First-Time Homebuyers Often Wait to Buy House After Marriage

Couple relaxing with coffee by boxes in new home smiling
The number of people purchasing their first home, especially millennials, could be impacted negatively by shifting demographics as the median age for marriage is rising.

A recent survey by NeighborWorks America, the Washington, D.C.-based affordable housing organization, found that 43 percent the respondents said they intended to buy a home when they “got married or moved in with a life partner.” The median age for a first marriage has risen to 29.3 years old for men and 27 years old for women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2000, men first got married at 26.8 years old while the median age for women was 25.1 years old.

Other respondents said they would wait to buy a home when other changes occurred, with 22 percent who will purchase one when they have children and 18 percent who are still seeking their first full-time job.

Many millennials are delaying the purchase of a home because not only are they waiting until they are older to get married, a large percentage are also saddled with a large amount of student loans. The survey also demonstrated that 57 percent respondents admitted that student loans were either “very much” or “somewhat” of an obstacle, a rising concern compared to 49 percent who expressed this sentiment in 2014.

“Homeownership rates are likely being impacted by declining marriage rates as life events that impact the composition of the household are drivers of housing demand,” said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist of Realtor.com, the San Jose, California-based real estate service company. “Student debt, limited savings and housing affordability are substantial obstacles facing millennials as they consider the path to homeownership, and those issues are all connected.”

Another compelling factor is that with two incomes, couples are more likely to qualify for a mortgage and have enough savings for a downpayment.

“Having more singles means fewer households are in a financial position to buy,” he said. “So with fewer young married households, there would be less demand for owning.”

Older Millennials Buying Homes

Some older millennials, or those who are 25 to 34 years old, are buying homes in “large numbers this year,” due to a stronger job market, Smoke said. The number of first-time buyers of current homes increased to 32 percent in August compared to 28 percent in July, according to the National Association of Realtors, the Chicago-based trade group. Half of all home sales for the first six months of the year can be attributed to people buying a home for the first time, he said. Millennials make up 68 percent of all first-time homebuyers, according to the trade group.

“They are the single biggest age group for homebuyers, so there are clearly substantial numbers of them who are able to overcome these obstacles,” Smoke said.

Rising Debt Delaying Home Purchases

Student debt is a large factor in whether millennials can qualify for a mortgage, depending on their income, said Smoke. The burden increases substantially for people who attended college and took out loans to fund their education, but never received a degree.

“For those who did get a degree, but have above average loan debts as well as other types of debts, there is no question that at a certain level, debt will exceed the upper limits of the debt to income qualification ratios,” he said.

Potential lenders want to know if you can afford to pay back the money you borrowed.

Millennials and Gen-Xers are relying more heavily on loans to fund their educations nowadays. The Federal Reserve estimates the average amount of undergraduate student loan debt for the class of 2014 at just over $33,000, a substantial increase from $18,600 in 2004.

A 2014 analysis conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that from 1992 to 2011, college students are borrowing more money in all income groups, ranging from low to high income brackets. The standard amount of cumulative student debt for their undergraduate degree increased from $12,434 for the class of 1992-93 to $26,885 for the class of 2011-12 (figures adjusted for inflation).

By 2012, “a record share of the nation’s new college graduates or 69 percent” had used student loans to finance their degrees and the “typical amount they had borrowed was more than twice that of college graduates 20 years ago,” the report said.

Categorizing student loans as good debt is a misnomer, because lenders are examining a consumer’s debt to income ratio and the odds that they can make monthly payments on time, said Jeff Golding, chief growth officer at IRH Capital, a Northbrook, Illinois-based financial company.

“Potential lenders want to know if you can afford to pay back the money you borrowed,” he said. “If you are maxed out on all your loans, you have already extended all the credit that’s been given to you.”

High Rent and Other Factors

Other issues hindering millennials from buying a home is the ability to save up enough money for a downpayment. Until the increase in monthly rent prices throughout the U.S. for apartments and other housing is abated, it poses a “substantial” barrier for Gen-Yers to save an adequate amount of money, Smoke said.

“Unfortunately, rents continue to rise as a result of record numbers of renters and low vacancies, so this situation will not get better until we see a substantial increase in the construction of affordable housing,” he said.

Several reports and studies have shown that millennials are returning home and living with their parents while they obtain full-time jobs or establish their careers.

