Monthly Archives: December 2013

Healthiest Housing Markets in America

Eric WcWhinnie, Wall St. Cheat Sheet7:33 a.m. EST December 22, 2013

New housing gauge — Zillow Market Health index — compares housing markes nationwide.



(Photo: Chuck Burton AP)


  • Zillow Market Health index combines 10 measures of housing market strength
  • If a metro area has a value of 8 on the index, it’s healthier than 80% of all metro areas
    • Rapid appreciation in home values can cause significant housing affordability longer term

The aftermath of the housing bubble will likely be debated for years to come. Many analysts say the real estate market is on a path to recovery, but some are waiting for the house of cards to collapse once again, when the Federal Reserve steps back from the table. One thing is certain: Some housing markets in the country are currently stronger than others.

A new housing gauge called the Zillow Market Health Index aims to illustrate the current health of a region’s housing market relative to other markets across the nation. The index combines 10 measures capturing home value movements, the time homes stay on the market, and the financial health of homeowners. It assigns a value for each region ranging from 0 to 10. For example, if a metro area has a value of 8 on the Market Health Index, the metro is healthier than 80% of all metro areas covered by Zillow in the United States.

While the index can help determine which metros are witnessing strength, it’s important to note that rapid appreciation in home values could cause significant housing affordability issues in the longer term. There’s also no telling how long before today’s winners turn into tomorrow’s losers. This was seen during the housing bubble, when the hottest markets quickly turned into the worst. With that said, let’s take a look at the 10 healthiest housing markets in the United States.

1. San Jose, California

Market Health Index: 9.04
Share of Homes Sold for Gain: 86%
Mortgages in Negative Equity: 7.6%
Days on Market: 45

2. San Francisco, California

Market Health Index: 8.85
Share of Homes Sold for Gain: 86%
Mortgages in Negative Equity: 12.4%
Days on Market: 47

3. Los Angeles, California

Market Health Index: 8.64
Share of Homes Sold for Gain: 86%
Mortgages in Negative Equity: 13.2%
Days on Market: 65

4. San Diego, California

Market Health Index: 8.41
Share of Homes Sold for Gain: 81%
Mortgages in Negative Equity: 14.7%
Days on Market: 61

5. Denver, Colorado

Market Health Index: 8.1
Share of Homes Sold for Gain: 86%
Mortgages in Negative Equity: 11.9%
Days on Market: 62

6. Boston, Massachusetts

Market Health Index: 7.43
Share of Homes Sold for Gain: 57%
Mortgages in Negative Equity: 12%
Days on Market: 83

7. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Market Health Index: 7.37
Share of Homes Sold for Gain: 87%
Mortgages in Negative Equity: 12.1%
Days on Market: 103

8. Portland, Oregon

Market Health Index: 6.49
Share of Homes Sold for Gain: 80%
Mortgages in Negative Equity: 16.9%
Days on Market: 66

9. New York, New York

Market Health Index: 6.01
Share of Homes Sold for Gain: 79%
Mortgages in Negative Equity: 17.3%
Days on Market: 146

10. Sacramento, California

Market Health Index: 5.99
Share of Homes Sold for Gain: 79%
Mortgages in Negative Equity: 23.4%
Days on Market: 64

MORE: Will your retirement savings afford basic living expenses?

MORE: Will these 4 housing market predictions come true?

MORE: 5 reasonable economic predictions for 2014

Wall St. Cheat Sheet is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news and commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

Guard Against Child Identity Theft


By Staff Writer

Chances are, you shred or secure any paperwork that contains personally identifying information, such as your Social Security number or birth date. But do you do the same for your children?

You ought to. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that at least 6 percent of all identity theft cases involve children. That’s because youngsters’ personal information is appealing to thieves, who can use it to build a clean credit profile where one doesn’t currently exist. Another reason: It takes longer to get caught.

Adults may be actively involved in the credit world, checking statements and scores, but “parents aren’t checking their children’s credit, so thieves can do more damage over an extended amount of time,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, an organization dedicated to educating consumers and assisting victims.

