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Locals cautious, optimistic about Wall Street turmoil

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

While the nation turns its collective eye to Wall Street’s embattled financial markets, area residents might be wondering whether the plummeting stock market might affect them at home.

Local experts, while cautious about the situation, are optimistic.

“I think the main thing most people have to recognize is

that there are long-term goals to being invested,” said Doug Field. “People need to not make short term decisions that will negatively impact those long-term goals.”

Field a financial planner with Edward Jones in Lockhart, said market fluctuations are a natural part of investing, and that he has seen more than 20 years of “market volatility.”

“The markets have gone through these periods, but they have always recovered. Always,” he said. “And people need to remember that they don’t have control over these markets, so they should focus on the things that they do have control over – spending time with their families, going to dinner or a movie, going to a football game on Friday night. There are a lot of positives that we can control our reactions to, and those are the things that we should focus on.”

Local lenders, too, are cautiously optimistic about the financial climate. Many agree that neither over-inflated housing prices nor the nation’s dragging economy are as profound in Central Texas as in other areas of the country. As a result, they said, local banks are continuing to write loans, and their customers continue to be able to pay those loans off.

“We are fortunate to live in a state that has weathered some of the economic storm due to the housing crisis because our home prices are not artificially inflated,” said Julie Cripe, President and CEO of OmniBank, N.A. “The good news is that 98 percent of the banks in the country have capital and are still willing to loan money.”

Cripe noted it is important for consumers to remember there is a significant difference between investment banks and commercial banks, and to make sure they have their funds in a safe, sound bank.

American National Bank’s Loan Officer and AVP Missie Hagan said first-time homebuyers are most likely to feel the pinch of the Wall Street crisis.

“First-time homebuyer programs have been limited with most all requiring higher down payments and credit score requirements,” she said. “The opportunity for home ownership has and will continue to become more difficult until the economy is strengthened.”

Hagan’s experience indicates a difference in local situations than the climate national media has focused on.
She and Cripe both suggested that the current low interest rates, intended to stimulate the economy, homeowners might consider refinancing loans to take advantage of the low rates.

“Five years ago, when rates were so low, there [were] enormous amounts of refinancing 30-year mortgages down to 15-year mortgages,” Hagan said.
“This will be a good time for first-time homebuyers to take advantage of lower mortgage rates and stable prices,” Cripe added.

Both, along with Rick Womble, a loan officer and Senior Vice President for First-Lockhart National Bank, said customers have been, and should remain, cautious as economic turmoil continues.

“The Lockhart community overall seems more conservative in its approach to borrowing than I’ve experienced in other markets,” Womble said. “Even so, our residents and businesses are probably being even more cautious in their approach to finances in light of what we’re all seeing in the news every day.”

The three agreed the best thing for consumers to do until the economy stabilizes is to learn about their money, tighten their belts and shore up their finances.

“Many of us have to rethink our budgets,” Womble said. “The thing we learn in this type of economy is that the old adages… are still true. Pay yourself first by setting aside money both for the future and for a ‘rainy day.’ Don’t borrow money to buy nonessential things, and work within a household budget to control spending habits.”

“We will feel some effects from what’s happening on Wall Street,” Cripe said. “But we can get through this!”

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