“The state of the economy has interfered with their ability to maintain a steady income and this has likely delayed marriage,” said David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School. “As a result, they are less likely to become homeowners.”

What’s more, the lack of job security in the current economy has dampened many people’s enthusiasm to own a home.

“Buying a home is a big commitment to your future self and your family: ‘I will make that mortgage payment come hell or high water,’ ” he said. “Fewer people are going to want to make that commitment if the job market does not give them a reasonable basis to believe that they can live up to it.”

How to Save on Holiday Spending Without Being a Scrooge

Small present box
Bah humbug, the holidays are approaching but you are broke. What do you do?
Do you want to save on holiday spending this year? If you do, then don’t do it looking like a Scrooge!

There are so many ways to save money on your holiday shopping without looking cheap, so here are some of my top tips on how to get your most bang for your buck around the holiday season.

1. Shop at cashback sites to earn money back on your purchases. One company I really like is InboxDollars.com. I’ve been using the site for years; they actually were a big part of me being able to pay for Christmas one year just from surveys and cash back shopping. You simply take surveys to earn cold, hard cash! You can get a percentage of your purchase in cash back as well, so it really helps by stacking the savings. One of my favorite ways to save is the 5 percent cash back deal on Groupon.

2. Make sure every purchase you make has a triple dip savings. That means stacking savings. For example, buy your gift cards at a discount through your grocery store or places like cardpool.com and then shop through cash back sites like InboxDollars.com and then use a coupon code to shop online. If you are lucky, you can get a quadruple dip and get free shipping, too.

3. Make a list and stick to it. I have 14 nieces and nephews under the age of 10. Instead of buying junky gifts for everyone and going broke in the process, each kid picks the name of a cousin. Then they shop for that cousin with a $20 to $30 budget, so each kid gets one quality gift. Instead of spending over $200 on gifts for all the nieces and nephews, I now spend under $100, plus my kids get gifts that they are really interested in (instead of dollar store junk).

4. Instead of paying full price, price match everything. There are so many stores that will price match competitors prices. I use Retale, an app for the best savings at major retailers close to you, to check circulars for in-store deals and coupons. But a really cool added benefit is the ability to pull up store flyers in your area to compare prices. You can also use it to create and manage shopping lists. It’s the go-to digital hub for the on-the-go shopper.
Many stores are open about their price matching policies. All you have to do is ask. Target will price match many online stores; you can get all the details on the Target website. Just make sure you have a way to validate the prices, like the Retale app.

Walmart will also price match any store, as long as the lower price is for the exact same product. Just be sure you have clear proof of that lower price, and read about all the details of Walmart’s policy on its website.

Kohl’s will also price match competitor’s prices, but not online prices. You’ll need a flyer with you for proof of the lower prices. Best Buy’s policy is to price match all local retail competitors, including their online prices, as well as major online retailers, including Amazon, Dell and HP. As you can see, there are so many options for price matching that with just a few minutes of homework you will be able to save a lot of money. Don’t be afraid to do some research and ask questions if you aren’t sure how to proceed; the effort can really pay off.

5. Opt to skip giving gifts altogether. This strategy might sound like the most Scrooge-like of all, but it’s not, if you simply replace gifts with experiences. Movie tickets, ski tickets, a free night of babysitting — all are great gifts. One year I gave my nephew tickets to see Sesame Street Live, and we had so much fun.

Just because you opt out of giving gifts doesn’t mean you are a real Scrooge. It just means that you value time spent more than dollars paid.

If you follow these tips, you can enjoy this holiday season without being a broke Scrooge. Plan ahead, save money and enjoy this year!

Prioritize These 5 Bills When You’re Short on Cash

USA, Utah, Salt Lake City, Young woman sitting at table with laptop looking at paper bill
You know you should pay all of your bills on time. But what if you’re short on cash this month? Is it better to pay certain bills late?

Yes, actually. Some bills are not reported to the three national credit bureaus of TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Bills in this category include utility bills, cell phone payments, medical payments, and cable bills. This doesn’t mean that you should pay these bills late. But if you have to do some emergency financial juggling this month? Pay your cable late, not your mortgage or credit card payment.

Here are five bills you should always pay on time, each month. Not doing so could damage your credit, leave you with huge financial penalties, or even cause you to lose your home or car.

