Proper copying and storage of important documents is not just smart - it’s essential.

Proper copying and storage of important documents is not just smart - it’s essential.We all have vital documents that should be treated with the utmost care and concern. Marriage licenses, birth certificates, wills, deeds, mortgage papers, insurance information, stock and bond certificates - these are just a few of the essential papers most Americans have on hand, but probably aren’t caring for or storing properly.

According to document service experts at The UPS Store(r), there’s no time like the present to update, copy and store your personal documents. In fact, store franchisee Donna Evans recommends that people make copying important documents a yearly ritual and The UPS Store offers this handy top-ten list of easy tips for preserving valuable documents.

Approaching real estate and mortgage lending with optimism.

Approaching real estate and mortgage lending with optimism.If you are trying to make sense of the condition in the real estate and mortgage industries these days, don’t bother referring back to your old Economics 101 textbook where you first read about the laws of supply and demand. You’ll remember the side of the equation that says when the price of a product goes down, the demand for that product goes up.

Now, let’s apply our economics refresher course to the current housing and lending markets. According to The Wall Street Journal, the median U.S. home price was $201,000 in January of this year, down 4.6 percent from January 2007. The S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index for the fourth quarter was down 8.9 percent from a year earlier, the biggest drop in 20 years. Furthermore, there was a 10-month supply of existing homes for sale in January, up from just under five months during boom times. The supply is up so prices are down.

Are you buried in your own paperwork? Long distance moves, downsizing and spring cleaning can cause us to ask, “Will I ever need all this stuff? And if I do, how will I ever find it?” Alongside the box of old holiday lights and outgrown children’s clothes are boxes upon boxes of cancelled checks, receipts, bank statements and income tax forms going back to your first job and that first tax filing you did by hand. After all, it’s easier to keep everything than sort, make a decision and discard or re-file.

But when you reach that point when you can no longer store it all, it’s time to decide – what can stay and where; what must go and how to safely dispose of private information.

With some pundits throwing around the ‘R’ word, how can we turn it around?The dark miasma of pessimism that sent stock prices tumbling is obscuring powerful and far-reaching trends that could propel the market higher, much higher, in 2008 and beyond, even though the markets are likely to continue to test us with increased volatility and declines in the near term. There are compelling reasons to believe we are moving out of trouble, and not further in, hence our optimism and enthusiasm for U.S. stocks and our view that this turbulence, in retrospect, will prove an extraordinary opportunity for long term investors.

First, this is a real slump no matter how you work the numbers. Two-thirds of us believe we are already in a recession. The abuses in sub-prime lending have resulted in nearly $100 billion of financial write-downs and losses so far, and for all intents and purposes choked off the credit markets. The housing market is moribund, with foreclosures reaching crisis levels in many U.S. cities.

For Love or MONEY... but preferably, both.Valentine’s day is upon us – bringing hope to every romantic while sparking gift anxiety into everyone else. Once again, the challenge of finding the perfect gift to capture the essence of each particular relationship. To some that may mean a Hallmark card; to others, the sky’s the limit. Gold, diamonds, jewelry of all sorts, candy and fragrances all express that romantic “Be My Valentine” feeling. What about a gift of stock? Not very romantic, but for the practical, diet conscious or investment-oriented loved one, this might be the perfect solution.

Two Februaries past, this column reviewed several Valentine stock choices. Let’s see how the lucky recipients fared and whether the investments have lasted longer than the candy and flowers.

There’s money out there to borrow. The sky is not falling. However, you need to be prepared.

Mortgages... Be PREPAREDToday you can’t read a newspaper or watch television without hearing about the sluggish real estate markets, subprime loans and fewer lenders actually lending money. Thankfully, I was a Boy Scout growing up back in Ohio, and I well remember the scout motto: “Be Prepared.” This applies to the residential lending industry now more than ever.

Here’s the great news. There’s money out there  to  borrow. The sky is not falling. However, you need to be prepared. What does this mean?

Carolina FirstYou wouldn’t start a long road trip without consulting a map would you? Well, the same holds true for creating a strategy for managing your investments. Developing this strategy is a process, an organized and disciplined approach to making the right choices to ensure that you and your loved ones will be financially secure and that you will have peace of mind knowing you have crafted a well thought-out plan. Carolina First Securities has the people, resources, and know-how to help guide you through this process.

When most homebuyers begin the process of shopping for financing, they begin their search by comparing interest rates. While this is probably as good a place to start as any, there are several other factors that need to be considered.

Whenever there is a closing on a real estate transaction there will be closing expenses. Lenders, Appraisers and Closing Attorneys will all charge fees for there services. It is critical that the homeowner understands what the fees are and what they cover. These fees can be paid by the homeowner or the lender may absorb many of them.

Michelle Myhre, CFP® Oak AdvisorsIf the recent volatility in the stock, bond and real estate markets due to the credit crunch has made you lose sleep, it may be time to revisit your overall asset allocation strategy. Determining an appropriate allocation for your assets centers on assessing your risk tolerance, time horizon, and need for income.

Most investors know that a portfolio comprised of 100% stocks carries a great degree of risk, but may not be aware that a portfolio of 100% bonds is exposed to interest rate risk, credit risk, principal risk and purchasing power risk. Additionally, a portfolio of all real estate can also carry an enormous amount of risk due to its potential illiquidity, varying cash flows, dependency on borrowing costs, and fluctuation in value. You will need to assess how much risk you can tolerate.

Are you interested in learning more about managing your money? The new year is a good time to take on this challenge. Hilton Head-based Certified Public Accountant, Christine E. Cassidy, is hosting a series of free workshops with you in mind, titled Wealth Strategies Seminars. Covering a range of financial and tax topics, each seminar features a regional expert discussing their specialty.