Forming new habits: There’s good news and bad news

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Forming new habits: There’s good news and bad news.

Published in kankakee Daily Journal May 15, 2019

What do you want to hear first, the good news or the bad news? Let me start with the bad news so we can finish on a positive note.

Many of us set New Year’s resolutions. In the first month many are broken. By now, the middle of May, the vast majority are broken.  Matter of fact, a University of Scranton study found that just 8% of people are successful in carrying out their resolutions. Across the last few years, I’ve given a variety of advice in this column. I’ll let you in on a little secret.  First and foremost, the advice is for me.  Sometimes, I’ve successfully carried out a new habit (such as writing 3 to 5 things I’m grateful for each day) for up to a month.  Then, well you know, life happens, and I stop. But then I start up again for a while. It can be a bit discouraging.

Bad news point 1.  Human behavior is very resistant to change!  In some ways, though, that is good, because long-positive habits tend to stay in place. Conversely, bad habits like running late five minutes are extremely difficult to overcome. Many habits both constructive and distracting are formed over years and many of them come from things we saw our parents do as we were growing up.

Bad news point 2.  Who we are today is a combination of both nurture and nature. Some people are just naturally upbeat and positive. Others tend to have a basic nature that leans more to being a “Johnny Raincloud.” I saw this in my grandparents. My paternal grandmother was a kind person but always seemed a bit depressed. Since she lived before the days of positive psychology and the discovery that you can change your outlook with effort, she did remarkedly well. On the other hand, my maternal grandfather was a naturally happy, outgoing man who radiated the joy of life. I seemed to have gotten more of his nature.  Even the late Chris Peterson, one the founders of the positive psychology movement, admitted that he was not naturally a cheerful person and had to work at it. So, some of us must strive harder to project an encouraging outlook.

Bad news point 3.  Under stress and pressure the natural thing is to go back to our old behaviors. For about a third of my professional career I had the job of designing and developing seminars on topics varying from management, sales, motivation, leadership and more, first at Eastern Iowa Community College, then at Florida State’s Center for Professional Development, and finally at the Weber Leadership Center.  Having supervised over a 1000 seminars, workshops, and conferences from 1980-2017, I was always struck that participants would come to one day events and leave all fired up and enthused. But when they got back to their jobs, much, if not most, of what they learned was soon swept away.  There was one notable exception and that was software classes such as Lotus 1-2-3, Excel, Word, and Power Point. The big difference is that people attending those type of workshops went back and immediately and consistently put into practice what they had  learned.

Good news point 1.   If you keep at it, you’ll be successful. Based on the famous habit-forming advice of Ben Franklin (practice it for 30 days to cement it) I have written about this in the past–apparently underestimating what it really takes. According to James Clear in his article How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science) he cites Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London. “In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Lally and her research team decided to figure out just how long it actually takes to form a habit.”  The results­­–“On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit.”  So the good news is: if we have failed in the past, we need to persevere longer.

Good news point 2. Even if you “backslide” for a few days, if you resume your efforts chances are you will succeed.  The researchers found that forming new habits is not an all or nothing proposition.   Even partially succeeding, not only are you going to be better off, but those around you will benefit as well.  Suppose the new habit you are trying to form is everyday recognizing and thanking at least one person for their work. If you do it for a few weeks and stop, you still would have left a trail of appreciation. Since appreciation is contagious, the odds are you going to change others in the process.

Good news point 3. Good habits tend to extinguish bad habits.  Sometimes our resolutions properly focus on getting rid of bad behavior.  Now I know none of you are this way, but gossip can be fun (just ask any of your gossiping “friends.”)  But of course it hurts both the target and the gossiper in the long run.  It may be very difficult to stop the habit cold-turkey.  But one of the most effective ways to destroy a bad habit is to replace it with its exact opposite.  Think about what was said above as far as expressing appreciation and gratefulness to others. It is almost impossible to both appreciate others and gossip about them at once. Bottom-line: if you want to destroy a bad habit think of the exact opposite and pursue it.

