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Mortgage Rates Jan. 18: Up Slightly; Big Banks Accused of Mortgage Discrimination

Mortgage rates made small moves this morning, with 30-year fixed and 5/1 ARM rates ticking up a hair, and 15-year fixed rates holding steady for the third day in a row, according to a NerdWallet survey of mortgage rates published by national lenders on Wednesday.

Mortgage Rates Today, Wednesday, Jan. 18 (Change from 1/17) 30-year fixed: 4.31% APR (+0.01) 15-year fixed: 3.70% APR (NC) 5/1 ARM: 3.84% APR (+0.02) JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America face mortgage discrimination charges

Two of the nation’s largest mortgage originators stand accused of discriminatory lending practices by the U.S. government. Today, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase claiming the bank charged at least 53,000 black and Hispanic borrowers higher interest rates and loan fees between 2006 and 2009.

JPMorgan has agreed to a settlement, reported to be $55 million, and issued the following statement: “We’ve agreed to settle these legacy allegations that relate to pricing set by independent brokers. We deny any wrongdoing and remain committed to providing equal access to credit.”

» MORE: Calculate how much house you can afford

Today’s action follows a similar charge against Bank of America made less than two weeks ago by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, alleging discriminatory lending practices against Hispanic borrowers in South Carolina.

The lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase claims the lender charged minority borrowers, on average, about $1,000 more in fees than white borrowers with similar risk profiles. The U.S. government also says the bank paid mortgage brokers bonuses for selling customers loans with higher interest rates.

Damages to borrowers could amount to “tens of millions of dollars,” according to the lawsuit. Attorneys for JPMorgan Chase filed a response with the court denying the allegations.

The HUD lawsuit against Bank of America alleges that two employees offered less favorable mortgage loan terms to female Hispanic prospective borrowers compared with non-Hispanic females. The claims are based on loan estimates offered to potential borrowers in tests conducted by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

Homeowners looking to lower their mortgage rate can shop for refinance lenders here.

NerdWallet daily mortgage rates are an average of the published APR with the lowest points for each loan term offered by a sampling of major national lenders. Annual percentage rate quotes reflect an interest rate plus points, fees and other expenses, providing the most accurate view of the costs a borrower might pay.

Michael Burge is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mburge@nerdwallet.com. NerdWallet writer Hal Bundrick contributed to this report.

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When You Can’t Repay a Payday Loan

+ What to do if you can't repay a payday loan 1. Prioritize food and shelter needs. 2. Offer to settle before debt goes to collections. 3. Consider bankruptcy if debts are overwhelming. 4. Know your rights in dealing with debt collectors. 5. Insist collectors show proof the debt is yours. 6. If sued, show up in court no matter what.

If you don’t repay your payday loan, here’s what can happen: a barrage of bank overdraft fees, constant collections calls, hit after hit to your credit, a day in court and garnishment of your paycheck.

Don’t think it can’t happen because you borrowed only $300 in the first place.

“If you have a valid, binding, legal agreement to pay that debt, and you’re in a state where they can sue you and attach your wages, you’re playing a game of chicken that you’re going to lose,” says Bruce McClary of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

This is what you can expect:

First up: Lots of bank withdrawals and calls

When the money you borrowed is due, payday lenders don’t waste time.

Immediately, they’ll initiate automatic withdrawals from your bank account, which you typically give them access to when you take out the loan. If the debits don’t go through, they may break the charge into smaller chunks in an attempt to extract whatever money is in your account. Each failed attempt can trigger a bank fee against you.

At the same time, lenders will start calling, sending letters from lawyers and contacting the relatives or friends you used as references when you took out the loan. While federal law prohibits debt collectors from revealing their identity or your debt situation to anyone else — they can ask only for help locating you — violations of this provision are widespread, advocates say.

In a 2014 report on lender practices, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that payday collectors visited borrowers’ homes and places of work and told friends, neighbors and colleagues the details of the person’s outstanding loan.