1. Your mortgage. Dave Hardin, president of Hardin Financial Group in Troy, Michigan, says that no late or missing check will hurt your credit score more than a missed mortgage. A single late mortgage payment can cause your credit score to fall by 100 points.

“If you pay that late, that will have the single greatest effect on your credit score,” Hardin said. “Your mortgage is the big one.”
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If you miss too many payments, your mortgage lender will foreclose on your home, evicting you and taking ownership of your property.

But don’t panic if you’re two days late on paying your mortgage. As Hardin says, your mortgage lender won’t report your payment as officially late until it is at least 30 days past the deadline. This gives you some leeway if you are struggling to scrape together enough cash to pay your mortgage this month.

“That doesn’t mean you should wait that long to pay your mortgage,” Hardin said. “But late officially means 30 days late, not two days.”

Paying your mortgage bill late can also set you up for future financial pain. Kyle Winkfield, managing partner of O’Dell, Winkfield, Roseman & Shipp in Rockville, Maryland, says it’s easy for your finances to spiral out of control when you miss a mortgage payment.

“Say you miss your $2,000 mortgage payment one month. Now you have to come up with $4,000 the next month to catch up,” Winkfield said. “That’s not easy.”

2. Student and auto loans. You should never miss your student or auto loan payments either, Hardin said. That’s because these are fixed payments that you know are coming up each month. Missing fixed payments is a big deal because lenders are more likely to believe that you didn’t send in your payment not because you forgot about it, but because you couldn’t pay it.

Your car payment is an especially important bill, because your loan is secured by your actual car. This means that lenders have something to go after should you stop making your payments.

“Be vigilant about making your car payments,” said Scott Sadar, executive vice president of Somerset Wealth Strategies in Portland, Oregon. “If you are not, your car could be repossessed.”

Again, these payments aren’t officially late until 30 days have passed.

3. Credit card payments. Missing your credit card payment could leave you with a double whammy of pain. First, credit card companies will report your missed payments to the credit bureaus if you are 30 days late or more, causing your credit score to fall.

Secondly, if you pay late by 60 days or more (in some cases less), your credit card company can assess a penalty interest rate on your card. This can be financially devastating if you carry a balance on your credit cards each month. Sadar says that these rates can hit 22 percent or higher, which can cause existing balances to grow quickly, even if you don’t make any new payments with your card.

4. Your rent. It wasn’t until last year that Experian and TransUnion began collecting data for on-time rent payments. The third major national credit bureau, Equifax, still doesn’t do this. But even if the credit bureaus weren’t tracking your rent payments, you’d still want to make this payment on time every month. Simply put, you don’t want to lose your home, and missing too many rent payments could lead to that.

It’s not easy for landlords to evict tenants, and it will take more than one or two late payments. But if you fall too far behind, your landlord will start the eviction process, possibly leaving you without a place to live.

You always want to protect the roof over your head. That holds true whether you own a home or you are renting.

“You always want to protect the roof over your head,” Winkfield said. “That holds true whether you own a home or you are renting. Always make the payments that keep that roof over your head.”

Of course, you don’t ever want to be in the position where you can’t pay all of your monthly bills. Yes, paying your cable bill late one month isn’t going to destroy your finances. But if you’re juggling payments every month, that’s a sign that there is a problem. It’s also a sign that you need to take a closer look at your budget to determine if you there are expenses you can eliminate.

“Sometimes we get too wrapped up in our wants instead of our needs,” Winkfield said. “If things are tight — and we’ve all been there — then you might need to eliminate some of the wants from your budget.”

And if you are struggling to pay certain bills? Don’t hide. Hardin says that the best move you can make is to call the creditors behind the bills and explain to them that you are struggling. Many will work with you to find at least a temporary solution. If you call, creditors are less likely to report you as late to the credit bureaus.

“If you don’t call, the lenders have no choice but to think that you aren’t paying just because you don’t want to pay,” Hardin said. “You should not be embarrassed to call your creditors. You’d be surprised at how easy creditors make these conversations. They don’t want to lose you as a customer, so they usually are willing to work with you.”

Wells Fargo to Pay $81.6 Million to Bankrupt Homeowners

JPMorgan Chase & Co. And Wells Fargo & Co. Bank Branches Ahead Of Earnings
NEW YORK — Wells Fargo (WFC) will pay $81.6 million to homeowners for denying them a chance to challenge mortgage payment increases imposed during their bankruptcy proceedings, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.

