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Novel Laboratories Recalls Zolpidem Tartrate Blister Packs Due to Failure to Meet Child-Resistant Closure Requirement; Risk of Poisoning

The packaging for the prescription drug is not child-resistant as required by the Poison Prevention Packaging Act.

Bad Credit? Here's What You Need to Know to Get a Mortgage

Credit scores play a vital role in your ability to get a home mortgage.

First things first: Credit scores are used to predict the likelihood of a payment default. And if your credit score isn’t in great shape, it may result in more scrutiny applied to your loan application.

What’s Considered a Low Score to Mortgage Lenders?

If you’re looking for a conventional loan, having a credit score of less than 680 is generally considered a low score. However, you may be able to get one of these loans with a 620 credit score.

For Federal Housing Administration loans and government mortgages, a low score is considered anything under 620. Not all, but most, lenders will offer FHA mortgages with a credit score requirement as low as 580. This is where rubber meets the road in attaining an approval.

Expect the following if your score is less than 620:

  • a 43% debt-to-income ratio requirement
  • Higher rates and fees than you’d see if you had a score of 620+
  • Extensive questions about your financial background

The FHA does not have a maximum debt-to-income ratio requirement, but stresses the lender originating the FHA mortgage should use prudence and responsible underwriting in making sure they properly vet each low score application.

FHA Credit Score Tiers include:

  • 582-599
  • 600-619
  • 620+

Each tier generates different rates and fees when you apply. It is important to be aware your lender will need some time to process your loan. It is reasonable to expect that a review of your file with a low credit score could take upwards of 45 days to close on an escrow. This is not to say you shouldn’t apply for a mortgage because you can’t get it closed in a timely manner, but just something to be aware of to help you plan accordingly.

Try to Improve Your Scores First

If you can swing it, getting your score higher in any one or more of the following ways can not only help you reduce the rate and fees that accompany a home loan, but can also make your mortgage process faster.

  • Pay off a debt in full.
  • Pay an account down so you’re only using 30%, ideally 10%, of your credit limit (the lower, the better).
  • Pay off an old collection account (Note: This strategy should be done with extreme prudence as it could have an inverse effect on your credit.).

You can see where your credit currently stands by reviewing your free credit report summary, updated monthly, on If your credit is so-so and you’re looking to buy or refinance a home, you may consider seeking the advice of an experienced loan professional. (Full Disclosure: I am mortgage lender.)

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Emson Recalls UComfy Heat Wraps Due to Burn Hazard (Recall Alert)

The heat wrap can overheat, posing a burn hazard.

Can I Pay My Mortgage With a Credit Card?

If you’ve ever wondered if you could take advantage of a cash-back or rewards credit card to make your monthly mortgage payment, you’ve probably envisioned the possibilities — earning 1.5% back each month on your payment, thus chipping away an extra 1.5% from your principal.

Or maybe you want to earn enough rewards to pay for a family vacation, and you know adding that mortgage to your monthly credit card spend would get you there in no time.

They’re nice thoughts, but turning them into reality can be tough, if not downright impossible.

Most mortgage lenders don’t allow payments to be made using a credit card, and for good reason. Just imagine how quickly someone could get into debt if they weren’t able to pay off their credit card each month. Suddenly that $1,500 payment with 4.25% interest skyrockets to 12.9%, 17.9%, 22.9% or higher. A few months of that can add up to some serious credit card debt. (If you’re in the process of securing a mortgage, you may want to consider finding out how much house you can actually afford using this tool.)

What Are My Options?

Some lenders, however, have recognized the desire for rewards and cash-back on mortgage payments and offer credit cards that accrue cash-back directly to your mortgage. Wells Fargo, for instance, offers a credit card that earns between 1% and 5% on everyday purchases, and then credits your mortgage loan principal (for eligible Wells Fargo home loans) automatically every time you earn a $25 rebate.