Dr. Don Daake is professor emeritus at Olivet and has an MBA from the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. from Florida State University. He can be contacted at ddaake@olivet.edu

 

 

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The necessity of negative feedback to create positive results

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A similar version was published in the4 Kankakee Daily Journal May 1, 2019

One of my most challenging Ph.D. courses was taught by a former Airforce pilot, and yes he did have a Tom Cruise sense of confidence and maybe even arrogance!  He was a tough cookie in many ways, but I learned a great deal from his course on decision making that has been very useful to me personally and professionally.

While I’m a big supporter of appropriate positive reinforcement and appreciative inquiry, this Dr. “Tom” illustrated the absolute necessity of negative feedback when flying a high-performance fighter jet.  If the plane is ascending, descending or changing course in the wrong direction, positive reinforcement guarantees the error will be magnified and lead to an inevitable crash and death of the pilot.  What a jet’s aviation computer system and the pilot must really pay attention to is negative feedback and take corrective action based on adverse data, not positive data.

Many once successful businesses and organizations often sought only positive feedback from their customers. They were impervious to negative feedback, and they spend so much of their time convincing themselves and their customers how great they were.  We saw this pattern among the big three automakers in the 1960s and 1970s when they were oblivious to the “Japanese Invasion” of small fuel-efficient and highly dependable cars.

Early in my career, Dave Power the founder of the now well-known worldwide research company, J.D. Power and Associates, told my me and my manager from Winnebago Motorhome Industries how he got his start (we were one of his early clients.) When he moved from Detroit to Los Angles in the late 1960s, he at his own expense, did syndicated surveys of the owners of both American and Japanese imports.

When he approached the Big Three in Detroit and tried to sell them the survey results they had no interest. They knew best, they did not need some outsider giving them feedback. That is until Mr. Power explained that the Japanese companies eagerly purchased the studies. The information they got was not only about their own products–Toyota and Datsun (now Nissan)–but the Japanese also received as part of the report information about the US cars. All of a sudden the Detroit automakers changed their tune and decided they had to know what the Japanese knew about American cars that they themselves did not know. But it was too late at that point. Detroit has never fully recovered.

By the way Dave told us a few years later about this Korean company that rhymed with “Sunday” that was about to come to America!  I recently junked my 2005 Impala. I bought a new 2017 Hyundai Sonata to replace it!

Lack of negative feedback and the proper adjustments to it, has also devastated giant retailers like Montgomery Wards, Sears, Ames, Zayres and many more. Sam Walton, who was considered a rather unsophisticated-“hick-like” man by the big city retailers, was legendary for analyzing business problems and fixing them.  There is a story that Sam-a rather impetuous small plane pilot-one day was flying over a city with both a Walmart and a major competitor. He noticed the parking lot of his store was not very full compared to the competitor. He immediately landed at the local airport, drove over to his store and found out that his prices were too high. He cut them on the spot. By the way, Sam was not vindictive with his employees. He encouraged them to be friendly and helpful to customers, but he was not afraid to hear about the problems.

Having spent several years of my career either doing fulltime or part-time marketing research, I believe that research needs to be both positive and also provide a window to harmful practices and problems.  Too often today, though, companies seem intent on basically using their research to tell us how great they are.  When I was at Winnebago, we did use the research to help build ads featuring our strengths, but we also provided the management with problems they needed to deal with.  As a result, sometimes we as the messengers took the flak from the designers and engineers. This is the balanced role that such research must provide.

On the other hand, I have seen too many surveys on customer service and products, where the organization puts its thumb on the scale. When buying a car, refrigerator, or even health care you may be asked to complete a survey. That is perfectly okay.

But if someone in the organization says to you, we want all “5’s” (assuming that is the top score) because our jobs and raises are dependent on that, I think you are being played.  They are stepping over the line!  Be wary of their ads, billboards, and proclamations about how great they are.  Wanting to do their best and serve you is a noble goal, and if in fact, they do this it is likely that they are honest and fair in their research.  If you received excellent service, rate them high, if not rate them lower.  By doing so, you are in the long run helping them, if the management really cares and is not just bloviating!

