Archive for July, 2010

A Brand-New RateWatch

So I made RateWatch a videocast.  Approximate text is below.  But I beg you – send me an email ( or make a comment and let me know what you think.  Good idea?  Good idea but bad execution?  You don’t have to be gentle.

Let’s get to it.

MARKET: the market is down a bit today, off about 25 basis points.  For those just joining us – hey there, Tyler, Corrine, and Taylor – what that means is that the bond we track, the FNMA 4.5% 30-year bond – is being sold off and its price is declining.  It also means that the yield on that bond is rising.  Since lenders hedge their lending by buying those bonds, when the yields on them rise, mortgage rates rise with them.  So today mortgage rates are increasing.  Not very much, but a little.  More than we’ve seen in a month.

ANALYSIS: Markets rise and markets fall.  The big news over the past few weeks has been the increasing probability that we’ll see a market slump over the last half of the year and into next year.  There is also a real fear that next year could be truly ugly.  With the Bush tax cuts sunsetting on January 1, businesses will be moving their cashflow into the latter half of this year to avoid the explosive tax increase.  Dividend taxes nearly triple, which will be terrible for pension funds, and every single tax bracket will see tax increases.

Anyone that thinks that won’t have a huge negative impact on economic growth is not a serious person.  There is a chance – really, a pretty good one – that Congress will do something about an extension for part of the cuts, especially those that will have the smallest economic, but largest political, impact.  As of this moment, however, it doesn’t seem a good time to invest in stocks.  Bonds, as a result, have been flourishing, driving interest rates to 4.5% and even lower on some programs.

ACTION: We may have hit the bottom of this trench in mortgage rates.  Those of you that have been thinking now might be a good time to buy, now might be a good time to buy.  For refinances, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say it’s now or never.

Until next time, we’ll keep up the RateWatch.


A To-DON’T List

What’s on your to-don’t list today?

A few weeks back, on Facebook, I asked people for their time-management suggestions.  I got a lot of them, and most of them were outstanding.  One in particular, from my old friend Janice Welker, leaped out at me, and set me thinking ever since.  She said that a to-do list was a chance for her to decide on all those things she was not going to do that day, that she used it to remember who was in control of her life.  I thought that was a great concept.

So, in the spirit of that, here is today’s to-don’t list:

1. Don’t stay in bed because you think nobody will care if you’re just a few minutes late.

2. Don’t assume that Jeanette knows you love her, just because you told her last night.

3. Don’t figure that the kids will weed just as hard if you’re not out there with them.

4. Don’t leave the baby for Jeanette to change because you think your work is too important for you to take a couple minutes.

5. Don’t make your body try to do its work on a glass of water and some vitamins.

6. Don’t call later.  There is no “later”.

7. Don’t figure people are smart enough to know what you need without your asking them.

8. Don’t think you can fit everything in that you have to do without taking a couple minutes to plan.

9. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your job is more important than your family.  It’s just louder.

10. Don’t think you’re ever going to get around to going fishing with your Dad unless you put something on the calendar.

11. Don’t think people that need mortgage lending in Utah are going to call you out of the blue, even if you aren’t doing anything to let them know you’re there.

12. Don’t expect blocks of time to magically open up in your calendar so you can take your wife out for ice cream.

13. Don’t get discouraged because two hours of writing only gets 4.7% of your book written.  It’s 4.7% more than you had before you started.

There’s more, but this post was not on the to-do list this morning, which I had better get back to.  What’s on YOUR to-Don’t list today?

On Independence Day, Ours and Others’

Yesterday was my birthday.  Today is the birthday of my third son, Crispin (see left).  The day after tomorrow is the birthday of my country.  That birthday is called Independence Day, the day we here in the US celebrate grilling and fireworks and not having to go to work for three days, but we know that we should be celebrating the declaring of the independence of the thirteen colonies from the rule of King George III of England.

What did that independence mean, that we should celebrate it?  And what can we learn from it?

Here’s a by-no-means-exhaustive list:

  • Independence meant that the colonies were free to make their own policies with regard to taxation (specifically) and governance.
  • Independence meant that the colonies were able to keep more of their revenue at home, sending less of it overseas.
  • Independence meant that a war would be fought, because the above two things were not going to be granted by the mother country.
  • Independence meant that a large number of people – possibly a majority – would be separated from other people that they loved, not only by distance, which was already true, but by other things like religion and language and nationality.
  • And independence meant that a whole generation of men would need to start thinking about governance not as an academic enterprise, but as a practical matter.  They would need to create a country.  And they would be entirely responsible for their own affairs, sink or swim.

Worth celebrating?  I think so.  But how little use we make of independence, sometimes.

