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Credit Criteria Loosens for Sub-prime Borrowers

April 2, 2012 4:38 am

For the first time in over four years, banckcard credit lines increased, reaching $163 billion in 2011. In fact, sub-prime origination growth across all lending sectors is continuing to show notable increases, according to recent U.S. consumer data from Equifax's March “National Consumer Credit Trends Report” and, a joint product of Equifax and Moody's Analytics.

For example, the number of bank credit card accounts increased from Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011, a product of lenders more aggressively seeking new customers and consumers’ increasing demand for new credit. New credit in 2011 ($782 billion) remained below pre-recession levels, but gained more than 10 percent over 2009 and 2010 levels ($695 and $709 billion, respectively).

Increases in credit limits were also seen in 2011, as total retail credit card limits increased 6 percent year-over-year from Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011 and total bank credit card limits jumped 24 percent from Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011.

Other notable findings from the Equifax report include:

Bank Credit Cards

  • Lending to sub-prime consumers showed a 41 percent increase from 2010 to 2011 as sub-prime borrowing hit a four-year high in Dec. 2011 with 1.1 million new bank credit cards issued.
  • New sub-prime card limits grew 55 percent from 2010 to 2011. At $12.5 billion in 2011, bankcard limits are at their highest level since 2008 ($27.4 billion).
  • Bank credit card growth continues, but is still well below pre-recession levels. In 2011, 39.9 million bankcards were opened, an 18 percent increase from 2010 and the highest total since 2008.
  • The increase in total bank credit card originations was accompanied by a 31 percent increase in total credit limits from 2010 to 2011. 2011 marked the first time in over four years that credit lines increased, reaching $163 billion.
Retail Credit Cards
  • In early 2009, the share of retail card balances held by low-risk borrowers started increasing markedly. Today, low-risk borrowers hold just below 42 percent of retail card balances, followed by high-risk borrowers who now make up nearly 26 percent of balances outstanding.
  • From 2010 to 2011 there was a 4.7 percentage point increase in retail card originations to sub-prime borrowers, making up 31 percent of 2011 retail credit card originations.
  • Retail credit card limits grew almost 6 percent in 2011, totaling $60 billion for newly originated cards.
  • The decline in total retail card limits appears to be nearing a bottom as delinquency rates and write-offs show continued declines.
Consumer Finance
  • New consumer finance loans originated in 2011 (20.2 million) were up over 4 percent from 2010 (19.4 million), and the highest since 2008 (24.8 million).
  • Consumer finance delinquency rates are on the decline, dropping to 7 percent in February 2012, the lowest level since July 2007.
  • From 2007 to 2010, consumer finance loan originations were falling, but the trend reversed in 2011, with $1.2 billion of new loan amounts added.
  • New consumer finance originations for the month of December reached $5 billion in 2011; the last time December originations were that high was in 2008 ($5.1 billion).
  • Consumer finance loans have typically served high-risk consumers, but in February 2011, low-risk borrowers became dominant in the segment; as of February 2012, just over 33 percent of consumer finance loans (by dollars) were to high-risk borrowers while 39 percent were to low-risk borrowers.
Source: Equifax

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Trends: Rechargeable Mower

March 30, 2012 4:32 am

Eco-friendly appliances have been popular inside homes for the past several years. But this spring, the Energy Star rated Recharge Mower G2 may be one of the hottest lawn-care trends of 2012.

With no chokes, belts, oil changes, filters or gas needed, homeowners can simply charge this mower up, enabling it to cut up to 2 acres on a single charge. By avoiding the ongoing service issues inherent to gas mowers, the Recharge Mower G2 can consumers time, money, and stress.

Spruce up your lawn for your next party or showing. Spend more time enjoying the warm weather this year, and less time fiddling with your mower. “Manicuring your lawn is what a riding mower is designed to do”, says President Allan Hechtman. “The Recharge Mower G2 is built for users and not mechanics.”


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Calculating Solar Costs

March 30, 2012 4:32 am

Installing solar electrical generating panels in your home is a growing trend for both helping the environment and saving on energy costs. According to, homeowners should calculate up-front costs vs. the long-term savings you could enjoy.

For nearly everyone, the upfront cost of a photovoltaic solar system will be a major factor. However, with the yearly utility savings and the government incentives, it can be well worth the initial investment.

Considering a single solar panel can generate 21.294 kWh/month, if your electricity company charges an average of 20 cents per kWh, you would save about $512 per year. If that system costs $20,000, solar Government rebates / Tax Credits could cut that cost as much as 50 percent, so you’ll have to pay back $10,000.

That means it will take you about 19.5 years for 10 x 2 m² solar panels to pay off the system and begin truly saving. And if you consume 1,000 Kw /Month it will reduce your typical energy bill by about half.