“They’re fairly aggressive because you’re already on a fairly short leash,” credit expert John Ulzheimer says. “Payday lenders understand that if someone goes delinquent, it’s much more likely they’re going to default. They’re not going to give their borrower a bunch of time, and they’re certainly not going to listen to a bunch of sob stories before they start trying to collect on the debt.”

Jail time? No — but threats are common

In a 2014 Pew Charitable Trusts survey, 30 percent of online payday borrowers reported having been threatened by a payday lender, “including the threat of arrest,” says Nick Bourke, director of the nonprofit’s small-dollar-loans project.

Failure to repay a loan is not a criminal offense. In fact, it is illegal for a lender to threaten a borrower with arrest or jail. Nonetheless, some payday lenders have succeeded in using bad-check laws to file criminal complaints against borrowers, with judges erroneously rubber-stamping the complaints.

The CFPB advises anyone threatened with arrest for nonpayment to contact his or her state attorney general’s office. You should never ignore a court order to appear in court, however, even if the criminal complaint was filed mistakenly.

Try to negotiate a settlement

A lender would rather collect money directly from you than proceed to the next step, which is to sell your debt to an outside collections agency.

“It’s not inconceivable that [third-party debt collectors] are paying 3, 4, 5 cents on the dollar,” Ulzheimer says. That makes lenders’ first priority to collect the debt themselves, he says. The second option is to see if they can settle with you directly for some amount of money. The third is outsourcing to a debt collector.

“And that’s when the fun begins, because these guys are professional debt collectors,” Ulzheimer says.

Transfer of your debt to the pros can happen “very, very quickly,” he says, perhaps within 30 days. Think of the previous collections efforts multiplied: collections agents showing up at your workplace, calling you 10 times in a day, threatening to sue. A collections agency will often use the threat of a report to the credit bureaus to encourage delinquent borrowers to make a payment, since payday lenders don’t themselves use the credit agencies.

“The collector has complete latitude regarding whether they want to report it at all, whether they want to report it immediately, or in six months, or ever,” Ulzheimer says.

Next stop: The courthouse

If you think a collections agency wouldn’t bother to sue for a small amount, think again.

Michael Bovee, founder of the Consumer Recovery Network, says nearly all lawsuits against consumers today are for relatively small amounts. “I’ve seen lawsuits for under $500,” he says. “Even Capital One sues for less than $500 these days. I see those regularly.”

The lenders typically win because consumers don’t show up to court. “Consumers don’t know what to do,” he says. When the defendant is a no-show, the judge typically enters a summary judgment and the court can begin to collect the money you owe on behalf of the collections agency.

“Depending on your state law, you are exposed to property liens, bank account levies and wage garnishment,” Bovee says.

Options if you default on a payday loan

Don’t let panic drive your decision-making.

“You should not prioritize paying the payday lender over putting food on the table” or paying the rent, says Lauren Saunders, associate director of the National Consumer Law Center. Cover basic needs first; you may be eligible for community assistance plans for help with rent, utilities or food. Then, seek free advice from a nonprofit credit counselor or legal aid center to set a repayment plan, she says.

Call the lender and make an offer to pay a portion of the bill in exchange for erasing the rest of the debt. “They’re usually at least open and willing to listen,” Ulzheimer says. A good figure to start the bartering is 50% of the debt amount.

“Tell the lender: ‘Look, I simply can’t pay you and I’m considering bankruptcy,’” Ulzheimer says. “The minute you start using the BK word they get real serious, because BK means they get nothing.”

Get any agreement in writing, and make sure the document states that your balance will be reduced to zero. In official terms, you want the debt “exhausted.”

Don’t ignore a lawsuit

If you can’t settle, make sure you know how to deal with debt collectors. If you’re sued for the debt, show up in court.

“You should never ignore a lawsuit,” says Saunders, a lawyer. “Show up in court and ask them for proof that you owe them the money, because often they show up without proof.” A CFPB review of one lender’s lawsuits found that 70% of them were dismissed for lack of proof.

If you can’t get the suit dismissed, do whatever you can to avoid having a judgment on your record: ask the plaintiff to accept a settlement plan, plead with the judge. A judgment is different, and worse, than simply having an unpaid loan reported to the credit agencies.

