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Mortgage Rates Today, Dec. 8: Mostly Unchanged; Will Gen Y Buy into the American Dream?

Thirty-year fixed rates were unchanged, 15-year fixed mortgages ticked up, while 5/1 ARM rates held steady Thursday, according to a NerdWallet survey of mortgage rates published by national lenders this morning.

Central banks are likely to influence mortgage rates in the coming days. The European Central Bank announced today that it will continue its current monetary policy of asset purchases, though at a reduced pace beginning in April. That move could move bond yields — as well as mortgage rates — higher.

Perhaps more importantly, the U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to hike short-term interest rates by a quarter point (0.25%) next week. But the move has been widely anticipated and may already be baked in to current mortgage rates.

Mortgage Rates Today, Thursday, Dec. 8 (Change from 12/7) 30-year fixed: 4.30% APR (NC) 15-year fixed: 3.70% APR (+0.01) 5/1 ARM: 3.77% APR (NC) Will millennials buy into the American Dream?

Fewer Americans believe that homeownership is a part of their American Dream. In a new report issued by Trulia, 72% of those surveyed said they buy into that longstanding goal, down from 75% last year. Adults 18-34 represented the biggest drop in homebuying aspirations, yet 83% say they still plan on buying a home.

“Will mortgage rates stifle homebuying in 2017? We think not. At present, mortgage rates would have to double nationally for the cost of renting to beat the cost of buying a home,” Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia’s chief economist, said in a news release. “Even with the recent rate hike, homeowners appear to be far more concerned about saving for a down payment, having poor credit and rising home prices than qualifying for a mortgage.”

The survey found that 72% of Gen Y saying they plan on buying a home won’t do so until at least the end of 2018.

Homeowners looking to lower their mortgage rate can shop for refinance lenders here.

NerdWallet daily mortgage rates are an average of the published APR with the lowest points for each loan term offered by a sampling of major national lenders. Annual percentage rate quotes reflect an interest rate plus points, fees and other expenses, providing the most accurate view of the costs a borrower might pay.

Hal Bundrick is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: hal@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @halmbundrick.

How to Tell a Holiday Credit Card Offer Is Legit

Holiday shopping is now in full swing. If you have yet to get started, well, then you better get moving. But before you do, make sure you are taking the best credit card with you to do all your shopping. It’s a safe bet that you have received at least a few credit card solicitations over the past few weeks. Some of them are probably offering you a high signup bonus or even bonus reward points for shopping at certain retailers. But how do you know what credit card is actually going to be the best for you long-term? Here are a few things to consider if you’re trying to determine if a holiday credit card offer is worthwhile.

1. How Do You Shop & What Are Your Goals?

The very first thing that you need to do is construct a plan for all your holiday shopping. Will you be visiting several different stores, or will you try and do all your shopping in one place? Every year Amazon.com tends to be one of the more popular places for holiday shopping. This is probably why there are a few cards that are offering a bonus for shopping on Amazon.com. The Discover It (see full review here) is offering 5% cash back on purchases (up to $1,500 per quarter) from Amazon.com through the end of the year. Meanwhile, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express (see full review here) is giving 10% cash back (up to $200) on purchases from Amazon.com to anyone that signs up for the card before January 11, 2017.

What if you are going to do a lot of your shopping at Target? Target doesn’t fall into a bonus category for many credit cards, so it might be best to look into its store card, the Target REDcard, which offers 5% off each time you shop in its stores or on its website (some restrictions apply.)

Bottomline: Before you jump on an attractive credit card offer, make sure it’s going to be a card that will offer value not only as you holiday shop, but in the future as well. There’s no point in adding hard inquiry to your credit report if you’re only going to use the card for a few purchases and then let it sit unused in your wallet. (You can see if your credit can handle an inquiry by viewing your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

2. How Good Is the Signup Bonus?

Credit card issuers promote signup bonuses for a reason: It’s the first thing that most people look at when considering a new card. The signup bonus that you receive could help offset a nice chunk of your holiday budget. For example, the Chase Freedom (see full review here) offers a $150 bonus if you spend $500 within the first three months. If you’re after travel rewards and not cash back, you could consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which will give you 100,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points ($1,500 value if you redeem through the bank’s travel portal) after you spend $4,000 in your first three months.

Speaking of that $4,000, it’s a good idea to make sure the initial spend requirements on the card you choose fit within your budget. The last thing you want to do is expand your budget, and possibly go into debt, just to get a signup bonus.