Wells violated a 2011 U.S. bankruptcy law by failing to send a type of legal notice about homeowners’ mortgage payment increases to bankruptcy courts. The law requires the notice to include disclosures to ensure that fees and charges by banks to homeowners in bankruptcy proceedings are accurate, the Justice Department said.

The settlement between Wells Fargo and the Justice Department’s U.S. Trustee Program, which oversees the U.S. bankruptcy system, also requires Wells to hire an independent compliance monitor and change its internal procedures to prevent a recurrence of the problem, the Justice Department said.

The settlement is subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland.

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If approved, the Justice Department said it will distribute the funds to groups of homeowners who were in bankruptcy proceedings from late 2011 through March, 2015.

“We believe we have made the necessary investments and improvements in our systems and processes to ensure that payment change notices for the bankruptcy court and escrow analyzes for customers in bankruptcy are properly prepared and delivered in a timely fashion,” Michael DeVito, executive vice president for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, said in a statement.

The bank will work with the U.S. Trustee’s office and independent compliance reviewer to demonstrate the effectiveness of its changes and make payments to customers, DeVito said.

Wells previously put aside reserves for the settlement, it said.

The bank was late in providing more than 100,000 notices to homeowners about mortgage payment changes and also did not timely perform more than 18,000 escrow analyzes in cases involving nearly 68,000 accounts of bankrupt homeowners during the period, the Justice Department said.

Millennials Not So Different After All, Survey Finds

Conventional wisdom holds that the millennial generation, influenced by the 9/11 attacks, burdened with student debt and reared in a world of high-speed mobile devices, is a unique group of young people.

But a special CNBC All-America Economic Survey focusing on millennials finds that while the generation has some unique characteristics, young people today in some critical areas are more similar to the rest of the population than they are different.

Looking at the importance of six traits in a potential employer — ethics, environmental practices, work-life balance, profitability, diversity and reputation for hiring the best and the brightest — millennial preferences are just about the same as the broader population on all six. For example, 18 percent of millennials say work-life balance is the most important trait in a company, compared with 19 percent of the population.

At 25 percent, millennials are somewhat less likely to say “ethical practices” is the most important trait, compared with 29 percent for all adults, but the 4-point difference is within the polls margin of error for employed adults. The poll surveyed 900 Americans nationwide from Oct. 1-4, including an over-sample of 100 additional millennials ages of 18-34. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points for all responses and 4.7 points for employed adults, which represents about half the sample.

It shows just slight preferences among millennials for companies with strong environmental sustainability practices and for reputations for “hiring the best and the brightest.”

Far from being a generation of disgruntled and whiny youth, millennials appear to be more satisfied with specific aspects of the workplace than the average worker. For example, 87 percent are satisfied with the training and skills development they receive at work, compared with 76 percent of the rest of the population; 76 percent say they are satisfied with their opportunities for promotion and advancement, 10 points higher than the rest of the population.

Millennials are different in some key areas: They are more likely to be concerned about opportunities to advance in their careers and about flexible work hours. They also care less about an employer’s retirement benefits. But it’s difficult to know if these are the differences of a unique generation, or if they are simply the expected results from a younger generation.

Millennials are more optimistic about the economy than other age groups, but not by very much. They don’t rate the current state of the economy any better than the overall population. But their expectations for the economy to improve is marginally brighter. Twenty-two percent of all adults say the economy will get better in the next year, compared with 26 percent of millennials. A third of the public sees the economy getting worse, a bit more downbeat than the 26 percent of millennials who see the economic landscape growing darker. So, net optimism among millennials is zero, compared with minus 10 percent for the public as a whole and minus 17 percent for seniors.

When it comes to investments, millennials also lack much youthful optimism. Just a third thinks this is a good time to invest in stocks, about the same as the overall population, with 46 percent of millennials and all adults saying it’s a bad time to invest. Fewer millennials, however, say it’s a “very bad time” to invest.

As a group, they are somewhat more risk-averse than the rest of the population. For example, 21 percent chose savings account and cash as their top investment choice, compared with 14 percent for all adults. But millennials chose real estate as their top pick, the same as all adults, which challenges some conventional wisdom that younger generations have less affinity for owning homes. Somewhat fewer millennials, however, chose real estate than all adults.