“You pay late on loans and it may show up as 30 days, 60 days, 120 days late, there’s really nothing more that’s going to happen to your credit. The damage is there,” Bovee says. A judgment, though, “has a whole new shelf life. That’s another seven years on your credit report.”

While the judgment may eventually drop off of your credit report, the amount you owe never magically dissolves.

“Time never makes debt go away,” Ulzheimer says. “Bankruptcy does.”

Karen Aho is a contributing writer.

Women in New Mexico See Smaller Wage Gap but May Fall Short on Retirement

There’s some good news for women living in New Mexico: On average, women there face one of the smallest differences in wages between the genders of any state in the country. But they still need to put away $1.18 for every $1 a man saves to accumulate an equivalent nest egg in retirement.

Women working in New Mexico earned about 85 cents for every $1 men made in 2015 — the seventh smallest wage gap in the U.S. New Mexico was also among the 10 states charting the most improvement in the wage gap from 2007 to 2015, the latest data available, according to a new study by NerdWallet.

Gap narrows in some states

Nationwide, women, on average, earned 80 cents for every $1 men made in 2015, based on median income — that’s up from 77.5 cents in 2007, the analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows.

Each year, U.S. women must put aside savings at an average rate of $1.25 to every $1 a man invests in a 401(k), traditional individual retirement account, Roth IRA or other investment plan to save an equivalent amount, the study found.

While pay parity remains elusive, the gap is closing more in some states than in others, which translates into a smaller shortfall in retirement savings. For example, in New York, the state with the narrowest wage gap, women must invest an average of $1.13 for every $1 to catch up to men. In Oklahoma — the worst state for wage gap improvement during the same period — women would need to put away $1.37 for every $1 a man saves there.

More than equal pay for equal work

Both men and women struggle to save for retirement. The National Retirement Risk Index suggests roughly half of American families aren’t saving enough to maintain their standard of living in retirement. But the wage gap can make the challenge more pronounced for women, who live, on average, five years longer than men.

What’s behind the wage gap? Research suggests the issue isn’t so much that a woman working any particular job makes less than her male colleague; rather, it’s that the odds are greater that he will rise to upper management and earn more.

As well, a 2014 Harvard study suggests women are far more likely to take career breaks for child and elder care, which ends up limiting the number of women working in more time-consuming jobs with little flexibility for family needs.

A checklist for saving for retirement

To help keep the wage gap from expanding into an even larger retirement shortfall, experts suggest these tips to maximize savings:

  • Get the full match on your workplace retirement account. Employers often will match — up to a limited amount — the cash you contribute to a workplace retirement account, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). Your contributions are made pretax, directly from your paycheck.
  • Set up a Roth or traditional IRA. IRAs also offer tax benefits to savers who qualify. If you are married and file taxes jointly, a non-working spouse can open and contribute to an IRA based on the working spouse’s income. Try a Roth IRA calculator to see how much you can contribute.
  • Use a taxable account. After maxing out tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts, you can invest further in the stock market’s long-term earning power. While there is always some degree of uncertainty when it comes to stocks, taking an appropriate risk can help the dollars you save work harder.
Find the gap in your state

Here are the states where women’s incomes average the most — or fewest — cents on the dollar compared with men, and where the pay gap saw the most — or least — improvement. If your state isn’t on one of these lists, you can find it here.

10 states with the smallest wage gaps in 2015

  1.    New York (Women made 88.7 cents for each $1 men earned)
  2.    Delaware (88.5 cents)
  3.    Florida (86.6 cents)
  4.    North Carolina (85.9 cents)
  5.    Rhode Island (85.8 cents)
  6.    California (85.7 cents)
  7.    New Mexico (84.6 cents)
  8.    Hawaii (84.1 cents)
  9.   Vermont (83.8 cents)
  10.   Nevada (83.7 cents)

10 states with the largest wage gaps in 2015

  1.    Wyoming (Women made 64.4 cents for each $1 men earned)
  2.    Louisiana (68 cents)
  3.    West Virginia (70.6 cents)
  4.    Utah (71.1 cents)
  5.    North Dakota (71.1 cents)
  6.    Montana (72.5 cents)
  7.    Oklahoma (73.2 cents)
  8.    Idaho (73.5 cents)
  9.    Michigan (74.3 cents)
  10.    Ohio  (74.7 cents)

