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Should I loan my child money for a down payment on a house?

For a lot of young people today, it's difficult to purchase a home without at least some financial assistance. As a result, many young adults turn to their parents or other family members for help with a down payment.

If you plan on lending your child money for a down payment on a house, you should try to assume the role of a commercial lender. Setting the terms of the loan in writing will demonstrate to your child that you take both your responsibility as lender and your child's responsibility as borrower seriously.

While having an actual loan contract may seem too businesslike to some parents, doing so can help set expectations between you and your child. The loan contract should spell out the exact loan amount, the interest rate and a repayment schedule. To avoid the uncomfortable situation of having to remind your child that a payment is due, consider asking him or her to set up automatic monthly transfers from his or her bank account to yours.

How long will I have to pay for private mortgage insurance?

It depends. There are generally two ways that private mortgage insurance (PMI) can be removed from your mortgage loan. The first is if you request PMI cancellation directly from your lender. The second is through termination by your lender.

You can request PMI cancellation directly from your lender once you have reached the date when the principal balance of your mortgage is scheduled to fall to 80% of the original value of your home. You can find this date on the PMI disclosure form that was given to you when you first obtained your mortgage. The cancellation request can be made earlier if you have made additional mortgage payments that have reduced your principal balance to 80% at an earlier date. Your lender may also require you to meet certain other criteria in order to cancel your PMI, such as certification that there are no subordinate liens on the home and evidence that the property has not declined below the original value.

Rates on the Rise: Strategies for Fixed-Income Investors

A long period of low yields has been challenging for many fixed-income investors, but owning bond investments in a rising interest-rate environment could become even trickier. When interest rates go up, the prices of existing bonds typically fall. Consequently, the Federal Reserve's rate-setting decisions could affect the entire fixed-income market.

Still, bonds are a mainstay for conservative investors who prioritize the preservation of principal over returns, and for retirees in need of a predictable income stream. Although diversification does not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss, owning a diversified mix of bond types and maturities is one way to manage interest-rate and credit risk in your portfolio.

Should I delay taking my first RMD?

Your first RMD from a traditional IRA and an employer retirement plan must be taken for the calendar year in which you turn 70-1/2. However, if you're still working, you can delay RMDs from your current employer's plan until the year you retire (but only if allowed by the plan and you are not a 5% owner).

In general, you must take your RMDs no later than December 31 of each calendar year to avoid a serious tax penalty equal to 50% of the amount you failed to withdraw. However, a special rule applies to your first RMD. You have the option of delaying your first distribution until April 1 of the following calendar year.

What are required minimum distributions (RMDs)?

Traditional IRAs and employer retirement plans such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s offer several tax advantages, including the ability to defer income taxes on both contributions and earnings until they're distributed from the plan.

But, unfortunately, you can't keep your money in these retirement accounts forever. The law requires that you begin taking distributions, called "required minimum distributions" or RMDs, when you reach age 70½ (or in some cases, when you retire), whether you need the money or not. (Minimum distributions are not required from Roth IRAs during your lifetime.)

Changes to Social Security Claiming Strategies

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 included a section titled "Closure of Unintended Loopholes" that ends two Social Security claiming strategies that have become increasingly popular over the last several years. These two strategies, known as "file and suspend" and "restricted application" for a spousal benefit, have often been used to optimize Social Security income for married couples.

If you have not yet filed for Social Security, it's important to understand how these new rules could affect your retirement strategy. Depending on your age, you may still be able to take advantage of the expiring claiming options. The changes should not affect current Social Security beneficiaries and do not apply to survivor benefits.

Erie County Clerk, AAAWCNY, AT&T, Sheriff’s Office, NYS Police Host Distracted Driving Awareness Day

Erie County Clerk, AAAWCNY, AT&T, Sheriff’s Office, NYS Police Host Distracted Driving Awareness Day

County Clerk Chris Jacobs and AAA Western and Central New York teamed up with AT&T, Erie County Sheriff’s Department and New York State Police to raise awareness for AAA’s 100 Deadliest Days for Drivers - the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when teen crash fatalities historically climb, the AT&T “It Can Wait” campaign and state distracted driving laws. Distracted Driving Awareness Day in Western New York was hosted May 3 at the Erie County Auto Bureau in the Town of Tonawanda, where young drivers, parents and all those that visited the auto bureau were educated about the dangers of distracted driving.