The good news is, with a few simple steps you can better safeguard your children’s personal information and pursue any problems on their behalf.

Ask questions. Many schools and extracurricular programs ask for kids’ Social Security numbers and other personally identifying information in order for them to participate. Ask why they need this information and whether it’s mandatory. If it’s indeed required, “ask them how they will keep the information secure,” advises Velasquez. Then determine whether you’re comfortable with that level of protection.

Know warning signs. “If you’re receiving things in your child’s name that would typically be for adults only, that’s a red flag,” says Velasquez. Warning signs include:

  • Collection notices
  • Bills or new credit cards
  • Traffic violation warrants
  • Jury summons

Don’t request credit reports. Unless you have a strong suspicion or know for certain that your child’s identity has been compromised, resist the temptation to check for a credit report in your child’s name as a preventive measure. “If your child doesn’t have a credit file — and they shouldn’t — you could actually open one up accidentally by checking it,” says Velasquez.

Take action. If you suspect fraud — or can confirm it — contact the Identity Theft Resource Center immediately toll-free, at 888-400-5530. They’ll listen to your concerns and work with you on next steps. You’ll also want to contact the FTCto get help measuring the scope of the problem, and then file a report with your local police department.

Promote privacy. It’s important to teach children the importance of protecting their own personal information, so they don’t set themselves up to be victimized. Velasquez recommends teens and parents check out ConnectSafely, an online resource that offers tips for safeguarding your information online.

Get more information at Identity Theft Resources from State Farm®. For added security, look into identity theft insurance.

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5 Reasons It’s Great to be a Baby Boomer

5 Reasons It’s Great to be a Baby Boomer

by BILL NESS on DECEMBER 9, 2013


Baby Boomers make great company for meals as they aren’t distracted by iPhones, Facebook or Twitter!

Today’s twenty-somethings are living in a different world than the one where Baby Boomers came into adulthood. While Baby Boomers have adapted with the times, growing up in another generation has given them a different outlook. Here are just five reasons it’s great to be a Baby Boomer:

1. Baby Boomers are less connected

Sure, Baby Boomers appreciate cool technology and the convenience of having a cell phone as much as the next guy. However, they grew up with landline telephones and the idea that it was okay to be away from them for long stretches of time. It was understood, and accepted, that someone might not be available to answer the phone right away. So while Baby Boomers may now have smartphones, they are less likely to be chained to them or feel anxiety over turning them off when they don’t want to be disturbed.

2. Baby Boomers know how to dress for work

There’s no doubt that office attire has gotten more casual in most professions. Most companies favor business casual and many new start-ups let employees wear whatever they want. While jeans and t-shirts are great weekend wear, Baby Boomers see the value in dressing professionally in the workplace. They tend to take more pride in their appearance and carefully consider how they present themselves to coworkers and clients.

3. Baby Boomers enjoy dinner dates

Many Baby Boomers grew up in families where restaurants were for special occasions. Dinner dates are still a romantic occasion where they can dress up and make an effort to look their best. Dining out with friends is also a popular pastime. At the restaurant, they also know how to enjoy lively dinner conversation without distractions like tweeting pictures of their food or narrating the evening on Facebook.

4. Baby Boomers know how to volunteer

Baby Boomers are known for their efforts to make the world a better place. Today, that attitude continues as they seek out ways to volunteer for social, environmental or political causes. Many active adult communities have their own volunteerism groups or charitable organizations as well, making it even easier for Baby Boomers to find opportunities that fit their schedules.

5. Baby Boomers value their privacy

Today’s young adults think nothing of posting every detail of their lives online. Their friendships and romantic relationships play out on social media, and they even use GPS to post their location throughout the day. Baby Boomers grew up without an audience. They don’t feel compelled to share private information and they understand the value in having a little mystery in their lives.

Tagged as: Active AdultActive Adult LivingBaby Boomer FactsBaby Boomers