Dr. Piatt and I have collectively written over 500 Main Street articles over the last 10 years.  We focus on positive, uplifting practices and ideas, but you’ll notice in the vast majority of topics we first suggest a comprehensive diagnosis (negative feedback) before moving forward to solutions. In summary, not knowing what you do not know, can be devastating.  One way to avoid that and create a competitive advantage is to be open to all kinds of feedback.

 

Dr. Don Daake is professor emeritus at Olivet and has an MBA from the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. from Florida State University. He can be contacted at ddaake@olivet.edu

Noticing and carrying about small things, especially when it comes to people

Seiko

“While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things is extraordinary.” Matt Bevin

Noticing and appreciating the small things in life can make a big difference both at home and work. By paying attention to the little things, we get a much better understanding of how and why things work. Many times though we overlook the obvious.

I bet that you, like me, have experienced not really “seeing” something even though you have looked at it dozens or even hundreds of times.  Let me give you a quick example.  For many years I would buy relatively inexpensive watches for under $20 that would last a year or two because working around my garage, house, or on various other projects, the battery would run down, the face crack or the band unravel.

About seven or eight years ago my daughter and wife bought me a beautiful Seiko watch for around $200. After two years the watch was still running. I wondered what sort of super battery the watch had. Well, this went on for over seven years. I thought maybe I had gotten one of those inventions you hear about in urban legends, where the manufacturer wasn’t supposed to release this miracle watch.  Then one day I looked a little bit closer.  Now understand, I had looked at the face of the watch thousands of times–but in the process did not read the word “solar” on the watch face. How is it possible to look straight at something and not see it?

While this is not earth-shattering, it got me to thinking about all the little things we look at every day when it comes to our family and co-workers. Way too often we see little negative traits in others that “bug” us. Many times these are less about the other person, than us projecting on to them our own faults and frailties.

But what I want to emphasize here is the positive little things we don’t see, or if we do, we soon forget.  As Matt Bevin tells us small thing can change a life. I’ve mentioned before that a high school teacher of mine, Dennis Miller, told a somewhat unconfident senior “”Don, you can do whatever you want in life.” That little comment was a big first step in changing my life.

There are lots of ways to find and recognize positive things in others. Across the years I’ve been in hundreds of offices whether it was for a meeting, working out the details for a continuing education contract, an interview, or just a chat.  I learned that what people display in their offices makes a strong statement about who they are. What pictures do they display, what about trophy’s or souvenirs, awards, and what books are on their shelves? Starting a conversation over what you see, not only demonstrates your interest in the other person, but opens up discussions you simply cannot otherwise have. Never once has the other person said, “Oh it’s nothing, my time is precious so let’s just get down to business.”  Of course, you have to do this with tack, or it will seem manipulative,

I have also been on the other side of the table, where someone walked into my office who wanted something or wanted to sell me something and totally ignored things in my office including awards, family pictures, and an impressive (if I may say so myself) set of original photos I had taken.  Frankly, it was deflating.

Beyond looking at a person’s office paraphernalia, listen to what they are saying or don’t say.

One of the very best books ever written about how to effectively track both large and small things about those you want to build a relationship with is the classic book “How to Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive by entrepreneur and author Harvey MacKay. When I was a Director of Business Programming at the Center for Professional Development at Florida University, I had the privilege of hosting Mr. Mackay.  The only thing that is dated about his book is the idea of using index cards rather than your computer, tablet, or phone to record information.  Harvey who owned a large envelope company in Minneapolis required all of his salespeople to research and find out 66 items about each customer. The complete list and a free worksheet can be download at http://www.bgainsurance.com/pdf/Annuities/Broker%20Sales%20Tools/Customer%20Profile-%20Mackay66.pdf  or just Google the MacKay 66.