10 states where the wage gap improved the most, 2007-2015

  1.    Rhode Island: (Wage gap shrunk 10.96%)
  2.    Delaware: (10.19%)
  3.    New Hampshire: (9.87%)
  4.    Kentucky: (9.28%)
  5.    Connecticut: (9.00%)
  6.    Florida: (8.41%)
  7.    Illinois: (7.96%)
  8.    South Carolina: (7.83%)
  9.    New York: (7.76%)
  10.    New Mexico: (7.55%)

10 states where the wage gap improved the least, 2007-2015

  1.    Oklahoma (Wage gap grew 5.57%)
  2.    Utah (grew 1.35%)
  3.    Vermont (grew 0.40%)
  4.    Texas (no change)
  5.    Idaho (Wage gap shrunk 0.45%)
  6.    Ohio (shrunk 0.99%)
  7.    Nebraska (shrunk 1.21%)
  8.    Georgia (shrunk 1.28%)
  9.    Virginia (shrunk 1.37%)
  10.    Colorado (shrunk 1.37%)

Kevin Voigt is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: kevin@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @kevinvoigt. Jonathan Todd is a data analyst at NerdWallet. Email: jonathan.todd@nerdwallet.com.

NY Women’s Wage Gap Smallest but Retirement Shortfall May Loom

Good news, women of New York: On average, you face the smallest difference in wages between the genders of any state in the country. The bad news: You still need to sock away $1.13 for every $1 a man in your state saves to enjoy the same size retirement nest egg.

Women working in New York in 2015 made about 89 cents for every $1 a man earned — the nation’s smallest wage gap. New York also was among the 10 states charting the most improvement in the wage gap from 2007 to 2015, the latest data available, according to a new study by NerdWallet.

Gap narrows in some states

Nationwide, women, on average, earned 80 cents for every $1 men made in 2015, based on median income — up from 77.5 cents in 2007, the analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows.

As well, four of the five states that saw the wage gap shrink the most from 2007 to 2015 were near New York — Rhode Island, Delaware, New Hampshire and Connecticut — the data show.

Each year, U.S. women, on average, must put aside savings at a rate of $1.25 for every $1 a man invests in a 401(k), traditional individual retirement account, Roth IRA or other investment plan to save an equivalent amount, the study found.

New York women must invest $1.13 for every $1 to catch up. In Oklahoma — the worst state for wage gap improvement during the same time period — women would need to save $1.37 for every $1 men save there.

More than equal pay for equal work

Both men and women struggle to save for retirement. The National Retirement Risk Index suggests roughly half of U.S. families aren’t saving enough to maintain their standard of living once they’ve retired. But the wage gap can make the challenge more pronounced for women, who live, on average, five years longer than men.

So what’s behind the wage gap? Research indicates the issue isn’t so much that a woman working any particular job makes less than her male colleague; rather, it’s that the odds are greater that he will rise to upper management and earn more.

2014 Harvard study suggests women are far more likely to take career breaks for child and elder care, which ends up limiting the number of women working in more time-consuming jobs with little flexibility for family needs.

A checklist for saving for retirement

To help keep the wage gap from expanding into an even larger retirement shortfall, try these suggestions to maximize savings:

  • Get the full match on your workplace retirement account. Employers often will match — up to a limited amount — the cash you contribute to a workplace retirement account, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). Your contributions are made pretax, directly from your paycheck.
  • Set up a Roth or traditional IRA. IRAs also offer tax benefits to savers who qualify. If you are married and file taxes jointly, a non-working spouse can open and contribute to an IRA based on the working spouse’s income. Try a Roth IRA calculator to see how much you can contribute.
  • Use a taxable account. After maxing out tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts, you can invest further in the stock market’s long-term earning power. While there is always some degree of uncertainty when it comes to stocks, taking an appropriate risk can help the dollars you save work harder.
Find the gap in your state

Here are the states where women’s incomes average the most — or fewest — cents on the dollar compared with men, and where the pay gap saw the most — or least — improvement. If your state isn’t on one of these lists, you can find it here.