When asked what they are doing with extra money from lower gas prices, 27 percent of millennials say they are saving more, compared with 19 percent of all adults. Twenty percent say they drive more, compared with 14 percent of all adults.

Millennials are set apart in their belief about the viability of Social Security. Fifty-one percent say they are “not confident at all” in benefits from the government’s retirement program, compared with 43 percent of all adults. Thirty percent of millennials say they are just somewhat confident. But just 44 percent of millennials with those doubts say they are planning to save more; 42 percent say they “plan to save more.”

Have a New Job? What to Do With Your Old 401(k)

They’re called orphans. They’re the sad, lonely 401(k)s that workers leave behind when they change jobs.

What should you do if you have one? Well, you have four choices:

  • You could leave it with your old employer.
  • You could roll it into a 401(k) at your new employer.
  • You could roll it into an IRA of your choosing.
  • You could cash it out.

Now, forget we ever mentioned No. 4 because it isn’t just a bad idea, it’s a very, very bad idea. Cashing out your 401(k) has the potential to put you back at square one for retirement savings. What’s more, you’ll pay a 10 percent penalty on that money plus income taxes if you’re younger than 59½. Trust us, that’s not going to look pretty come April 15.

Instead, you should consider what type of retirement fund you want to hold your money. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your cash in a 401(k), but might we suggest an IRA could be a better choice?

Here are five reasons why you should consider rolling over your old 401(k) account into an IRA:

Reason No. 1: You could be paying outrageous fees. Maybe your old 401(k) plan is awesome, but it could also nickel-and-dime your nest egg with all sorts of fees. You can get up to speed on the subject with our primer on 401(k) fees.

Before leaving your retirement money with a former employer, take a close look at how much you’re paying for the plan. Then, compare that to what’s available through an IRA. If the IRA is cheaper, then your decision to roll over should be easy.

Reason No. 2: An IRA may give you more options and control. Even if the fees are reasonable, your orphaned 401(k) may come with limited plan options. By rolling the balance into an IRA, you get the luxury of shopping around for the funds that will best meet your savings needs.

What’s more, in the event your 401(k)’s current investment option is discontinued, a former employer may take it upon themselves to choose where your money will be reinvested. You will be notified of the change, but if you move and forget to update your account information, you may never know.

Reason No. 3: Our memories are not always reliable. Speaking of forgetting, orphaned 401(k)s lend themselves well to being out of sight and out of mind. ING Direct found 11 percent of those with orphaned 401(k)s had no idea how much money was in the account. Can you imagine?

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But let’s take that idea a little further and consider what happens after you’ve gone through four or five jobs. It’s not inconceivable that 20 years down the line, you could completely forget you even had a 401(k) at one of those jobs.

Finally, you want to make sure your investment is actively managed and periodically rebalanced. A 20-year-old orphaned 401(k) might still be invested in funds that are more appropriate for a 30-year-old than a 50-year-old. Moving money to an IRA may help you remember to re-evaluate risk and reallocate balances as you age.

Reason No. 4: Your old employer is unstable. Fortunately, federal law prevents a company from dissolving and taking your 401(k) money with it. However, if your former employer does go belly up, it could end up being a pain to access your retirement funds.

A bigger concern would be if your retirement money was heavily invested in the company’s stock. In that case, your 401(k) balance could drop through the floor should the business head to bankruptcy court.

Reason No. 5: It will make your life easier. Perhaps the most important reason to find a new home for your old 401(k) is that it will simplify your life. You won’t have to review plan options for a handful of accounts. You won’t have to update your beneficiary and account information with multiple companies. You won’t need to remember where the money is and how to access it.

Having a single IRA for all your money can give you a more complete picture of how close you are to your retirement goal. It can also free up head space and reduce the paper clutter that comes from trying to manage multiple accounts.

There may be good reasons to consider keeping your money at an old employer, but that decision shouldn’t be made blindly. Decide whether these reasons apply to your situation and if so, talk to a trusted financial professional about the rollover process.

Have you left 401(k) plans behind, or rolled them over into new investments? Share your experiences and advice with us in the comments section below or on our Facebook page. And feel free to share this article with a friend who may need a friendly reminder to pull her investments together.

5 Surprising Sources of Debt

Caucasian car driver woman smiling

Unemployment, medical bills, a shopping addiction — these all may be obvious causes of debt, but they certainly aren’t the only ways people end up in the red.

