Wednesday, October 21, 2015

When Should Renters Become Buyers

Renters today face the highest monthly charges in history and costs just keep rising month after month. In fact, U.S. renters pay 30 percent of their monthly income on rents while homeowners pay just 15 percent on mortgages. The steep cost of rent makes buying appealing, but many renters don’t have enough disposable income after their rent charges to save for a down payment. So what are renters to do when faced with the choice to keep paying astronomical rents or stretch finances to buy?Full Article

How did you know you were ready to buy your first home?

We were ready to buy as we had been house viewing for some months and then came upon the perfect house for our family. Because we found “the one,” we had the drive to figure out the funds for a down payment. — Ken Walker of Sun Pacific Mortgage & Real Estate

I knew I was ready to buy a home because emotionally it was all I could think about. I was nesting and wanted a nest of my own. My husband had a steady job and was into his career a few years with a growing income year over year. We had little debt and had saved a small down payment. I felt like we were ready for the financial responsibility and we were not going to be in over our heads. — Michelle Mollura of RPM Mortgage

In hindsight, were you truly ready to buy when you did?

 When we bought our house, we only thought we were ready. We were so very unprepared for what homeownership really meant, what it involved by way of finances, and how it would affect us. We would have done so much different if we had it to do over again. We’d make sure we got a home inspection, make sure we held out for a house that was more of a fit for us, and we certainly would have made sure that we knew all the costs that were going into the house and whether we could afford them or not. — Shane of Beating Broke

 I definitely wasn’t ready to buy when I bought. I bought a home before I became a student of finance, and I have now turned that property into a rental. I think being ready to buy has just as much to do with being ready to make the commitment, as it does with finances. If you’re sure you want to stay where you’re at, and you’re ready to start caring for/working on your own home, then you’re ready to look at your finances and make the decision. Buying is just as much about emotions as it is finances. There are a thousand reasons to buy and another thousand reasons to rent. There is no right or wrong, but if you’re not emotionally ready, it’s the wrong time to buy. — Kalen Bruce of Money Mini Blog

Which financial factors are preventing you from buying?

I live in New York City where home prices are far higher than anything I can afford to purchase. I also lead a very nomadic lifestyle. I can barely commit to living in the same place for more than a year. The time and monetary investment of homeownership doesn’t really lend itself to my life choices and I’m perfectly okay with that. Homeownership isn’t what my “American Dream” looks like. — Stefanie O’Connell of The Broke and Beautiful Life

When is it financially beneficial to rent instead of buy? 

 Judging by the average amount in savings accounts and investments, I would say it’s financially beneficial to rent most of the time. There is nothing wrong with renting. Only once you’re planning to settle down, you should look at buying. And then you must make sure you can actually afford a house that fits your desires. — Kalen Bruce of Money Mini Blog

I think, if you’re looking at just the financials, there are only a couple of situations where it’s better to rent instead of buy. The first situation is when you only plan on living in one location for a couple of years. Due to closing costs and other costs associated in buying a house, it can take a few years for buying to get ahead of the rent. The other situation would be in a location where the housing market is really overpriced. Yes, rent rates will be high too, but you might be better off in the long term waiting for the market to correct and purchasing a house for a lower price. — Shane of Beating Broke

When rent is just as much as buying, you need to take a look at the options, assuming you feel you have job stability to keep you in one place for at least 5 to 7 years, as that is the national average time a first-time buyer owns their first home. — Julia Hansen of Guild Mortgage

What savings advice would you give to renters hoping to buy in the next year?

 The more you save the more house you can buy; or the larger the down payment and consequently the smaller the monthly mortgage would be. I recommend working out a financial plan that cuts back on things other than your “basics.” It’s amazing what $10 to $50 here and there can add up to toward a down payment. I did it with my wife, for almost one year, and it was perfect timing as we worked out our down payment and got our perfect home. — Ken Walker of Sun Pacific Mortgage & Real Estate

Get yourself on a budget so you know where your money is going each month and you can identify areas where you can cut back. Then, take a look at all fixed monthly bills and look for ways to cut back. You might consider eliminating cable TV temporarily to get rid of that expense or take a look at your smartphone data plan to see if you can save. Then, look at your subjective spending categories. Start using coupons to save on groceries, and use a Deal of the Day website to reduce restaurant tabs. Hold off on clothing and electronic upgrades to free up more money for your down payment, and start selling your unneeded stuff on Amazon, eBay and Craigslist to generate extra cash. That strategy has a dual benefit to it — you earn extra money and when you sign on the dotted line, you’ll have less stuff to move. — Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers

  I would recommend contacting a mortgage professional to create a plan for achieving homeownership. Check your credit and ensure that you are doing everything possible to maintain the best score. Paying down debt would be my next recommendation. Often times, debt has a larger impact on the debt-to-income ratio due to the shorter term and higher interest rates on revolving debt or installment debts when compared to a higher mortgage loan. It’s important to understand how large of a loan you will qualify for and feel comfortable paying each month. Once you determine this threshold, the mortgage professional can target the right purchase price and the required down payment, which will provide a savings goal. The mortgage professional can also provide an explanation of loan programs that exist for today’s buyers to find the best fit. — Michelle Mollura of RPM Mortgage

Timeline for moving

Moving takes months of planning and then weeks of fixing what you forgot to plan. To help ease some of the stress that comes with relocating your family, we’ve created a timeline for moving to get you started. Let it serve as a checklist in the weeks building up to the big day! 


Monday, October 19, 2015

The Best Cities For Trick-Or-Treating

Every year at this time, Zillow highlights the best U.S. cities for kids to go trick-or-treating. Among the top 10 cities on this year’s list:

  • San Francisco 
  • San Jose 
  • Los Angeles 
  • Phoenix 
  • Chicago 
  • San Diego 
  • Sacramento
Other top cities include Charlotte, Las Vegas, Portland, Dallas, Seattle, Nashville and Jacksonville. Details behind the results are outlined in this article from Zillow’s Alexa Fiander.  

It’s our favorite time of year again – Halloween! Bring on the haunted houses, creepy costumes and goodies galore. 

Halloween also means it’s time for Zillow’s annual roundup of the best cities in the U.S. to take your little creatures trick or treating.  

Zillow’s research team has been data crunching around the clock to nail down the winners, introducing a new and improved methodology that allowed us to identify areas with the greatest share of population under the age of 15, and where homes are closest together. After all, trick or treating is way more fun with other kids and when you can get the most candy in the shortest amount of time. Full Article 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Common Myths About Buying A Home

When it comes to buying a home, there are several myths that could be keeping potential new homeowners from moving forward in the process of purchasing and owning their dream home. This article from GOBankingRates aims to clear up some of the most common “mythunderstandings” about home buying. Full Article

First-time buyers tend to make assumptions about down payments and other facts about the home buying process. The truth is that regulations on mortgage financing have changed since the subprime mortgage crisis upended the industry and kicked off a global recession in 2008.

Federal regulations initially tightened lending standards to prevent defaults and foreclosures. The new standards used stricter assessments to determine whether prospective buyers had the ability to repay their mortgages. In January 2014, however, regulators changed those rules after real estate groups and consumer advocates claimed that millions of Americans would not be able to qualify for housing loans. As a result, the proposed 20 percent down payment rule was dropped. Banks now are only required to document that a borrower has the means necessary to afford a mortgage as long as it does not exceed a certain threshold of debt.

MYTH: A big down payment is required. According to Bank of America, between 5 percent and 20 percent of a home’s purchase price is required for a down payment. Lenders typically require private mortgage insurance for down payments under 20 percent. The purpose of PMI is to protect the lender if you default on the mortgage. PMI typically costs between .05 percent and 1 percent of the loan amount annually. So PMI of 1 percent on a $100,000 mortgage, for example, would cost $1,000 a year or about $83 a month.

Richard Airey, senior mortgage originator with Finance of America Mortgage, said that the 20 percent down payment requirement “is probably the most common misconception I encounter.” He said loans from the Federal Housing Administration require a down payment of 3.5 percent of the home’s purchase price. Loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture require no down payment for eligible buyers.

For buyers who only have a small down payment, there could be a way around paying for PMI, said David Hosterman, a branch manager with Castle & Cooke Mortgage. “Consumers can choose to do what is called borrower-paid single premium mortgage insurance to avoid having monthly mortgage insurance,” he said. “This is typically an up-front charge the borrower has, which allows them to buy out of the mortgage insurance for the life of the loan. This is typically only allowed on conventional loans.”