Finally, if all the numbers work out— it's time to plan your photovoltaic system placement. A good rule of thumb to use when determining the correct tilt of solar panels is to find out the approximate latitude of your area and set the panels at an angle equal to that latitude.

This should maximize the amount of solar radiation absorbed all year. If the southward facing roof on which the panels will be installed is slanted beyond the angle of your area’s latitude, then the panels should be lifted at the bottom edges, in order to achieve the best radiation angle, whenever possible.

For flat roofs, any of the four sides can be elevated to match the latitude angle.

Finally, to start a power purchase agreement with your local utility, you will have to start filling out paperwork to get approved. One of the first things that you will have to submit is your current electric bills. This is to show what your normal consumption is. If you get approved, you could get some solar renewable energy credits for every megawatt hour you are producing.

If your state offers money for these credits, it could add up to some nice pay for you, according to the folks at

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Lead Paint Hazards and Older Windows

March 30, 2012 4:32 am

If your home was built before 1978 and you still have the original windows, it's time to seriously consider replacing them—especially if you have young children or a pregnant person living in the home.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the routine opening and closing of windows in homes built prior to 1978 can disturb lead-based paint around the windows, causing paint dust and chips to be released into the air. These lead particles are so potentially dangerous that the EPA now requires contractors to be trained and certified before they can perform any renovation, repair or painting projects that may have previously applied lead-based paint.

"Research indicates that the everyday activity of opening and closing windows creates friction that then allows invisible lead dust to enter the air," says Rick Nevin, a consultant to the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH). "Young children, who crawl on the floor where the lead dust has settled, can be especially at risk. Toddlers put their hands in their mouths…and after playing on the floor near a window, they can easily transfer the lead dust into their mouths. The ingested lead travels through the bloodstream to a child's developing brain, causing many types of neurobehavioral damage."

According to Nevin, one of the most important long-term investments a homeowner can make for the overall safety of a family is to replace older windows, using the EPA-approved lead safe renovation guidelines. "Replacing older windows is one of the best ways to reduce lead risks," says Nevin. "Make sure to use only a contractor that is certified in lead-safe work practices and strongly consider the use of ENERGY STAR® qualified windows. These windows are a healthy choice for replacing older single-pane units. They're energy-efficient and a good value for the investment."

Nevin explains that, according to his research funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), homeowners need to understand there are four key steps to completing a "lead-safe window replacement strategy" for the home. "First, they advise replacing all single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR® qualified windows," says Nevin. "Second, stabilize any significantly deteriorated paint. Third, perform specialized cleaning to remove any lead-contaminated dust. And finally, perform dust wipe tests to confirm the absence of lead dust hazards after the clean up."

Research results can be obtained at

Source: Simonton Windows

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Quick Ways to Think Spring at Home

March 29, 2012 4:30 am

From our wardrobes to our attitudes, spring makes us want to start fresh. The designers at Lamps Plus offer these easy ways to refresh your home in time for the warmer weather: 

Update Colors
Break out of winter by adding the new colors of spring to your home. Advises Lamps Plus design expert and Corporate Interior Design Manager Lynda Gould, “Look to nature for organic color tones to bring to indoor rooms. I love adding tones of green through pillows and glass accents. For brighter pops of color, I really like using yellows and hot oranges.”

Redecorate Your Porch
“I love relaxing on the porch during those first days of spring,” says Gould. “The front porch is such an underutilized part of most people’s homes. With just a little accessorizing it can become a real focal point with great curb appeal.” To maximize the use of the porch, Gould suggests adding a new outdoor rug to help define the space and add comfort under-foot. “I like to arrange outdoor furniture around the rug to create a cozy conversation area. You can add planters to the area for a bit of color and greenery that will look good all season long.”

Make a Bright Impression with Lighting
New lighting can totally remake and revitalize an outdoor space or a room, notes Gould. ”You can instantly restyle a porch area with new outdoor lighting which will also help you enjoy the area longer into the night. If you have a larger covered porch, consider installing an outdoor ceiling fan. These add a real sense of luxury and comfort to a seating area.”

Take the Indoors Outside
Make the transition from the front porch to your inside rooms smooth and flowing with coordinating colors and décor accents, advises Michael Murphy, designer and Style Illuminated design blog writer. “If the colors and textures of the porch and indoor furniture share similar elements, you’ll be able to tie the two living spaces together. This helps bring the outside world of spring inside, refreshing your indoor living areas, and it helps take your indoor style to the great outdoors.” Murphy likes to use pillows, indoor rugs, wall art and accessories to blend the looks of the two areas. “This is a great tip no matter what the season, but it is especially wonderful to do in the spring.”