3. Is the Issuer Offering a Teaser Rate?

Are you planning to make a large purchase for someone special? Maybe you’re buying a gold watch for your husband or your wife. Using a card with an introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR) can help give you extra time to pay off that purchase interest-free. For instance, the Chase Freedom Unlimited gives new cardholders 15 months of 0% interest on purchases. (After that, your APR will be a variable 14.24% to 23.24%, depending on your creditworthiness.) Just make sure you have a plan in place so that your big holiday purchase is paid off by the time the introductory period is over. Adding interest will just increase the overall cost of the item and devalue any rewards that you might earn.

4. What’s the Go-To APR?

You’ll also want to check what a card’s go-to APR will be in general and/or after any introductory period expires, particularly if you’re known to carry a balance. Keep in mind, too, rewards credit cards work best when you pay your bills off in full every month. Again, otherwise, you’ll just lose your rewards to that interest.

5. Is There an Annual Fee & Can You Afford it?

One of the biggest considerations that you should have when picking a credit card for holiday shopping is the annual fee. Unless you find a card that can really offer a lot of future value, you should try and find a card that will give you everything you need without that charge. Alternately, many reward cards will at least waive the annual fee for the first year, which will give you 12 months to decide if a particular card is worth keeping in your wallet.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

 

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Discounted Hatchimals coming to 1,700 Walmart stores this week

Hatchimal hunters, rejoice: The popular toys will be hitting shelves at 1,700 Walmart stores this week – and they're on sale.

>> Hatchimal horror: Author's plan to buy, sell popular toys backfires

According to WKBW, the stores will offer Hatchimals at $48.88 each, down from the regular retail price of $59.99.

>> Hatchimals coming to Target this Sunday

Shoppers should call in advance to learn if and when local stores are stocking the interactive pets, a representative told WKBW.

>> Can't find a Hatchimal or other hot toy? Here's what you can do

Parents have been struggling to get their hands on the toys, which can be raised "from baby to toddler to full-grown Hatchimal," learning to "walk, talk, play games and more," maker Spin Master Corp. said in a news release.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Toys R Us to get new shipment of Hatchimals, NES Nintendo Classic

Other retailers, including Target and Toys R Us, have said they also plan to restock the toys.

>> Read more trending stories

Read more here.

6 Money Moves to Make Before 2017

Did 2016 not go as planned? Did you spend too much and save less than you wanted? Perhaps your bad habits left you in debt. Or maybe you just had too many big expenses this year.

No matter why your financial performance was less than stellar, there’s no reason to despair. A single year won’t make or break your future wealth. Over time, the little moves you make every year are the ones that really matter.

That’s right; one bad year could be nothing more than a blip on the radar in the long run. And let’s not forget, this year isn’t over. With several weeks left, you still have time to salvage the rest of the year, maximize its potential and leave your 2017 self better off.

To find out which money moves most people should make before this year is over, I reached out to several financial advisers who help clients recover from bad years all the time. Here’s what they said.

1. Look for Last-Minute Ways to Save on Your Tax Bill

Few things are certain in life outside of death and taxes. While you can’t do anything about the former, some last-minute moves can definitely shake up your tax bill.

Kansas City, Missouri-based financial planner Clint Haynes recommends meeting with your accountant prior to the end of the year. That way, you can figure out where you stand — and whether you will owe money or receive a tax refund.

Advice will vary depending on your financial situation, but a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) can guide you on what to do. If it looks like you’ll owe the tax man come April, for example, your CPA may suggest making tax-deductible contributions to an IRA or your favorite charity.

Your accountant may also suggest contributing to a donor-advised fund (DAF),” says San Diego financial planner Taylor Schulte.

DAF contributions provide a federal income tax deduction up to 50% of adjusted gross income for cash contributions and up to 30% of adjusted gross income for appreciated securities, making it possible to reduce your tax liability significantly.

2. Revise Your Spending Habits & Revisit Your Budget

If you earned plenty this year but have little to show for it, now is the perfect time to figure out why.

“Revisit your monthly budget,” says financial adviser David Niggel of Key Wealth Partners in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

When was the last time you looked at your budget? Do you even have a budget in place? Are you living paycheck to paycheck with very little left over for savings?

“This is a great time to create or rework your budget so you can get yourself ahead as the new year unfolds,” says Niggel. “There are plenty of tools that you can use to create a basic budget so that you can track income and expenses. These tools will show you places where you may be spending too much money, such as eating out and shopping.”

3. Take Advantage of Tax-Loss Harvesting

Before the year is over, take a look at all the positions in your taxable accounts, says Oregon financial adviser and president of Three Oaks Capital Management Grant Bledsoe.

“If any of [your investments] have fallen in value, you might consider liquidating some to harvest the tax loss,” he says.

The way this works is simple. Basically, any realized losses work to offset your realized capital gains. If you have realized gains that you took earlier in the year, you can harvest losses to reduce some of the tax consequences. Plus, you can even use up to $3,000 per year of short-term capital losses to offset your income.