10 states with the smallest wage gaps in 2015

  1.     New York (Women made 88.7 cents for each $1 men earned)
  2.     Delaware (88.5 cents)
  3.     Florida (86.6 cents)
  4.     North Carolina (85.9 cents)
  5.     Rhode Island (85.8 cents)
  6.     California (85.7 cents)
  7.     New Mexico (84.6 cents)
  8.     Hawaii (84.1 cents)
  9.     Vermont (83.8 cents)
  10.     Nevada (83.7 cents)

10 states with the largest wage gaps in 2015

  1.     Wyoming (Women made 64.4 cents for each $1 men earned)
  2.     Louisiana (68 cents)
  3.     West Virginia (70.6 cents)
  4.     Utah (71.1 cents)
  5.     North Dakota (71.1 cents)
  6.     Montana (72.5 cents)
  7.     Oklahoma (73.2 cents)
  8.     Idaho (73.5 cents)
  9.     Michigan (74.3 cents)
  10.     Ohio  (74.7 cents)

10 states where the wage gap improved the most, 2007-2015

  1.     Rhode Island: (Wage gap shrunk 10.96%)
  2.     Delaware: (10.19%)
  3.     New Hampshire: (9.87%)
  4.     Kentucky: (9.28%)
  5.     Connecticut: (9.00%)
  6.     Florida: (8.41%)
  7.     Illinois: (7.96%)
  8.     South Carolina: (7.83%)
  9.     New York: (7.76%)
  10.     New Mexico: (7.55%)

10 states where the wage gap improved the least, 2007-2015

  1.     Oklahoma (Wage gap grew 5.57%)
  2.     Utah (grew 1.35%)
  3.     Vermont (grew 0.40%)
  4.     Texas (no change)
  5.     Idaho (Wage gap shrunk 0.45%)
  6.     Ohio (shrunk 0.99%)
  7.     Nebraska (shrunk 1.21%)
  8.     Georgia (shrunk 1.28%)
  9.     Virginia (shrunk 1.37%)
  10.    Colorado (shrunk 1.37%)

Kevin Voigt is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: kevin@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @kevinvoigt. Jonathan Todd is a data analyst at NerdWallet. Email: jonathan.todd@nerdwallet.com.

Pay Gap Closing but Women May Face Retirement Shortfall

Many Americans struggle to save for retirement, but the gender wage gap makes the prospects for women even more dire: The average woman must save $1.25 for every $1 a man invests to build an equivalent nest egg, a new study shows.

For every $1 men earned in 2015, women, on average, made 80 cents, up from 77.5 cents in 2007, according to an analysis of the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau. While pay parity remains elusive, the gap is closing more in some states than in others, which translates into a smaller shortfall in retirement savings.

For example, in New York, the state with the narrowest wage gap, women must sock away $1.13 for every $1 a man puts in a 401(k), traditional individual retirement account, Roth IRA or other investment plan to reach the same amount. In Oklahoma — the state where women’s wages lost the most ground since 2007 — women would need to set aside $1.37 for every $1 a man saves to catch up, the analysis by NerdWallet found.

Both men and women struggle to save for retirement. The National Retirement Risk Index suggests roughly half of American families aren’t saving enough to maintain their standard of living once they’ve retired. But the wage gap can make the challenge more pronounced for women, who live, on average, five years longer than men.

So, what’s behind the wage gap? Research suggests the issue isn’t that a woman working a particular job makes less than her male colleague; rather, it’s that the odds are greater that he will rise to upper management and earn more.

As well, a 2014 Harvard study suggests women are far more likely to take career breaks for child and elder care, which limits the number of women working in more time-consuming jobs with little flexibility for family needs.