MYTH: I need perfect credit. Your credit report is separate from your credit score. Your FICO credit score, which is a measure of your credit worthiness, is based on your credit report from the three credit reporting bureaus. Scores range from 350 to 850. You can qualify for a conventional mortgage with favorable terms at the 720 level and up. First-time home buyers can secure an FHA loan with a credit score of 620 or above.

Buying a home with bad credit is not impossible. “Borrowers can qualify for government loan programs with a FICO score as low as 580,” Airey said. “These loan programs include VA and FHA loans. The USDA requires a 620 FICO score. Conventional financing requires a 640 score or above.”

Generally, better financing terms are available for those with higher credit scores. Buyers with lower credit scores will pay higher interest rates for mortgages.

MYTH: Fixed-rate loans are best. This myth is based on the belief that mortgage payments on an adjustable rate mortgage can skyrocket along with interest rates. But what’s more important to consider is the length of time you intend to stay in the house.

“If you are planning on staying in the home for anywhere from four to seven years, consider a shorter-term fixed rate or even an adjustable rate mortgage,” she said. “For example, Navy Federal offers a 5/5 adjustable rate mortgage that only adjusts once in 10 years and has a lower rate than the 30-year fixed-rate loan. Remember, the longer the fixed rate, the higher the interest rate.”

MYTH: Location is most important. A quiet neighborhood of homes with white picket fences might be one vision of the American Dream, but Miller suggested that savvy buyers instead seek “hidden gems.”

“Some of the best deals are found in areas that haven’t reached their full potential,” she said. “Look at the community you are buying in. Is construction planned? Are there new housing units being built? Try to glimpse into the future and what the area will look like in five to 10 years.”

Thursday, October 15, 2015

6 Costs That Go Into Your Mortgage Payment

We all know that buying a home is a big financial decision—likely among the largest you will make your life. So what is all your money going toward, really? It goes far beyond just principal and interest on the actual home. Check out this list of monthly expenses you will likely encounter as a homeowner. Full Article

Mortgage  If you aren’t paying for your home upfront in cash, you will have to finance it. Your monthly mortgage payment goes toward the amount you originally borrowed (principal) and the interest on that principal. The amount is calculated based on how much you borrowed, the interest rate you and your lender agreed upon, and the length of the loan.

Property Tax  Taxes can add hundreds of dollars to your monthly bills, but they help cover valuable public expenses such as community safety, schools, infrastructure, and more. Depending on where you live, you will incur different tax rates. Property taxes are calculated by local government and are usually based on your home’s assessed value.

Insurance  Between basic homeowners insurance, which offers protection against fire and theft, and private mortgage insurance, which protects your lender against your defaulting on the loan if your down payment was less than 20% of the mortgage value, insurance can be a big item in your monthly budget. And don’t forget that you may need additional coverage against things such as floods or earthquakes depending on where your home is located.

Maintenance  Owning a home means you are responsible for repairs and upkeep, unlike when you rent. It’s important to have money set aside in your budget to cover everything from small do-it-yourself jobs to the serious issues that inevitably come up from time to time. Hopefully your home inspection can help prepare you for the life expectancy of major components such as the roof, plumbing, and electrical system.

Utilities  Every month, you have to pay your utility bills, from heating and cooling to electricity, natural gas, and water. These can fluctuate throughout the year based on outside conditions such as temperature and humidity. It’s a good idea to budget for this variable expense by looking at the previous year’s usage.

HOA fees  If you purchase property in a condominium- or townhome-type community covered by a homeowners association, you will have to pay yearly or monthly fees to maintain common areas and other shared expenses.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Sneaky Science of Selling Your Home Revealed

Selling a home isn’t just about slapping down a fresh coat of paint—you need to delve into home buyers’ brains and figure out what makes them tick. From the moment they spot your listing to the instant they walk through your door, what persuades them to make an offer, and stick around to close the deal? To find out, we culled the most recent scientific studies that examine the home-buying mind to find out what turns it on—and off—and how you can use this information to your advantage. Full Article

Buyers know within seconds if they want a home  With a decision as weighty as a home purchase, one might think that buyers deliberate over all the pros and cons before they decide to sign on the dotted line. Yet studies show this is not the case.