SeikoEven for non-sales people, it is a great list for gathering affirming information on those you want to develop a relationship with-although you certainly don’t need all 66 items. Just a few of the “small things” include a person’s nickname; previous employment; professional accomplishments and awards; favorite restaurants and foods; names of their family members; hobbies and recreational activities; sports interests and teams. Obviously, no one is going to sit down and fill out such a form, but over time by being in their office, having casual, and business conversations you can learn these things. Here, though, is the key point: Write it down! How many times do we learn something about another person and then forgot it in a day or so? By writing it down it allows us to strike up the perfect conversation at the right moment. It shows that you really do value others and puts into practice Theodore Roosevelt’s wisdom the “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Dr. Don Daake is professor emeritus at Olivet and has an MBA from the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. from Florida State University. He has held professional positions with Winnebago Industries, the University of Iowa, Eastern Iowa Community College District, Florida State University and served 21 years as a professor at Olivet. He can be contacted at ddaake@olivet.edu

 

 

The Puzzling Paradox regarding the Pursuit of Happiness

 

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Published in Kankakee Daily Journal* April 3, 2019

*Circulation 22,000- estimated readership 44,000

Ask any parent or grandparent what they most want for their children or grandchildren and the most likely response will be “We just want them to be happy.” When we ask college students about their future we are likely to hear “I to help others and just be happy.” Increasingly, employers have found that happiness, contentment, and fulfillment attracts and holds the best employees, even more than high pay, benefits, and other perks.  But usually those companies can afford to pay better and offer more perks. Why? Because their employees are more productive and fulfilled. Happiness follows as a by-product rather than as a primary “pursuit.” Therein lies the paradox. Too many organizations have learned a hard lesson that concentrating on just making employees happy at any cost doesn’t necessarily make them more productive.  They must be challenged, appreciated, and feel they are doing something meaningful.

Obviously the discussion of happiness has been around a long time as witnessed by Thomas Jefferson’s reference to the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence.  There is a growing happiness industry. Much of it is good, but there are the usual hucksters and feel-good seminars that lack substance.  On the other hand, over the last 30 years happiness has been a central scientific research topic under the broad umbrella of Positive Psychology.  Two of the best books are by Harvards’s Shawn Alchor’s–The Happiness Advantage and former CBS correspondent Michelle Gielan’s–Broadcasting Happiness.  They are based on the strong foundation laid out by Martin Segliman at the University of Pennsylvania.

People are interested in being happy, but as the best literature and practical experience reminds us, pursuing happiness in and of itself is like chasing a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been watching several episodes of CNBC’s American Greed.  In story after story greedy men and women in their pursuit of wealth and the hoped for happiness are willing to do almost anything. They think the cars, money, exotic vacations, multiple-homes and so forth will satisfy their need to be happy. In their selfish pursuit many of them defraud and ruin the lives of countless number of people.  In many of cases the perpetrators had grown up poor, neglected, and bullied.  They believed their pursuit of money would bring them happiness. Quite the opposite, it brings them and hundreds of other people misery.

Coming full circle though, happiness is something we all want. It is how we achieve it that is important.  In a recent online article in Business Insider, Justin Maiman reports that Yale University’s course in happiness–officially named the “Science of Well-being” is the most popular course Yale has ever offered. Over 225,000 people have taken it. Justin highlights four key points he has learned from the course that I want to share with you. https://www.businessinsider.com/im-taking-yales-class-on-happiness-already-working-2019-3

First focus on your strengths.  A free “VIA” survey focuses on which of 24 core areas are your best strengthens. Although he does not directly say so, these become the basis of service to others. In serving others with your best, happiness is more of a by-product than a goal. By using these it will lead to your personal flourishing. Justin says by bundling your four best strengths, you’re likely to see your work as a calling whether at work, home, or in the community.

Secondly, focus on experience. As he points out,Turns out your stuff loses “happiness value” almost as soon as you’ve purchased it. Paying for experiences, however, has multiple benefits for happiness. One, the anticipation of the experience leads to more happiness and joy. Two, talking about the experience afterward with friends reignites your own happy memories and, incredibly enough, sharing these tales with friends tends to boost their happiness, too.” Let me add, the best companies tend to foster group experiences whether that is at a retreat, frequent lunches, and celebrations. Every year when Fortune releases it Best 100 Companies to Work For list, the very top companies utilized and practice team experiences.  If you go into an organization where people are disconnected, living their own lives, and rarely do things together I’ll show you an unhappy place!