If your lender doesn’t offer a similar product, they might still accept credit card payments, so it’s worth asking. Be sure to find out if there are fees associated with the transaction (some lenders could process the payment as a cash advance, for example, or there could be convenience fees). If so, compare the fee to the rewards you might earn by charging your mortgage payment. If you’re using a card that offers cash back on all purchases, any processing fee exceeding that cash-back percentage basically negates the point.

If you can take advantage of paying by credit card, you’ll want to make sure you’re able to pay the credit card off every month. (You can use this credit card payoff calculator tool to learn more about how long it may take to pay off your credit card debt.) In fact, going ahead and paying the mortgage amount you charged to your card right after you make the mortgage payment ensures you get the rewards or cash-back and don’t run the risk of spending that mortgage money elsewhere.

It’s also a good idea to regularly check your account to make sure your payments are going through as planned. You can see how your credit card spending is impacting your credit scores for free on

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1 in 3 Americans Aren't Taking a Vacation This Summer

If you feel summer means it’s time to pack your bags and cash in those two tickets to paradise, you aren’t alone.

According to a new Harris Poll, 42% of Americans have already taken at least one vacation this summer. And 55% have at least one trip coming up before the end of August, whether it’s their first of the season or not.

But about 35% of respondents, or 1 in 3 Americans, are not planning to vacation at all this summer, which the survey defined as traveling at least 50 miles away from home (one way) and/or including an overnight stay.

Where Are They Going?

Turns out, more than two out of five adults (42%) are spending time off right at home with a staycation. This is especially true of people in rural or urban areas or single adults, Harris said.

Of those Americans who have taken a vacation during the warm and sunny months or plan to do so before the brisk autumn season comes, they average two vacations per summer traveler, according to the survey.

But last-minute deals, like those prompted by Brexit, inspired 4 in 10 Americans to take more vacations than initially planned. In fact, the survey found that about 21% of respondents are considering a trip to Great Britain to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate between the dollar and the British pound.


The online survey was conducted by Harris Poll from June 28 to June 30 and polled 2,021 adults (18 and older). The responses were weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population, including age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income, and to help bring the data in line with actual proportions of the population.

Funding Your Vacation

The trend shows more Americans are traveling than they have in years. The survey found that more Americans traveled for fun last summer (from May to August) than they have since 2008. That group is reportedly far more likely to travel again during the same timeframe this summer as well.

Whether you’ve opted to explore the world or your own back yard this summer, it’s a good idea to budget for your adventures. To help cut down the cost of your vacation(s), you can consider traveling on off-peak days, comparison shopping for the best rates and signing up for fare alerts that could help you spot cheaper flights. You may also want to think about using a rewards credit card to help fund your trip. (You can check out the best travel credit cards in America here.) Some travel rewards cards offer perks, like a free checked bag, that can help you save on any trip you decide to take. (You can see more reward credit cards here.)

It’s important to note that reward credit cards are best suited to people who aren’t prone to overspending and who have a habit of paying their balances off each billing cycle (otherwise, you’ll lose the rewards to interest). To see if you qualify for one of these cards, you can start by reviewing your credit. You can see two of your credit scores for free, updated each month, on

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Fidelity Announces Launch of Online Advisor Fidelity Go

One more traditional broker is throwing its hat into the robo-advisor ring: Fidelity has announced the launch of Fidelity Go, a new digital advice offering. The company has been quietly testing the service for the last six months with a group of 1,000 investors.

The service uses Fidelity index funds to build portfolios that are managed by a team of investment managers, not computers. The digital component comes in when investors are matched with portfolios: Similar to other online advisors, Fidelity Go makes recommendations based on investors’ answers to a series of questions designed to take the pulse of their risk tolerance, financial situation and goals.

“This is not an algorithm,” says John Danahy, Fidelity’s head of digital managed account solutions. “Our size and our scale enables this to be managed by a portfolio manager.” That manager is Geode Capital Management, which also serves as the sub-advisor for 33 Fidelity index funds.

Investors will be able to review their suggested portfolios — and make adjustments — before opening an account.