According to the “Psychology of House Hunting” report by BMO Financial Group, 80% of prospective buyers know if a home is right for them within seconds of stepping inside. The reason? Researchers theorize that our minds process far more information in less time than we think, so a lengthy deliberation process may be a waste of time.

Take-home lesson: Since buyers know within seconds of entering your home whether it’s The One, you’ll want to spiff up the area they’ll see in that time frame—namely, your foyer.

Containers are key for keeping this mess under control: baskets or racks for shoes, bowls for keys and change—and, unless you have a nearby closet, you can never have too many coat hooks. Be sure to stash any seldom-used items elsewhere. Anywhere else.

They find aromatherapy confusing  It’s not all about what home buyers see; what they smell matters, too. But that doesn’t mean you should fill your home with potpourri or freshly baked cookies.

These “complex” scents can actually backfire in homes, according to a study by Eric Spangenberg at Washington State University, who found that shoppers will spend 32% more in stores where he piped in a simple orange scent rather than a multifaceted blend of orange, basil, and green tea. The reason? Complex scents may be nice, but they’re also more distracting as people try to figure out what they are.

Take-home lesson: If you go for a scent, keep it fresh and simple. Spangenberg recommends lemon, basil, or pine. You have no time to grab scented candles?

They’re wary of the number 9 in a price  On just about any shopping spree, we’re wooed by “charm prices”—in other words, T-shirts or towels priced at $9.99 rather than a round $10—because consumers tend to think that prices ending in 9 are a way better deal. Only with big purchases like homes, charm pricing makes buyers wary.

According to a study by Old Dominion University, 9’s near the end of a home price—say, $199,000 versus $200,000—are a turnoff. Why? Because these homes appear to be trying too hard to look like a bargain, and buyers don’t like that whiff of desperation when it comes to such a big purchase.

Take-home lesson: Avoid 9’s near the end of your asking price, because buyers may have a knee-jerk impulse to turn away.

Prices with round numbers are a turnoff, too  Another number no-no? Pricing your home with round numbers with lots of zeroes, like $200,000, seems like you pulled this number out of a hat. A more specific number like $217,000, on the other hand, makes it look like you’ve really done your homework and know exactly what your home is worth.

Take-home lesson: Avoid the round number trap and make sure your asking price is specific.

Buyers fall hard for staged homes  Staging a home to sell is all the rage these days, and research shows it works: A study by the Real Estate Staging Association looked at 63 unstaged homes that sat on the market for an average of 143 days. Once those houses were professionally staged, they sold, on average, 40 days after their makeover.

Take-home lesson: Pay attention to presentation. But you may not have to open your wallet for a professional stager; the basic premises are simple ones that anyone can put into practice. For one: If you’re already moved out, get some furniture back in the house.

Monday, October 12, 2015

How to Raise Your Credit Score Before 2016

If your credit score is low, follow these tips to improve it before the New Year.

As 2016 approaches, are you realizing that your credit score is lower than you'd like? Perhaps you have plans to buy a house, purchase a car or get a new credit card in 2016, but your credit score is holding you back. If so, it's time to figure out how to raise your credit score before the New Year approaches. Full Article

How to Improve Your Credit Score in Just a Few Months

Increasing your credit score takes time and won't happen overnight -- but it might not take as long as you think. In fact, it could take only 30 to 60 days to see some improvement, Forbes reports. Be patient and follow these steps as you work on improving your credit score.

1. Become an authorized user. "One of the quickest ways to improve your credit score is to be added as an authorized user to credit cards of your family members -- or possibly friends -- who have a stellar score," said David Bakke, a financial expert with Money Crashers. "You should ask to be added to the cards with the longest credit history, the highest spending limits and those with no late payment history in order to have the most optimal effect."

If you can be added to more than one credit card, this can speed up the credit score improvement process as well, Bakke added. He said you could expect to see a change in your score in about 90 days using this method. I was able to add myself as an authorized user to a family member's credit card, and my score improved in about 90 days.

2. Keep your revolving balance low. Make payments frequently on your credit cards in order to keep your revolving line of credit and balance low. If you can keep your credit utilization as low as 30 percent, or even at 10 percent or lower, you can protect your credit score. In order to know what percent that is, first look at your statement to see what your current credit limit is. If your limit is only $500, this means you would make payments frequently enough to keep your balance between $50 and $150.

