Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Positive Addiction

Did you see that last week George Bush, the elder (President 41, as he's often called), jumped out of an airplane to celebrate his 85th birthday? I thought that was remarkable and appreciated his comment that he did it to remind all of us to stay active and keep doing new and interesting things. I like that! I understand he plans to do it again on his 90th birthday, and that challenged me to wonder what I might try in the next five years. How about you?

What will you achieve, learn, start (or stop) in the next five years?

There's an old quote that, "five years from now you'll be exactly who you are, and where you are today, except for the people you meet and the books you read." I always like to add that there are more ways to grow and change, but the point is well taken. Getting older is automatic; growth is a choice.

Many years ago, William Glasser wrote a wonderful little book called, Positive Addiction. Glasser has written many books and my impression is that this one sold fewer copies than his others, and that's a shame. There are "positive addictions."

Glasser talked about being addicted to exercise and fitness, or to the joys of relationships and creativity. I want to propose that personal development fits in that category. It's a good thing and like most addictions, it begins with a few clumsy or uncomfortable experiences, until it gradually becomes a core part of who we are.

Why not choose to be addicted to positive things?

I know people who are positively addicted to saving and investment. They get a thrill from adding to their savings every paycheck. They watch their investment balances go up and up. To relax on Saturdays, they look at investment properties or read annual reports, looking for the next opportunity.

Now, obviously, any positive addiction can go over-the-top and become a destructive obsession. Many years ago I loved running to the point that I gave myself a stress fracture--broke my leg--from running through pain! That's not good!

But here are some positive addictions I encourage you to consider:

1. Reading. Books open the world to us. Through books we get to know the most famous, creative, powerful and interesting people who ever lived. We can travel to other galaxies, expose ourselves to the past, and the future. We can experience other cultures and learn skills. We can "try on" ideas--and lives--we will never experience any other way. Read!

2. Exercise. I'm talking about fitness and health and movement and fun, not Olympic championships. For most of us, exercise is about play and being alive. It's about tennis or golf with friends, or basketball with our kids. It's about climbing a mountain, hiking on a beach, or a long bike ride on a Saturday morning. Exercise may add years to our lives; it definitely adds life to our years.

3. Ponder. Long ago a philosopher said, "the unobserved life is not worth living." I'm not sure I would go that far, but taking time to observe, to wonder, to contemplate and take notes definitely makes things better. Keep a journal. Pray or meditate. Enjoy moments of solitude. A great life doesn't happen by accident. It's the result of the careful, thoughtful choices we make.

4. Save money. Brian Tracy once said that "if you cannot save money, greatness is not in you." Again, that might be a bit extreme, but money is a representation of our lives. It's the result of the work and skill and contribution we make in the world. Saving creates opportunities and opens doors. It's insurance against misfortune and a source of self-respect. An addiction to saving definitely beats an addiction to spending!

5. Be curious. One of the most important traits of high achievers is their eagerness for new ideas and new skills. They are always "beginners" in at least one important area of life--willing to be clumsy or make mistakes while they learn new things. I'll go so far as to say if you aren't willing to be a clumsy beginner, you are refusing to grow and that's a terrible thing. Try stuff!

You don't have to jump out of airplanes to prove your positive addiction to growth, but it is one way to do it! Be addicted to exploring your life and becoming all that you can be. Whatever calls you, explore it! Whatever challenges or excites you, pursue it and see where it takes you. Jim Rohn observed that the vital importance of goals is not what we get from achieving them, but what we become in the process. Choose your addictions wisely, then invest in them and see where they take you

Nick Woodard
Hodges and Fooshee Realty

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

First Time Home Buyers modification

Recent development in the $8,000 First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit

Another recent development: Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said that the Federal Housing Administration is going to permit its lenders to allow homeowners to use the $8,000 tax credit as a downpayment, released in an article on Realtor.org.

The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has announced that HUD will allow “monetization” of the tax credit. What does that mean?

It means that HUD will allow buyers to apply their anticipated tax credit toward their home purchase immediately rather than waiting until they file their 2009 income taxes to receive a refund. These funds may be used for certain downpayment and closing cost expenses.
Under the guidelines announced by HUD, non-profits and FHA-approved lenders will be allowed to give home buyers short-term loans of up to $8,000.
The guidelines also allow longer term loans secured by second liens to be used by government agencies, such as state housing finance agencies, to facilitate home sales.
Housing finance agencies and other government entities may issue tax credit loans, the funds of which home buyers may use to satisfy the FHA 3.5% downpayment requirement.
In addition, approved FHA lenders will also be able to purchase a home buyer’s anticipated tax credit to pay closing costs and downpayment costs above the 3.5% downpayment that is required for FHA-insured homes.
**This will be a huge step towards stabilizing the ever shifting economy. By allowing purchasers to receive the credit immediately it will keep more funds available to the entire market for things like furnishings, repairs, renovations, etc. This should give a much needed shot in the arm to the ailing building and renovation sectors.

In addition, some of the most common questions I get about the tax credit (answers from Tax Credit Website above):

If my wife/husband has not purchased a home before can we qualify for the tax credit? – Unfortunately not, if you have not owned a home in the past three years but your spouse has owned a principal residence, neither you nor your spouse qualifies for the first-time home buyer tax credit.
Do I have to be a first-time buyer to get the credit? Yes, however the law defines “first-time home buyer” as a buyer who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase. Therefore if you have been renting for that period of time you may qualify.
What does it mean the credit is “refundable”? – The fact that the credit is refundable means that the home buyer credit can be claimed even if the taxpayer has little or no federal income tax liability to offset. Typically this involves the government sending the taxpayer a check for a portion or even all of the amount of the refundable tax credit (Ex: if a buyer owes the IRS $1,000 on April 15th after all calculations & deductions. The taxpayer would receive a check for $7,000 = $8,000 minus the $1,000 owed).

Nick Woodard
Hodges and Fooshee Realty