PIMCO: What You Should Know

by Gerri Willis

Chances are that Bill Gross’ exit from PIMCO, the mutual fund company he founded 43 years ago, may have barely raised an eyebrow in your household. But this is one fund industry story you’d be wise to pay attention to. The idiosyncratic Gross ran the planet’s largest bond mutual fund with $222 billion in assets. His PIMCO Total Return Bond fund has been the plain vanilla of the ice cream mutual fund parlor. It is everywhere. More than half of nation’s 401(K)s offer the fund. In short, PIMCO Total Return is nearly as likely to appear in your 401(K) as an S&P 500 index fund.

Got your attention? Today’s question is this: Should you follow the herd of institutional investors who are dumping shares of the fund today?

Here’s what I think: You don’t have to do anything. Not right away. Look, PIMCO appointed fund managers that are top notch and were, frankly, already doing a lot of the day to day work of the fund. Mark Keisel was voted Morningstar’s Fixed Income Manager of 2012.

True, a lot of institutional investors have already pulled their money. Estimates of those lost assets range from $10 billion to 25 times that. But a bond fund isn’t a stock; you don’t lose value because investors are selling. The cautious strategy is to sit back and watch for six months and make sure that the fund performs as well as rivals.

If you’re not the cautious sort, you might consider flipping your bond investments into a bond index fund. All the major fund companies, like Vanguard and Fidelity, have a fund that mimics the index. The good news: You keep your costs low. Fees and expenses are low on index funds. The bad news is that if the Federal Reserve decides to raise rates, you are stuck in a fund that will suffer as the bond market suffers.

My suggestion is to take a look at your 401(K) statement from 2013 – a really stinky year for bond funds. If any of the bond funds you invested in recorded a positive return for the year, you might consider putting your new bond investment dollars into that fund. Chances are that fund is going to be what they call multi-sector, flexible or strategic. That means that the fund manager has the freedom to move around to different asset classes, government bonds, global bonds, etc., depending on where he finds returns.

Ultimately, you’re going to want to find a place you are comfortable, because the next few years could provide some serious change to the bond world as the Federal Reserve considers changing its easy money policies.

Grapefruit Pineapple Soda Syrup

Grapefruit Pineapple Soda Syrup  

From 2 pink grapefruit, cut 5 long strips peel; place in 2-qt. saucepan with 2 c. water. Squeeze juice into blender. Add 2 c. pineapple chunks, 2 c. sugar and 1/8 tsp. salt; blend until smooth. Add to pan with peel; heat to boiling on high, stirring. Cool; strain into glass pitcher. Mix with seltzer.  

MAKES 6 cups. Each 1/4 c. about 80 cals, 0 g protein, 21 g carbs, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 15 mg sodium.  

How to Pay for Your Second Home

by Gerri Willis

All things being equal, we’d all pay cash for our second homes. No muss, no fuss. But in reality, many of us will finance at least a portion of the costs of a second home.

And, naturally, as a second-time buyer, you’ll find the process pretty similar to when you got the mortgage for your primary home. The lender will require the same information on your income, W-2s, checking and savings account statements. Plus, the lender will gauge your ability to repay by checking your credit scores and evaluating your total debt levels. That’s where all the similarities to the process of your first mortgage ends.

In fact, you may be surprised how different the process is. You’ll be required to have a higher down payment, as much as 20 percent or maybe more to buy that second home. You’ll face higher rates of interest and that means higher mortgage payments. The reason for these escalating costs is that if you are buying a vacation home, which is to say a property you won’t be living in fulltime, the lender assumes your commitment to paying that mortgage will be a lower priority. By putting down more, you demonstrate your commitment to buying the house and paying it off. Interest rates are higher as well, as much as a quarter to a half point, and for much of the same reason.

The good news is you’ll find lots of different options for financing. Traditional mortgages, 30-year fixed rate loans, are popular for second buyers, but if you can put down 50 percent or more of the purchase price when you buy, you should consider a 15-year mortgage. Paying your debt faster means your interest rate costs will plummet. Adjustable-rate mortgages are still available as well, but with rates near lows, you might as well lock in today’s interest levels, unless you plan to quickly flip the house.

Some folks opt to add a second mortgage, either a home equity line of credit or a home equity loan, onto the mortgage for their primary home to pay for the second house. Understand that doing this puts both of your properties at risk if you were to default. Some seniors use reverse mortgages to tap their home equity but this strategy, too, has problems because you essentially are handing over your primary home to the bank. Soon-to-be retirees are well advised to consider buying that retirement home while they are still working since lenders will calculate your credit worthiness on your pre-retirement income.

In short, there are plenty of options for second home buyers and the good news is that rates remain relatively low.