A checklist for saving for retirement

To help keep the wage gap from expanding into an even larger retirement shortfall, try these suggestions to maximize savings:

  • Get the full match on your workplace retirement account. Employers often will match — up to a limited amount — the cash you contribute to a workplace retirement account, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). Your contributions are made pretax, directly from your paycheck.
  • Set up a Roth or traditional IRA. IRAs also offer tax benefits to savers who qualify. If you are married and file taxes jointly, a non-working spouse can open and contribute to an IRA based on the working spouse’s income. A Roth IRA calculator can show you how much you can contribute.
  • Use a taxable account. After maxing out tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts, you can invest further in the stock market’s long-term earning power. While there is always some degree of uncertainty when it comes to stocks, taking an appropriate risk can help the dollars you save work harder.
What’s the gap in your state?

Here are the states where women’s incomes average the most — or fewest — cents on the dollar compared with men, and where the pay gap saw the most — or least — improvement. If your state isn’t on one of these lists, you can find it here.

10 states with the smallest wage gaps in 2015

  1.     New York (Women made 88.7 cents for each $1 men earned)
  2.     Delaware (88.5 cents)
  3.     Florida (86.6 cents)
  4.     North Carolina (85.9 cents)
  5.     Rhode Island (85.8 cents)
  6.     California (85.7 cents)
  7.     New Mexico (84.6 cents)
  8.     Hawaii (84.1 cents)
  9.     Vermont (83.8 cents)
  10.     Nevada (83.7 cents)

10 states with the largest wage gaps in 2015

  1.     Wyoming (Women made 64.4 cents for each $1 men earned)
  2.     Louisiana (68 cents)
  3.     West Virginia (70.6 cents)
  4.     Utah (71.1 cents)
  5.     North Dakota (71.1 cents)
  6.     Montana (72.5 cents)
  7.     Oklahoma (73.2 cents)
  8.     Idaho (73.5 cents)
  9.     Michigan (74.3 cents)
  10.     Ohio  (74.7 cents)

10 states where the wage gap improved the most, 2007-2015

  1.     Rhode Island: (Wage gap shrunk 10.96%)
  2.     Delaware: (10.19%)
  3.     New Hampshire: (9.87%)
  4.     Kentucky: (9.28%)
  5.     Connecticut: (9.00%)
  6.     Florida: (8.41%)
  7.     Illinois: (7.96%)
  8.     South Carolina: (7.83%)
  9.     New York: (7.76%)
  10.    New Mexico: (7.55%)

10 states where the wage gap improved the least, 2007-2015

  1.     Oklahoma (Wage gap grew 5.57%)
  2.     Utah (grew 1.35%)
  3.     Vermont (grew 0.40%)
  4.     Texas (no change)
  5.     Idaho (Wage gap shrunk 0.45%)
  6.     Ohio (shrunk 0.99%)
  7.     Nebraska (shrunk 1.21%)
  8.     Georgia (shrunk 1.28%)
  9.     Virginia (shrunk 1.37%)
  10.     Colorado (shrunk 1.37%)

Kevin Voigt is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: kevin@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @kevinvoigt. Jonathan Todd is a data analyst at NerdWallet. Email: jonathan.todd@nerdwallet.com.

5 Best Industries for Starting a Business in 2017

This could be the year you decide to stop working for someone else and start your own business. While your individual skills and interests are key to determining what type of venture to pursue, the last thing you want to do is start a business in an industry with a gloomy outlook. Here are five industries with promising futures, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, market research firm IBISWorld and financial information company Sageworks.

1. Health care

As the 75 million baby boomers age, there’s increased demand for health care services. According to an outlook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of the 20 occupations projected to have the highest percent increase in employment by 2024 are in the health industry. Meeting the needs of an aging population creates opportunities for physical therapists, doctors, optometrists and other specialists to open their own practices.

Don’t have the expertise to open that kind of business? Starting a home health aide staffing firm is one idea you could pursue. According to the bureau, employment of home health aides is expected to increase 38% by 2024, and finding employees may be relatively easy since the job doesn’t require a degree.

2. Marijuana

Good news for those with green thumbs: 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. IBISWorld predicts that industry revenue for medical and recreational marijuana growers will jump 33.5% over the next five years. The retail side of the business is also expected to see sales rise this year, according to the firm.

