimbursed in 2011, if allowed by the employer’s plan.

A similar rule goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2011 for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and Archer Medical Savings Accounts (Archer MSAs).

Employers and employees should take these changes into account as they make health benefit decisions for 2011.

For details on current rules, see Publication 969 , Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans.

Updates on this and other health care reform provisions can be found on the Affordable Care Act page on IRS.gov. Notice 2010-59 andRevenue Ruling 2010-23, posted today, further explains this change.

Related Item: Questions and Answers on Over-the-Counter Medicines and Drugs

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Early Retiree Health Reinsurance Plan

Source: Whitehouse

New Resources for Employers and Unions to Help Keep Health Coverage Accessible and Affordable

Posted by Secretary Gary Locke on August 31, 2010 at 10:58 AM EDT

If you are an employer, you know how difficult it can be to find – and provide– health insurance for your retired employees who are age 55 or older and not yet eligible for Medicare. 

Some Americans who retire before they are eligible for Medicare see their life savings disappear because of medical bills and exorbitant rates in the individual health insurance market.  And the cost of insurance can be out of reach for individuals looking to buy health coverage on their own.

Many employers would like to help their employees make this transition comfortably and provide access to health insurance past retirement. But in these tough economic times, it is difficult for employers to keep up with skyrocketing health care costs for employees and retirees.

The Affordable Care Act’s Early Retiree Reinsurance Program will make it a little easier for employers to provide high-quality health benefits to their retirees.

Read more.

Prepare for Hurricane Season by Reviewing Tax Rules on Casualty Losses

Source: IRS

Topic 515 - Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Losses

A casualty loss can result from the damage, destruction or loss of your property from any sudden, unexpected, or unusual event such as a flood, hurricane, tornado, fire, earthquake or even volcanic eruption.

A theft is the taking and removing of money or property with the intent to deprive the owner of it. The taking must be illegal under the law of the state where it occurred and it must have been done with criminal intent.

If your property is not completely destroyed, or if it is personal-use property, the amount of your casualty or theft loss is the lesser of the adjusted basis of your property or the decrease in fair market value of your property as a result of the casualty or theft. The adjusted basis of your property is usually your cost, increased or decreased by certain events such as improvements or depreciation. For more information about the basis of property, refer to Topic 703, or Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts. You may determine the decrease in fair market value by appraisal or, if certain conditions are met, by the cost of repairing the property. For more information, refer to Publication 547. Keep in mind the general definition of fair market value is the price at which property would change hands between a buyer and seller, neither having to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of all necessary facts.

If the property was held by you for personal-use, you must further reduce your loss by $100. This $100 reduction for losses of personal-use property applies to each casualty or theft event that occurred during the year. The total of all your casualty and theft losses of personal-use property must be further reduced by 10% of your adjusted gross income. In addition, individuals are required to claim their casualty and theft losses as an itemized deduction.

The National Disaster Relief Act of 2008 changed some of the tax rules pertaining to losses resulting from federally declared disasters. The new law, which is effective for losses attributable to disasters federally declared in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2007, and before January 1, 2010, provides the following:

  • Allows all taxpayers, not just those who itemize, to claim the net disaster loss deduction regardless of the taxpayer's adjusted gross income
  • Removes the 10 percent of adjusted gross income limitation for net disaster losses
  • Provides a 5-year net operating loss (NOL) carryback for qualified disaster losses
  • Changes the amount by which all individual taxpayers must reduce their personal casualty or theft losses for each casualty or theft event from $100 to $500. This applies to deductions claimed in 2009. The reduction amount returns to $100 for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2009

Read more.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Growing Number of Households Have No Life Insurance

Source: LIMRA

Ownership of Individual Life Insurance Falls to 50-Year Low, LIMRA Reports

Four in 10 U.S. Households with Children Would Have Immediate Trouble Paying Bills if
the Primary Breadwinner Died Today

ARLINGTON, Va., and WINDSOR, Conn., Aug. 30, 2010 — Despite the fact that most American families have less to fall back on financially than when the economic downturn began , ownership of individual life insurance has hit a 50-year low, according to a new LIMRA study.

The Trends in Life Insurance Ownership study, conducted every six years by LIMRA, found that only 44 percent of U.S. households have individual life insurance. The number of U.S. households that have no life insurance whatsoever is growing. Today, 30 percent of households (35 million) have no life insurance coverage, compared to 22 percent of households in 2004. Among households with children under age 18, which arguably have the greatest need for life insurance, 11 million have no coverage.

Read more.