User's Guide to Buying a Beach House

by Gerri Willis

Owning a home on the water is a dream for many of us. Whether your vision is to buy a family destination or an oasis that you occasionally rent out, the good news is that prices in many coastal markets have never recovered from the 2007-2008 crash. When you add into the mix that interest rates are still cheap on a relative basis, well, it’s clear the stars may have aligned to help you accomplish your goal.

The devil, though, is always in the details. Tom Kraeutler, host of the nationally syndicated radio show, The Money Pit, advises buyers to understand the requirements for insurance before signing on the dotted line. Federal flood maps have been redrawn and more properties are required to have federal flood coverage. Add in the fact that insurers have been besieged with claims over the last few years, and you may well be shocked at the amount of coverage you may be required to have.  Average flood insurance claims run tens of thousands of dollars, so it is smart to make sure you have a safety net. Plus, in flood zones the law will require you to have coverage if you have a mortgage.

Other factors to consider: Know whether your beachfront dream has mold or water damage. If major remediation was done to a home, the owners may have filed a building permit. You can check local records to see if that is the case. Otherwise, a good home inspector can help you check for telltale signs of damage. Kraeutler also advises making sure you  know whether local codes require that homes meet wind resistance or flood elevation rules.

And, there are other kinds of issues to consider as you search. If you’re new to the market, you may be surprised at the number of beds packed into houses. Antonia van der Meer, editor-in-chief of Coastal Living magazine, says that it’s not unusual to find even small homes that sleep 20, “Bunk beds are a huge trend and four beds to a room is not uncommon,” she says.

That’s great for big families who want to vacation together, but even if you don’t have a large entourage, you may also appreciate it when it comes time to resell. Beach houses with direct water access and large, bright open spaces typically command the highest premiums.

Getting the best deal means acting decisively and knowing what you want from the start.


Best Slow Cooker Recipes For You

Slow-Cooked Chipotle Pork
Directions: In processor, puree 1 med. onion, quartered; 1/2 c. each chicken broth and ketchup; 1/4 c. each chipotles in adobo and creamy peanut butter; 5 cloves garlic; and 2 Tbsp. cocoa until smooth. Sprinkle 1 tsp. salt all over 1 boneless pork shoulder (about 3 to
4 lbs.), quartered; place in 6- to 7-qt. slow-cooker bowl. Pour onion mixture over pork. Cook 5 to 6 hours on High or 8 to 9 hours on Low until pork is tender but not falling apart. Transfer pork to cutting board. Pour sauce into fat separator. When pork is cool enough to handle, remove and discard fat. Pull pork into bite-size chunks. Serve over curly egg noodles along with sauce. Garnish with orange wedges and green onions.
SERVES 8. About 300 cals, 26 g protein, 14 g carbs, 16 g fat (5 g sat), 3 g fiber, 655 mg sodium.

Pecan-Stuffed "Baked" Apples
Directions: Trim bottom 1/4 in. off apples so they sit flat; place in 7- to 8-qt. slow-cooker bowl. In med. bowl, with fingers, combine pecans, cherries, 4 Tbsp. soft butter, brown sugar, allspice, 1/4 tsp. pepper and pinch of salt. Stuff into centers of apples. Pour 3/4 c. apple juice around apples. Cover bowl with lid and cook on Low 4 hrs. or until tender. Serve warm, with ice cream.
SERVES 6. About 285 cals, 1 g protein, 42 g carbs, 14 g fat (5 g sat), 7 g fiber, 95 mg sodium.


College Towns, Cities Are Retirement Hot Spots

by Gerri Willis

Like everything else they’ve touched, baby boomers promise to reinvent retirement. And, with 8,000 boomers retiring every day over the next 15 years, they are bound to reshape the second home market. Forget the armchair and the rockers, more and more boomers are opting to retire in cities and college towns where they can have access to museums, free classes, restaurants and a faster pace of living. Plus, many want to downsize and trade in their home and yard for a condo or townhouse.

Pied-a-terre which literally means “foot on the ground” in French is typically a small or undersized apartment capable of doubling as a retirement location. As cities have become safer, boomers have been lured back to metropolitan areas largely because of their entertainment attractions, but also because dwellers can walk their neighborhood and enjoy public transportation. Plus, many parents find they may be closer to the children. Because retirees don’t care about school districts buying in town can be affordable. Buyers should keep in mind that most co-ops try to restrict pied-a-terre purchases.

Another popular option for boomers is buying in a college town because prices are typically low and benefits are high.  Home prices are typically near the median national average price of $212,400 or below and real estate taxes tend to be low. What’s more, many colleges allow seniors to audit courses at no or low cost and attend college sporting events at bargain prices, too. Some developers build retirement communities affiliated with universities in college towns. Kendal Corp., for example, is building such communities in Ithaca, N.Y., home of Cornell University and Hanover, N.H., home of Dartmouth University.