The company says Fidelity Go is aimed at younger, digitally savvy investors, as is typical of robo-advisors. Danahy says Fidelity worked to “co-develop” the service with that demographic, inviting users into the company’s lab.

Fidelity Go’s single all-in fee came out of these conversations. Most robo-advisors charge a management fee plus fund expenses. Investors will pay between 0.35% and 0.40% of assets under management, Danahy says. The portfolios require a minimum balance of $5,000.

The service includes portfolio rebalancing and will automatically invest new contributions and dividends without a commission, but it doesn’t offer tax-loss harvesting. Taxable accounts incorporate BlackRock iShares ETFs and tax-advantaged municipal bond funds to minimize taxes.

Fidelity no doubt hopes to mimic the success of other incumbent brokers that have gone the way of the robo-advisor, joining a field made popular by independent startups like Wealthfront and Betterment. Vanguard has gained the most traction: Investors have flocked to its Vanguard Personal Advisor Services, which pairs robo-advisor algorithms with dedicated financial advisors and currently has $41 billion in assets under management. It charges a 0.30% management fee on top of fund expenses, and it requires a $50,000 minimum.

Other brokers that have added digital advice to their menus include Charles Schwab, with Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, and E-Trade, with E-Trade Adaptive Portfolio. Schwab’s service doesn’t charge management fees, but uses Schwab funds to build portfolios with weighted average expense ratios between 0.12% and 0.25%. It currently has $8.2 billion in assets under management. The E-Trade advisor launched in June 2016.

Danahy says he expects Fidelity Go to attract both current Fidelity clients — the company has 2 million in the 25-to-45 age group — and new customers who aren’t currently receiving advice. Existing Fidelity customers can roll their accounts into Fidelity Go, though the service will not extend to 401(k) management.

Fidelity Go compared to other online advisors Advisor Management fee Investment expenses Account minimum Fidelity Go All-in fee of 0.35% to 0.40% Included in all-in fee $5,000 Betterment 0.15% to 0.35%, depending on account balance 0.09% to 0.17% $0 Wealthfront First $10,000 is managed free, then 0.25% Average 0.12% $500 Personal Capital 0.49% to 0.89%, depending on account balance Average 0.10% $25,000 Vanguard Personal Advisor Services 0.30% 0.05% to 0.19% $50,000 Schwab Intelligent Portfolios None 0.04% to 0.48% $5,000 E-Trade Adaptive Portfolio 0.30% 0.20% to 0.45% for hybrid mutual fund/ETF portfolio; all-ETF portfolio averages 0.20% $10,000

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Arielle O’Shea is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @arioshea.