Thirdly, learn to savor more. The idea that the past is the past and the only thing we should focus on is the future is narrow-minded. Even though our methods change, people change, and times change, it is important to not only reflect on present accomplishments but savor past deeds. This summer I’m going to my 50th high school reunion to celebrate with my classmates. I have attended 9 out of 9 of my 5 year class reunions. We spend a lot of time reflecting and savoring and that brings joy and happiness. But a WARNING here! During all those years we NEVER invited our past teachers and administrators. What a big mistake! We never took the opportunity to say thanks their influenced us.  After 50 years probably almost none of them are left. So if you are a younger reader urge your class to learn from our mistake!

Finally, express gratitude and kindness. I have written several articles in the past on this specific topic, so I won’t repeat the information here, other than to say, on the days I have the discipline to do this, via e-mail, texting, phoning or best yet–in-person t my HQ (Happiness Quotient) and more important the HQ of those around me soars.

A final note, April 2 is the 10th year anniversary of Dr. Piatt and myself writing the Main Street column…over 500 columns! We want to use our four articles in the month of May to express our appreciation to our readers and the Daily Journal; explain why we continue do this; outline the influence we believes the articles have had; review some of our favorite articles; and lay our future directions.

 

 

 

You might be a great manager if… & you most certainly are not a good manager if…

Jeff Foxworthty

One simple phrase “You might be a redneck if….” has propelled comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s net worth to over a 100 million dollars! Done in good humor, a few of Jeff’s classic barbs include: “You might be a redneck if you’ve ever made change in the offering plate; Your lifetime goal is to own a fireworks stand; and if you own a home with wheels on it and several cars without.”   Funny and yet, like all good humor, they have a tinge of truth to them.

This week, I thought we might have a little fun with what being a good manager/leader vs. a bad manager/leader entails. Most of us who have had a difficult manager/leader can identify with these because they are all based on real situations. Below are a few examples of the more common ones. I always like to write a disclaimer that none of us are perfect and we miss the mark sometimes ourselves, but when good or bad behavior becomes a practice, it is time to examine it.

First, let’s start out with the undesirable side “You most certainly are not a good manager if….”

You fail to respond to written letters and memos, e-mail, or phone calls promptly. Most of us get way too much communication these days, and we are not obligated to respond to all of it. But if your job requires you to respond to important constituents and you never, if rarely respond in a timely manner or at all, you are not a good manager. You will be seen as unprofessional and arrogant as well.

 

If…you take a raise or bonus when others are losing their jobs or getting their hours cut you fail the leadership test.  This happens too many times today in corporate America and utterly undermines the confidence of remaining employees and your customers.

 

If…you operate with the philosophy of just “tell them what they need to know and no more” (even if they have a right to know to carry out their jobs), forget what your official title is you are not a good leader.

 

If…you think it’s your right to “cast the vision without consulting your people” you are a failed leader. A few years ago it became fashionable for top executives to cast a purely top-down vision. Forty years of research and practice has demonstrated how foolish that is. Of course, depending on the situation leaders do have a responsibility to take action but the best organizational leaders also nurture vision creation up and down the company.

 

If… you hear yourself saying fairly often “Well you just don’t see the big picture.” The logical, painfully obvious, question is: “Well whose fault is that?” That arrogant attitude and those words in my grade book earn you an F-.

 

Now let’s focus on the affirmative.

You might be (and most likely are) a great manager/leader if…

You don’t treat everyone the same but are flexible enough to adapt your style to fit the employee.  Surprisingly, by adjusting to others, rather than making them conform to you tends to raise productivity. Treating everyone the same, while it has the appeal of being fair, often produces just the opposite effect.  This does not imply accepting low standards or playing favorites, but rather providing the environment to allow employees to use their particular talents.