Florida and Arizona may have been traditional retiree havens, but boomers are changing all that, opening up new locations that fit their wallets.    

User's Guide To Buying a Second Home: What To Know Before You Buy

by Gerri Willis

If you've always dreamed of owning a second home, there are two good reasons to think the time may be right to buy now: Interest rates are still relatively low and property prices, while they have climbed, aren't in the stratosphere. In other words, the stars may be aligned for a purchase, but you'll want to do some considerable analysis before taking the plunge.

First, the facts. According to the National Association of Realtors, the market was on fire this year, with purchases up 29.7 percent as buyers benefitted from a rising stock market. The median vacation home price was $168,700 in 2013, up 12.5 percent from the year before. Buyers who considered their purchases an investment paid $130,000, up 13 percent from the previous year. 

So, if it's a roaring market, why should you consider buying now? Well, for one thing, the vacation home market is still well below its peak of 2006. And, the market is a tiny slice of the overall housing market. Even so, it makes sense to do the math before you shop. 

Many second homeowners complain they didn't foresee the costs of having a second home. Sure, there's the monthly mortgage, but ongoing expenses can add up, like, upkeep, insurance and possibly hiring a management company or just a trusted caretaker to look in on the property since you won't be there every day. Flood insurance costs need to be taken into consideration for beach and lakefront buyers, and a redrawing of flood maps by the Government may mean higher costs for some.

Also, consider this: If you aren't paying all cash, financial requirements are higher for second homes than first homes. Typically, you'll need to put down a considerable down payment to buy. Some lenders require borrowers put down 25 percent of the purchase price before writing a mortgage for the balance and the median down payment in 2013 was 26 percent. Keep in mind that, 38 percent of second-home buyers will pay all cash. Among investors, that proportion paying all cash was 46 percent.

I also think it makes sense to decide why you are buying the property in the first place. Is this a vacation only getaway for friends and family? An eventual retirement location? Or, do you plan to rent it out, or even buy it, upgrade and sell? Determining your own motivation in buying will help you pick the right location, and ultimately, the right property.

Every day this week, The Willis Report will be covering some aspect of second home ownership, helping you make the right calculations about where and when to buy and how much to pay. 

How To Make Money Dumping Your Old iPhone

by Gerri Willis

If you are eagerly awaiting Apple’s announcement of the new iPhone 6 tomorrow but are still have an older iPhone model, you’re not alone. Plenty of folks are in the same boat and many will trade up. According to a survey by comScore, nearly a quarter of iPhone 5s owners plan to upgrade.

Fortunately, there are websites that can help you do that. Gazelle, Next Worth and Glyde offer cash to people interested in trading in. Even Apple has a trade-in program. Plenty of people will also sell on sites like eBay and Craigslist.

As long as your phone is in good working order with no broken parts, Gazelle, for example, will offer your hundreds for your old phone. In fact, Alyssa Voorhis, Senior Tech Analyst for Gazelle, says her company has launched its most aggressive price-lock promotion ever: up to $350 for an old iPhone if you lock in a price quote before tomorrow’s announcement. You have until Oct. 10 to send your phone in.

When it comes to trading in, earlier is better than later. Trade-in values typically drop 20 percent in the 60 days surrounding the introduction of a new model.

My advice? Just don’t forget to tell your carrier what you’re doing. The last thing you want to do is continue to pay for service you aren’t using.

Mediterranean Cooking with Bocca Di Bacco

Mediterranean Cooking with Bocca Di Bacco Executive Chef, Kristin Sollenne


Gazpacho with Jumbo Lump Crab Meat & Avocado



6 peeled plum tomatoes chopped

1 cup watermelon chopped

½ cup cantaloupe melon chopped

2 cucumbers chopped

½ cup celery chopped

2 cup yellow, green and red pepper

¼ cup red onion

1 Jalapeño

½ cup cilantro

¼ cup basil

1 fresh lime squeezed

4 cups tomato juice

1 Tablespoon spoon red vinegar

1 Tablespoon Worcester sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco

1 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste



1 LB Jumbo Lump Crabmeat

2 Avocados sliced


Blend all ingredients to preferred consistency and serve with crabmeat and avocado slices, sprigs of chives for garnish. The longer you let the gazpacho site, the more flavorful the dish will be.





