Monday, June 1, 2009

Credit crunches and the 20 percent solution...we're lost in the 50's again.

I was a little kid in the 1950s. Hula hoops, Davy Crockett hats and tail fins were cool. Polio scares, Jim Crow laws and duck-and-cover drills weren't.

So, how are we going to like it if or when another 1950's icon, the 20 percent down payment comes back? Beats me, but it would be a big change for many home and car buyers.

What's good is that it is hard to mess up funding something in which the borrower has a 20 percent stake. But coming up with that 20 percent would be tough for many of us, at least until we wrapped our minds around it.

Twenty percent down payments and comparatively rigid loan terms - 30 years for homes and three to four years for autos - were pretty much what you paid to buy those things before the 70's. Ironically, historians say that our parents and grandparents paid those terms because their parents and grandparents went through something like what we are doing now.

Now forecasters see signs that we're headed back to a long patch of conservative lending. Repos and busted loans rattle lenders too. Not everyone is cheering. Canada, which already tried going there to head off a U.S.-scale melt down, found that more than a fourth of its citizens abhor the thought.

U.S. News & World Report contributor Rick Newman predicts the best deals for car buyers may come before the new reality sets in. Maybe so, but save as much as possible and as close to 20 percent as you can. It could cover your credit history's rusty spots as good as new.

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