- Created on 13 May 2013
(StatePoint) There’s a good reason why many people dream of owning a home. Homeownership offers benefits such as stable monthly payments and the opportunity to establish a sense of community. It can also be a way to build equity over time.
But don’t dive into the process unprepared. Experts say it’s crucial to become financially literate first.
“Educated borrowers are better prepared for successful, long-term homeownership and overall financial stability,” says Christina Diaz-Malone, Vice President of Housing and Community Outreach at Freddie Mac.
In fact, a recent study found that financial counseling before purchasing a home can reduce the likelihood of going into default. For first time homebuyers, counseling reduces the likelihood by an average of 29 percent.
Luckily, free credit education resources and information are becoming more widely available.
For example, Freddie Mac’s CreditSmart program, a comprehensive, multilingual curriculum used by lenders, churches, schools and non-profit organizations, has helped more than three million consumers across the country make more informed financial decisions. Today it’s available in two ways.
CreditSmart’s new, self-paced web version features 12 education modules. You can take the free online course at www.FreddieMac.com/creditsmart.
Or, consider attending a class led by a housing counselor certified by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
A credit education course can prepare you for homeownership by covering the following topics:
A spending plan is necessary for anyone with financial goals. Financial education can help you differentiate your spending needs vs. wants, and set up a realistic budget accordingly, as well as provide guidance for how to stick with the plan.
Generally speaking, the better your credit, the lower your interest rates and fees will be when obtaining a loan. If you don’t have credit or you don’t have good credit, it’s essential to establish good credit before trying to get a loan.
To buy a home, you’ll need upfront money for a down payment, which is usually between five and 20 percent of the home price, and money for closing costs, moving expenses, and any immediate repairs or renovation costs.
Credit education can teach you how to save and how to invest your money wisely.
The real estate and mortgage world has its own language. And if you aren’t well-versed in it, you can get in over your head quickly. Study up on terms and concepts like loan-to-value ratio and fixed-rate mortgage so you don’t sign anything you don’t understand!
Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous companies and individuals out there who may not have your best interests in mind. Reliable financial education can help you recognize the warning signs of fraud. Familiarizing yourself with the resources at www.FreddieMac.com/homeownership/educational/ is a good start.
Ask family and friends for names of real estate agents and lenders with whom they've worked or contact your financial institution or a certified housing counselor for guidance.
Is homeownership right for you? Don’t just guess. By becoming a savvier consumer, you can make smart financial decisions.
- Created on 13 May 2013
I believe our future is in good hands, despite what recent news headlines would have us otherwise believe. You are as familiar as I am with the barrage of negative stories of violence, drugs, teen pregnancy, bullying and other questionable behaviors of today’s youth. No matter where you live in the country, I’ll bet there are legions more of good kids in your city or town who are shining in every area of their lives, excelling in school, giving back in ways both small and large to their communities, sports and other extracurricular activities. In the spirit of full disclosure, I claim my bragging rights as the mother of one of these outstanding young people, my 16-year-old son.
I always talk about how this nation is becoming more and more multicultural day by day. In fact, in eight years, there will be 170 million multicultural consumers in the United States. This nation is a huge melting pot already, but these forecasted numbers are promising for people of color – especially young people.
According to the most recent U.S. Census, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians each make up 42 percent of the youngest demographic age groups: 12-17, 18-24 and 25-34. These same groups of young folks are going to be in our shoes as adults in a few decades and their numbers are on the rise. The 18 to 24 year-old demographic is, in fact, growing faster than any other segment.
Businesses and advertisers are paying very close attention to the information I’m sharing with you today. All of us know by now how critical everything we purchase, watch, read and listen to is for manufacturers and marketers. The same is true for young people. What are their consumer behaviors? How much are they contributing or will they contribute in the future to the consumer bottom-line? Nielsen research shows that teens have some real purchasing potential – although at this point, that potential has a lot to do with the earnings of their parents, grandparents or guardians, since most kids are not yet making the big bucks. Last year, 29 percent of teens in the U.S. lived in households earning more than 100K. And if you are the parent of teenager(s), you know they are very good at spending our money. Can I get an ‘AMEN’ on that?