Skewered Jumbo Shrimp, Sautéed Lima Beans



Serves 4

16 Jumbo Shrimp – peeled, cleaned and deveined

2 T extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, sliced

2 Plum tomatoes, chopped

4 skewers


Lima Beans

1 lb Jumbo Lima Beans

2 T extra virgin olive oil

4 carrots, diced

1 sweet onion, diced

4 celery stalks, diced

1 garlic clove, sliced

1 cup dry white wine

4 plum tomatoes, chopped





  1. Day before preparation – soak lima beans in water over night. Peel, clean and devein shrimp and place four shrimp on each skewer and refrigerate until ready to use (optional). You can also clean the shrimp the day of.
  2. In a large pan, heat olive oil, and garlic. Add carrots, celery, onion, salt, pepper and sauté together for 8-10 minutes. Until cooked through.
  3. Add white wine, fresh tomatoes, dash of oregano and chopped parsley. Continue to sauté for another 3-5 minutes.
  4. Take skewers out of the refrigerator, and drizzle with olive oil, and salt and pepper both sides. 
  5. In a large skillet heat olive oil and sauté skewers in pan for 2 min (or until color is pink) and then turn over. Add slices from 1 garlic clove and fresh tomatoes. Cook for an additional 2 minutes or until cooked.
  6. Place lima beans in the center of the dish, and place shrimp skewer on top. Drizzle olive oil over and serve!


Roasted Red Beet Salad, herb crusted goat cheese, string beans




Serves 4

2 large beets, scrubbed and trimmed

1 lb string beans, ends trimmed

½ cup toasted walnuts

2 T scallions, sliced

2 T Extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


Herb Crusted Goat Cheese

2 T thyme leaves, chopped

2 T rosemary leaves, chopped

2 T Parmesan Cheese



For the roasted beets: Preheat over to 425 degree F. Wrap each beet in foil and roast them on a baking sheet until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Once tender, cool the beets in their foil packet for a few minutes, and then take off the skin. The beets need to still be a little warm to be able to remove the skins easily. Thinly slice the beets.


For the string beans: Blanch string beans in a large stock pot of well salted boiling water until bright green in color and tender crisp, about 2 minutes. Drain and immediately place in an ice bath. Heat a large pan with olive, garlic and shallots. Add the green beans and continue to sauté for 3-5 minutes.


For the Herb Crusted Goat Cheese: Mix all herbs together in a medium bowl. Roll a log of goat cheese to cover the length of the log. Cut log to desired size segments and lay on a baking trey, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and put in broiler on high heat to create a golden parmesan crust on goat cheese segment.


Place beet slices in the middle of the dish, then string beans on top and top with herb crusted goat cheese. Drizzle with a lemon vinaigrette and toasted walnuts. Serve warm and enjoy!



Grilled Angus Sirloin Steak, Barolo Reduction Sauce, Roasted Potatoes




Serves 4

4 – (10 oz) Top Sirloin Steaks

2 LB red potatoes, cut into quarters

1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste


Barolo Reduction Sauce

1 bottle Barolo

½ cup shallots

1 T olive oil

Thyme sprig

Salt & pepper to taste


For the Steak: Season both sides with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper until evenly coasted. Place steaks on the grill and cook for 8-15 minutes depending upon thickness and desired doneness.


For the Potatoes: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place potatoes in a large roasting pan and toss with oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary until evenly coated. Spread out potatoes in a single layer. Bake in preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For the Barolo Reduction Sauce: Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the shallots and thyme and sauté until over high heat for 5-7 minutes, continuously stirring. Add the wine and reduce for 20 – 25 minutes, until consistency thickens. Strain the sauce and drizzle over the steak.

Serve the steak with the Barolo reduction drizzled on top and the potatoes on the side.




The Dirty Little Secret Of The Drug Industry

by Gerri Willis

It’s the dirty little secret of the drug industry: That expiration date on your prescription or over the counter medications may be virtually meaningless.

An expiration date is required by the Federal Government and some states but drug experts say there is very little science to prove that these drugs are dangerous or even less effective if used beyond their expiration date. In fact, most drugs aren’t even tested for shelf life. One of the rare studies conducted found that 88 percent of drugs tested could be used past the expiration date for a period of 66 months or five and a half years! Some drugs can last even longer. According to the FDA, users of Amoxicillin, Ciprofloxacin, Diphenhydramine, and Morphine Sulfate injection can extend the life of their drugs anywhere from one year to 15 years.

The one exception experts told us about was Tetracycline. According to Lisa Gill of Consumer Reports, the antibiotic can become toxic if used after its expiration date. But even Gill says that for virtually every other drug it’s okay to keep them past their expiration date by as much as a year.

To extend the life of your drug, move it out of the medicine cabinet where humidity can hurt effectiveness. If you’re still nervous, stick to sell by dates on drugs you must absolutely have, like an Epi-pen, or heart medications and keep the Aspirin on the shelf longer than the label advises.


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