6 Rules To Follow In The New Investment Environment


We are in an economic recovery, although for many people, it doesn't seem like one. Slow economic growth has investors wondering how long this bull market can last and when stronger growth will return... but what if the current market is as good as things are going to get for the next ten to twenty years? The title of a recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute says it all: "Diminishing Returns: Why Investors May Need to Lower Their Expectations." The report suggests that inflation-adjusted returns of the last thirty years for the U.S. and Europe are the exception to the rule, and that investors need to lower their expectations for future returns. The report cites four major factors that kept the last thirty years well above the 100-year average for returns: a sharp drop in inflation, a similar sharp drop in interest rates, favorable demographics and productivity gains fueling GDP growth, and exceptional corporate profit margins. Inflation and interest rates basically have nowhere to go but up. Productivity and employment are unlikely to rise at the same time, affecting consumer spending. Corporate profits should be squeezed as a result. The report explores two scenarios for the next thirty years: a low-growth scenario with returns on equities around 4-5% (down from 7.9% from 1985-2014) and fixed-income returns between 0-1% (compared to 5.0% from 1985-2014), and a recovery scenario with equity returns from 5.5-6.5% and fixed-income returns from 1-2%. For Americans entering their thirties, this means approximately 80% more savings or an additional seven years of work to acquire the same nest egg as the previous generation. How do you navigate this new investment environment? Here are a few ways to adapt and thrive. 1. Don't Be Afraid to Invest – Returns may be below previous levels, but low returns are better than no returns at all. In a way, a period of lower returns represents opportunity for younger investors because it allows them to buy more stocks at a lower price and receive a larger payoff down the road. "Buy low and sell high" always works. 2. Re-evaluate Risk – A proper portfolio should balance risk depending on your needs at each point in your life. In the early years, more risk is necessary to maximize returns. If you can tolerate higher risk in the early years, shifting your portfolio further in that direction gives you the opportunity to increase your returns while you have time to recover from any market drops. 3. Use Defensive Stocks Wisely – Defensive stocks are stocks that are generally stable, represent necessities, and are independent of the business cycle (such as utilities). Because of their inherent stability, they tend to outperform the market during down cycles. 4. Increase Savings – It's hard to beat cash reserves during difficult times. Carve out an increased segment of your budget to devote to savings. (If you don't have a budget at all, that's the place to start.) Don't be discouraged if you can't reach an 80% increase — few of us can. Save whatever extra money you can and build a savings mindset that gains momentum over time. 5. Consider Passive Investing – Passive investments in vehicles like no-load index funds can help you maximize returns by keeping your fees low and keep you from "overtrading" while attempting to time the market. In theory, active investment funds with a top-notch manager can earn higher returns in down markets, but there simply aren’t that many managers capable of beating passive funds on a regular basis. 6. Prioritize Spending/Limit Debt – An increase in savings can be neutralized by simultaneously accumulating too much debt. While mortgage debt is useful for building equity, be careful not to overextend yourself. Do not buy a larger and more expensive home than you need just because you can afford the payments. Do you really need a new car every few years? Analyze your spending closely, and you will be surprised to find out how quickly the small things add up — and how you can weed out unimportant purchases and still lead an enjoyable life. Above all, take charge of your own retirement investments. Don't count on Social Security or pensions for the majority of your retirement income. Both programs are having fiscal difficulties in good times — just imagine what would happen in a long-term stagnant economy. Invest in 401(k)s, IRAs, and other investment vehicles to the extent you can afford them. The McKinsey report may turn out to be wrong, but it is in your best interests to assume that it is right and plan accordingly. Photo ©

Originally Posted at:

Active Vs. Passive Investing

Should You Invest In the Stock Market?

Not All ETFs Are Created Equal

6 Rules To Follow In The New Investment Environment


We are in an economic recovery, although for many people, it doesn't seem like one. Slow economic growth has investors wondering how long this bull market can last and when stronger growth will return... but what if the current market is as good as things are going to get for the next ten to twenty years? The title of a recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute says it all: "Diminishing Returns: Why Investors May Need to Lower Their Expectations." The report suggests that inflation-adjusted returns of the last thirty years for the U.S. and Europe are the exception to the rule, and that investors need to lower their expectations for future returns. The report cites four major factors that kept the last thirty years...

