A Sign of Strength

by Marc Austin Highfill 4. December 2009 15:43

The news came Tuesday afternoon that Bank of America will repay the $45 billion it received as part of the U.S. government's Troubled Asset Relief Program. BOA's move might be a good sign for the recovering housing market and the overall economy.

First, it signals that the nation's largest mortgage lender has gotten itself back into decent shape. Whether that means more lending to home buyers remains to be seen, but it stands to reason that a healthier bank is in a better position to lend money.

Think of it this way: Would you rather have the nation's largest mortgage lender able to repay $45 billion or have it buckling under the weight of its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, which was in such bad shape that BOA hinted at backing out of the merger.

Although it's true that the move HAS to have something to do with its search for a CEO to replace out-going chief Ken Lewis -- the repayment will get BOA out from under the government's restrictions on CEO compensation -- the move is also good news for a couple of other obvious reasons.

First, the bank plans to raise capital to help pay for the repayment. This means selling stocks, which means it's counting on investors to be confident enough to pony up. And investors, as the bank probably hoped, are showing confidence already. Shares of BOA stock went up 2.2 percent after the announcement. Shares are around $16 after having hit a low of little more than $3 in March.

The second part of good news is that it would appear the government's moves to shore up the financial industry last year were the right ones. By helping to prop up BOA, which acquired Merrill and Countrywide Financial, the government helped the financial sector avert further meltdown. Yes, the $700 billion TARP was painful spending of taxpayers' dollars, but in hindsight, it appears to have been vital to the economy's overall health.

"We appreciate the critical role that the U.S. government played last fall in helping to stabilize financial markets," Lewis remarked in a BOA news release.

Now, some critics will argue that this repayment will be bad for consumers -- that the repayment will lift some restrictions on the company imposed by the government on banks that received TARP money. True, it will again let BOA decide on its own executive pay and bonuses -- topics that got big banks in hot water -- but the repayment will leave in place an element that is probably more important.

BOA, even in repayment, will have to maintain higher capital levels required by the government of all institutions receiving TARP money. Not having enough capital on hand -- banks were much less restricted earlier this decade -- is what got financial institutions in trouble when the credit crunch hit. And not-good-enough capital levels are blows to a bank's ability to lend money.

That the country's biggest mortgage bank is strong enough to repay its TARP money, is able to raise the money to do it and that it will be able to maintain healthy capital levels are good signs for the tight credit market.

Billions and Billions…

by Moe Mathews 30. November 2009 16:14

The next time you hear a politician use the word “billion” in a casual manner, think about whether you want the “politicians” spending your tax money. A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of its releases.

 

  • A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
  • A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
  • A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
  • A billion days ago no one walked on the earth on two feet.
  • A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government is spending it.

 

Yikes! Certainly makes you think!

5 Easy Steps to Building Wealth

by Marc Austin Highfill 19. November 2009 07:44

Would you like the keys to financial freedom? Mary Farrell’s Beyond the Basics, outlines the characteristics of people who have achieved their financial goals. It’s no secret that people who achieve their goals have a plan – they set financial goals, save and invest their money, and they keep an eye on their investments. Here are five strategies from Fortune magazine for building wealth:

 

  • Start early and save. If you save $1K a year at 25, you’ll have about five times what you would have than starting at age 45.
  • Invest in index funds rather than individual stocks. They’re easier and safer for the average investor with little time for research.
  • If your employer has a 401(k) plan, use it. Your employer’s contribution is like free money.
  • Avoid mutual funds with a management fee higher than 1 percent.
  • Get rid of your credit card and consumer debt. Pay off the highest rate card first, then work through your lower rate cards.

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Did you know there’s a free consumer report showing which repairs and fix-ups will net you the most value for your home?  It’s call the “Homeseller’s Guide To Money-Making Fix-Ups,” and it’s great even if you’re not planning on selling soon.  You can get a free copy by visiting our website at…

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