Tuesday, January 3, 2012
GCF Bank proudly participates in the Gloucester County Cares About Hunger Food Donation Collection Drive. Drop off your non-perishable food items at any GCF branch between Monday, February 13th through Thursday, February 23rd. Find a list of preferred items on our website.
Our Current Rates:
For a listing of our current deposit and loan rates, click here.
NMLS... Yet Another Acronym
If you have been shopping around for a mortgage recently, you have probably heard or seen the term "NMLS." In specific, the mortgage loan originator that you have been dealing with should have provided you with their NMLS number. So, what exactly is the NMLS and why is it important to you when you are shopping around for a mortgage?
NMLS is an acronym for the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System & Registry. To fully understand the reasons behind and the use of the NMLS system, let's go back a few years. In 2008, the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act) was passed. The law was designed to increase consumer protection and reduce fraud by setting minimum standards for mortgage loan originators (MLOs). The law requires that all MLOs that work for an insured depository institution that is regulated by a federal agency be registered in a national registry. All other MLOs are required to be licensed by the state and registered in a national registry. In order for MLOs to be licensed by the state, they must complete education courses, pass a written test, and take annual continuing education courses. Among other things, the SAFE Act also requires that all MLOs submit fingerprints for a criminal background check. If all conditions are satisfactorily met, a MLO will be registered in the NMLS system as an Approved MLO.
So how does this help you? As one of the requirements of the SAFE Act, a portal was created to give consumers the ability to search for the MLO with whom they wish to conduct business in order to verify that they are an approved MLO. Therefore, you should be able to find your MLO on the national registry. If you cannot find your MLO or if your MLO's status is something other than Active and Authorized to Conduct Business, you may wish to consider doing business with someone else.
When you search for your MLO, you can search by either their name or the name of the company for which they work. If you search for the company name, a list of all the MLOs for that company will be displayed. You can also search by NMLS number. When a company or person registers with the NMLS system, they are each assigned a unique identification number. This number will never change and never be re-assigned.
When you search for a company, some of the information you will see is the company name, address and phone numbers. When you search for an individual, some of the information you will see is the person's name, any previous names, the company that they work for, their office location, phone number, employment history, and of course, their status. This can give you some peace of mind knowing that the person you are dealing with is registered and authorized to work as an MLO.
So how do you access the NMLS system? The consumer portal is free. Access it here.
Up, Up and Away!
If you've already figured out that I'm talking about consumer prices - good for you. You know this newsletter won't feature a Superman article. But maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea since current events often more resemble myth.
The Great Recession caused inflation to remain flat in 2009 and 2010. Social Security recipients know this well since there was no cost of living allowance increase.
Not so in 2011. Prices began rising once again as manufacturers tried to recover losses incurred during the economic crisis. Expect much of the same in 2012.
Food costs rose 6 percent in 2011. Expect at least another 2 percent increase in 2012.
Cities and towns are struggling to make ends meet. What does this mean to you? Water rate hikes, increased parking fees and vehicle registration costs may skyrocket. Expect a hefty increase in fines, too.
We saw some relief at the gas pump in 2011. Enjoy it while it lasts. Prices are predicted to exceed the $4 per gallon mark in 2012.
The U.S. Postal Service already announced an increase in first class postage. The one penny increase equates to 4.6 percent over the current price for a first class stamp. Package shipment will see the same 4.6 percent increase.
But don't expect to find cheaper rates elsewhere. FedEx and UPS are both instituting a hike of their own. The shippers both announced a 4.9 percent rate increase.
Flooding in Thailand put a halt to hard drive production. Shortages and subsequent high prices should continue throughout first quarter 2012.
Desktop computers have gone through a transformation. The new units integrate the processor with a touchscreen monitor. Result: roughly a 30 percent price increase.
Unlimited mobile device data plans may be a thing of the past. As 4G service grows, so will your monthly service bill.
Airfare for both domestic and international travel is expected to increase about 5 percent for coach and 7 percent for business class. Cutbacks resulted in fewer available seats - despite growing demand.
Add another $15 per ticket for flights to Europe. A new green tax designed to help reduce emissions goes into effect.
But once you get there, you'll find a better deal on hotels, wine and trinkets. The European debt crisis has made our dollar more valuable there.
The latest and greatest consumer electronic devices are introduced in January and February. That's good news for shoppers as bargains abound to move existing inventory.
Thinking about going solar? This may be year to do it. Photovoltaic panel prices are expected to drop this year. Production exceeded demand so manufacturers are trying to rid themselves of excess inventory. You may also see a drop in the price of electricity, depending where you live.
Internet sales are booming. And thanks to this trend, you'll find brick and mortar stores offering better deals to remain competitive. Plus you'll save on shipping costs.
For every increase announced, you'll also find a decrease offered on a related item to ward off angry consumers. But it's usually only a small token compared to the price hike. Don't settle. You may find another brand or supplier offers a better value. Become an educated shopper.
Ring In 2012
The first trading day of the New Year brought a broad rally in the financial markets. Analysts cite numerous positive reports for the market's enthusiasm including:
None of these events would typically be viewed all that positive when taken alone. However, the New Year has kicked off with positive economic data coming from disparate sources. Make no mistake, risks remain. The European debt crisis is far from over, and the U.S. is still faced with a truly dismal housing sector. Yet the resilience of democratic capitalism will almost certainly, eventually, grow us out of the prolonged trough we have been in. That is assuming, of course, that the government doesn't take any new actions to further thwart the recovery, such as another moratorium on home foreclosures or other absurd sanctions on the owners of capital who desire return of their funds.
A much more important but less talked about news item is also circulating the business wires today. The Federal Reserve has announced that it will begin to publish certain interest rate predictions in an effort to "help the public and markets better understand the policymaker's decisions." This announcement follows the almost unprecedented step the Fed took this past summer when it publicly announced its intention to hold interest rates at the current low level "until at least mid 2013." Previously, under Alan Greenspan and his predecessors, the Fed operated with an ample amount of secrecy. Indeed, an entire cottage industry of body language experts, psychics and fortune tellers devoted countless hours trying to "guess" the Fed's intentions. And guessing led to gaming. As these recent disclosures have shown, the Fed under Ben Bernanke has been far more transparent - with the intention to reduce the gaming and speculation. Critics charge that the transparency will ultimately limit the Fed's policy options and "tie its hands" based on past disclosures. Proponents of the new transparency policy believe the reduced uncertainly will allow greater continuity in business strategy. I am in the latter camp, and while not without risks, it is a welcome change.
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