But for every high, there’s a low. Because the drug remains illegal at the federal level, says Dmitry Diment, a senior industry analyst at IBISWorld, new growth opportunities arise only when regulations are approved by the states. Those at the forefront of medical and recreational marijuana — like Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California — offer the best examples of how the industry could evolve, he adds.

3. E-commerce

Personal disposable income is projected to grow by 4% per year from 2014 to 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and as disposable income grows, so does the “quantity and quality of online purchases,” IBISWorld says.

But e-commerce can be an easily saturated market, given low barriers of entry. To increase your online business’s chance of success, focus on your customers — whether through customizable products, timely support or fast delivery of products, IBISWorld industry analyst Madeline LeClair says.

4. Tech

In a similar vein, continued innovation in the tech world means continued opportunities for tech-savvy entrepreneurs. IBISWorld projects a 31% revenue boost for smartphone app developers alone in 2017. Don’t forget about the support side of the industry; Sageworks found that tech consulting and installation services had strong sales growth in 2016.

5. Home and building maintenance

From landscaping to cleaning to pest control, businesses in maintenance industries that service residences and commercial buildings saw a 13% increase in sales in 2016, according to Sageworks. If you gain the right expertise, Sageworks analyst James Noe says, these businesses are easy to start because they have relatively low upfront costs and don’t require large inventory, staff or dedicated office space.

Jackie Zimmermann is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: jzimmermann@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @jackie_zm.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

SBA and technology: More modern and more efficient than ever before

As a former lender, I understand  the needs of entrepreneurs and small businesses can change quickly.  From the very beginning,  we made the modernization of SBA’s loan management and...

Mortgage Rates Jan. 17: Steady; Millennials Lean Toward DIY

Thirty- and 15-year fixed mortgage rates saw no change from Friday, while 5/1 ARM rates dropped slightly, according to a NerdWallet survey of mortgage rates published by national lenders on Tuesday.

Mortgage Rates Today, Tuesday, Jan. 17 (Change from 1/13) 30-year fixed: 4.30% APR (NC) 15-year fixed: 3.70% APR (NC) 5/1 ARM: 3.82% APR (-0.02) First-time millennial homeowners more DIY-focused

A survey released last week by Better Homes & Gardens revealed that 85% of first-time homeowners between 22 and 39 view homeownership as an important part of the American Dream. But the aspirations of these first-time millennial homeowners come with a practical view on spending money and do-it-yourself projects, according to the survey.

» MORE: Calculate how much house you can afford

“Millennials and millennial ‘firsts’ are paving their own paths in homeownership based on their own budgets, timeline and needs,” Jill Waage, editorial director of digital content and products at Better Homes & Gardens, said in a news release. “These ‘firsts’ are replacing big-budget homes and expensive renovations with patience, frugalness and practicality.”

The survey found that just 50% of “firsts” are willing to “spend top dollar to get exactly the features and quality they want.”

Half of “firsts” said that their current homes required some amount of repair or remodel when they moved in. “Firsts” are more willing to save money and take on DIY projects, with only one in four saying they would first call a professional for repairs, and three of four doing some degree of DIY in the home. Almost 90% of “firsts” are “very or extremely interested in learning about home repair and home improvement projects,” the survey found.

“These first-time millennial homeowners are focused on building equity, not debt,” Waage said. “They are strong believers in being able to afford their dreams as they achieve them and not overstretch themselves.”

Homeowners looking to lower their mortgage rate can shop for refinance lenders here.

NerdWallet daily mortgage rates are an average of the published APR with the lowest points for each loan term offered by a sampling of major national lenders. Annual percentage rate quotes reflect an interest rate plus points, fees and other expenses, providing the most accurate view of the costs a borrower might pay.

Michael Burge is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mburge@nerdwallet.com.

Your Driving Record: Insurance Companies’ Crystal Ball

You look at your driving record and see speeding tickets, an accident, maybe a DUI, and chalk everything up to dumb mistakes or bad luck behind the wheel.

But insurance companies see clues about how you manage your life — and even about when you’ll die.