Re-Style the Backyard Patio
For many of us the more private space of the backyard patio is a natural place to relax and entertain. Not only do most patios extend from kitchen and dining room areas, but they also are a gateway to garden areas and lawns. You can make your patio spring-ready by adding just a few key accessories, says Marcia Prentice, Lamps Plus designer and blogger. “The same ideas that apply to porches will also work with backyard patios, but the scale is a little different. On the patio you want comfortable outdoor seating ideas for eating and entertaining larger groups. I like having lots of umbrellas on hand because even in the spring sitting, in the sun can be uncomfortable, and I also love adding table accents for serving drinks, lighting for BBQ cookouts and other accessories for entertaining.”


Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Remove Mold from Walls

March 29, 2012 4:30 am

The increased amount of rain that usually accompanies spring can lead to problematic mold problems for homeowners. 

Mold is the single most common byproduct of water damage, appearing in as little as 72 hours following a water damage event (sooner if the water is sewage based), and proving extremely difficult to remediate. Even worse, mold can be the cause of all kinds of health problems, ranging from mild allergic reactions and skin irritation to more serious neurological disorders and respiratory problems., a provider of water damage restoration and mold removal services, offers the following steps for alleviating minor mold issues on your walls and ceilings: 

• Start at the top of the wall and work your way down. This will prevent any contamination of clean areas with drips or runs as you move down the wall.
• Wear proper protective gear. Long pants, sleeves, rubber gloves, and a filtration mask are necessary items in order to prevent exposure to mold spores.
• Don’t even try to clean porous surfaces. You will not be successful. Mold gets down inside the surface and cannot be reached. Porous surfaces affected by mold will need to be cut away and replaced.
• Make sure all cleaned surfaces are properly dried out. Moisture is the single most important factor in mold growth.
• Removing mold is never just as easy as killing off the growth. The environment must be properly treated to make sure the problem doesn’t return. This involves disinfecting, sanitizing, improving the ventilation, and reducing humidity and moisture levels. Appropriate humidity levels in any residence should be maintained at 40-45 degrees.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


FTC Action Puts Robocallers Out of the Telemarketing Business

March 29, 2012 4:30 am

The Federal Trade Commission put a robocall operation out of the telemarketing business under a settlement resolving FTC charges that it bombarded consumers with more than two billion calls pitching a variety of products and services, including worthless extended auto warranties and credit card interest rate-reduction programs. 

The final settlement order against SBN Peripherals, based near Los Angeles, which did business as Asia Pacific Telecom Inc., is part of the FTC's ongoing crackdown on deceptive robocallers. The order bans the defendants from telemarketing and requires them to give up roughly $3 million in assets. 

The FTC's complaint alleged that the defendants delivered illegal prerecorded phone calls falsely claiming the caller had urgent information about the consumer's auto warranty or credit card interest rate. Consumers who pressed "1" for more information were transferred to telemarketers who used fraudulent practices to sell inferior extended auto service contracts or worthless debt-reduction services. According to court papers filed by the court-appointed receiver, from January 2008 through August 2009, the defendants completed approximately 2.6 billion outbound robocalls that were answered by approximately 1.6 billion consumers, approximately 12.8 million of whom were connected to a sales agent. 

As alleged in the complaint, the defendants violated the law by using robocalls to contact consumers without their written permission and called telephones listed on the National Do Not Call Registry. To make it difficult for consumers to identify the seller, the FTC also alleged that the defendants' robocalls often transmitted caller ID information vaguely identifying the caller as "SALES DEPT" and displaying telephone numbers registered to an offshore company it controlled called Asia Pacific Telecom. 

The Commission vote approving the proposed consent order was 4-0. It is subject to court approval. The FTC filed the proposed consent order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Baby Boomers Keep on Truckin'

March 28, 2012 4:28 am

Although the country’s most famous generation is aging, they are showing no signs of slowing down, according to consumer research firm Scarborough. Baby boomers, who make up 35 percent of the U.S. adult population, are living up to their revolutionary legacy, showing the nation that their heyday is far from over by taking pleasure in life's adventures. 

In the past 12 months, baby boomers have attended a professional sporting event (36 percent), attended live theater (22 percent), visited an art museum (14 percent), attended a rock concert (12 percent) and gone to the symphony or opera (9 percent). The group is also 11 percent more likely than all American adults to have eaten at a seafood restaurant or steakhouse in the past 30 days. 

Baby boomers are also 9 percent more likely than all U.S. adults to have traveled domestically for business or vacation purposes in the past year and 3 percent more likely to have engaged in foreign travel for business or vacation purposes in the past three years. Nine percent of baby boomers have visited Europe in the past three years and 12 percent vacationed in the Caribbean in the same time frame. Their enthusiasm for travel also keeps them feeling lucky – 9 percent of baby boomers have visited Las Vegas in the past year and 34 percent visited any casino in the same time frame. 

