smart spending

Time is money -- so is patience

Highlights
  • Patience means taking time to consider all aspects of a mortgage loan.
  • It's almost always a mistake to jump at a job when it's first offered.
  • Dumping an investment plan because of one bad year is a huge mistake.

Time may be money, but a little patience can pay off big time when buying a home, looking for a job or investing in the stock market. The lack of patience can cost you -- often for years to come.

"If it weren't for impatience, we wouldn't have this whole mortgage crisis," says Carolyn Warren, a veteran mortgage broker and author of "Mortgage Rip-offs and Money Savers: An Industry Insider Explains How to Save Thousands on Your Mortgage or Re-Finance."

"We live in a society of fast and easy," says Warren. "We want to lose weight fast and easy, and it's become a big marketing thing." Some people are applying this principle -- rather recklessly -- to finances.

"People say, 'I don't want the starter condo; I want a big house. I don't want to save for a down payment; I want zero down,'" Warren says.

Patience in mortgage shopping

If you're house hunting now, keep quality of life in mind, Warren says, and be patient enough to secure a comfortable mortgage. Mortgage shopping should come well before actual house hunting, and patience is essential, she says. For starters, don't fall into the trap of not comparison-shopping.

First, get your credit report and score pulled. Then provide the three lenders with your score, the proposed purchase price of the home and the amount of down payment you will make. Then "all you have to do is ask three people -- I recommend two mortgage brokers and one banker -- one smart question," Warren says: Will you give me a good-faith estimate? Don't file a full application -- and possibly lower your score -- until you get your best answer.

"If they won't do that, move on to someone else," Warren says. "Why should you give all your information without knowing how much it costs? The ones that aren't good won't provide it for you."

Another way to exercise patience: Take time to look at more than just a mortgage rate to consider. "You need to look at the overall picture of a loan -- all the fees that go in." How long you plan to stay in your next home is the No. 1 factor in deciding between zero points or a lower interest rate, Warren says.

"You can come out ahead in two and a half years, or four years, and if you love the house and think you'll stay for 10 years, or until you retire, why take a high rate and pay more in the long run?

Above all, don't just focus on one detail, Warren says, whether it's rate, origination fees or points.

That may be the common theme to financial goofs caused by impatience -- focusing on one point, like yesterday's stock price, a mortgage rate or a fancy job title, instead of the overall picture.

Patience in job seeking

Your quality of life can improve if you bring a little patience to other financial dealings, too.

When someone offers you a job -- especially in a weak economy -- your first instinct may be to yelp, "I'll take it!"

That's almost always a mistake, says Deborah Kolb, co-author of "Everyday Negotiation: Navigating the Hidden Agendas of Bargaining" and a professor at Simmons College in Boston, who specializes in negotiations.

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"I would never say yes in the moment," Kolb says, "so in that sense, patience is really important."

What you want to do is show enthusiasm, while not leaving money or perks on the table. "It's good to signal your interest," Kolb says; every employer wants an employee who wishes to be there. But a better script is, "'Yes, I'm interested, and here are some things I need to think about,'" she says. "And when you come back, you say, 'Yes I'm interested, and here are some things I need.'"

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