“Motor vehicle records give insight into how folks behave,” says Karen Phelan, senior director of life Insurance for LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a data analytics company in Atlanta.

Driving records have long played a big role when comparing car insurance rates. But predictive analytics is offering new insight using driving history.

» MORE: How much car insurance rates rise after an accident or violation

Using driving records to price life insurance

LexisNexis uses motor vehicle records and other publicly available data in its software tool for evaluating life insurance applicants. The tool’s algorithm produces a score based on the data for each applicant. Life insurance companies can use the scores to help price policies.

When combined with information about medications that applicants take — which can be purchased from prescription-data providers — the tool’s results can eliminate the need for life insurance medical exams in many cases, Phelan says. That means you can apply for life insurance and get coverage quickly, without giving a blood or urine sample.

“When you’re assessing an individual for life insurance in their 20s, 30s, 40s or even 50s, they might not have a lot of relevant medical history,” Phelan says.

Driving records can fill in the blanks before lifestyle habits have had a chance to impact health.

» MORE: How to clear your driving record to save on car insurance

Moving violations and correlations

LexisNexis and RGA Reinsurance Co. found that driving records can help predict someone’s risk of dying at any point from any cause, not just from car accidents. The researchers examined 7.4 million motor vehicle records from 2006 to 2010 and cross-referenced those with death records from 2007 to 2010. About 73,000 of the drivers died within the study period.

“We see all violations having relevance,” Phelan says. “Sometimes it’s not the violations themselves, but [having] a high number of them.”

Some of the findings within the study period:

  • People with serious violations, such as a DUI, reckless driving or speeding 30 mph or more above the limit, had a 71% higher death rate than people of the same age with clean driving records or only minor violations.
  • For women, one serious violation doubled the death rate. For men, one serious violation increased the death rate by 61%.
  • People with two to five violations of any kind had a 24% higher death rate.
  • Six or more violations of any kind on a driving record boosted the death rate by 79%.
  • The trends were consistent for all ages.

A similar study published in 2016 by global reinsurer Hannover Re found that DUIs were a stronger predictor of higher death rates (from any cause) than any other traffic violation. Next up were driver license suspensions or revocations, followed by reckless or negligent driving, speeding and car accidents. The extra death risk linked to speeding tickets depended on how much drivers exceeded the speed limits.

Life insurers have expanded their use of driving records in the last five years, and some insurers now use them to evaluate applicants regardless of age or the coverage amount, Phelan says. Ten years ago, insurers typically checked motor vehicle records only for people buying large policies.

» MORE: When to file a car insurance claim, and when not to

Your driving record and home insurance

Allstate, meanwhile, is using driving records to help price home insurance. The company began doing so in 2011 in Oklahoma with the introduction of a policy called House & Home, which included changes in coverage as well as pricing. The product is available in 37 states.

Home insurance prices are based mostly on a home’s reconstruction cost and location. Allstate started looking at driving records to learn about homeowners’ behavior, says Laurie Pellouchoud, vice president of product operations in Allstate’s home insurance unit.

Behavior is important: Poor home maintenance or careless security can lead to damage and home insurance claims. Insurers don’t have to explain why certain behavior leads to claims. They only have to show a correlation between the variables and claims.

TransUnion provides insurers with court record data to help price home insurance. A 2016 study by the credit bureau recommended that insurers consider both traffic and criminal violations for all household members because of the strong tie between violations and home insurance claims.

Mark McElroy, executive vice president of TransUnion’s insurance business unit, says that among traffic violations, serious things like speeding 20 mph over the limit and DUIs are the most powerful predictors that someone will make a home insurance claim.

“But there is predictive value in minor violations like parking infractions as well,” he says.

Most home insurers don’t use driving or court records for pricing yet, says George Hosfield, senior director of home insurance for LexisNexis Risk Solutions. Getting the data costs money. For many home insurers, the predictions that can come from driving records aren’t powerful enough to justify the cost, he says.

McElroy says home insurers are seeking more sophisticated data and pricing techniques to get a competitive edge. “We believe this will continue and even accelerate over the years to come.”

Barbara Marquand is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: bmarquand@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @barbaramarquand.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today.

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