“When doing so, make sure that you adhere to the 30-day wash sale rule,” says Bledsoe. “This means that you can’t buy a substantially identical security for up to 30 days without forfeiting the tax loss from a sale. You can, however, replace the security with something similar.”

While tax-loss harvesting may sound complex, it’s possible your financial adviser or online advisory firm offers this service for free. If you use online financial services, for example, your account may already offer tax-loss harvesting at no additional cost.

4. Rebalance Your Portfolio

Imagine your portfolio as a pie — a circular object or graphic where each section of your diversified portfolio represents a slice. Over the course of a year, those pieces of the pie perform differently, potentially causing one piece of the pie to become larger while others shrink.

“The end of the year marks a great time to rebalance your portfolio back to your desired allocation,” says Minnesota financial adviser Jamie Pomeroy. In other words, you would remake your pie so it’s back to your preferred level of risk.

“Consider rebalancing your investment portfolio before the end of the year, not only as a risk-management technique, but [also to] create opportunities for other important end of the year investment management strategies as well — like tax-loss harvesting, gifting and scheduled distributions,” says Pomeroy.

This is also a great time to reassess your appetite for risk, says Halifax wealth adviser Ariz David.

“Headlines throughout 2016 have overwhelmingly been dominated by global political and economic issues,” says David. “If you had a few sleepless nights in 2016 due to market volatility, then you may want to take some steps to reduce risk in your portfolio in 2017.”

5. Review Your Health Insurance Needs

While it’s easy to assume your health insurance plan won’t change from one year to the next, uncertainty in the healthcare exchanges and group plans could mean your plan will cease to exist — or change its details dramatically.

Since open enrollment for plans purchased on state and federal exchanges extends through January 31, 2017, you’ve got time to shop if you purchase insurance yourself. If you enjoy employer coverage, make sure to check with your Human Resources department to see what changes are being made to your plan, if any.

“It is also important to review your contributions to health savings accounts (HSA) in 2016 and make sure you are saving enough in 2017 to cover your anticipated health-related expenses,” says North Carolina wealth adviser Peter Huminski.

The 2016 HSA contribution limits are $3,350 for an individual and $6,750 for a family, and the limits will be higher for individuals next year.

6. Consider Refinancing (Everything) at Today’s Low Rates

With the elections over and a new crew heading into the White House, it’s hard to say how the economy or interest rates might change next year. Now may be your last chance to refinance your mortgage and other loans at today’s low rates.

“Mortgage rates have been at historical lows for several years now, and they aren’t going to stay here forever,” says financial adviser Andrew McFadden. “The good news, though, for anyone who hasn’t refinanced yet is that there is still time to take advantage of these super-cheap interest rates.”

If you’ve been putting it off and telling yourself that you’ll “get to it someday,” consider using the end of 2016 to make good on the smart financial decision to refinance your mortgage to a lower rate. (Just make sure you know where your credit stands, as this may affect whether you qualify. You can view two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

By filling out some paperwork and jumping through a few hoops, you could save thousands of dollars in interest and/or pay off your home and other large loans faster.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

The Cities Americans Are Leaving the Fastest

Americans love to move. In fact, about 1 in 9 of them (or 35.7 million folks, ages one and up) changed residences between 2013 and 2014, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau released in 2015.

But where are they moving to and from? And why? Moving isn’t cheap, after all, especially when it’s to a new city or state. And doing so usually involves renting a new apartment or buying a new home, both of which often require having good credit (you can see where your credit stands by getting two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com).

A recent analysis by Abodo, an apartment-locator website, found that the cities Americans are leaving in the highest numbers are also some of the largest. The size of these cities, however, insulates them somewhat from true net population loss because new residents are also moving in.

“The new residents’ numbers might not comprise as high a percentage of the population as other American cities, but that’s a reflection of just how populous some of these metropolitan areas are: It’s harder to make up 3% of the population in New York City than it is in, say, Cleveland,” according to the Adobo report.

Read on to see which cities saw the largest exit of residents in 2014 and 2015, according to Adobo’s report based on U.S. Census Bureau data on 50 of the biggest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015.

10. Cleveland – Elyria, Ohio

Population change: – 0.51%

9. Detroit – Warren – Dearborn, Michigan

Population change: -0.51%

8. San Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara, California

Population change: -0.52%

7. Virginia Beach – Norfolk – Newport News, Virginia

Population change: -0.52%

6. Los Angeles – Long Beach – Anaheim, California

Population change: -0.54%

5. Milwaukee – Waukesha – West Allis, Wisconsin

Population change: -0.54%

To see the full list of cities Americans are leaving the fastest, head over to Credit.com. 