If you work just as hard as you demand others to work.  We are not talking about fostering workaholic behavior. Many of us have had a boss that arrives late or leaves early or both. Give people a sense that you understand and appreciate what they do by being there both mentally and physically.  The best example I ever saw was provided by Florida Governor Bob Graham (before he became a US Senator).  One day a month he went out and worked at one of the state agencies for a day. It was not done for a photo-opt but rather to demonstrate to both the employees and citizens we are all in this together.

You are likely a great leader if you tell people the truth whether it is good or bad news and equally share in the sacrifice and the prosperity.  It really is remarkable how people respond during a crisis if they trust the managers and leaders.  On the other hand, when things are going well, they need to “share” in the credit, good fortune, and be given new opportunities.

If you value people who want to improve themselves by learning and pursuing additional education, even if that means you may ultimately lose them, you are likely a good manager. For those of you who watch Under Cover Boss on CNBC, you will notice many of the best bosses try and open up opportunities for their rising employees. But if they don’t have a possible position, they still support further education and a move to another organization with the boss’s blessing.  Across the years I’ve watched narrow-minded managers not want to hire an overqualified candidate for fear of losing them. Instead, they employ mediocre employees and live with them for years. Better to have the best of the best and lose them someday than have mediocrity become the norm in your company.

The list could go on. Most of the writing on management and leadership focuses on being a great leader.  Too little time is spent on looking at the opposite-what is not good management and leadership and then correcting that. It is an effective way to diagnose some of our limitations and try and overcome them.

Dr. Don Daake is professor emeritus at Olivet and has an MBA from the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. from Florida State University. He has held professional positions with Winnebago Industries, the University of Iowa, Eastern Iowa Community College District, Florida State University and served 21 years as a professor at Olivet. He can be contacted at ddaake@olivet.edu

 

The time is right to buy your first house or upgrade

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Mr. Mark Argyelan of HomeStar bank is guest co-author this week.

Don will start with a few opening comments and then turn it over to Mark.

It is finally starting to happen!  Increasingly, Millennials realize that they can buy a house much cheaper than paying $800-1200 a month for an apartment. If you have children or grandchildren that are millennials, we would suggest passing along a copy of this column to them. For the rest of us, we might want to upsize or downsize or relocate.

This is one of the best times to buy a house. Housing prices that were rising rather rapidly have started to slow down. One of the reasons is seasonality. If you look at homes on a site such as www.Zillow.com, you will notice that during the late fall and winter many sellers who are motivated may cut their prices. I regularly look at Zillow, since we are looking to both sell and buy in the next 12-18 month. I recommend to any buyer to get the “lay of the land” through Zillow or other comparable Internet sites first, especially if you are looking out of state as we are. Here you will find good realtors and also many houses for sale by owner. When we move closer to making our move, we will likely work with a realtor on both ends. Also, when possible I recommend using a local financial institution in acquiring a mortgage.

Secondly, mortgage rates which started to rise in the last year, in many cases have actually fallen a bit, but there is no guarantee these lower rates will continue.  For those of us who bought our first house in the late seventies when rates were 13-18%, the bargain rates of today seem like a gift-horse!

One thing I worried about was our age since we are both retired and over 65. Would be would we be able to qualify for a loan if we decided to move into a more expensive house? The general answer is yes, if you meet the usual qualifications.  According to Vivian Marian in a New York Times column “Some may wonder if they can still qualify for a home loan without having a full-time job. But more often than not, banks are willing to lend — as long as you have a regular monthly income, like a pension and Social Security, or retirement assets.  About 42 percent of households headed by someone age 65 to 74 has home-secured debt, according to the Federal Reserve’s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, its most recent study.”

Let me now turn over the discussion to Mark.

Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned veteran buying a home, the process can be intimidating. Not only is the housing market ever changing, but the process of finding a home, making an offer to purchase that home and working toward closing is ever-changing with a wide variety of variables.

Once you do find a home that fits your current needs, one of the most significant determining factors is your ability to pay for it. While a select few have the necessary reserves to pay cash, the majority of home buyers resort to mortgage loan programs offered by banks and other types of lenders.

