Work & Money briefs

Keeping track: home loans

Lenders' biggest year may sustain housing boom

Looking to buy a home, taking advantage of the lowest interest rates in more than 30 years? The time could be right, says Fannie Mae, the top US mortgage-finance company.

Fannie Mae predicts lenders will distribute $2.2 trillion in home loans during 2002, the biggest year yet for prospective or existing homeowners.

The spike in loans comes at a good time for the flagging economy. The added funds should allow more homeowners to dip into their equity to pay off debts. And increased financing options should keep the housing market – the only segment of the economy with real traction – in gear.

Dealers drive up consumer satisfaction

With low interest rates and an increase in manufacturer-sponsored financing incentives, car consumers' overall satisfaction with the buying experience is on the rise, according to J.D. Power and Associates' 2002 Sales Satisfaction Index.

Rating their happiness with the buying process, car buyers and lessees gave their dealers an average score of 8.5, on a scale of 1 to 10.

Saturn came out on top for the second straight year, making it one of only three nonluxury vehicle manufacturers to rank in the Top 10. Luxury dealers typically generate a higher level of satisfaction owing to a low-pressure environment and more empowered buyers, but Saturn's hassle-free nonnegotiable retail-price policy clearly trumped other brands in the eyes of consumers.

Gen X not slacking in a weak economy

For a generation that has been labeled "slackers" and "nonconformists," GenXers apparently are surviving the economic slump – with style.

According to a survey by the Mainstay division of New York Life Investment Management LLC, GenXers began saving early and, as a result, only 38 percent of those polled believe another downturn would affect their current lifestyle.

Some other notable results of the survey:

• The majority (60 percent) of GenXers say they have acquired their net worth from their salary – not from stock options or inheritances.

• On average, this group believes they could support their family for 10 months without employment. In addition, 69 percent of those polled cite family as their top priority.

• A sizable 22 percent of respondents would describe their investing habits as "conservative," up from 11 percent one year ago.

• More than half believe they possess more knowledge about investing than their parents do, and 69 percent expect to enjoy a better standard of living in retirement than their parents.

The Mainstay survey, completed in May, included 530 consumers between the ages of 23 to 35 with assets of at least $50,000.

Give 'em a honk for hauling so well

Truck stops appreciate them for patronizing their highway diners. Schoolkids appreciate them for responding to the fist-pump signal with an enormously satisfying horn blast. The rest of us are just happy to see our goods arrive on time.

In case you haven't heard, this is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, and the more than 3 million tractor-trailer drivers traversing the US are hoping you appreciate their hard work.

More freight (68 percent) is moved by truck across the US than any other form of transportation. Long-haul drivers travel an average of 110,000 miles per year, roughly 500 miles a day. Truckers also use 44.5 billion gallons of fuel annually. Despite all the driving, truckers are among the safest drivers. The rate of fatal crashes by big trucks has dropped for four straight years.

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