  • We are free to make our own policies for taxation, and we have opted for a confiscatory tax system that is punitively progressive, punishing disproportionately those men and women that create the most wealth.  I say “we”, but I mean “a few of us”, because for the most part, though we are able to determine our governance through the vote, less than half of us routinely bother to exercise that freedom.
  • We are able to keep more of our revenue at home, where it does us more good, but we routinely choose to purchase our goods from faraway places with strange-sounding names, opting for cheap over valuable.  This is not an anti-WalMart rant.  Sometimes WalMart is the best way to go.  But often, we don’t think enough of our independence to give some of it to create independence for others, specifically those local to us, about whom we care a great deal.  We should act like it more than we do.
  • We are still fighting wars.  We hardly ever fight them on our own soil any more, which is problematic.  It costs a lot of money to fight in places like Afghanistan.  It is rarely very successful.  This does not mean that it is unnecessary.  But as with all wars, if we are going to fight them, we ought to make certain there are no better alternatives (which will mean that things are very bad indeed), and that we are prepared to fight them as if they were being fought here, with all of our heart and soul, and a commitment to a very definite and specific outcome.
  • When we declare our independence from someone or something, that independence always separates us from those that are native to our old condition.  This is so hard to endure that all of us are still hostage to things that we know we shouldn’t be.  We are free to be free of things that harm us, or that hold us back.  How often we fail to exercise that freedom!
  • We are only as free as we choose to be.  We can choose to be adults, and have the things that adulthood brings, but if we are to have those things, we must do the hard work of considering our lives and taking responsibility for the choices we make, even when those choices leave us – often through no fault of our own – in a bad situation.  Cowboy up, I believe the phrase is.   We can do that, and we can all do it more often than we do.

Freedom is not just made by political systems.  I lived in a communist country for a couple of years.  Not a “communist” country, as some try to say that this one is, but a truly, no-holds-barred communist country in Eastern Europe, so I know what I’m talking about, a little bit.  There were people there that I met that were free-er than I am.  Freedom is an individual thing, and it comes from inside you, not outside you.

But independence is an external thing as well, and obtaining it increases our liberty, our range of action.  The founders of this country were fighting for independence, not just freedom.  They were successful in obtaining it, and in doing so obtained it for us.  May we, this year, resolve to use that independence to truly be a free people.

On Birthdays

Are birthdays magic?  Well, if you ask a four-year-old, they are.  My little son Nathaniel (“Thanner”) talks about his birthday pretty much all the time, despite the fact that it won’t come ’round until next May.  He tells you how old he is.  Tells you he’s almost five.  Tells you what he wants to do.  Tells you it’s next week.  Every day.

What is it about birthdays that we love?  Sunday is the birthday of the country I love best.  We celebrate this birthday with fireworks and barbecues and sixteen straight hours of World War II movies.  The biggest holiday of the year is the celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ.  We have Washington’s birthday, and Martin Luther King’s birthday, and a dozen others.  We all remember the birthday of our marriages (we call them anniversaries, but they’re birthdays sure enough).  I remember every year the birthday of my career in lending in Utah (it’s the end of October).  We, as humans, love birthdays every bit as much as Thanner does.

Today is my forty-second birthday.  It certainly seems magical to me.  I have had already birthday greetings from a one-time prom date that I haven’t seen in many years (hi, Yvette!), from a kindred spirit that I met in Rome 25 years ago (Leslie, God bless you), and from an old girlfriend that now lives with her family in Australia (Jillyn, my dear friend).  And dozens of others.  I slept wonderfully last night for the first time in a good while.  I went to the gym this morning and I’ve lost weight again.  This morning my son Nicholas starts for the first time at point guard for his high school team.  The sun is shining, and the garden looks great.  My wife still loves me.

Many of those things were or have been true for a while, so perhaps it’s just that I’m noticing them more today.  But I am noticing them, and that’s part of the magic of the day for me.

For Thanner, I think part of the day’s magic – perhaps, in fairness, most of the magic – is the presents.  That faded for me a long time ago.  I can’t even tell my long-suffering wife what I’d like to eat for my birthday dinner.  It’s just not very important to me.  But there are birthday things that are important to me.  I like to know that I’m a better person than I was a year ago.  I like to rededicate myself to improving, to becoming better yet.  Birthdays are very good for that.  That’s a gift I give, not that I get, but I’ve noticed that I look forward far more to giving than to getting, anyway.

Every day I get the gift of a new life.  As a Christian, and a sinner (aren’t we all?), I make mistakes every day, and every day I need the grace of Jesus Christ to reach into the broken places in my soul and put things to rights.  I need Him to make things right for others when I hurt them.  He always does.  This is called, in Christian parlance, being “born again”.  So in that sense, every day is my birthday.  Every day is a new chance to be what I really want to be, what I am meant to be.

In the spirit of that, I am going to commit the gaucherie of asking for gifts today.  What I want is this: do something, no matter how small, to move forward one of those I-always-wanted-to’s that you have stored up.  You know the ones I mean.  “I’ve always wanted to write a novel” or “I’ve always wanted to go skydiving” or “I’ve always wanted to see a Broadway show.”  Whatever it is, do something to make it happen.  That’s what I want.  If you’d like to come back here and tell me what it was that you did, that would be great, but it isn’t critical.  Just do it.  Go the whole day without snapping at anyone.  Be cheerful in the face of certain disaster.  Become just a little bit more of the person you know you were meant to be.  Be born again yourself.

Let the magic begin!  Happy birthday to all of us!