Baby boomers are also spending money to make their home lives more entertaining as well. Nearly half (45 percent) of baby boomers live in a household with a digital video recorder and 30 percent live in a household with a video game system. Baby boomers are 21 percent more likely than all American adults to live in a household with a pool, hot tub or spa and 7 percent of baby boomers live in a household with a motorcycle. Baby boomers also take great pride in the appearance of their homes as 27 percent have had landscaping done in the past year and they are 21 percent more likely than all American adults to have spent $10,000 or more on home improvements in the past year. 

Baby boomers can be found reading national news (28 percent), making travel reservations (23 percent) and gaining medical services and information online (14 percent). On the radio, baby boomers listen to Adult Contemporary (30 percent), News and Talk (28 percent), and Classic Hits (25 percent). The kinds of television shows boomers typically watch are Movies (57 percent), Local Evening News (53 percent), Comedies (47 percent), and Local Morning News (44 percent). 

Baby boomers are 22 percent more likely than all American adults to be employed full-time and are 32 percent more likely to own a home valued at $500,000 or more. They are 23 percent more likely than all American adults to have an annual household income of $100,000 or more and are 9 percent more likely to hold at least a college degree. 

The biggest spenders of the baby boom generation are the High-Earning Baby Boomers (HEBBs), defined by Scarborough as baby boomers who live in households that have an annual income of $100,000 or more. HEBBs account for 9 percent of the American adult population and are more than twice as likely as all American adults to own a second home or other real estate property for investment.

They were nearly two and a half times more likely than all Americans to have spent $10,000 or more in the past year on remodeling their homes. HEBBs live in households that are 82 percent more likely than all American households to have a 401K plan, and more than twice as likely to have a college savings plan. 

HEBBs can be found in large cities where earning potential is reportedly higher. Among the top local markets for HEBBs are: Washington, D.C. (18 percent of all adults); San Francisco (16 percent); New York (14 percent) and Boston (14 percent).

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is Your Auto Insurance Sufficient? Time to Look Again

March 28, 2012 4:28 am

While you may believe you have ample car insurance, the cars on the road around you may not.

According to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), about 14 percent of drivers nationwide (roughly one in seven) are uninsured. That means that of the nearly 5.5 million car accidents in 2009, nearly 770,000 involved an uninsured driver. While this number usually decreases as unemployment rates improve, it’s a prudent idea to make sure your insurance is sufficient for covering an accident with an uninsured driver. 

According to North Carolina attorney Dre Fleury with the law firm Crumley Roberts, the minimum required coverage is usually not enough. 

"You can't always avoid an auto accident, but you can protect yourself financially, and you may find that for just a few extra dollars per month you could quadruple your coverage," advises Fleury. 

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for ensuring enough coverage. Factors such as age, driving record, where you live, family size and much more can affect your insurance costs and coverage needs. 

"Policies can be very detailed and highly personalized, but the key areas you want to review are liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage," says Fleury. "Medical payments coverage is also a great thing to have in your policy. 

"It's not just uninsured or underinsured drivers who pose a risk," adds Fleury. "If you're at fault in an accident, not having enough liability coverage could wipe you out financially, and the person you injure can even come after your home, assets and more." 

To help balance out the increased costs of liability insurance, Fleury suggests decreasing your collision and comprehensive insurance if you have an older car with no loan. 

Source: Crumley Roberts, LLP

Published with permission from RISMedia.


New App Helps Gardeners Succeed

March 28, 2012 4:28 am

If you’re lacking in the green thumb department, a new app might be just what you need. The recently launched GardenMinder™ App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch is now available on the App Store. Created by Gardener's Supply and Green Mountain Digital, the app helps you start and maintain a healthy vegetable garden with built-in reminders and how-to's. 

The GardenMinder App helps both new and experienced gardeners plan, maintain, and record the progress of their kitchen vegetable gardens with various features, including: 

• A visual garden planner tool. Start with a pre-planned herb and vegetable garden or create your own using GardenMinder's built-in image and information library, which contains more than 70 of the most common vegetable types.
• Weekly alerts and 'Gardening Success Reminders.' Weekly reminders are tailored to only the crops you grow and based on frost dates for your locations. Go through and check off your reminders as you complete them. You will then receive weekly push notifications to remind you of your upcoming garden activities.
• Easy-access to 'How-To's.' GardenMinder's planting and care instructions, plus troubleshooting tips and a plant encyclopedia detailing the most popular vegetable crops, are easily accessible in the app.
• Create your own 'Personal Garden Journal.' Capture your garden in a journal with before-and-after photos, note planting progress, monitor growth, etc., you’re your personalized own GardenMinder. How-to's are linked in each reminder for easy access. You can tag each entry with a specific vegetable and share your success with friends via Facebook or email. This tool helps track your successes—and problems—for next year. 

For more information, please visit

Published with permission from RISMedia.