Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mortgage woes lose stranglehold

STOCKTON - There were stories of families struggling with debt, people facing financial woes on top of illness or other personal misfortune and, as have been heard for years, of homeowners being dragged down by mortgages much larger than their houses' worth.

But there was also a notable shift in the general tenor of calls received by financial advisers at The Record's free call-in Thursday night.

Stockton accountant Christopher Weed said he'd spent most of the event fielding tax questions.

"Which I think is a good story, because we're not getting all the questions about mortgages and short sales," he said. Then added, "We're still getting some, but it's gone way down.
"It's been a long time since we've gotten that many tax questions."

Worrying about taxes, of course, means the callers have income they want to protect.
The other tax expert at the call-in, Stockton enrolled agent Hank Klor, said he fielded questions from two callers underwater on their mortgages, but most of the rest of his calls concerned taxes and one from a couple seeking a new direction in their lives.

In their early 50s, they find themselves empty nesters and debt-free but with no cash savings.
Klor said the couple should begin building up their long-term savings.

"The time is now: You're on the end run towards retirement," he said he told them.
Certainly, there was strong interest in the free financial advice event, offered twice a year by The Record and the Financial Planning Association of San Joaquin Valley. All nine advisers were on the phones at the 6 p.m. start and stayed busy for the first half-hour.

The pace of calls slowed a bit after that but remained fairly steady through most of the two-hour event.

Jeremy Silcox, a financial adviser with Waddel & Reed in Stockton, said he spoke to several callers in real financial binds whose bills and interest payments exceeded their incomes.
"There's really no magic bullet for that kind of thing," he said. "Just go back to your lenders to see if they'll work with you on all your loans.

"It's just an indication of the financial temperature of the Valley," Silcox noted. "There's a certain segment of the population that is struggling, ... and it's kind of sad."
Robert Nicholson, an adviser with Ameriprise Financial in Stockton, told about a 55-year-old retiree looking to get back into real estate.

The caller had sold a couple of rental properties in 2006, just as the housing bubble peaked and now has about $300,000 in cash he'd like to invest. Would it make sense to get back into rentals and leverage his purchases with a mortgage?
"I think he ought to do both," Nicholson said. "I think it is a good time to get back into real estate."

Housing values are down and rental rates are up, he noted. "That's a pretty good formula."
"He's certainly going to gather a better return in a rental than in a CD."
Reporter Reed Fujii at

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