Today's Headlines: Housing Market Momentum


Maintaining the Upward Trend As America pushes forward with slow but steady economic recovery, the housing market has been difficult to read. Is the housing market helping to drive the economy forward or acting as a drag on it? An argument can be made either way when looking at monthly data. Most housing numbers are so volatile that it is easy to cite trends prematurely, whether positive or negative. With that in mind, let's consider last week's housing report from the National Association of Realtors. The number with the greatest fanfare was the 1.1% monthly increase in existing home sales for June (a 3.0% increase over the previous year). The seasonally adjusted annual rate rose to 5.57 million, representing the highest rate of sales in over nine years. Driven by supply concerns, the corresponding median sales price of a home climbed by 3.7% to $247,700. Bloomberg's analysis notes that sales rates for the year have been "trending slightly higher," indicating steady and slow growth in the market, mirroring that of the greater economy. Also mirroring the greater economy, there are opposing forces in the housing market that balance out to provide steady growth that is sometimes obscured by monthly volatility. Consider the numbers on monthly new home sales as an example. April's numbers were a massive surprise, surging by 16.6% to reach a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 619,000. May numbers fell to a respectable 560,000 while the April numbers were revised down to 586,000. Bad news? Not at all. The adjustments simply realign new housing sales numbers to the same slow upward trajectory that they have been on since 2011. We have nearly recovered enough to reach the sales levels of late 2007, but at this rate, it will take another 7-8 years to reach the 1,074,000 new homes sold in June 2006. Tempered Optimism The other housing data released last week fit nicely into the scenario of slow but steady growth. Monday's report on the Housing Market Index from the National Association of Home Builders dipped slightly in both the July reading (down from 57 to 56) and in future sales expectations (from 69 to 66). Even with a slight decline, these numbers reflect overall optimism (50 is the breakeven point) and future sales predictions still point to growth. Tuesday's data reinforced mild optimism with both housing starts and housing permits beating the consensus estimates. Single-family home starts rose 4.4% and permits rose by 1.0%. Multi-family starts came in even stronger with starts up 5.4% and permits up by 2.5%. All of this data fits into a long-term slow upward trend. Along with the existing home sales numbers on Thursday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index from June shows a 0.2% increase over May and a 5.6% change over last June. Looking at a broader scale according to FHFA, the rate of increase in home prices has been slowing in recent months — good news if you are planning to buy a home, less so if you are hoping that your existing home will appreciate. At the same time, the median sales price is at a record high. It should not take much of an increase in the rate of higher home prices to depress a growing but fragile market. A House, A House, My Kingdom for a House The flip side of a growing housing demand is a lack of supply. After holding for several months at a 4.7-month inventory, available existing homes dipped to a 4.6-month inventory — right on the average inventory level over the last 12 months. A chronically thin supply is staying well below the 6-month inventory considered the mark of a healthy housing market. Upticks in new home construction are helping, but the increase is being quickly absorbed by excess demand. The Wall Street Journal reports that the real estate brokerage firm Redfin called June 2016 "the most competitive housing market since 2009," when the firm began tracking the housing market. It only took 41 days for the typical home for sale to go under contract. Interest rates are still historically low, at 3.45% on average for the past week according to the St. Louis Fed. Low rates, combined with recent improvement in jobs and wage increases and muted increases in home prices, make it a relatively good time to buy a home — if you can find one that meets your needs in your preferred area. Another bit of positive data comes from first-time homebuyers. First-timers play a critical role in "priming the pump" of the housing market. Those with existing homes who want to upgrade may be able to afford to buy their new home, but unless someone else can afford to buy their current home, the upgrade is unlikely to happen. Tight credit, rising home prices, and a mismatch between available homes and potential buyers has kept the number of first-time homebuyers down, but in June, approximately one-third of homebuyers were first-time buyers. It has been almost four years since the proportion of first-time buyers was so high. The main point: If you can find a home that you like and can afford, this is an excellent time to buy. Eventually, interest rates and/or home prices are likely to rise significantly. The Takeaway The past week's housing data can best be described as mixed with positive overtones. Higher growth in existing home sales is particularly helpful, since existing homes usually account for around 90% of all home sales. Combine this with a corresponding increase in new home sales, and the housing market appears to be on the right track to catch up with pent-up demand. As for the original question on housing, in some ways, housing can be considered both a driver and a drag for the economy. It's a driver with respect to demand, but a persistent lack of supply acts to throttle its growth. The longer-term prognosis depends on which force prevails. On the supply side, it's important for new housing starts to accelerate. To open up the supply of valuable starter homes, it's also critical that those looking to upgrade to a larger home can afford to do so. On the demand side, interest rates must stay reasonably low and home prices must not skyrocket beyond reach of first-time buyers. Wages need to keep rising at a rate that closes the gap for first-time homeowners, and the job market must remain steady. That's a lot to ask in any year, much less a Presidential election year. Still, in the long view the housing market has maintained positive momentum through multiple shocks. Perhaps it can handle the upcoming Presidential election as well, regardless of who wins. Photo ©

Originally Posted at:

Housing Market Recovery Update

Mortgage Debt Increased Just 1% From 2012

$51,000 Salary Needed To Buy Median-Priced House

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