Financing with a mortgage loan is the most common way to buy a home, condo or townhome. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, 88 percent of all buyers financed their homes in 2017.

So, if you are like most of us, you’re going to need a mortgage.  Getting that mortgage should really start even before you set out on your search for a home.

Get an appointment with a loan officer.  During your short meeting, your loan officer will be able to let you know what price range and mortgage loan amount you qualify for based on the information you provide.  The necessary information you’ll want to provide include your annual taxable income, amount of money set aside for a down payment as well as any additional savings, as well as information detailing your current debt (credit cards, personal, auto, student loans, etc.)

As a rule of thumb, lenders look for down payment availability (some home purchases can be completed with as little as 3% down or less). There are special considerations for honorably discharged veterans, who may qualify for a zero percent down payment loan through the VA (Veteran Administration).

Another major factor in obtaining a mortgage loan is your credit score.  A credit score demonstrates to the lender how responsible you are repaying current and past debt. With technology today, many consumers monitor their credit scores and keep a close eye on them.  A minimum credit score for FHA (Federal Housing Administration) and VA loans is around 580 and for a lower interest rate conforming mortgage loans in the 620 range. Credit scores range between 300, very low to 850, very high. The higher your score, the better. Your credit score directly affects the terms and interest rates available to you for purchase. Your lender will order a credit report as part of the loan process. However, if you want to review your report, you can get a one free credit report per year at http://www.annualcreditreport.com.

Employment history is important when it comes to getting a mortgage loan. The two factors are the length of employment, and, of course, regular monthly income. Your lender will calculate the estimated proposed monthly housing expense which includes monthly principal, interest, real estate taxes, and insurances then compare that to your income. Next, the lender considers your overall total monthly debt which includes expenses like this new monthly housing expense along with student, credit card, personal loan payments, auto, etc. As a general rule of thumb, the total monthly home expense should not exceed 32% and total debt ratio not exceed 42%.  Of course, the lower this percentage, the better. These are, but guidelines and usually an exception can be made based on other personal and financial information and factors.

Some lenders only take applications for mortgage loans online and then e-chat from there.   At HomeStar Bank, and other local financial institutions, applications are accepted either online or face to face with a loan expert who can answer your questions and give you the time and personal guidance needed for a smooth transaction.

After you’ve applied for a mortgage and turned in all your required financial paperwork requested by your loan officer, the financial institution should handle everything else that’s needed.  Your loan officer should keep you informed of the process. While the loan is being processed, do not make any major credit purchases. This includes purchasing anything today with payment due sometime in the future. This can affect your loan qualification since credit and employment are re-verified just before closing. It is also the best time to look into homeowner’s insurance, so everything is ready for the moment you become a homeowner.

When the loan processing is complete, you’ll be called to schedule a closing. The title company or your lender will take care of confirming the date/time with you, the sellers and others who may be involved with your transaction, such as the realtors, attorneys, etc. The closing completes the final step in the mortgage loan process.

From the both of us, congratulation homeowner, happy moving day, and enjoy your new home.

 

Mark Argyelan is the Senior Vice President of lending for HomeStar Bank and Financial Services a locally owned community bank. Mark has been with Homestar for 30 years and been in banking over 40 years. margyelan@homestarbank.com

Dr. Don Daake is a Professor Emeritus at Olivet Nazarene University. Dr. Don Daake holds a, an MBA from the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. in strategy from Florida State University. He can be contacted at dondaake@gmail.com

 

 

Four business practices that demand “Cease and Desist” orders

PART 2cease-and-decist

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series. Today we will focus on some bad practices that need rethinking.

”Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” – Thomas Jefferson

Two weeks ago we focused on three practices that businesses and organizations need to use more. They included: Deliver more than is expected;  have knowledgeable employees that go the extra mile to help out the customer; and finally, make your business and employees dedicated to long-term relationships.