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that ownership of smartphones and tablets is growing faster in households with teenagers. There was a 45 percent jump in smartphone penetration among teens between 2011 and 2012, a 32 percent increase among young adults 18-24 and 22 percent among those 25-34. The numbers for laptop penetration are interesting. It seems laptops are cool with young people until they hit their late 20s – even though laptop ownership has increased in all three young adult age groups (12-17, 18-24, 25-34) over the last year.
We talk a lot in this column about how much time all of us spend in front of the television or watching our video content on one of the many other fun electronic toys we own. That time spent is money – both for the marketers who want to reach us and the program providers who measure and make decisions based on our viewing habits. Teens and young adults, like the rest of us, watch most of their shows and videos the old school way – on television. However, according to Nielsen’s most recent Cross-Platform Report, young consumers under 34 watched more video on the Internet and their mobile devices in 2012 than they did in 2011.
The “under 34” crowd isn’t a monolithic group, though, when it comes to video consumption. Young teenagers lead in watching content on their mobile phones (I can attest to this); 18 percent more than those 18-24 and 46 percent more than the next age group, 25-35. On the other hand, teens don’t seem to favor watching online, even though laptop ownership is higher in that group. The data shows that in the last quarter of 2012, those in the 18-24 age bracket spent nearly three times more consuming video on the Internet than 12 to 17-year-olds. The “oldest” of the young demos, the 25 to 34-year-olds, spent the most total time watching video across all platforms in 2012: 19 hours and 30 minutes more per month than 18 to 24-year-olds and 40 hours and 54 minutes more a month than 12 to 17-year-old consumers.
Whenever I speak to youth groups, I always let them how much of the sweet target they are to marketers. And I think the information I just shared supports this statement. The youth of today should feel empowered, too. Because not only are they the future, they are the present and marketers are watching.
Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com.
- Created on 10 May 2013
Honored by the White House as one of the Top 100 Entrepreneurs under 30, author, social entrepreneur and "chief popsicle" of Feverish Ice Cream & Gourmet Pops Felecia Hatcher will keynote the Youth Entrepreneurs® Georgia's Dare to Dream event on May 10.
Dare to Dream is an event for Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia students that marks the successful completion of the year-long classroom portion of the program. Dare to Dream aims to inspire students to utilize creativity, follow their passions, and learn about the importance of making good choices in their lives.
Dare to Dream will offer workshops to approximately 160 students in the Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia program including: Business Etiquette, Managing Electronic Communications, Dining Etiquette, Dressing for Success, and a Business Expo.
Participating companies and organizations such as The Coca-Cola Company, Oglethorpe Power, Fifth Third Bank, and University of Georgia's Terry College of Business will offer information and guidance.
The event will be held Friday, May 10, from 10:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Coca-Cola World Headquarters, located at One
Coca-Cola Plaza, 310 North Avenue Northwest, Atlanta, GA 30313.
Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia (YEG), formerly Youth Entrepreneurs of Atlanta, is a business program hosted in metro Atlanta high schools that teaches students free-enterprise fundamentals through hands-on learning activities, culminating in the writing and presentation of a workable business plan.
The goal of the program is to provide students with practical business knowledge and experience, encourage an entrepreneurial way of thinking and promote higher
education, all of which culminate into productive citizenry. To learn more visit the organization's website, http://www.gp.com/yeatl/ .
- Created on 13 May 2013
According to Nielsen, 70 percent of active adult social networkers shop online, which is 12 percent more likely than the average adult Internet user. With millions of users online, brands continually flock to social media networks to garner consumers yet have been discouraged by the lack of results and questioning the validity of social media marketing. Rather than become disillusioned with social media, because there’s no denying the millions of people buying and conversing online, the question remains: What is the best way to reach them?