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Gifting a 'Smart' Device? Here's How to Keep its Recipient From Getting Hacked

In October 2016, there was a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that caused serious traffic issues at major internet destinations like Amazon, PayPal and a host of other heavily trafficked sites. You may be giving a gift this holiday season that could make a similar attack possible.

Spot check: Does the gift you plan to give connect to the internet? If you answered “Yes,” keep reading.

A DDoS attack makes an online site or service unavailable by swamping it with enough fake requests to crash the targeted system. The DDoS attacks that happened in October were made possible by devices (largely webcams) that are equipped to connect to the internet — and the available fix is a lot simpler than the looming problem. If you read “webcams,” and decided to stop reading, I encourage you to read a bit further.

‘Tis the Season for the Internet of Things

Any device that connects to the internet poses certain risks to your household and potentially (via DDoS attacks) to the rest of the world, because there are vulnerabilities that allow hackers to use that connectivity to stage attacks such as the above DDoS events. While the October attacks were largely carried out by hijacking webcams, other devices, such as a Smart TV or appliance, could be targeted in the future, and what too many of these items have in common is default user names and passwords. Users don’t change them because they don’t see the threats. Meanwhile, they are easy to look up. More than 60 default user name and password combinations were identified (and published) following the October attacks.

Think of an IoT device as something like all those gifts that require batteries. But if you’re giving a smart device to a friend or family member this holiday season, you might want to consider providing the recipient with a prompt to change the user name and password to something unique as well as long and strong.

Unlike the batteries-not-included gift, an IoT device will still work with the default settings in place, but for the purposes of your security and that of the recipient of your gift, act like it won’t and advise them to always change their user name and password before use.

An Old Threat That Has Come of Age

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that identity thieves, fraudsters and scammers are on the prowl, going after any information they can use to make a buck. The other big lesson is that they think way outside the box. That’s their job: to case a target and figure out how to nail it. When an architect builds a bank, he or she thinks about structural integrity, function, aesthetic considerations, and security. It’s all tied together. When a thief looks at the same structure, he or she looks for vulnerabilities. The thief has the easier job. A wrecking ball doesn’t need good ideas.

When it comes to IoT, the bad guys are looking at a bank that is still under construction. The walls are incomplete; we may not even agree yet on where the walls are supposed to be. But the money’s already in there.

If you need more reason to change your default passwords — or to encourage your loved ones to do the same — over the holidays, consider that long before the most recent DDoS attack more than 73,000 unsecured webcams and surveillance cameras were made available on Russian websites to voyeurs from around the globe, effectively turning their owners into the unwitting stars of their own reality shows. The site listed the cameras by country. The spreadsheet was impressive. The United States was well represented. In every case, victims ignored safety protocols and installed the cameras with their default login and password — admin/admin or another easy-to-guess combination findable on any number of public-facing websites.

What to Do

In a perfect world, IoT would be … well, perfect. In the real world, IoT is still in the early years of its evolution, with all the lawlessness and chaos that implies. Indeed, smaller companies are rushing IoT products to market in a mad dash to beat bigger brands that have more at stake when it comes to security. As a result, you can’t always be so sure that your data is going to be safe.

Over the past few years, we’ve learned the hard way that there is no such thing as too safe or secure when it comes to cybercrime, and there is a whole host of organizations out there — both big and small — that are doing a miserable job of protecting you. And even if they do everything right, as things stand now in the world of information security, you may still be vulnerable.

Define Vulnerable

The added convenience provided by the IoT is obvious, but the security issues may not be. Are your fitness records hackable by a third party? Are they linked to social media? How much information is required to access them? A login? A password? And what’s to stop a hacker from locking or unlocking your front door, disabling your alarm system, or turning off your heat during a blizzard or your lights during a home invasion — all with an app? The answer is, not very much.

Other common devices that are password protected should immediately come to mind here. Whether it is your household printer, your wireless router or your DVR, there are folks out there who are very curious about you, not because they value you as a human being, but because they can create value from any plugged-in human — whether by fraud or extortion or (in a more old-fashioned mode) getting the information they need to rob you blind when you’re not home. And even if they don’t want to know about you, they may want to enlist your devices in a spam-distribution effort or a DDoS attack.

The number of people who don’t change default passwords is staggering, as evidenced by the 73,000 wide-open webcams on that Russian website. There’s a major disconnect here, and it’s specific to the IoT. On the internet proper, it seems the message has finally sunk in and people are beginning to make themselves harder targets — making sure their privacy settings are tight and their passwords are both strong and changed frequently. But when it comes to the IoT, there is still more learning to be done — hopefully not the hard way.

If you’re concerned you’ve become the victim of a hack, don’t shrug it off. You can check for signs of identity theft, including mysterious addresses and unexplained accounts, by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

Excerpted from Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves by Adam Levin. Copyright © 2016. Available from PublicAffairs, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. 

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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