Other forms of debt are more insidious. They arrive looking like a big break or a money-saving option. But instead of getting you out of your financial hole, they actually dig you in deeper.

Don’t let these five hidden sources of debt say “Gotcha!”

Your New Job

The problem: Your new job is supposed to be your ticket out of paycheck-to-paycheck living, but a big boost in income is often accompanied by a big boost in spending.

“When people get a new job, it looks like a limitless amount of money so they splurge on a new car or a buy a lot of clothes,” says Joe Heider, founder of Cirrus Wealth Management in Cleveland.

Cecilia Beach Brown, a certified financial planner at Lincoln Financial Securities in Annapolis, Maryland, says it’s a common trap. “When the money’s there, it’s hard to say ‘no.'” Then people lose their job or are otherwise unable to maintain their new lifestyle.

The solution: Rather than increase your spending, continue to budget based on the amount you previously earned. Then, bank the extra for retirement, travel or a big spending goal, whether that be paying cash for a car or a 20 percent down payment on a house.

A Financial Windfall

The problem: Like a new job, a windfall can be your financial undoing. Whether it’s an inheritance, divorce settlement or lottery winnings, Brown says people notoriously mishandle large sums of money that fall into their laps.

“People tend to spend money more than once in their head,” Brown says. “It’s the mental accounting that gets them in trouble.”

By spending without a plan, people blow through their money and end up financing big purchases they can’t afford that push them into debt.

The solution: Brown advocates that everyone use the one-third rule when dealing with an inflow of cash of any kind. One-third of the money should be set aside for taxes, the second third should be put in savings for the future and the final third can be used for fun.

Leasing a Car

The problem: Leasing seems like a good way to get more car for your money, but contracts can include expensive provisions that make it difficult to simply turn in a vehicle without owing cash.

When people lease a car, they’re excited and don’t pay attention to what happens when they turn it in.

“When people lease a car, they’re excited and don’t pay attention to what happens when they turn it in,” Heider says.

Leased cars have strict mileage limits, and people who go over could get hit with fees that run from 10 to 20 cents a mile driven over the limit. In addition, there may be acquisition fees, disposition fees and early termination fees. In many cases, Heider says drivers roll one lease into another to avoid paying fees out of pocket. Then, they never get out from under their monthly vehicle payment. The solution: Think twice before leasing a vehicle, or at least read the fine print more carefully. Be realistic about how many miles you drive, and add up the total cost, including taxes and fees, to determine whether buying a reliable used car is a better deal.

A New Cellphone

The problem: You want that shiny new smartphone, and the cellphone company is happy to give it to you — provided you sign up for a two-year contract. The phone seems like a freebie, but you have, in fact, just signed up for more debt.

“Really what you’re doing is taking a loan out to pay for the phone,” says Phil Jacobson, managing director at United Capital in Rockford, Illinois. You’re not getting the phone for free; you’re financing it with your cellphone contract.

Your new phone could also cause further problems if you have an expensive data plan you can’t afford. There’s no way to cancel most cellphone contracts without paying a sizable fee.

The solution: Reconsider contracts. Many wireless providers now offer non-contract service options, and those may be a better choice. While it costs more to buy a new phone out of pocket, you might save money on a monthly plan. If you still want a new phone, look for a cheaper, refurbished one or get a used one from a trusted source.

Buying a House

The problem: Obviously, buying or building a house typically comes with the debt of a mortgage. However, some people compound that debt by insisting on new furnishings or expensive renovations before moving in.

“What’s a couple hundred here? What’s $500 there?” Heider says of many people’s mindset when constructing a new home. “Then they realize they’re $20,000 to $30,000 over budget.”

Buying or building a house can feel like permission to replace appliances, furniture and electronics. However, it’s a trap that can create a vacuum of debt and turn a dream home into a nightmare.

The solution: Having a written budget for building or renovating a house is the first step to avoiding this debt trap. The second step is to stick to the budget. Also, consider whether an existing home will have expensive maintenance issues in the near future and look for a house that is move-in ready. If you don’t start a renovation project, you can’t overspend on it.

To Wait – or Not to Wait – for Black Friday Deals?

Holiday Shopping
Christmas is still about eight weeks away, but retailers and many shoppers don’t seem to care. Holiday shopping is in full swing.