If you still want to use your credit cards frequently while trying to raise your credit score, you don't have to stop using them -- just double or triple up your payments each month. Instead of making one large payment each month, make several smaller payments to keep that balance as low as possible.

If you still want to use your credit cards frequently while trying to raise your credit score, you don't have to stop using them -- just double or triple up your payments each month. Instead of making one large payment each month, make several smaller payments to keep that balance as low as possible.

3. Pay down your most maxed-out balance first. Your FICO score looks at your overall debt-to-credit ratio and also your individual debt-to-credit ratios when calculating your credit score on credit cards, said Linda P. Jones, a personal finance expert. "Rather than go along with the 'debt snowball' of paying off your smallest balances first, consider paying your most maxed-out balance down to 50 percent first," she said.

4. Pay every bill on time. You're already adding in some extra payments each month to keep your revolving credit balance as low as possible, but if you really want to take it one step further, pay every debt on time to avoid late payments. The bulk of your credit score, 35 percent, is derived from your payment history. If the payments are made on time and in full, it could have a positive impact on your credit score.

5. Check for and correct any errors on your credit report. When you check your credit report, make sure it's accurate. This is vital to raise your credit score quickly. Many consumers find errors on their credit reports, from misspelled names and wrong addresses to credit cards they never even opened. Don't let an error bring your score down; correct it immediately.

6. Make small purchases on a secured credit card. Another tactic that can raise your credit score is taking out a secured credit card and making small charges on the card that you know you can pay off on time, said Bakke. This should boost your credit score within a short period of time. Bakke said he has personally seen this tactic yield an improved score right around the three-month mark.

7. Utilize a 'rapid rescore' to boost your score quickly. If you're trying to raise your credit score because you're seeking approval on a mortgage loan, you might want to take advantage of what is known as "rapid rescore," said Bakke. This process quickly updates a credit history with the intent of creating a new and more relevant credit history.

8. Limit your hard credit inquiries. While that big life event in 2016 might be prompting you to raise your credit score now, try to limit your number of credit inquiries right now. Credit inquiries commonly occur when you apply for a new apartment and the landlord checks your financial history, or when you apply for an auto loan or mortgage. You might be eager to hear if you qualify for more credit, but be patient. Your credit score takes a hit with every hard inquiry.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fall Home Staging Tips

While too many fall decorations will take focus off of your home and its best features, a few tasteful accents can create an inviting setting and make your home feel fresh. Try displaying vases of fall foliage or bowls of seasonal fruit throughout your home. Full Article

Warm up your walls: No matter what time of year you decide to sell, a fresh coat of paint is a great way to revive your home’s interiors. For the fall season, try painting your walls a rich shade of caramel or cream that’s neutral yet warm and inviting. Add pops of color with accessories in deep reds and oranges.

Design by Paula Grace Halewski
Let in the light: The days get shorter during the fall season, so adequate lighting is essential if you want to highlight your home’s best features. Let in as much natural light as possible by opening your blinds, and place plenty of lamps throughout your home for additional illumination.

Photo by Eric Perry © 2013, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved
Emphasize Comfort: As the weather cools down, a warm and cozy atmosphere will encourage potential homebuyers to stick around during showings, giving them more time to admire your home. Accentuate your sofas and chairs with throw pillows and plush throws.

Photo by Denise McGaha
Play up the fireplace: A cozy fireplace is a fantastic feature to highlight during the chilly fall months. Arrange your furniture to make the fireplace the focal point of the room, or draw attention to the mantel with tasteful artwork or accessories.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fall Maintenance Tasks Every Homeowner Should Tackle Now

With fall in the air, your thoughts may turn to what needs to be done to your home before winter sets in. Many tasks are done much more easily when the weather is still nice. Plus, taking care of routine maintenance tasks now can save you aggravation and money down the road. Full Article

Clean gutters and downspouts. Leaves and debris gather in gutters, which can cause ice dams and other water damage when snow falls and then melts, or during rainstorms. This is an easy task to do yourself if you can climb a ladder safely.

Remove leaves. Not only do you want the leaves out of your gutters, you want them off your roof and off your lawn. Despite what some may believe, letting leaves decay on your lawn does not provide fertilizer.

Repair any damage to your roof. Anywhere you had shingle damage, that needs to be fixed and replaced. If water can get under your shingles, it can get into your home and cause damage.