BlackEnterprise.com has outlined five reasons your brand’s social media strategy isn’t working, and what you can do to improve it:
Social media is not a cure-all, end-all solution for marketing to one’s target market. If you think that by setting up a profile on a network and constantly spewing marketing messages that you’ll attract thousands, if not millions, of customers immediately, you’re sadly mistaken. It’s, however, an enduring solution in combination with advertising and public relations to increase exposure, promote and eventually garner sales.
Lack of company buy-in
In order for social media to be effective for your organization, everyone has to buy-in, from executives to support staff, or it will not reach its full potential. Your chances of having a successful social media campaign is increased if senior management actively uses it and allows the brand to have multiple voices. The executives of your company are not the only champions; in fact it is feasible to come up with a list of influencers in all departments that can provide content and insight in the form of a social media council.
With any marketing effort, you must clearly define what your intentions are for using social media. Do you want to get exposure for new product or service? Improve brand recognition? Increase website traffic? Once those intentions have been identified you must question what success looks like.
To avoid social media crises and potential disasters every company should invest in social media training and guidelines. Do not pawn off social media activities on the “young” professionals. Just because they know how to use the technology does not make them equipped to become the global communications arm of your brand.
When creating your social media team, you should seek someone who has a strong capacity for communications and marketing; the tools can be taught to via training programs in- person or online. Showing employees the best practices and way in which your brand should be showcased online can be an exceptionally valuable business tool.
Not enough engagement
If you’re not responding to your fans questions or comments, they’ll seek a brand that will. Social media has shifted marketing as we know it. It’s no longer a one way street, but a two way street which requires communication and collaboration. You will achieve greater results when you respond in a timely manner, highlight your customers using your product or service and share valuable information with them.
Keep in mind if you are not fully committed to social media then you will not achieve the results you desire online. Once you have a social media strategy with realistic goals and targeted content, the rest is relatively simple.
S. Lynn Cooper is a Washington, DC-based digital strategist and communications expert. Cooper is the founder and director of Socially Ahead, a strategic communications agency that specializes in the creation of social and digital strategies and campaign management. Follow her on Twitter at @sociallyahead .
- Created on 10 May 2013
Millions of Americans suffered a loss of wealth during the recession and the sluggish recovery that followed. But the last half-decade has proved far worse for Black and Hispanic families than for White families, starkly widening the already large gulf in wealth between White Americans and most minorities, according to a new study from the Urban Institute.
"It was already dismal," Darrick Hamilton, a professor at the New School in New York, said of the wealth gap between Black and White households. "It got even worse."
Given the dynamics of the housing recovery and the rebound in the stock market, the wealth gap might still be growing, experts said,
further dimming the prospects for economic advancement for current and future generations of Americans from minority groups.
The Urban Institute study found that the racial wealth gap expanded during the recession, even as the income gap between White Americans and non-White Americans remained stable. As of 2010, White families, on average, earned about $2 for every $1 that Black and Hispanic families earned, a ratio that has remained roughly constant for the last 30 years. But when it comes to wealth — as measured by assets, like cash savings, homes and retirement accounts, minus debts, like mortgages and credit card balances — White families have far outpaced Black and Hispanic ones.
Before the recession, White families, on average, were about four times as wealthy as non-White families, according to the Urban Institute's analysis of Federal Reserve data. By 2010, Whites were about six times as wealthy.
The dollar value of that gap has grown, as well. By the most recent data, the average White family had about $632,000 in wealth, versus $98,000 for Black families and $110,000 for Hispanic families.
"The racial wealth gap is deeply rooted in our society," said Caroline Ratcliffe, one of the authors of the Urban Institute study. "It's here, it's not going away, and we need to care about it."
Many experts consider the wealth gap to be more pernicious than the income gap, as it perpetuates from generation to generation and has a powerful effect on economic security and mobility.
Young Black people are much less likely than young White people to receive a large sum from their parents or other relatives to pay for college, start a business or make a down payment on a home, for instance. That, in turn, makes their wealth-building prospects shakier as they move into adulthood.