Gone are the days when shoppers waited until Black Friday, once revered as the biggest shopping day of the year, to hit the stores and snatch up great deals on everything from clothing to electronics. Instead, early-bird shoppers are purchasing items off their holiday lists earlier than ever.According to a new survey from coupon destination site RetailMeNot, just 10 percent of consumers today believe that Black Friday savings are really worth the wait and 85 percent of shoppers expect retailers to start their holiday promotions before Black Friday. “Consumers in record numbers are questioning the value of offers on Black Friday,” said Trae Bodge, senior lifestyle editor at RetailMeNot. “While early bird behavior is beneficial for the strategic buyer, RetailMeNot’s offer data still suggests that deals during the five days of savings from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday are stronger on a percent-off basis than in prior weeks.”

For example, RetailMeNot said the deepest discounts on electronics and computers — ranging from 38 to 40 percent off — can be found between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, and oftentimes into the first week of December.

But if you’re shopping for little ones this holiday season, RetailMeNot suggests that you “act fast and purchase toys early.” Because toy prices remain relatively stable throughout the holiday season, if you wait too long you might not have much to choose from if inventory runs low.

RetailMeNot said it’s easy to score Black Friday-worthy discounts whenever you want if you follow this simple approach:

  • Purchase a discounted gift card, which are typically sold post-Cyber Monday, at your favorite retailer and get an instant savings of 2 to 20 percent.
  • Use the discounted gift card in conjunction with a coupon code or digital rebate. “RetailMeNot users report an average savings of $20 per transaction,” said Kristen Larrea, RetailMeNot shopping expert. If you want to score even bigger savings, pay for your purchase with a cash-back credit card.

The survey also found that the most attractive promotions to shoppers are: money-back purchase options (44 percent), holiday sales (37 percent), flash-sale deals (31 percent) and door-buster offers (27 percent). Consumers said they can also be lured into stores by gift-wrapping services (24 percent) and good holiday music (16 percent).

Former Taco Bell exec faces new charges in Uber fracas

A Taco Bell executive who lost this job after allegedly beating an Uber driver — an incident caught on video — was slapped Tuesday with further criminal charges that put him at risk of spending up to a year behind bars and paying a $10,000 fine.

Benjamin Golden, 32, who lives in Newport Beach, California, was charged with four misdemeanor counts by the Orange County District Attorney’s office on Tuesday, a day after a YouTube video of the Uber car incident went viral.

The DA accused Golden of assault on public transportation property, battery on a public transit employee with injury, assault and battery. Golden originally was charged with misdemeanor assault and public intoxication by Costa Mesa police.

Above: Details of new charges lodged Tuesday by prosecutors against ousted Taco Bell executive Ben Golden

“Based on the evidence, we filed the charges we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” Roxi Fyad, spokeswoman for the Orange County DA’s office, told CNBC. Fyad said the video of the attack factored into the decision to charge Golden with the additional criminal counts.

The DA’s office said in a statement that it would seek a $20,000 bail for Golden, who currently is out on $500 bail following his arrest on Friday for allegedly attacking Uber driver Edward Caban. Golden is scheduled to be arraigned in court on Nov. 17.

Golden did not respond to messages requesting comment left by CNBC at multiple phone numbers and email addresses.

CNBC broke the news Monday that Golden, who had been leading Taco Bell’s mobile commerce and innovation initiatives, lost his job after his arrest on Friday. Golden spent more than seven years working for Taco Bell’s parent, Yum Brands.

“Given the behavior of the individual, it is clear he can no longer work for us,” Taco Bell said in a statement emailed to CNBC on Monday. “We have also offered and encouraged him to seek professional help.”

The YouTube video posted by Caban, which was taken from a camera mounted on his Uber car’s dashboard, shows Golden in the back seat Friday night at around 8 p.m.

The video reveals Caban repeatedly and unsuccessfully asking Golden for driving directions. Caban flips his camera around to show the inside of the car, and Golden topples over in the back seat with an audible thud as the driver makes a left turn.

Benjamin Golden

Source: Louisville Metro Corrections Dept.
Benjamin Golden

In the video, Caban eventually pulls over and orders Golden out the car, saying he is “too drunk” to give Caban directions. The driver warns that he will call police if Golden doesn’t get out. It’s at that point that the confrontation becomes violent.

The video of the incident has been viewed more than 1.3 million times on YouTube.