Clean your chimney. Have a chimney sweep come in every year to check your fireplace for safety and clean out the remains of last year's fires. "If you use your fireplace regularly with wood, you've got to get that soot out of there," Ingram says. You also want to make sure that the cover to your chimney is intact and that birds or other critters haven't chosen to move in, Sassano says.

Check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. It's smart to test the devices and replace the batteries every six months, making this a chore for fall and spring. Also, make sure you have enough fire extinguishers and that they are in the right place.

Change filters in heating and air conditioning units. Most forced-air systems work better when the filters are clean. While some filters are advertised to last several months, people with pets or old houses with a lot of dust should change filters monthly.

Repair, add or replace weatherstripping. Good weatherstripping on exterior doors can save energy and help you feel more comfortable in winter. If you can see light from the outside coming in around your doors, it's time for repairs.

Wrap exposed pipes. Pipes in exterior walls or outside can easily freeze during the winter, and wrapping them makes that less likely. "There's nothing more costly than having a pipe burst in your house," Sassano says.

Shut down and drain sprinkler systems. You also want to turn off and drain exterior spigots, plus drain and bring in hoses.

Aerate your lawn. By using a machine to poke holes in your lawn, you help air and water get to the roots. This is best done when the lawn is wet. The process helps it grow back next season. "When it snows and the snow start to melt, the aerated areas help the water get to the root system of your lawn," Ingram says.

Trim trees. Proper trimming keeps trees healthy, and you should hire someone for the job who knows what he or she is doing. In cold climates, you want to keep weak branches that may become weighed down with snow from falling on your house or car. In warmer climates, you want to avoid wind damage.

Change the direction of ceiling fans. Fans are set to run counterclockwise in summer, which creates a cool breeze under the fan. But they should run clockwise in winter. "Heat tends to rise, and you don't want to waste it up at the ceiling level," Sassano says. "You want to bring it back down to where the people are."

Inventory your snow equipment. Make sure your shovels are in good repair, your snow blower is tuned up and you have sand and salt on hand. "It's really just easier to get them now before the stores sell out," Reagan says.

Clean and put away your summer equipment. Now that the warm weather is gone, there's no need for your lawn furniture, barbecue grill and water toys. "It just makes your springtime so much easier," Reagan says.


Monday, October 5, 2015

New Home Sales Surge 5.7 Percent in August to 7-year High

Buoyed by steady job gains and low mortgage rates, Americans purchased new homes in August at the fastest pace in more than seven years.

New-home sales surged 5.7 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 552,000, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That is the strongest pace since February 2008, near the beginning of the Great Recession. Last month's increase followed an even bigger 12 percent jump in July, according to the government's revised figures.

Healthy hiring and smaller price increases for new homes have finally begun pushing up sales, which were hammered during the Great Recession and recovered slowly even after the downturn ended in 2009. New-home sales have soared nearly 22 percent in the past year.

Sales figures for newly-built homes are notoriously volatile and typically revised heavily in subsequent months. But most economists were still encouraged by the gains.

Strong gains in new-home sales and construction could accelerate the economy by generating construction jobs, demand for more building materials and more spending on landscaping and other services.

Home builders raised new-home prices aggressively last year, likely weighing on sales, which totaled just 414,000 in 2014. That was little changed from sales in 2013. But builders have reined in price increases this year, fueling more buyer traffic and purchases. Full Article

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fall Financial Clean-Up and Tax Tips To Round Out The Year

With summer officially over, the end of the year will be around before you have time to figure out whether it is better to finally take down the Christmas lights or, at this point, just leave them up. That makes it a good time to look ahead at your taxes, as well as take care of a few other financial chores.

The first step is to check your taxes, to make sure that you are not giving Uncle Sam a tax-free loan until next April 15. On the other hand, if you use your tax refund as a kind of payroll savings plan to pay off holiday bills or finance your next vacation, make sure that your refund amount is on track.

Check out the IRS' "withholding calculator." You will need your latest paycheck stub (as well as your spouse's, if filing jointly) and a copy of last year's return. Use that as a guide for estimating your deductions, but make adjustments if something big has changed in your financial life. If, for example, you have refinanced your home to a lower-rate mortgage, you will have less interest to deduct.

In general, experts recommend aiming to get or owe about $100. When you are done, the calculator tells you exactly how to fill out a new Form W-4. Full Article