Now the other side.  Some businesses and organizations employ short term revenue and profit enhancers that irreparably damage their reputation. The trouble is, though, in most cases they will not even know it until it is too late. They seem to think, well if we lose a customer or two along the way so what. We still are still busy these days. The tragedy of Sears, Circuit City, Eastern Airlines, and hundreds of other companies who have had death or near-death experiences can be tied at least in part to short term thinking.

Two caveats up front. First, when I see great examples of customer service I will name the organization, but in the case of harmful practices I do not. But you can likely figure out who the culprits are. Secondly, the idea that government should regulate everything is a bad one. In some cases it may be necessary but in a free market economy a business within reason should have the freedom to employ both excellent and stupid practices if they so choose. My task is to merely point them out.

First is the practice of up-charging a customer excessively and unreasonably. A few weeks ago we went to a local restaurant that had nice décor. The food was delicious.  I did notice, however, a rather foolish statement on the menu to the effect of “We serve the right portion for one meal. If you want to split the order and have an extra plate the charge it will be $6.”  Give me a break! I understand there are extra costs and a dollar or two is reasonable, but not six.  Many people, especially older customers or a parent with a child might want to share a meal.  My response (hopefully on behalf of some of you) is: “Would you rather have some of my business and make a reasonable charge or not have it at all?” So be fair and reasonable, and we’ll come back to enjoy your restaurant. Either way I tend to tell 10-15 people at minimum about such experiences.

Secondly, some businesses make unreasonable charges and fees for changes.  A few weeks ago my daughter and her husband, who frequently travel to Europe, made reservations for a round trip to London from O’Hare with one of those large airlines based in Chicago.  She is a very experienced traveler, but anyone who has made reservations realizes that sometimes it is easy to make a “reverse trip” mistake.  She inadvertently booked London to O’Hare and then O’Hare to London. A mistake, but an honest one. Had this been a reservation with Southwest Airlines it wouldn’t have been a problem.  But this major airline wanted to charge $700 to make the changes. They finally walked away from the money they had already spent, took their losses, and rebooked on American Airlines.  Even though I was not involved in the transaction, I simply will not ever give that airline a chance unless it is the last possible option.

Thirdly, the total chaos of pricing in the medical and pharmaceutical fields.  Sometimes I get medication with my insurance, and I pay say $35 for on an imaginary retail price of $175. But the pharmacy says my insurance “saved” me $140.  Really? It could be the insurance company only paid $50 making my “savings” $15. Or the same medicine can be purchased skipping my insurance company and using a coupon from a place like GoodRx for $20.  But the cruelest part of this scheme (and I use that word deliberately) is someone without the coupon or insurance would be charged the full $175.

In some cases, medical clinics and hospitals are even worse. A billed rate of $6,000 for a 30-minute surgery gets discounted down to $2,200 by Medicare, and then the insurance company pays another $400.  I understand the need to make a profit, but the unfair pricing game is absurd. It has gotten so bad, that the new Republican governor of Florida is pushing legislation to demand transparency in pricing. Car dealers don’t say “We have this new Cadillac for $60,000, but if you insure with XYZ Insurance Company we will sell it to you for $8,000.  Voluntarily, the providers, insurance companies, government, and other concerned parties need to get their act together, or we will have more regulation which usually makes things worse.

Finally, robocalls on anything from credit card rates, to duct cleaning services, extended car warranties, and dozens more have gone from irritation to, in my opinion, a criminal scam.  Remember the early days of having a cell phone. These were rare or never happened. Some people even dropped their landlines because of these junk calls.  Despite registering on the “do- not- call list,” the calls keep coming.  One trick is they “hijack” an available 815 area code number and make the call look like a local call.

In many cases, they are coming from overseas call centers which do not obey US laws.  If you tell them never to call again, it’s to no avail.  This I think will require legal action and legislation.  Only if thousands of people nationwide complain to our senators, congressmen, and the Federal Trade Commission will we stop this outrageous waste of our cell minutes and more importantly our time. So join me in fighting back!

By and large, most companies and organizations are honest and fair, but when you see an unfair, lousy practice let the company know that you will not tolerate it. Reward the honest and ethical companies, shun the bad ones!