Police records show that Golden was arrested on July 8, 2012, in Louisville, Kentucky, on charges of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

According to a police report obtained by CNBC, Golden had bloodshot eyes and “fumbled through paperwork looking for registration.”

“When asked, subject stated that he had come from the Big Bar and had a couple of drinks, stating two,” the report said. “When pulled out of car, subject changed story to ‘three beers.’ ”

Golden then failed a field sobriety test, according to the report. He pleaded guilty to the charge a month later and received a sentence of 30 days in jail, 26 days of which were conditionally discharged, according to the Jefferson County Attorney’s office, which prosecuted the case.

Golden’s license was also suspended for one month, the prosecutor’s office said.

Golden’s LinkedIn account is no longer available, and his Twitter link was blocked from public sight, but on a cached version of his Twitter page, he describes himself with a simple statement: “Sushi lover. Bourbon drinker. The end.”

Oil price rebound in focus but gloom gathering

Oil prices were being closely watched Wednesday after a rally in the previous session, ahead of crucial U.S. crude stockpile data due out later in the day. But seasoned market watchers say investor optimism of a rally is unfounded – for now.

On Tuesday, the price of benchmark Brent crude and U.S. sweet crude for December delivery closed more than 3 percent higher, at $50.54 and $47.90 respectively, after having surged more than 4 percent at one point in the trading session.

Prices were supported by fears of supply disruptions in Brazil and Libya, following a strike at state-run oil producer Petroleo Brasileiro and the closure of a Libyan oil export terminal.

On Wednesday, prices had slipped slightly on profit-taking, with Brent trading at $50.33 and U.S. crude at $47.76 and investors were looking ahead to U.S. government inventory data.

Oil refinery

James Steidl | iStock | Getty Images Plus

The latest information on U.S. crude oil stockpiles is due to be released by the Department of Energy (at 10:30 a.m.ET) and could put a further dampener on sentiment.

U.S. commercial crude oil stocks are expected to have increased 2.45 million barrels in the week ended October 30, a Platts survey of analysts showed Monday. On Tuesday, industry group American Petroleum Institute suggested a build in stockpiles of 2.8 million barrels last week.

Don’t look to OPEC

Aside from the suspected build in U.S. stockpiles, there is still no sign that production is slowing from major oil producers such as OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Despite a sharp decline in oil prices from a high of $114 a barrel in June 2014 to their current level, OPEC, which is led by Saudi Arabia, has refused to cut production levels (which would support prices) and has regularly exceeded its 30 million barrels a day ceiling.

Read MoreOil slump sends Saudi Arabia’s PMI to all-time low

The strategy has been seen as a way to defend its market share against competition from U.S. shale oil producers, who have higher production costs. The move appears to have worked with many producers stateside halting production, investment and cancelling drilling projects.

Tim Evans of Citi Futures said Tuesday that the rally in prices was another example of the triumph of hope over experience, and OPEC would not be acting to support prices any time soon.

“The oil market continues to reflect an enduring optimism that the reduction in non-OPEC investment of the past year will be sufficient to rebalance the market and support at least some degree of upward correction in prices,” said Tim Evans of Citi Futures in a note Tuesday.

Read MoreOil demand growth to slow, IEA says, but is OPEC listening?

“What’s missing from this analysis, in our view, is recognition that OPEC production continues to exceed the call on OPEC crude and that added production from Iran would sustain and extend this supply/demand surplus through 2016,” he said.

Evans expressed surprise that “the market also seems to view the prospect of a build in U.S. crude stocks for last week as no particular obstacle to a move higher.”

Oil market analysts elsewhere are also optimistic that prices can recover. On Monday, UBS’ 2016-2017 global outlook report assumed an average Brent crude oil price of $57.50 a barrel (with WTI at $52.50) and there is optimism within the energy industry too.

Alex Schneiter, chief executive of Lundin Petroleum, told CNBC Wednesday that the Swedish oil and gas company didn’t expect prices to fall again in 2016.

“Ninety percent of our business is oil, as a starting point, and personally we see now a lot of under-investment…but I think it’s not going to be very different from any other cycles, you’ll see that the supply side will reduce and the demand side has so far been strong.”

“So I foresee that in time there will be a recovery, the timing exactly is maybe more difficult to call but I think it’ll be sometime towards the second half of 2016.”